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How to change spark plugs on your car

Updated on October 18, 2010

Why replace your own spark plugs?

Replacing your spark plugs can improve your gas mileage and keep your engine running smoothly. You can have this done at an auto repair shop, but why not learn how to do it yourself. It doesn't take long, the spark plugs are cheap, and you'll learn a little more about your car.

What you'll need

Before you pop open the hood and get started, gather the following things:

  • A ratchet wrench with a 12 inch extension
  • A spark plug socket that's appropriate for your car

Find your spark plugs

Now you can open up the hood and find the spark plugs on your engine. There is a spark plug at the top of each cylinder, if that makes it easier for you to find them. They're located at the end of those thick rubber wires. If you have a 4 cylinder engine, chances are (unless you've got a really obscure engine) your cylinders are "inline", meaning they are all in a row and your spark plugs will be at the top of your engine. If you have an 8 cylinder engine, chances are you have a "V8", which means your cylinders are in a V shape, so you'll have 4 spark plugs on each side of the engine. If you have a 6 cylinder engine, it could be either way. There are a lot of both V6 and inline 6 engines out there.

Changing a spark plug

Always pull out and change each individual spark plug completely before moving on to the next one on the engine. Why is this necessary? Because you can screw things up very badly if you were to connect one of those rubber wires to the wrong spark plug. Those spark plugs need to fire in a particular order, and you'll mess that up if you switch up the rubber wires.

You can now wiggle the spark plug off, grabbing it close to the engine block. You'll pull out the entire spark plug socket. Now you can use your socket wrench with the extension to pull the old spark plug out of the socket. There should be a rubber grip on the socket to give you something to grab while loosening the spark plug out of there.

Inspect your old spark plugs. If they are oily or white, you might have other engine problems and you should consult a mechanic. Make sure your new spark plugs look like the old ones just without the crud.

Put the new spark plug back in the socket just as the old one was and put it back in the engine. Tighten it by hand at first to avoid cross threading. Tighten it with your wrench so it's snug. Don't overtighten it. Now you can put the spark plug wire back on. Do this for all your spark plugs and you'll be all set.


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