Spark plugs play a big role in how your car runs, to the extent that functioning spark plugs can make all the difference between a non-runner salvage car, and a perfectly driveable used car. Best of all, it’s a relatively cheap and simple fix for any experienced mechanic, which is just one reason why it’s so easy to pick up a bargain in our online salvage car auctions. If you need a quick refresher on what spark plugs are and what they do, here are all the essentials you’ll need to know.
What do spark plugs do?
In short, spark plugs start your engine. To give you a bit more detail, they essentially act as a catalyst by supplying the spark of electricity that ignites your car’s air / fuel mixture. Without that spark, the mixture either doesn’t ignite properly - which will generally make the car run like a bag of spanners - or won’t ignite at all, leaving the vehicle little useful for little more than being the world’s biggest and most expensive paperweight.
Why are spark plugs important?
Quite simply – if it wasn’t for the spark plugs your car wouldn’t be able to start. If they’re not in good condition, your car cannot sustain its maximum power because the combustion process won’t be able to properly complete. This can lead to a range of problems because the health of your spark plugs is directly linked to engine performance such as cold-starting, engine hesitation or a weak fuel economy - in other words, when your is far less fuel-efficient than it should be.
When will spark plugs need replacing?
Fortunately, not very often. In fact, spark plugs can go for tens of thousands of miles before reaching they need to be replaced. Spark plugs need to be made from hard-wearing material. This means that they are capable of enduring millions upon millions of tiny explosions during the combustion process before they need replacing.
Over time, however, with all of these tiny explosions, there will be subsequent deterioration, which results in weaker sparks. As one may expect, this then results in a less efficient engine. This is when you may start finding problems with starting your car or feel as though it isn’t driving as smoothly as it once was. The length of time you should wait for a replacement depends on the material of the spark plugs, and thus, if you’re looking to invest in a used or salvage car, it is advised you enquire about the material and condition of the spark plugs.
Signs that your spark plugs may need replacing:
We’ve mentioned a few tell-tale signs that your spark plugs need replacing already, but here are a few more you might want to check out:
Particularly high or excessive fuel consumption - although many things may lead to low fuel economy, it’s always worth considering that your spark plugs may be the culprit.
Rattling and jittery noises – a sign that your spark plugs are beginning to corrode may be unusual noises. This will come from the increased force on the pistons, which indicates that the combustion process is not working as it should. With the consistency of the tiny explosion, pistons need to work at high velocities and thus, spark plug misfiring may lead to constant strange rattling or jittering noises.
Difficulty starting the car - your car not starting can be an absolute nightmare but figuring out why this is the case can be even worse! People often assume it’s connected to an empty tank or flat battery, but spark plug failure is another common cause. If they cannot provide that spark, the car can’t go, so it’s always something you should consider if your car simply won’t start.
Performance issues - spark plugs create sparks when you are shifting gears or trying to accelerate. If you find your car not operating as smoothly as it was, or perhaps feeling less responsive than usual it could very well be down to your spark plugs deteriorating.
If you’re a professional mechanic, all this goes to show just why they can be such handy components to keep in stock, if you can. As for everyone else, even though you might not be getting down to the nitty-gritty of fixing them, it can still help to have a solid grounding to how they work and what they do, so that you can give your mechanic a useful heads-up if you ever come to bring in your own car for repairs.
And on that note, if you’re looking for another second-hand or salvage car - whether you’re planning on driving it or stripping it down for parts - you’re in exactly the right place. We’ve got plenty to choose from in our own online car auctions right here at RAW2K. Our auctions are refreshed on a daily and weekly basis, so there are always new deals to be had, and we’ve got vehicles from a range of leading manufacturers including Peugeot, Volkswagen and BMW. Why not take a look around our site, and see what you can find?