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How to Easily Clean a Spark Plug

How to Easily Clean a Spark Plug

The spark plugs in your vehicle play an essential role in keeping your engine running. If they’re not functioning correctly, you’ll likely notice. Keeping them clean can not only extend their life but help you avoid a massive bill from your favorite mechanic.

Today, we’ll look at how easy it is to clean a spark plug. Let’s get started!

How Often Should You Check Your Spark Plugs?

The lifespan of a spark plug can range anywhere from 30,000 to 90,000 miles. However, the key to keeping your vehicle in top condition is to check them regularly. Once you’ve put 30,000 or so miles on your spark plugs, it’s a good idea to have them checked every other oil change.

The goal is to catch any issues before they become too prominent. Failing to check and replace failing spark plugs can cause severe damage to your vehicle. You may experience decreased performance, loss of power, and less than stellar fuel efficiency.

Pro Tip: Use these tips on How to Easily Spot Bad Spark Plugs to avoid a mechanical disaster!

When Do Spark Plugs Need to Be Cleaned?

You may not notice that your spark plugs need cleaning if you’re not checking them. If you’re doing routine maintenance, you should regularly check your spark plugs. A few indications that you need to clean them are if dirt and other build-up cover them. If you notice gunk building up on your spark plugs, don’t put off cleaning them.

You want to make sure the electrode and the porcelain sections of the spark plug are as clean as possible.

By keeping them clean, you’re helping to ensure they run efficiently and last as long as possible. However, no matter how good of a job you do at cleaning them, you’re not going to return them to the same performance level as they were new. You’ll eventually need to replace them.

Spark plugs are essential to keeping your engine running well.

How to Clean Your Spark Plugs

If you’re experiencing decreased performance and suspect it’s the result of dirty spark plugs, cleaning them may make a difference. Let’s look at how to clean your spark plugs!

Safety First

First things first, safety is essential when working with vehicles. If you’re not confident in what you’re doing, it’s best to take your car to a trusted mechanic or have a friend help you. You don’t want to wind up with an enormous hospital bill because you were trying to save a few bucks.

When testing your spark plugs, there’s a risk of electrocution. You and anyone helping you must know what is going on when checking whether spark plugs are working. You may need an extra set of hands to check your spark plugs, and communication between you and the other party will be critical.

How to Do It

To clean your spark plugs, you’ll first need to locate and remove them. You cannot fully clean them without first removing them. You’ll start by cleaning away any dirt and debris surrounding the spark plug. This helps keep any debris from falling into the spark plug hole. Next,  remove the spark plug wire and use a socket and wrench to unscrew the spark plugs.

You’ll want to use 220-grit sandpaper to clean the electrodes. Try to get as many carbon deposits or discolorations off the electrode as possible. It should be a bare metal color. If you still notice carbon deposits on the spark plug, you can try using a file. Slide the file back and forth between the electrode and the body of the spark plug for those stubborn deposits.

Lastly, you’ll want to use a wire brush to clean the threads of your spark plug. Wear gloves to avoid scraping your fingers with the wire brush. You can also use a carb cleaner on the threads to remove any caked-on deposits.

Before installing the spark plugs into the hole, make sure to wipe them dry. You don’t want to reinstall them when they’re soaked with carb cleaner. The best way to avoid any mistakes is to do this one spark plug at a time.

Spark plugs under a magnifying lens.
It might be more worthwhile to replace your spark plugs instead of cleaning them.

Is It Worth It to Clean Old Spark Plugs?

Spark plugs are relatively inexpensive and play an essential role in keeping your vehicle running efficiently. It’s best to replace your spark plugs as a part of the preventive maintenance schedule for your car.

Trying to extend the life of your spark plugs can cause significant issues and lead to an expensive trip to the mechanic. If your spark plugs are nearing the end of their lifespan, do yourself a favor and replace them. 

Pro Tip: We spoke to an RV mechanic, these are the RV systems he says will break first.

Should You Clean Old Spark Plugs Or Buy New?

While you want to keep your spark plugs as clean as possible, it’s not that expensive to replace them. If you’re going to go through the effort of cleaning your spark plugs, you may as well replace them while you have them out. You don’t want to take the chance of causing severe issues for your vehicle. It’s always better to be safe than sorry for preventive vehicle maintenance.

Do you clean your spark plugs or replace them? Tell us in the comments!

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Will

Saturday 19th of March 2022

For the cost of new spark plugs ,even top of the line premium plugs it not worth cleaning them. There is usually a reason for them to foul up, find that cause and correct it. It may be time to replace because of wear or deterioration. If it is less then the recommended schedule, then diagnose the cause and correct. Once you've invested in the time to remove and install it is more cost effective to install new plugs, unless a replacement is not available and you have no choice.

Robert

Saturday 19th of March 2022

For the older vehicle that still uses copper spark plug yes great clean them. I cleaned mine every other oil change. 30k miles on them you might aswell replacement. There usually wore out way before that but platinum plugs average plug gap on modern vehicles your looking roughly. 030. That's less than a millimeter. Sandpaper or a wire brush you'll snap the center electrode.cleaning the insulator tip in carb cleaner can damage and create carbon tracking through the inside of the plug. Inspecting plugs on a modern car every other oil change after 30k miles is very costly for most vehicles. Alot of them you have to remove the intake plenum, etc and at that point you might aswell replace them. Follow the replacement intervals.

Doing an oil change no synthetic oil every 5000 miles and doing an engine air filter is more important to me. Run either of them too long will cause sprak plugs to foul up or cause engine damage, etc.

Just my 2 cents Red seal license mechanic Ontario Canada.

DWY

Friday 18th of March 2022

Well, why not just say "captain obvious". This is so basic, can't understand why this was actually published. And, try "cleaning" on some engines--they can require the removal of the intake manifold. And, note: with all the crap on the "free" campsites, they are no longer usable. Amazed this crapola gets published.

Murphy

Friday 18th of March 2022

You talk about hitting the plug with sandpaper and / or file, but yet NO mention of the fact doing to requires one to re-gap the plug. When anything is done with the center electrode or ground, you MUST make sure the gap is correct. Outside of a handful of light scraps with 320 grit sandpaper, you have changed the gap distance. If you don't know what the gap is supposed to be, Google the plug you are using.

Mike Young

Friday 18th of March 2022

Don't forget to use anti-sieze esp with aluminum cylinder heads!

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