Keeping the Spark Alive
There are three basic things your engine needs to fire - air, fuel, and spark. Keeping that spark alive in your car is essential to keep it running for a long time and keeping your car healthy. So how do you know when it's time to upkeep the spark?
The most basic part of your spark is your spark plug (duh, right??). The spark plug is a metal rod - varying from copper to iridium depending on your vehicle - surrounded by a ceramic casing. One end has a bulb to attach to your spark source, while the other end has an electrode and a hook to create a visible spark to ignite the gas. Over time, the electrode wears out from gas vapors and electrical spark, making it where the spark plug needs to be replaced.
Most manufactures now recommend spark plugs be replaced between 70-100K miles. Changing your spark plugs on schedule can save you a lot of headache down the road. If your vehicle begins misfiring, the raw fuel that doesn't get ignited can ruin your catalytic converter (and, if you watch the news, you know those can be EXPENSIVE to replace). Some motors are also notorious for corroding spark plugs into the cylinder heads if they aren't maintained, making spark plugs that are run too long harder to get out.
To deliver spark to your spark plugs, there are two main methods used in cars - older cars have wiresets attached to a distributor, while newer vehicles rely on ignition coils. Each has a different requirement for maintenance.
Wiresets, typically seen in late 1990's models and lower, are as described - a set of wires that go from the plug to the distributor. Vehicles that have wiresets are recommended to have their wiresets as well as their distributor cap and rotor changed with every tune-up. These wires tend to break down easily and the cap and rotor corrode more easily with time.
Ignition coils, found on most cars since the turn of the century, are typically more effective than the old distributor-style ignition system. These electronically controlled systems only need to be replaced about every other tune-up or as needed when they go bad. While there are multiple styles of ignition coils, most vehicles now have adopted the coil-over option where one coil sits atop one cylinder, so if premature failure happens, you can luckily typically replace just one coil and not all at once.
When was the last time you had a tune-up done on your vehicle? Is your mileage getting close to due? Give us a call at 618-998-9010 to get a quote for a tune-up on your vehicle and keep the spark alive!