The sparkplug plays an important role within a car’s petrol internal combustion engine (ICE). It is the component responsible for igniting the fire within the combustion chamber and turning firepower into kinetic power thence allowing your car to move forward. There are many types of sparkplugs on the market, so here’s a guide.
The main components of a sparkplug are 2 electrodes (central and ground) positioned apart to create an electrode gap. The electrodes are what generates a spark when a high electrical voltage is applied to the central electrode and a spark path is created with the ground electrode.
The electrode gap is there to provide a space for the spark. If an appropriate gap is not provided to the plug then there won’t be sufficient spark to ignite the fuel and may lead to misfiring.
Modern-day spark plugs now have smaller electrodes to reduce the amount of electric voltage needed to create a spark. Using less voltage will help increase the efficiency of the ignition system.
Ground electrodes are usually made up of nickel-based alloys that consist of a copper core enclosed in it. But for central electrodes, materials used can range between platinum, copper, and iridium. This depends on the type of sparkplug your car engine is built to use.
So, which type of sparkplug should you pick from? And how many types of sparkplug are there on the market? Here’s a breakdown of the most commonly used sparkplugs.
Sparkplugs with a copper electrode core are usually larger in size and require more electric voltage to generate a spark. Generally, copper sparkplugs are “gentler” and tend to have a shorter lifespan so owners will have to replace the sparkplugs more often.
For copper sparkplugs, you can upgrade to better sparkplugs like iridium or platinum.
- Suitable for classic cars built before the 1980s
- Works well with high-pressure engines such as turbocharged engines
- Short life span
- Requires high voltage to generate spark
Iridium sparkplugs have a much longer lifespan compared to copper sparkplugs. This is because iridium is a much hardier material hence allowing it to stand against time for much longer.
This is why most car manufacturers prefer iridium sparkplugs. Other than its long lifespan, the sparkplugs are also smaller in size as you don’t need a lot of iridium to generate sufficient spark to get your car moving. It also doesn’t require a lot of electricity to create a spark.
Because of that, iridium sparkplugs are often more expensive to replace. And unfortunately, if an engine is built to use iridium sparkplugs, you cannot downgrade to a copper sparkplug and can only replace the worn sparkplug with another iridium sparkplug to keep the engine running at tip-top condition.
- Creates better combustion in the chamber
- Long lifespan
- Requires low electricity voltage to generate a spark
The central copper electrode in a platinum sparkplug is wrapped in a layer of platinum to not only allow it to conduct electricity better but to lengthen the lifespan of the copper electrode within.
Platinum sparkplugs also generate more heat which will help the engine produce less carbon. This type of sparkplug is more commonly used in newer cars with a coil on plug ignition system.
- Long life span (up to a distance of 160,934 km)
- Reduces carbon emission
Double platinum sparkplug
A double platinum sparkplug is very similar to a platinum sparkplug, but the difference is the use of platinum on the ground electrode as well. With platinum on both sides, this doubles the heat that a platinum sparkplug generates helping the engine to produce even less carbon.
This type of sparkplug is commonly used in engines with a wasted spark ignition system.
- Recommended for wasted spark ignition systems
- Long lifespan
Yes, there are sparkplugs made with silver electrodes as well. But unfortunately, silver sparkplugs are not as long-lasting as iridium or platinum sparkplugs because silver is not a very hardy material.
Silver sparkplugs are commonly used in motorcycles and older high-performance cars in Europe.
- Even heat distribution
- Short lifespan
Hot and Cold sparkplugs
Sparkplugs are usually sorted into 2 categories known as hot and cold.
Hot sparkplugs are known to produce higher heat to assist combustion within the engine cylinders and to help get rid of carbon waste within the chamber.
Cold sparkplugs produce less heat to help control the temperature in the combustion chamber. If the combustion chamber gets too hot, it will cause a knocking sound in the engine. This will increase the risk of damaging your engine.
These sparkplugs are usually found in high-performance cars that produce higher engine temperatures compared to normal cars.
With so many types of sparkplugs to choose from in the market, it can get quite confusing when it comes to replacing them. We suggest referring to your owner's manual to make sure which type of sparkplug your car uses and heading to your preferred service centre to carry out the required maintenance to avoid any unforeseen issues, like a misfiring sparkplug, from happening.