When you hear the work spark, especially at this time of year, you think of little children holding wands with a little snap, crackle and pop at the end. This month we are talking about something kind of similar, the spark that causes the combustion in an internal combustion engine.
There are different types of spark plugs available. The type of spark plug your vehicle uses will depend on the type of fuel your vehicle uses.
Most automobile engines are 4 stroke engines. The first stroke brings air and fuel into the cylinder, the second stroke compresses the air/fuel mix, the third stroke (the power stroke) is the combustion stroke where a spark ignites the compressed air/fuel mix and the fourth stroke is the exhaust stroke. This process happens thousands of times every time you drive your vehicle. It is the third stroke of this process, the power stroke, where a vehicle’s spark plugs come into play. Without any spark, combustion will not occur and your car will not start or move.
The three main types of sparks plugs vary due to the metal used at the tip of the electrodes. Copper, Platinum and Iridium are the three different types of metal that are most commonly used. Why does the metal matter? The stronger the metal the longer it will last. Copper sparkplugs are the most commonly used spark plug. Copper is an excellent electrical conductor, but it is not as hard as the other metals and has a lower melting point. They have an average life of about 20,000 miles. Platinum plugs will typically last about 60,000 – 100,000 miles. That is because Platinum is a harder metal and has a higher heat tolerance. Iridium spark plugs have the longest life span. Iridium is 8 times stronger than Platinum and has a melting point over 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, Iridium plugs last up to 25% longer than platinum spark plugs.
Silver spark plugs are also an option. Silver, like copper, is an excellent thermal conductor but, like Copper, is not as hard as platinum or iridium and will not last as long. Silver spark plugs are mostly used in motorcycles or older European vehicles.
Diesel engines do not use spark plugs at all, rather they use ”Glow Plugs”. Instead of creating intermittent sparks, glow plugs are essentially a heating element. When the compressed fuel and air in a cylinder make contact with the hot surface of the glow plug it will ignite and cause combustion.
So, there you have it! We hope we put a little spark into your day 😊
If you are experiencing difficulty starting your vehicle, rough idling, sluggish acceleration, declining fuel economy or engine knocking it could be a sign that your spark plugs are in need of replacement. Give us a call or schedule an appointment online and we would be happy to check it out for you.