If you’re not a “car person,” you might not give a lot of thought to your spark plugs, but as small as they may be, they play an essential role in the functionality of your vehicle. Without spark plugs, your vehicle can’t run.

The following is an overview of what they do and how to know when it’s time to replace your spark plugs.

What Are Spark Plugs?

Spark plugs provide electricity that then helps the ignition ultimately start your car. Essentially, spark plus serve to power the pistons of your engine, which not only starts your vehicle but also keeps it powered.

One end of a spark plug takes in electricity, and that then creates a spark at the opposite end.

As you drive, your spark plugs keep working—firing and igniting.

Not only are spark plugs essential to run your vehicle, but if they’re in poor condition, then it impacts the performance of your engine.  While the condition of your spark plugs is important, they are durable, and you don’t replace them all that often.

If you take your car in for regular servicing, the technician probably checks your spark plugs, and if needed, changes them.

The typical recommendation is that you replace them every 30,000 miles. The range is anywhere from every 20,000 to 40,000 miles.

Spark plugs aren’t very expensive, so it’s not a big fix to make, and a lot of people learn how to replace them on their own to avoid labor costs.

So what are the signs and symptoms of bad spark plugs?

Reduction in Gas Mileage

If you notice a decline in your vehicle’s fuel economy, it could be the result of spark plugs that are either old or dirty. If your spark plugs aren’t working optimally, then your gas mileage is going to take a hit. The reason for the link is because spark plugs spark combustion in your engine.

When a spark plug ignites, it travels across a gap or space to provide just the right combustion at the right time. As a spark plug gets older, there’s a wider space because of wear and tear, debris, and extreme temperatures. If that space is too far apart, there are problems with combustion.

This can lead to other issues as well, including problems with acceleration.  Your car may seem like it’s performing sluggishly if you need new spark plugs.

Misfiring in the Engine

If you have an engine that seems like it’s misfiring or hesitating and just generally not operating smoothly, it may be because of the spark plugs. Even a momentary interruption of the process of combustion can cause engine performance problems.

If your spark plugs are in good shape when you’re idling, your engine sounds steady and smooth. If you need new spark plugs, the engine may sound rough when your car is idling, or you could feel as if your vehicle is vibrating.

Strange Noises

If you hear noises that sound like knocking, pinging, or rattling, it could be a misfire of your spark plugs.

Benefits of Replacing Spark Plugs

If you replace your spark plugs when needed, your vehicle is going to be in better overall shape.

When your spark plugs are functioning the way they’re intended to, then you’re going to get the best possible performance out of your vehicle. You’ll get better fuel economy as well. In fact, according to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, spark plugs that are misfiring can reduce your fuel efficiency by 30%.

With new spark plugs, you’ll enjoy smooth starts and you’ll also have a more eco-friendly vehicle. Regular tune-ups of your engine, which may include spark plug replacement, can reduce air pollution.

If you don’t do it on your own, it’s generally pretty easy for a technician to replace your spark plugs, although there may be exceptions to this. A technician will have to do the work when your parts are cold, and in some cases, there may be certain parts of your vehicle that need to be taken apart to get to your spark plugs.

This means that you might want to plan to drop your vehicle off for a period of time if you can’t do the work yourself.

Spark plugs are small, inexpensive, and often overlooked in terms of their importance to your vehicle. If you’re experiencing issues and you’re not sure what’s causing them, you might consider whether or not it could be the condition of your spark plugs.

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