Most drivers have heard of spark plugs, but not everyone knows exactly what they do or how important they are. They're fairly small, but they're also vital for the running of your vehicle since they provide the spark necessary to ignite the gas and create combustion within your engine. Without spark plugs, your car just won't start. Once started, the spark plugs help provide a smooth and consistent air-fuel burn.
The good news is that spark plugs last quite a long time, but you may need to have them replaced if you keep your vehicle for more than a few years. Over time, deposits from the air-fuel mixture will form on them and the high temperatures and wear and tear they are subjected to eventually widens the gap across which they have to work.
Luckily enough, there are several signs you can watch out for that warn of spark plug problems. Here are just four.
1. Reduced Fuel Efficiency
When spark plugs start to deteriorate, your engine isn't able to burn fuel as effectively. The gap between spark plug electrodes will get too small or too big, and you'll find yourself starting to burn more fuel than you used to. Additionally, problems with the air-fuel mixture are going to produce more harmful emissions.
2. Engine Misfires
There are plenty of reasons why your engine might misfire, and worn spark plugs may be one of them. When a spark plug is to blame, you're likely to notice your engine faltering and then struggling to catch up, which sometimes results in unexpected surges in speed. You may also notice the engine making popping sounds as it struggles to maintain proper timing. Misfiring is a problem in and of itself since it sends raw fuel into the exhaust that damages the catalytic converter.
3. Poor Acceleration
Since worn spark plugs aren't able to ignite the fuel-air mixture properly, you may notice some changes in performance. The plugs need to fire whenever you change gears or accelerate, so those are the times you're most likely to experience a sluggish drive.
4. Rough Idling
Though engine noise will increase and decrease as you accelerate, the sound should be smooth and constant. Sometimes a problem with your spark plugs will interfere with idling because one of your cylinders isn't firing properly when the vehicle isn't moving. If you're experiencing vibrations or jittering sounds when you're idling, it's time to have the spark plugs checked out.
To learn more, contact a resource like a Bosch authorised dealer.