What Causes Spark Plugs To Go Bad Fast?

You can’t simply imagine driving a vehicle without its spark plugs. The working of any vehicle starts with its spark plugs. Often, spark plugs go bad fast and you’d have to change them else, they may end up creating more problems for you, e.g., more fuel consumption. The situation often begs the question, what causes spark plugs to go bad fast? 

It is important that once spark plugs are damaged, they must be changed immediately to keep the vehicle up and running efficiently. Sometimes, this seems to be turning into a weekly routine as the spark plugs keep getting replaced now and then even when they are newly replaced.  

Certainly, there must be something wrong with the engine system that causes spark plugs to go bad fast. In this article, we look at what causes spark plugs to go bad fast and how to curb the menace. 

What is a Spark Plug? 

A spark plug is a piece of metallic shredded shell that brings about the ignition of the air-fuel mixture by conducting electricity from the igniting system to the combustion chambers in a car engine.  

The ignition which is mostly followed by the movement of the concerned engine is characterized by an electric spark. In spark-ignition systems such as a vehicle, a spark plug is solely responsible for initiating movement by setting the pistons in motion and supplying the power needed to continuously keep the vehicle moving.  

Therefore, it is important to keep checking the health situation of your engine’s spark plug through appropriate and prompt maintenance. When your vehicle starts showing signs that it is lagging in care such as noisy engine sounds, weak acceleration, loud idling sounds, poor fuel economy, and the likes, then you may need to take the spark plugs out for a change. 

What Can New Spark Plugs Do for Your Car? 

Once your vehicle’s spark plug is damaged, it immediately causes a setback in your vehicle’s overall performance.  

One of the notable effects of a new spark plug is an improved fuel economy. While a bad spark plug can reduce efficiency by about 30%, a new plug can help to maximize fuel economy to the fullest, thereby reducing the fuel consumption rate of your vehicle and the amount you spend on filling up your car tank weekly.  

If you are used to waking up to jerky starts upon turning the ignition key of your vehicle, then you are definitely going to enjoy the sense of relief that comes with replacing your old spark plug with a new one. While a bad plug doesn’t necessarily mean your vehicle wouldn’t start, it would take more time to do so.  

Also, if you have decided to keep managing the bad spark plug in your vehicle for whatever reason, then you must be up for rough starts; the type that could possibly ruin your mornings. With more smooth and energetic starts that come with replacing old plugs, you definitely wouldn’t want to go back to experiencing those early morning grumpy take-offs. 

With your decision to replace old spark plugs with new ones, you might not just be doing yourself some good but also the environment and its inhabitants. One of the major reasons for smoky and harmful emissions from the exhaust pipes of most vehicles can be linked to worn-out spark plugs. New spark plugs bring about an era of cleaner air and less air pollution. 

Do new spark plugs make your car go faster? Of course, they do. If your car is having troubles accelerating, such that you even find yourself being overtaken by a Peel P50, check your spark plugs. A replacement would go a long way in boosting your vehicle’s performance and also help to save fuel as a result of applying more fire than necessary.  

However, it’s worthy of note that spark plugs are best changed all at once so they can all work together optimally and also wear out evenly.  

Can a New Spark Plug Go Bad? 

Is there anything that doesn’t have a life span? Probably not! Even humans are prone to illness and death. So, mechanical devices are no exception.  

The old spark plug you just got rid of was probably bought new but as expected, life happened. Maybe devices such as spark plugs do not have a specific life span or shelf life attributed to them but they definitely have their own share of destructive factors, especially when you can’t find a genuine one.  

These factors, upon constant recurrence, cause damages to spark plugs and lead to a removal-replacement process. Over time, these new plugs are bound to suffer the same fate as the old ones until they are also due for replacement.  

One major and evident cause of failure in spark plugs is overheating. When the vehicle’s cooling system is malfunctioning and not living up to how it is supposed to be, it could cause the engine and everything therein to overheat. This includes the spark plug.  

A buildup of heat in the combustion chamber caused by pre-ignition could also cause spark plugs to go haywire and ultimately fail. When these happen, a replacement of spark plugs is imminent. 

 A spark plug is closely related to an engine and thus, we could say that most of the things that cause engine damage could affect spark plugs in the same manner. Take, for example, the problem of carbon buildup. An accumulation of carbon that must have been caused by dirty air filters, prolonged car idling, and constant decelerated driving could shorten the life span of a spark plug and ultimately damage it.  

The presence of black, dry soot on the tips of insulators and electrodes signifies carbon-related damage. 

Stress caused by an irregular spark plug gap could also cause it to wear out permanently. If the gap is properly and evenly set, extra stress being placed on the spark plug could be avoided, thereby saving it from being eroded. Thus, it is necessary to pay attention to the calibration of the gap between the spark plug and side electrodes. 

What can a Wrong Spark Plug do to your Engine? 

There exist a variety of spark plugs such as copper, silver, platinum, double platinum, and iridium.  

What constitutes the major difference between these plugs is the constituent material, the application as well as the engines best suited for.  

While copper spark plugs, which are the most common and most affordable, are best suited for low energy distributing ignition systems, iridium plugs which are known as the best plugs in the market are most commonly found in high-performance engines. This implies that iridium plugs can possibly be used for low-performance engines but copper plugs wouldn’t work on high-performance engines.  

What could be the repercussion of ignoring this major threat though? It’s evident – damage! Forcibly trying to use the wrong plug on your engine would reduce your engine’s performance and consequently lead to complete destruction in the long run. So, unless you have modified your engine to suit another spark plug of your choice, it will be advisable to stick to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation.  

Is it Possible to Drive a Vehicle with a Missing Spark Plug? 

The ability of a vehicle to move with a missing spark plug is dependent on two things: the type of vehicle and the type of fuel it consumes. For single-cylinder vehicles which are majorly piston engines with one cylinder, it would be impossible for them to function without a spark plug. 

These include scooters, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and so on. However, for multiple cylinder vehicles such as most modern vehicles which are in use today, they can definitely be driven, even with a missing plug, this would definitely come with a lot of discrepancies though—not recommended!  

Also, if you happen to drive a diesel-powered car, you can still enjoy a nice ride with missing spark plugs. This is because cars that run on diesel have been designed with the ability to move without spark plugs.  

What Happens to your Vehicle if the Spark Plug is too loose? 

Let’s try to be a little bit practical here. Imagine having a loose tooth that will fall off even with the slightest yank. Now, imagine having to chew with that very tooth. What do you think the experience would feel like? Pleasant or agonizing? What do you think would be the solution to the problem? I am quite sure we are all thinking of the same thing. Of course, the experience would prove to be all shades of pain that can only end with one thing, complete removal of the affected tooth. 

It isn’t so different when it comes to your engine’s spark plug. With a loose spark plug, you really shouldn’t expect the engine to function normally and effectively. In such a situation, all you will hear from your engine are disturbing sounds; cranks here, jerks there. If you attempt to continue using your car in such a condition, it can only cause more damage to the engine.  

Can Bad Gas Foul Spark Plugs? 

This is like asking if adding too much salt to food can adversely affect its taste. The answer is quite obvious. The presence of bad or old gas would not only foul the plugs but the entire fuel system. It would clog spark plugs and also contaminate other parts of the engine such as filter pumps, injectors, and so on.  

Thus, if your engine is not functioning as it should and you are able to trace the root of the problem to dirty spark plugs, do not just clean the plugs out, do take your car out for an oil change. 

Bottom Line 

Judging from experience, your car breaking down unexpectedly could really be distressing. It’s so strange how a tiny fault in a car such as a faulty spark plug could get to most car owners and could end up ruining their day. It’s almost like caring for a baby. Funny right? Well, it is true that cars are mechanical devices and one should be prepared for the worst because they could easily break down anytime.  

The bitter truth however is, having a thorough knowledge of how your car operates, carrying out maintenance services on it as and when due and knowing what to do in case of any eventuality would go a long way in decreasing your weekly trips to the automobile mechanic’s workshop to the barest minimum. It could even help in providing some level of relief to your constantly troubled mind, who knows! 

Lastly, it’s important that you understand all the symptoms of a bad spark and know when to change them once you notice any of the symptoms.