Shopping for the best spark plug wires may get you to thinking: is this really necessary? Aren’t they all just a bunch of wound, insulated wire that connects to your spark plugs? How different can one set really be from another?
Spark plug wires, also known as ignition wires, play a very important role in your vehicle’s performance and overall efficiency!
While this logic is valid enough (and in a sense correct), the reality is that modern cars are producing ever-technically advanced ignition systems, and the demand on spark plug wires – and the plugs themselves – has never been greater.
To get any kind of reliable longevity and performance from your ignition and firing system (which affects the overall “health” of your car on so many levels), it’s imperative to run the best ignition wires that you possibly can (GarageChief TIP: ignition wires and spark plug wires are the same thing).
In this article we’ve reviewed the best spark plugs for your car so now let’s pick out the 6 best spark plug wires that are currently on the market. These plugs represent your best overall value and will be guaranteed to do just what you need a good wire set to do: last long, and provide solid and reliable current from your distributor to your plugs.
Best Spark Plug Wires – Our Top Picks Compared
|editors-choice||Best Product||Best Value|
|editors-choice||Best Product||Best Value|
|item-title||NGK (8034) HE76 Premium Spark Plug Wire Set||Denso 671-8062 Original Equipment Replacement Wires||ACDelco 9748RR Professional Spark Plug Wire Set||Taylor Cable 98003 Black 10.4mm Custom Fit ThunderVolt 50 High Performance Spark Plug Wire Set||MSD 32829 8.5mm Super Conductor Spark Plug Wire Set||ACCEL 9070C Extreme Ceramic Boot Plug Wire|
|• EPDM Rubber Compound Jacket is Heat Resistant to 180°C|
• Inner Insulation for High Ignition Voltages
• Fiber Tape Braided Reinforcement for Added Cable Tensile Strength
|• Identical in form, fit, color and performance to the factory-installed wire sets|
• Meets or exceed OE/OES specifications
• 8 Wires per set
|• Insulator employs high dielectric materials|
• Coil retainer prevents fretting and micro-arcing
• Spark plug distributor boot shape and materials provide proper fit, installation, and water-tight seal
|• Features a tightly woven heat treated fiberglass braid eliminating the need for additional sleeving|
• Compatible with use on most electronic ignition systems and components
• Pure Silicone Pro Boot Bonded To Wire
|• Copper alloy conductor has a resistance value of less than 50 ohms per foot for superior spark|
• Ferro-magnetic impregnated core creates an effective EMI choke
• In a single 12 inch Length of super conductor wire there is only 40 to 50 ohms of resistance
|• Ceramic boots withstand temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit|
• Eliminates burned or melted plug wires
• Reflects heat away from the plug boot with no flaking or peeling
Spark Plug Wire Reviews
Like we said, the best spark plug wires aren’t just for ultra high-performance vehicles or tuned-up race cars; while they’re all but a necessity within that realm, they also serve a tremendous function in terms of efficiency and performance for day to day drivers as well, to ensure that you don’t degrade the overall engine output of your vehicle.
After reviewing hundreds of different sets out there and taking into consideration the performance and reliability of thousands of reviewers, here are our top 6 picks for the best ignition wires currently on the market.
NGK (8034) HE76 Best Premium Spark Plug Wire Set
NGK has long been known to manufacture the industry’s most long-lasting, reliable, and best performing spark plug wires (and spark plugs), both in terms of performance cars and daily drivers.
The HE76 performance wires have been a best seller for years, and by far have the best consumer rating of any premium aftermarket wire set out there. They feature a proprietary ferrite magnetic core, which produces half the resistance of standard carbon core wires (see our “Buying Guide” section below for detailed info on wire construction/insulation, resistance, etc). This results in the most long-lasting wires on the market, with a non-wearable inner core that will outlive other wire sets by over 60,000 miles.
If you’re looking for the absolute best combination of price, performance, and longevity, the NGK HE76 are your sure-fire best bet.
Get it here on Amazon
ACDelco 9748RR Best Professional Spark Plug Wire Set
ACDelco 9748RR Professional Spark Plug Wire Set is another fantastic carbon core wire set that will outlast most any other brand on the market, though they’re slightly inferior to the NGK HE76 in terms of long-term heat-resistance and breakdown, at least in our experience.
They feature an internal coil retainer that all but eliminates long-term micro-arcing (again, see below for an explanation of “arc”), and the inner silicone insulating layers employ high dielectric materials for excellent conductivity, even with ignition coils that output upwards of 100,000 volts.
Also, we absolutely love the new terminal (boot end) design on these wires, which makes for the most snug-fitting distributor an plug connection we’ve perhaps ever seen. Nine times out of ten a spark plug wire will fail or develop leaks at the boot ends, and these wires all but eliminate premature cracking and dry rotting. Our best-value pick given the remarkable price tag, even if the NGK are slightly superior in terms of overall construction and performance.
Check it out on Amazon
Denso 671-8062 Original Equipment Replacement Ignition Wires
Another really solid, quality carbon core ignition wire set that is even less expensive than the AC Delco’s. If you’re really looking to save as much money as possible while still getting the best spark plug wires that you can get for your daily driver, these are a great option.
The outer silicon layer is Class E rated, which is the highest wire-insulation rating you can get. This protects the conductive core in extreme temperatures between -40 and 428-degrees Fahrenheit, and have also been tested against heat shrinkage and chemical resistance (i.e. motor oil exposure).
Denso 671-8062 Original Equipment Replacement Wires has excellent consumer ratings and reviews – probably the best cheap spark plug wires you can get, if you’re really looking to stretch your dollars.
Read customer reviews on Amazon right here
Taylor Cable 98003 Black 10.4mm Custom Fit ThunderVolt 50 – Best Spark Plug Wires For Performance
If you’re a tuner or are into performance upgrades, these are probably the best spark plug wires for performance that you can get in the sub-$100 range. (In fact, they’re well below $100).
Be advised, though – they’re not recommended for “non-tuned” automobiles or daily drivers, as their conductive core is designed to withstand up to 102,000 volts and 600-degrees Fahrenheit; most normal cars only carry between 40,000 and 60,000 volts from the distributor.
Taylor Cable Spark Plug Wire Set conductive boot end is heat-bonded to the wire core, making for virtually fail-proof terminal connections, and the heat-treated fiberglass weave underneath the outer jacket makes for some of the stiffest and most durable performance ignition wires on the market. Again, if you’re looking for the best spark plug wires for performance without spending much more than a normal wire set, these are the ones for you.
Go and check it out on Amazon
MSD 32829 8.5mm Super Conductor Spark Plug Wires
MSD Super Conductor Spark Plug Wire Sets are ultra-low resistance (5,000 ohms) copper-core wires and are easily the best value aftermarket spiral core ignition wires we’ve come across (they won’t work with distributors designed for carbon-core wires, so make sure your car is designed for a low-resistance spiral core).
A lot of newer cars nowadays are using the spiral core wires over carbon for their low-resistance capabilities, but the major downfall of spiral core wires is that, when it comes time to replace them, they tend to be super pricey. That’s why we had to include these on the list – by far the best aftermarket ignition wires we’ve seen or heard about for spiral-core ignition coils.
Check it out on Amazon
ACCEL 9070C Extreme Ceramic Boot Plug Wires
Even though ACCEL 9070C Extreme Ceramic Boot Plug Wires are specific for GM LS Gen IV engines, we had to include them on our list because, all things considered, they’re probably the best spark plug wires on the market for that particular class of vehicle.
We’ve never heard of any ignition wires with more than about 900-degrees of heat resistance, but the ceramic boots on these babies have been rated for mind-boggling temperatures of over 2,000-degrees Fahrenheit – virtually melt proof for even the most vicious of street machines. Far and away the best spark plug wires for drag cars that you can get.
Get it on Amazon right here
Spark Plug Wires – The Basics and Buyer’s Guide
What Ignition Wires Are?
Spark plugs have one clear job: to transfer the electrical current from your car’s distributor and ignition coil to the spark plugs. Without a source of electricity, the spark plugs won’t be able to spark, and your car won’t be able to run.
Naturally, this implies that spark plug wires play a very important role in your vehicle’s performance and overall efficiency; if they’re not working the way they should, the spark plugs won’t receive the proper “juice” they need, and the car will have poor fuel economy and/or run very rough.
As you might guess, spark plug wires need to be designed to carry a high voltage of electricity (anywhere from 40,000 volts to 100,000 volts) without having any of the current escape or “arc” while it travels from the distributor to the spark plugs.
Basic Engine Ignition System
First, a real quick lesson in basic engine ignition and spark plug firing. All of your car’s electricity comes from the battery, which only puts out 12 volts of electrical current. However, like we just said, your spark plugs need anywhere from 40,000 volts to 100,000 volts in order to fire. Where does this huge increase in voltage come from?
Image by www.howacarworks.com
When electrical current leaves the battery 1, it travels to a device called the ignition coil 2. The ignition coil amplifies the 12 volts of current from the battery into the 30,000, 40,000, 50,000, or whatever volts are needed for the spark plugs to fire.
After the ignition coil does its job of magnifying the voltage, the current travels to the “next” device called a distributor 3. The distributor is responsible for “distributing” the electrical current in stop-and-go sequences to the spark plugs. Remember that spark plugs do not fire all at once – they need to fire in sequential order. If you have a 4 cylinder car, for example, cylinder #1 fires first, then #2, then #3, and so on and so on in a continuous cycle.
Your spark plug wires 4, then, are hooked up to the distributor, which sends the high electrical current (in proper sequence) down each wire, where it terminates at the respective spark plug 5.
Each wire needs to be connected to the spark plug that corresponds with the proper position on the distributor; if you get the wires mixed up i.e. if you run a wire from the #1 position on the distributor to the #3 spark plug, your engine will fire out of sequence and run extremely rough and generate almost no power.
Spark Plug Wires Types and Build
So, back to the spark plug wires, you might guess that they need to be very well-built and well-insulated in order to carry upwards of 100,000 volts of electricity to the spark plugs. This is very true – if any of that electrical current “escapes” in the form of a leaking wire, it can (and will) result in a poorly-running engine.
There are essentially two main types of spark plug wires in modern vehicles: carbon core and spiral core.
In the early days, most all cars were made with something called a solid core wire. These kinds of wires were excellent as far as transporting high voltage current, but their huge drawback was that they’re lack of insulation gave off tons of radio waves, or radio frequency interruption (RFI). Once cars started to be manufactured with radios in them (as well as other electrical components), a new type of ignition wire was needed that eliminated RFI.
Both carbon core and spiral core spark plug wires have relatively the same construction in their outer three or four layers. The outermost layer or “outer jacket” is made of a heavy duty silicon that protects the core from the extreme heat of the engine bay. Underneath the outer jacket is usually a thin layer of braided fiberglass, which adds tensile strength to the wire. Below the fiberglass is another layer of silicon insulation that keeps the high-voltage current traveling through the core from escaping (or “arcing”, as it’s technically referred to).
Whenever electricity travels along a conductor (which is exactly what a spark plug is), it will want to “arc” from the conductive material to the nearest metal object. The inner silicon insulation layer keeps that from happening. And lastly, below this inner silicon layer is a “suppressive and conductive” layer that functions to both suppress RFI and enhance the overall conductivity to the spark plug.
Note: some cheaper wires don’t have this layer, but you want to make sure that the ones you get for your car do in fact have it.
Carbon Core and Spiral Core Spark Plug Wires
Underneath the suppressive layer is where carbon core and spiral core wires differ. In the carbon core wire (which is by far the most common kind and most likely what your car has), the high-voltage electrical current travels down — you guessed it — a carbon core. These kinds of wires, while extremely efficient, are prone to wear and tear, and generally need to be replaced (or at least examined) about every 60,000 miles or so. Over time, even the most well-built ones will break down and lose their insulating capabilities.
All six of the wires we’ve selected on this Best Spark Plug Wires list should fit most vehicles – you just have to select the proper size, as they do come in multiple sizes/configurations.
Also, carbon core wires tend to produce much higher resistance than spiral core wires – usually between about 10,000 to 15,000 ohms per foot of wire, compared to only about the 2-4,000 ohms of resistance that spiral core wires produce. Spiral cores are becoming more and more popular on newer vehicles – when changing your car’s plug wires, you’ll need to determine whether it takes a carbon or a spiral core.
Ignition Wires Fitting
And lastly, spark plug wires are not universally-fitting for every single vehicle and every single spark plug. Some have much longer boots than others (depending on how deep the wells are that the spark plugs sit in), and some will not be able to carry the voltage that some engine’s ignition coils put out. Again, you’ll have to check and make sure exactly what kind of wires your car takes.
How Often Do You Need to Change Spark Plug Wires?
Like we mentioned earlier, a general rule of thumb is to replace or at least thoroughly examine your vehicle’s spark plug wires every 60,000 miles. This is only a rough jumping off point though – a lot of cheaper carbon core wires will last no more than about 30,000 miles.
What happens over time is the extreme heat, vibrations, and generally harsh conditions underneath the hood of your car will wear down the insulating layers of the wire – this is inevitable even for the most best ignition wires out there.
That being said, some other manufacturers don’t recommend changing plug wires until after 100,000 miles. Your best bet if you’re unsure of exactly when your wires were last replaced, is to do a thorough inspection to see what kind of condition they’re in. 99% of the time, if you’ve got worn-down spark plug wires, they’ll readily make themselves known in terms of a rough, poorly running engine.
However, even if old ignition wires aren’t causing the engine to lose power or run rough, if they’ve got any degree of breakdown in either the outer jacket layer or the internal insulation layers, it will result in decreased fuel economy (lower mpg’s) and decreased engine output.
How Do You Test Spark Plug Wires to Tell if They’re Good?
If your car is showing symptoms of bad spark plug wires (i.e. if it’s hard to start, runs/idles rough, hesitates, sputters, accelerates poorly or has poor gas mileage), there are a few different easy things you can do to check on their overall condition. A poorly running car is very often the result of leaking spark plug wires.
5 Ways To Check On Spark Plug Wires Condition
- Visual inspection
- Look & listen for sparks
- Make some sparks
- Check the resistance
First, a simple visual inspection in good light is often enough to detect any problems. Examine the wires thoroughly from their start at the distributor (or ignition coil) all the way along their lengths until they end at the spark plug. Run your fingers along them to feel for any brittleness, cracks, or obviously exposed layers. The plug-end boots are the usually the first part of the wires to fail, so pay keen attention to those areas. Also, if they’re soaked in oil, replace them. By far the most common cause of spark plug wire failure is from oil leaking from the valve cover gasket.
If a simple visual inspection doesn’t turn anything up, wait until it’s really dark outside and turn the car on with the hood popped open. With the car running in the dark, look closely in the area of the spark plug wires – often times you can see the “arcs” of electricity escaping from the wires to the nearest metal object. They’ll appear as little sparks, and a lot of times you can even hear them — they sound like electrical snap-cracking.
Another way to look for arcs is with a rubber-handled screwdriver and jumper wire. Ground the metal end of the screwdriver to the wire (make sure it’s a well-insulated, rubber-handled screwdriver!), and run it along the length of each spark plug wire – if there are any arcs, you’ll see (and hear) them jump from the core to the metal bit of the screwdriver.
And lastly, you can always check the resistance of the wires with an ohmmeter. For carbon core wires, like we said earlier standard resistance is anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 ohms. If you get a reading considerably higher than this, the wire is bad. Also, if you get a reading of infinity on the ohmmeter, it means there’s a break somewhere in the wire and it’s no good at all.
Is it Hard to Change Spark Plug Wires?
It’s not hard at all. In fact, it’s probably one of the simplest DIY jobs you can do on your car.
First, make sure you only replace one wire at a time – DO NOT remove all the wires all at once! This ensures you keep everything in the exact order/sequence it needs to be in from distributor to spark plug.
Using a pair of pliers (preferably, spark plug wire removal pliers), gently pull the boot of the wire off the distributor end, and then pull the boot off the spark plug end (a lot of times you’ll need a pair of extended needle nose pliers in order to reach down into the spark plug well).
When you’re ready to install the new wire, add a bit of dielectric/silicone grease to the inside of each boot end to make for better conductivity and easier removal in the future.
Using the pliers, push down until you hear/feel a noticeable “click”, which indicates a secure attachment. Give it the slightest of tugs to ensure a snug fit.
And lastly, your new spark plug wire kit will come with one short wire about 6” long – this one is for the connection from the ignition coil to the distributor. Do this one last, in the same way that you did all the other ones.
How Much are Spark Plug Wires for a Car?
This totally depends on where you buy them. If you go through the dealer, expect to pay anywhere between $100 and $200 – even more if they’re including installation.
You can easily pick up replacement sets at most any general auto parts store, but we’ve been ordering our wires off of Amazon for years; 99 times out of 100 they’re significantly cheaper than the parts stores, and they usually include free shipping.
In general, expect to pay about $40-$60 for the best spark plug wires sets. There’s rarely any need to pay more than this, unless of course you’re running a 6.05 @251 mph hot rod.
Best Ignition Wires: The Bottom Line
All in all, when you’re looking for the best spark plug wires, you’re going to want a wire with a bombproof outer silicone jacket, a solid fiberglass structural layer, and an internal suppressive/conductive layer that minimizes resistance and maximizes conductivity to the spark plug.
Taking all of that into consideration, the NGK HE76 are hands down the best ignition wires you can spend your money on. Base on our research, they check off all things you want to see in a reliable, efficient, and long-term aftermarket wire set, and continue to receive the best consumer feedback out of any other spark plug wire currently on the market.
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Lastly, we’d love to hear from you! Do you have any experience with our picks? If so let us know in the
comments section below.
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