Spark Plugs Explained – DIY or Shop Job?

spark plugs
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Your car’s engine depends on a steady rhythm to operate smoothly, but it only takes one malfunctioning component to throw everything off. If you’ve started to notice irregular performance when you press the accelerator, the culprit could be faulty spark plugs. While you can get replacements at many stores that offer discounts on auto parts, is it worth the effort to tackle this project yourself? Here’s a look at how to perform a spark plug change yourself.

Symptoms of Faulty Spark Plugs

A spark plug’s primary function is to ignite the mixture of air and fuel in each of your car’s cylinders via a small electrical bolt. If one of your plugs isn’t operating properly, you may start to notice a few telltale signs:

  • Poor fuel economy
  • Sluggish acceleration
  • Misfiring engine
  • Difficulty starting the car

If any of these symptoms present themselves while you’re driving, it might be time to add a spark plug change to your car tune up checklist. The next step should be determining whether or not you can handle this project yourself.

Changing Your Own Spark Plugs

Operating under the hood can be intimidating, and there are plenty of projects that should only be done by a professional. This isn’t the case with spark plug replacement for most vehicles, which means you should be able to handle the job with some basic knowledge. Before starting, you’ll need to gather some supplies:

  • Replacement plugs
  • Spark plug socket adapter
  • Gapping tool
  • Shop towels
  • Cleaning fluid
  • Ratchet set

Start by cleaning the area around each plug to keep dirt and debris out of your open engine. Working one plug at a time, remove the wire and use the ratchet and socket adapter to unscrew it from the cylinder. Once you’ve removed the old plug, use your gapping tool to make sure the replacement piece has the appropriate gap, and work in reverse to install it and reattach the wire. Make sure you tighten by hand before finishing with the ratchet. If you’d like to maximize efficiency, you can also put a small amount of dielectric grease inside the wire housing before reattaching.

Why Trust a Professional?

While replacing these components is an easy DIY project, there are some reasons why you should find out where to get spark plugs replaced professionally. A certified mechanic can use diagnostic equipment to pinpoint any problems with your engine to keep you from wasting money and time on unnecessary services. Improperly installed spark plugs can also have the same effect as faulty components, which would completely negate your replacement effort.

Keep Your Car Running Smoothly

No matter if you’re replacing them yourself or taking them to a professional mechanic, it’s important to make sure your spark plugs are in good working order. Not only does a malfunctioning engine make it more difficult to drive, but it could also create a safety hazard if you’re unable to keep pace with other vehicles on the road. A trusted auto shop will use quality parts, but if you’re doing your own work, make sure you only buy replacement components from a trusted supplier.