Quick Tech Tip- Extend Your Spark Plug Life

It’s a known fact that engine components need to be maintained periodically. In this day and age we have a “throw away and replace” mentality in which we’re taught to just replace parts and toss the old ones. In the early days of automobiles just about EVERYTHING was rebuildable or serviceable. For pennies on the dollar you could buy new seals and brake components, fuel pumps, etc. In those days being a DIY guy or gal was a necessity and not a choice.

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This quick tip is regarding extending the life of the spark plugs in your engine in your car, truck, lawn mower, snow blower, etc. Instead of tossing the plugs in the trash, save yourself some money and recondition the plugs. Take your plugs out of the engine and use a media blaster to clean the business end (electrode). This doesn’t take a lot of time as you’re just blasting off the residue left from use. The Eastwood Blast cabinet, Small Job Blast Kit, or the Speed Blaster are the two best options for the job.

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Once you have the plugs blasted, use compressed air to clean out the end of the plug and you can gap the plug(s) to spec. The result will be a better running engine with better fuel economy; all for free! Do this before storage so you’re ready to go the next time you want to run it.

Words: Matt M
Pics/Tech Tip: Mark R.

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28 thoughts on Quick Tech Tip- Extend Your Spark Plug Life

  • As an old timer mechanic this tip is outdated. In the days of leaded gas plugs would become encrusted with lead deposits at around 5-6 thousand miles, and blasting was the cure because labor rates were much lower than cost of parts replacement. Plugs were about a dollar each, labor to r&r, blast and re-gap was $2.00. At 10,000 plugs were routinely replaced. Blasting for more than about 3-5 seconds could change heat range by shortening insulator nose, many plugs were blasted for 10-15 seconds to clean them thoroughly.At 10,000 plugs were ready to fail from cracked insulators, compression leaks at the joint where porcelain met steel shell, as evidenced by grey to black ring on porcelain at that joint, glazed porcelain, etc. Also bear in mind that those older engines would be tuned every 5-10,000 miles, and needed such things as valve adjustments, points filed, carb adjustments, valve jobs at 40,000, overhaul at 100,000, oil and filter change every 1,000, etc. With today’s engines, fuel injection, advanced electronics, better oils and filters, etc., all of that maintenance is a thing of the past.With today’s lead free gas and improved ignitions, plugs should run at least 50,000 miles without any attention (that is the federal emission standard)

  • At one time we owned 7 vehicles and at this altitude here in CO, the older engines would foul plugs due to the fact that some carbs can only be leaned out so much. My solution to this was to use an ultrasonic bath like the jewelry stores use. (I am a goldsmith by trade) you can pick an inexpensive model up at Harbor freight. Using an equal parts mixture of Mr. Clean, Ammonia, and water, soak the plugs for about 5 minutes and rinse/dry with compressed air. This will leave the electrode, and insulator unharmed, and looking like new. They will rust if you leave them wet though.

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