Just like oil changes, spark plugs are a regular maintenance item in vehicles and should be replaced at recommended mileage intervals; if not, engine performance, emissions levels and fuel economy can all be compromised. Also, spark-plug misfires are the No. 1 reason for an illuminated check engine light. Therefore, changing spark plugs at OE recommended intervals will help keep a vehicle operating in top condition while protecting other ignition components from added wear that could result in breakdowns and hefty repair bills.
That being said, spark-plug replacement will only provide the hoped-for results if the best spark-plug technology is used. Many designs have been introduced over the years, but iridium spark-plug technology has risen to the forefront as the best way to ensure optimum engine operation. Let’s take a closer look at how iridium spark-plug technology was developed and became the go-to spark-plug technology.
The Rise of Iridium Spark Plugs
As manufacturers began to require spark plugs with better performance than current spark-plug technology, they needed better ignitability to comply with emissions standards. And as misfire detection became possible through onboard diagnostics, most original equipment manufacturers began to switch to the new iridium spark-plug technology. Iridium spark plugs outperform copper, platinum and double platinum because iridium alloy is extremely durable, which allows the spark plugs to last about 25 percent longer than other spark-plug designs. This unique composition provides a higher melting point and superior strength in a spark plug that is more durable, efficient and cost-effective.
Iridium spark plugs have proved to be the industry’s superior technology. But while iridium spark plugs are here to stay, that doesn’t mean the technology is foolproof — maintenance is a must.
The Importance of Spark Plug Change Intervals
Just like oil and filters, spark plugs are wear items that need to be changed at OE-recommended intervals. Even though spark plugs are easy to replace, cost effective and immediately improve engine performance, they are often ignored until they cause serious performance problems. Bad plugs can cause misfires, rough running, power loss and even engine failure and must be replaced at OE recommended intervals to avoid these problems
As spark-plug electrodes wear, the voltage required to jump the gap increases. Under hard acceleration, high speeds or heavy loads, misfires can occur that result in a waste of fuel. Also, a rich fuel mixture or poor oil control can foul the ceramic insulator on the spark plug’s tip. Fouling, like excessive wear, will prompt misfires and can eventually cause the spark plug to stop functioning.
Previously, quick lube operators would have to stock a variety of styles and brands of spark plugs. Iridium spark plugs are compatible with all types of engines and makes of vehicles, which significantly reduces inventory costs and the amount of required stocking space.
For example, a spark plug change for a 2012 Ford Focus can cost $150 at the dealership (20-minute job with $28 in materials). Quick lube operators can perform the job at a parts and labor cost of less than $50, saving customers time and money over visiting a dealership, while performing an additional service that benefits the customer.
Always check the plug-change interval when a customer is in for an oil change and remind them to schedule an appointment to get their spark plugs changed on time. It’s a nice reminder for the customer and helps them plan and save for the expense of a plug change.