Many drivers assume that when their car has trouble starting, there’s a problem with the battery. While this certainly could be the case, it’s not the only possibility. Old or faulty spark plugs could be the culprit! After all, these small spark plugs have a big job to do. Learn why it’s important to keep this part of your car in great working order and when to change spark plugs by watching for these bad spark plug symptoms.
1. Your check engine light comes on.
Worn spark plugs or spark plug wires can trigger your check engine light to come on. In today’s cars, if a plug starts to fail then the most obvious event should be the check engine light coming on or even flashing.
This can cause your engine to misfire and your check engine light to pop on. A flashing engine light could mean that potentially catastrophic misfires are taking place.
In general, it’s best to replace spark plugs as part of preventative maintenance based on manufacturer’s specifications. This can help save you from costly repairs, as driving with misfiring spark plugs could put undue stress on your car’s catalytic converter (the engine’s exhaust cleaner).
Symptoms of misfiring spark plugs include rough idling, uneven power when accelerating, and an increase in exhaust emissions.
2. Your car has trouble starting.
Your spark plugs have one of the most important jobs in your vehicle, which is to provide the spark that powers the engine! Old, worn out spark plugs have a harder time creating the spark that actually powers your engine. If your car stalls when you are trying to turn it on, there could be a problem with spark plugs or damaged spark plug wires. The battery is most likely the culprit if your car won’t start at all.
3. You’re filling up the gas tank more often.
If your spark plugs are on their last leg, they’ll take it out on your gas mileage. Worn out spark plugs can increase your vehicle’s fuel consumption because they won’t effectively burn the fuel that goes into the engine, meaning you’ll be shelling out more money on fill-ups.
4. The engine idles roughly (and you can hear it!).
Typically (hopefully!) your engine probably purrs like a kitten, but turn down your music and take a listen. If you notice that the engine is making a rattling, pinging, or knock-like noise, your spark plugs might be to blame.
5. Your car won’t accelerate quickly.
You’re probably pretty familiar with how your vehicle handles and drives. If you notice that your car isn’t as responsive as normal, particularly when you’re trying to accelerate, this could be traced back to worn spark plugs. It might be time to have them replaced—no one likes driving a sluggish, fuel-guzzling car.
6. Per the manufacturer, it’s time!
In any car care matter, it’s always best to follow the manufacturer recommended service intervals. Review your vehicle’s suggested maintenance schedule to see when to replace your spark plugs.
Luckily, spark plugs don’t wear out very quickly. You can typically get 80,000 miles on them before they need replacing. But if you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to get your spark plugs checked out with an engine tune-up.