Spark plugs may seem like a small, insignificant part of your car. The reality is that spark plugs play an important role in keeping your car on the road. Spark plugs are the spark that ignites the fuel-air mixture in your cylinder, creating the combustion that starts and keeps your car engine in motion. Simply put, spark plugs are a big deal, and one of the major players in a smooth-running car. So how do you know when it’s time to change your spark plugs? Look for one of these telltale signs:
Car doesn’t start quickly. If your car takes its sweet time turning over, don’t automatically put the blame on your car battery. A quick spark from your spark plugs is what gets your car engine going. As spark plugs wear down, the gap at the top of the spark plugs widens and wears, slowing down the spark and the strength of the spark.
Engine surges and misfires. Every engine has an occasional misfire, but frequent misfires or surging is a sign of worn spark plugs. Schedule an appointment to get your engine checked, and find out if your old spark plugs are to blame.
Fuel mileage drops. Worn spark plugs can cause an engine to run rich, causing your fuel mileage to decrease. If your gas bill increases or your fuel mileage calculations start to drop, take your car into the garage to find out the cause.
Less acceleration when you hit the gas pedal. Poor acceleration can be a sign it’s time to change your spark plugs. Watch for sluggish accelerations around the mileage when it’s time to change your spark plugs, and get your car in promptly for an appointment.
Spark plugs need to be changed between 30,000-100,000 miles depending on the kind of spark plugs in your car. Ask your mechanic when you should have the spark plugs replaced, and stick to a stringent schedule. If you procrastinate too long, worn spark plugs can lessen the life of other parts of the engine or damage other parts of your car, such as your catalytic converter. If you’re not sure if your car is showing signs of worn spark plugs, schedule an appointment to get your spark plugs checked.
Are you afraid to take your car into the shop? Worried about what the mechanic will find? Take a deep breath. It’s time to face your mechanic because car maintenance and repairs are essential to keep your car in good working order and you stay on the road. Now is the time to put that fear aside, talk to your mechanic and ask questions about the scope of work your car needs:
- How much will this cost? Ask for a quote for major car repairs. If you have a limit of what you can spend on repairs for your car, let the mechanic or service clerk know to contact you if they find any other issues when making repairs.
- As long as I am in, can you check…? Don’t be afraid to bring an issue to the mechanic’s attention. If you have your car in for an oil change, it’s better to ask about a thump or clunk now. If the mechanic finds a problem, don’t expect repairs to be made immediately. Remember mechanics have appointments and schedules to keep. If you bring a potential issue to their attention, and the mechanic finds a problem, make another appointment to get it fixed.
- Is there a warranty on the parts and work? You’re not insulting a mechanic by asking about a warranty. You need to know your rights when you get a lemon battery that doesn’t work correctly a year after purchase, or when another part fails. Be aware, though, that the failure is not always clear-cut, and can be caused by another part that needs replacement or by an unrelated repair.
- How long does the repair work take? Mechanics have appointment schedules to meet, and so do you. You’re not being rude by asking how long you need to sit and wait, or whether you need to make alternate arrangements for transportation while your car is in the shop.
- Does this work need to be done now? Some repairs can be made in another appointment, such as when your brakes or tires are starting to wear. However, if your brake pads are squealing, you’re hearing a warning noise the manufacturer installed to let you know that brake replacement is needed as soon as possible. If your mechanic does tell you that you can wait, don’t wait too long to bring your car in. You don’t want to get in an accident or go in the ditch because you didn’t get the work done.
If your mechanic is at a new shop that you haven’t visited, ask about ASE-certification and payment options. ASE certification is a sign of quality work, and is awarded to mechanics who pass ASE tests. If you’re on a budget, ask the shop before you take in your car about payment options and plans in case your car needs more work than you can afford. Once these basic questions are answered, it’s time to put the fear aside and schedule an appointment to get your car maintenance up-to-date and find out if any more work needs to be done.