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What is a spark plug?

spark plug

All fuel engines have spark plugs to ignite the combustion that drives the engine. Diesel engines don’t have any spark plugs; they ignite “automatically”.

There are spark plugs in all engine cylinders, one for each cylinder. A 4-cylinder engine, therefore, usually has 4 spark plugs.

The plugs are located inside the cylinder head, which is located on top of the engine block. They make sure to ignite the spark at the right moment, which is when the pistons almost reach the top of the cylinder. At this point, the mixture of fuel and air has been compressed enough for combustion to be possible with a spark.

The smaller explosion then presses the piston back down in the cylinder, which in turn makes the crankshaft rotate. The crankshaft is basically what drives the car’s many parts.

It’s the spark coil - or ignition coil - that makes sure the spark plugs are “activated” at the right time. The ignition coil is connected to the timing belt, which makes sure to align the spark plugs with the pistons’ movements. This results in continuous ignition!

Some bigger Mercedes or Alfa Romeo models might have two plugs to each cylinder to ensure a more accurate ignition and higher efficiency; this is called a twin spark.

Spark plug issues

If you make sure have your car serviced with regular intervals, adhering to its service manual guidelines, the spark plugs will be changed every 4th year or so by the mechanic. That’s part of the service inspection, and you just have to pay for the spare parts themselves.

However, if you experience any trouble starting your car, you might check up on these things:

  • Is the spark plug socket stuck or do you spot corrosion? If so, a replacement is due.
  • Has your engine lost some of its power? If one or more spark plugs are faulty, and do not ignite the spark, they need replacing.
  • In rare cases, when the head gasket is leaking is leaking, you risk getting oil on the spark plugs. This is a very serious issue and you should drive to a garage immediately to have the head gasket and cylinder head checked.

Good to know

Some car owners ask mechanics if they can do with just cleaning the spark plugs. But it’s not really a question of how to clean spark plug. The cost and ease of replacement means that this is always a more viable option!

If you are in doubt about whether your spark plugs are faulty, you can ask if your mechanic can use a spark plug tester. They will then let you know what needs to be done.

If you want to try and change the spark plugs yourself, it’s easy to buy good quality plugs online. Iridium spark plugs are stronger than platinum and have a higher melting point.

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Prices on engine repairs, cleaning and replacement

The average prices and savings for the car brands shown are based on different models and years. You must therefore create a job and compare quotes to see your actual price and savings.
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£139 / 28%
£172 / 23%
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£173 / 30%
£154 / 25%
£183 / 24%
£138 / 25%
£156 / 26%

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Junction 59 Classics Ltd
7 months
The. Service I received was very friendly and professional. The price was reasonable and everythi...
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Ford Fiesta (2018)
RSH Performance LTD
7 months
Richard was very helpful, the service was quick and friendly. I am definitely using this garage a...
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Ford Focus (2011)
D&G Auto Car Repair
8 months
Service and quality of work, would definitely recommend😊👍
Clare S.
Ford EcoSport (2019)

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