You likely know that your vehicle’s spark plugs need to be changed every so often. This is an important part of routine maintenance and can also help you to tune up your engine. However, you may not know what the different types of spark plugs are and how to find the right one. You may also be wondering why do spark plugs need to be gapped?
Types of Spark Plugs
There are five major types of spark plugs. They are differentiated by the metal used in the electrodes.
- Copper/Nickel: These are the oldest type. They have a copper core and a center electrode made of a nickel alloy. Copper plugs are ideal for older cars and certain performance motors.
- Platinum: These spark plugs used platinum instead of copper and nickel. They are more durable and better for more modern ignition systems.
- Double Platinum: This type of spark plug is a lot like single-platinum in terms of materials. However, it can spark in two directions. This helps it last longer.
- Iridium: Some modern engines use iridium spark plugs. They last even longer than platinum spark plugs.
- Double Iridium: Much like double-platinum, these use a bidirectional spark system. They are the longest-lasting type.
Choosing the Right One
If you want to find the right spark plug type for your vehicle, the simplest solution is to check your owner’s manual. All vehicles have specific needs and the manual will specify which is right for your car or truck. Keep in mind that double platinum and double iridium are different than their single-metal counterparts. In other words, don’t mix them up.
Another way to find the right spark plug type is by using a free VIN lookup tool at your favorite auto parts store. This can help you find exactly what parts your car or truck takes.
During the installation process, you need to gap your spark plugs. This helps configure the distance between the electrodes to match the voltage and amperage of your ignition system.
Getting the gap wrong can cause problems such as premature wear, system stress and misfires. In short, you need to make sure you have the gap right if you want your spark plugs to work as intended.
Fortunately, gapping is fairly easy if you have the right tools. With a feeler gauge, find the right wire and slide it through your current spark plugs until it catches. This point is the correct gap distance for your spark plugs.
You can then use the gauge to measure how much your new spark plug electrodes need to be widened or narrowed. Keep in mind that pre-gapped spark plugs still need to be checked. They are not correctly gapped for every car or truck. Never put a spark plug in your vehicle without checking and adjusting the gap.
Changing your spark plugs is one of the easiest maintenance tasks to learn. With a socket wrench, screwdriver, wire brush and feeler gauge, you can change your own spark plugs in your garage. It is a great feeling when you work on your vehicle by yourself.