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.
It’s easy to ignore regular car maintenance. When life gets busy, and schedules get hectic, finding the time for regular car maintenance gets tricky. When it seems like you don’t have time, factor in the inconvenience later when your car breaks down because you didn’t take the time for regular car maintenance. Regular car maintenance is essential to staying on the road, and staying out of the ditch. Regular car maintenance like:
- Oil changes. An engine without regular oil changes is an engine that costs their owner thousands of dollars over the life of the car. The cost of regular oil changes and time spent saves car owners money and inconvenience when your car breaks down. Ask your car mechanic how often you need an oil change, as the amount of miles can vary depending on the type of oil.
- Get your tires checked and rotated. Regular rotation of your tires ensures that tires wear evenly, and can even prevent surprise flat tires. An inspection of your tires can also find holes that allow air to leak slowly.
- Brake inspections. It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet. If the squeak doesn’t go away, or if the noise is a grinding noise, your vehicle needs attention. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck.
- Replace your spark plugs. True story: a friend of ours delayed having the spark plugs replaced on her truck, leading to a $1,000 bill to replace the catalytic converter. The catalytic converter had plugged up because of faulty spark plugs. The moral of the story is to ask your mechanic when it’s time to replace those spark plugs, and follow through with the repair sooner than $1,000 later (or worse).
- Ditching that disgusting air filter. We won’t tell you how disgusting your air filter can get, but we can tell you that part of your regular car maintenance should include replacing or cleaning that gross air filter. A dirty air filter can choke your engine of air, causing performance issues and damage over the life of your car.
Don’t forget to regularly replace your windshield wipers and headlights—two parts of your car vital for proper vision when driving. The good news is that you don’t need to shoulder the task of regular car maintenance alone. Take your car to your trusted car mechanic or shop so they can keep records of your car’s regular car maintenance, and make recommendations based on those records. At the end of the day, don’t take the task of regular car maintenance lightly—so you don’t end up with heavy costs and inconvenient car repairs later.