Fuel cost is one of the major expenses for anyone who owns a vehicle. As a result, people are always looking for ways to improve their fuel efficiency. Some people believe that changing the spark plugs positively impacts their fuel mileage. But, is this really true?
Today, we’ll be taking a look at how changing spark plugs impact a vehicle’s fuel economy. Not only that but by the end of this article, you will learn some tried-and-tested methods of increasing miles-per-gallon as well.
To put things short, changing the spark plugs does indeed improves fuel economy. If you were looking for a way to save on fuel, now you know what to do! Keep reading until the end to find out more ways of improving fuel economy.
What Are Spark Plugs?
Before understanding how spark plugs affect fuel economy, it is important to learn how they work. As the name suggests, spark plugs provide the “Spark” which ignites the air-fuel mixture inside an engine’s cylinders.
You see, the tip of the spark plug is capable of emitting a concentrated pulse of electricity. The resulting explosion gets the pistons moving, enabling you to drive to your destination.
You can find different types of spark plugs at various price points. Four of the most common spark plug types include,
- Single Platinum
- Double Platinum
Copper Spark Plugs
Copper spark plugs are the most widely available type on sale, and they have the longest history. Everything from distribution-based ignition system-equipped cars of the 1980s to modern-day turbocharged ones relies on these “standard” plugs for their spark.
The diameter of copper spark plug electrodes is about 2.5 mm, handing them the honor of having the largest electrode diameter in the industry. Although their core contains some copper, manufacturers use other metals in their construction too. For example, they fuse nickel alloy to the aforementioned electrodes for increased durability.
Although nickel alloy fusion has some benefits, there are some drawbacks too. When compared to other types of spark plugs, copper plugs require more current due to the larger electrode diameter. The resulting heat wears out the nickel alloy, resulting in dirty plugs.
Thankfully, these are the cheapest spark plugs around. So, your wallet won’t hurt as much when you have to replace the plugs every 20,000 miles.
Single Platinum Spark Plugs
If you are looking for a more durable set of spark plugs, these deserve your attention. Platinum spark plugs replace the nickel alloy electrode with a platinum disc, giving it a higher melting point as well as more durability.
In addition, platinum spark plugs also prevent spark plug fouling by burning off Carbon deposits better than copper ones. Most modern cars come out of the factory equipped with these.
Although manufacturers recommend replacing these every 60,000 miles, they can last as long as 100,000 miles with proper care.
Double Platinum Spark Plugs
Double platinum spark plugs take things one step further by covering both the ground and center electrodes in platinum discs. These special plugs are used in waste spark systems, where copper and single platinum plugs can’t live up to the task.
Iridium Spark Plugs
When it comes to endurance, iridium spark plugs reign miles above the competition. These have about 25% more longevity than platinum plugs, and the melting point sits higher than 1200°F.
However, the benefits of Iridium spark plugs don’t end there. These are 8x stronger than platinum plugs, have higher flame quality, and increase the firing efficiency too! If you are willing to pay a higher price for the best quality, iridium spark plugs are the ones to get.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of some spark plug types let us take a look at how they affect fuel economy.
Spark Plugs And Fuel Economy
If you were wondering whether spark plugs affect fuel economy, the answer is a resounding “Yes”
Each cylinder of your engine has a dedicated spark plug, which ignites the air-fuel mixture inside. Due to this placement, the plugs endure significant pressure and heat throughout their lifespan.
As the spark plugs age, this high heat and pressure wear them down, widening the spark plug gaps in the process. The wider the spark plug gaps are, the more voltage they require to function. This results in misfires, among other issues, which can decrease a vehicle’s fuel economy by as much as 30%.
So, if you want to eke every last mile out of the fuel you put in, remember to replace the spark plugs at the scheduled intervals. As we mentioned earlier, you should replace copper spark plugs every 30,000 – 50,000 miles. On the other hand, platinum and iridium plugs last around 60,000 – 150,000 miles.
If you are unsure about the exact replacement intervals, we recommend taking a look at the manufacturer’s documentation before doing so.
Tips For Improved Fuel Economy
On top of replacing spark plugs, there are many other tips you can follow to give a boost to your vehicle’s fuel economy. Some of the most effective ones include,
- Proper Maintenance
- Maintain Proper Tire Pressure
- Efficient Driving Habits
- Planning Your Trips
A healthy vehicle is an essential factor when it comes to achieving the best fuel economy. In addition to replacing the spark plugs ensure that you perform the scheduled fluid changes and services at the correct times. We also recommend checking oil levels frequently to prevent any unforeseen maintenance issues that may hinder fuel efficiency,
Maintain Proper Tire Pressure
Most vehicle owners simply don’t understand the impact tires have on fuel economy. You see, underinflated tires create more friction, which puts the engine under excessive strain and consumes more fuel.
On the other hand, overinflation also increases a vehicle’s fuel consumption. It is also important to mention that both these situations pose significant harm to your safety. So, make it a habit to ensure that all four tires are inflated to the manufacturer-recommended level before you set off on a journey.
In addition to PSI levels, pay attention to the wheel alignment as well. Improperly aligned and out of balance increases drag, which decreases fuel efficiency. Not only that, but it destroys your tires too!
Efficient Driving Habits
The way you drive also significantly impacts how much fuel your vehicle consumes. Studies show that following efficient driving habits can increase fuel economy between 15% to 30%
Speeding is one of the worst things you can do when it comes to fuel economy. Vehicles consume significantly more fuel at speeds above 50 mph. So, take it easy on the gas pedal if you want to be rewarded with some extra miles per gallon.
Did you know that modern cars come with an array of driver assistance features that can also help you decrease fuel consumption? Cruise control is one such feature, and by using it, you can see fuel savings of up to 14%.
Another way of saving some fuel is turning off the engine when you are waiting in the same spot for more than three minutes. Although this might seem counterintuitive, studies by the U.S. Department of Energy show that idling wastes billions of gallons of precious fuel each and every year.
Planning Your Trips
Planning a trip beforehand can go a long way, especially when it comes to saving fuel. First and foremost, make sure to take only the necessary cargo. As you may already know, weight has a huge impact on performance. That’s why race car engineers look to make their cars as light as possible. In our case, we need to reduce weight as it impacts fuel economy.
You can reduce fuel consumption by 1% for every 100 pounds you leave behind. See, traveling light comes in handy, even out of the airport!
Before you set off, plan your route so that it bypasses rush hour traffic as much as possible. Stop-start traffic is a killer of fuel, and you’ll burn more traffic stuck in a traffic jam than on your whole journey. Avoid setting off during peak traffic hours at all costs.
Also, ensure that the planned route does not have any backtracking so that you don’t have to waste fuel on some unnecessary driving. We also recommend using the express lane on toll roads. This saves you fuel by allowing the vehicle to travel at a constant rate of speed.
If you are interested in saving more fuel, make sure that you change the spark plugs on time. Also, make sure to follow the above tips for maximum fuel savings.