Spark Plugs are extremely important, and you could buy the wrong one for your car if you're not careful. But what does “careful” mean in this context? Being careful refers to being knowledgeable about spark plugs. That knowledge can, in turn, guide your decision on which plugs to use in your car. If you’re ignorant about spark plugs and you are one of approximately 19 million people in Australia who drive petrol or diesel cars, this one is for you.
In this article, you'll learn about spark plugs, their functions, their importance, what type you should use for your car, and more. Let’s dig in.
What Are Spark Plugs, Anyway?
The spark plug provides the spark for the combustion of the air-fuel mixture in an internal combustion engine. Allow me to back up a bit here.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over 73% of cars on Australian roads use carbon fuels. These vehicles have internal combustion engines that require the burning or explosion of the air-fuel mixture to move the pistons that provide the engine's power to turn the wheels. Spark plugs initiate the spark that makes the burning happen.
That said, it’s easy to see how a good spark plug will give you better fuel economy, improved performance, and prevent damage to your engine.
How Do I Know Which Spark Plugs to Use?
Deciding on what spark plugs to use depends on whether the car is a regular car or a performance car. If you're plug-shopping for your grandma's car, you shouldn't buy the same plug you would buy for a performance car. You'll also have to look at your owner's manual recommendation, car engine design, and the spark plug's conductivity, price, and lifespan.
Know your Spark Plugs: Types of Spark Plugs
Spark plugs vary in size and materials used in making them. If you’re a regular driver, you want plugs that would last up to two years or 80,000 km. On the other hand, people who want their cars to produce more power need a plug to handle high amounts of heat and voltage and create stronger electrical sparks.
Types of spark plugs include copper, iridium, double iridium, platinum, double platinum, and silver.
1. Copper Spark Plugs
Copper spark plugs have been in existence for over a hundred years, making this type the oldest of spark plugs. The copper spark plug also has the shortest life span of all the spark plug types because it has a nickel alloy electrode in its copper core.
Nickel is not as strong as iridium or platinum and therefore has a shorter life span. For older cars with low productivity, copper spark plugs are the recommended plugs. Also, copper's high conductibility makes it ideal for performance cars.
2. Platinum Spark Plugs
Platinum spark plugs weren't popular until the late '80s. At this time, ignition systems started to move to DIS (wasted spark) or coil pack systems, and the platinum material could resist the more demanding, higher energy system.
In terms of conductibility, platinum spark plugs are better than copper spark plugs because the design allows the plug to retain its edge. The edge-retaining feature is possible because the platinum disc is welded to the central electrode, allowing the platinum plug to last longer than its copper predecessor.
3. Double Platinum Spark Plugs
Wasted Spark Ignition systems apply more wear on the electrodes than other types of ignition systems, increasing the need for a long-lasting and more efficient spark plug. Double platinum spark plugs meet this need. Their ground and centre electrodes are coated with platinum, making them more efficient than other spark plug types.
Meanwhile, if your manufacturer recommends Double Platinum Spark Plugs, it's best not to use a single platinum spark plug. It will work, but it won't perform as great or last as long as the double-platinum would.
4. Iridium Spark Plugs
Iridium spark plugs came on board in the mid-2000s when coil-on-plug systems started to rise in popularity. Iridium's smaller diameter centre reduces the voltage required to create an electrical spark, thereby increasing efficiency. Iridium spark plugs are also known to maintain momentum under intense conditions, making them a more durable choice than others.
5. Double Iridium Spark Plug
The double iridium spark plug is another spark plug type that's great for performance, and it is much like the double platinum spark plug. It has two discs made of rare metal that increase durability and performance. Double iridium spark plugs can withstand continuous high speeds and extreme heat in all driving conditions due to their design. This plug can go up to four times the lifespan of a copper spark plug.
6. Silver Spark Plugs
Silver spark plugs aren't as common as the others, and their electrode tips are silver-coated. It is best for thermal conductivity. Old European performance motorcycles and cars use silver spark plugs. Perhaps the major downside of the silver spark plug is that it doesn't have a long lifespan.
Do Spark Plug Brands Matter?
Sure, the brand matters when it comes to performance and durability. But some brands may be more focused on making money than putting in the effort needed to produce quality spark plugs. So when deciding which spark plug brand to buy, remember that price is never a perfect judge of quality. Not everything cheap is bad, and just because something is expensive doesn't guarantee that it's high-quality.
Some of the best spark plug brands in Australia include NGK, Sensor, and Bosch. If you're unsure what brand of spark plugs to buy, please speak with a mechanic or consult your owner's manual.
Spark plugs are indispensable to your car. You shouldn't overlook quality and function when buying a spark plug. Even though you're now aware of the spark plug types, you should never assume that you know which is best for your car.
In the end, the best type and brand of spark plugs to use is the one recommended by your manufacturer. So refer to your owner's manual, and you'll see the right spark plug for your car. And when you’re ready to buy, remember that CarPartAU’s marketplace is the ideal destination for spark plugs and all things car parts. Request for your spark plugs and other parts here!
By Damilare Olasinde