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Tips For Basic Vehicle Maintenance: Spark Plugs

Updated on April 11, 2019
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Alex has taught at seven public schools, been accepted into three honorary societies, and traveled the Americas and Europe. He has his BS.


The Basics

So, you want to know how to be more self-sufficient. In my opinion, this is a huge part of our growing up. And, we never really stop growing up, even if our cerebral cortices have "fully" developed by our mid 20's. What do brains have to do with automobiles? Everything. The mechanic, like the professor, is able to cash in on what you don't know. Understanding and knowledge are equal to money in our society, and thus it sh should be. In the words of a small piece of the Nevi'im in the Old Testament:

For I desired... the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

— Hosea 6:6 (AKJV)

And, with all of that said (or, written) I think it important for those who own vehicles to possess at least a fundamental idea of how to change their auto's spark plugs, oil, and so on. We will, therefore, begin with the spark plugs, and move onto working with individual oil changes in the next lesson. We will finish this first auto course with shared discourse in the comment section below. Questions and comments are desirable, and I ask that you don't be afraid; a "silly" question is far less damaging than a "silly" mistake.

Changing Spark Plugs: What You Will Need

As I mentioned earlier; this is where we will start. You'll first and foremost need a fairly large socket wrench. By large, or medium, I must verify that it must be capable of holding a spark plug socket. Not all socket wrenches are compatible, so don't ever be too intimidated to ask thorough questions of anyone involved, specially your automotive dealer. You'll also likely want to have at the very least one extension. I would personally recommend that you possess two on your person. Once again; you will want both extensions to be compatible with your wrench and with your spark plug socket. You'll desire the right spark plug socket for this tune up job. Tell your auto parts seller the year, make, and model of your vehicle - they should be ready to find the socket size for your particular spark plugs. If the cashier doesn't want to apply the added effort, then go to another store. Automotive outlets are not exactly in short supply. Also, keep in mind the quantity of work that you plan to exert - cashiers don't have the easiest jobs in the world, but in this case they need to know that you mean serious business. A universal spark plug gaping gauge may be wanted too, although you may not even need this at all.

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You'll, of course, need the number of new plugs equal to the maximum spark plugs that your vehicle can hold. The number of spark plugs isn't always the same as the number of cylinders in the vehicle. Ask you automotive dealer how many plugs you will need, and make sure you get the right plugs for your particular made and model. So, in summary, you will definitely need new spark plugs, one to two socket wrench extensions, one spark plug socket, and a good amount of energy. You might also want to bring with you a number of Phillips-head and flat-head screwdrivers/screwdriver heads. More on why you may desire this in a moment. Moreover, thick gloves are a wise recommendation as well.

The Act Of Changing The Plugs

One can begin and initiate this quick process by opening the hood of the vehicle. However, make sure that the engine is completely off before doing this. In fact, you should allow the engine to stay off for some time prior to starting. The keys should not even be pressed into the ignition. Now, it is common in automotive machines for this option to be located near the driver's seat. You might want to gap your plugs now with your spark plug gauge at this time (though, they will likely be pre-gaped already). Once the hood of the car (or, whatever your vehicle may be) is steady and safely open and up, you will want to find where the spark plugs are located. This is not always easy, but it's not as hard as one may think. Although the rubber coverings (these are part of the spark plug wires) for the plugs are often the same color as other items under the front area of a automobile, the rubbery texture of these particular covers are generally unique and, therefore, somewhat noticeable. Some of the plugs may require the removal of other parts, and this is where the screwdriver(s) could potentially come in handy. You should have already asked how many spark plugs are in your make and model. Located all of your plug covers. Pull on the first of these (in any order you'd like) firm, but carefully.

Once the cover has been temporarily removed, you can apply your socket wrench. Place the spark plug socket into the spark plug hole, use the wrench to turn counter-clockwise until the old plug is loose. You'll know when it is loose enough by periodically pulling out the socket gently. The spark plug socket will have a magnet inside of it to hold onto the plug once it has become entirely loose of the vehicle. Ensure that you are wearing heavy duty gloves. Then, replace the socket with the new plug. The gloves can be important here, because your older plugs may still be a little hot if the engine was on earlier (that is, before you had opened your front hood). Put the new plug in the hole, turn clockwise, and screw her in. Do not screw her in too tight nor too loose. Screwing her in too tight could cause the plug to break or be damaged in some way. If the plug is in too loose, then one places the risk of the spark plug shooting out when the vehicle is started later on. And, that could start a fire and be very dangerous to more than just yourself. Please keep in mind that not only your own safety is involved here. Now, one may put the rubbery cover back on. You should make sure that this is placed in very firm; we really don't want to start a fire or even scare the neighborhood cats. Repeat the necessary steps with the remainder of your spark plugs until they are all finished.

Some Final Words

If this is your first or second time in this kind of field, then please be very careful. Experience is invaluable, and you need to start somewhere, no? But, I don't want you nor anyone else to get hurt. So, if you have any questions, then please do not be too afraid to ask! I hope you learn a new life skill, and save a lot of money in the process. Next time we will talk about changing your oil.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Alexander James Guckenberger


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