For such a small car component, your spark plugs can cause huge problems if they’re not in top condition. That’s why it’s always sensible to maintain your car by trying to find the best spark plugs for your vehicle’s performance.
Changing your own spark plugs is one of the more basic DIY tasks that gearheads learn to maintain their own vehicles. It’s not always easy, so if you’re a complete newbie, then you may want to have a mechanic check out and replace your spark plugs for you.
However, as the responsible driver and car owner that you are, you should have a say on which spark plugs will be installed in your car.
Quick Look: Our Top Picks
Spark plug tips
Here are some things you have to know about your spark plugs.
- Do you even have spark plugs in your car? Most cars have them, from cheap econoboxes to exorbitant supercars. But, there are no spark plugs to replace if you’re using a diesel engine, as that’s a compression engine that ignites the mixture of fuel and air without a spark.
- Is it time to change your spark plugs? Normally, your owner’s manual will tell you how often you should change your spark plugs. This can be every 30,000 to 100,000 miles; it all depends on the type of vehicle you’re driving and the kind of spark plugs you have.
It is best, however, that you change the spark plugs well before the recommended service interval. The performance of the spark plug deteriorates as they get older because of wear and tear. In the last 20% of the lifespan of the spark plug, the reduced gas mileage they can cost you will be greater than the cost of the new spark plugs.
Spark plugs can deteriorate because of the excessive heat, or they can become dirty due to oil and other substances. Worn or dirty spark plugs can cause poor performance for your car. Your engine can misfire, the idling can be rough, or your car may hesitate when you step on the gas. If you don’t have your spark plugs replaced right away, your engines may just not start anymore.
- Consult your owner’s manual before purchasing new spark plugs. Be sure to get the spark plugs that suit your vehicle. Usually, there’s a recommendation in there as to what kind of spark plugs you need for your car.
The space between the center and the side electrodes of a spark plug is called the spark plug gap. The spark plug you get must match the gap you need. Spark plugs can have a fixed gap or you may have to adjust the gap after you buy the spark plugs.
If you really want to be sure that you’re getting the right spark plug, you can just get the exact same spark plugs that came with your car.
What else should I know about spark plugs?
Spark plugs often have precious metals that are able to withstand heat and voltage. Spark plugs traditionally have a copper core with a nickel alloy that’s comparatively soft compared to other options. However, they may still be best for cars from the 1970s and earlier.
For newer cars with electronic distributor-based ignition systems, single platinum spark plugs may be recommended. You can upgrade to double-platinum spark plugs, and some manuals insist on them. Iridium spark plugs are considered the hardiest of the lot, as iridium is harder than platinum. If your manual recommends these spark plugs, you can’t use any other type of spark plug.
You must never downgrade to a less-expensive spark plug than what came in your vehicle; it doesn’t matter if copper spark plugs are cheaper than what’s recommended. With the cheaper and less-suitable spark plugs, you won’t get much of a lifespan from them, you risk your engine, and you also use more gas. It’s just not worth it.
If you want to replace spark plugs yourself, you should watch the online videos on how to do it. The video you watch should feature the same kind of car you have, so there’s no difference in how to approach the installation.
You’re better off having an experienced mechanic replace your spark plugs for you because it can be a very difficult task. Some newbies even find it hard to find the spark plugs, as they’re sometimes underneath a mess of wires.
You may also have to use specialized tools, especially when you have to remove your old spark plugs from tight spaces, and you also have to gap the spark plugs according to the manual’s specs.
Most mechanics will allow you to bring the spark plugs of your choice to them to install it for you.
Spark Plug Reviews
Denso is a well-known player in the auto parts industry. It’s actually the 4th largest automotive component supplier in the world, with billions of dollars in revenues, more than 150,000 employees, and 189 subsidiaries. It’s ranked #268 on the Fortune 500 list.
What this is really meant to emphasize is that this isn’t a spark plug from some “hole in a wall” company.
- These are great for Toyotas, which makes sense when you find out that Toyota owns 25% of the company. You still need to check that it’s right for your Toyota, though.
- It works well with other car brands too, since sales to Toyota make up only half of Denso’s revenues. You just need to make sure that the Denso spark plugs you get are suitable for your car.
- Here you have platinum in the center electrode with a titanium-enhanced ground electrode. It’s a design that results in a more complete combustion.
- This offers a much better performance than even other single platinum plugs. You can start your engine more quickly, the acceleration is much better, and you also improve your gas mileage.
- For knowledgeable DIYers, the installation shouldn’t take long, and it’s possible to get it done in just half an hour.
- There’s really nothing here that you can say is a negative, except that it’s not always easy for everyone to get precisely the spark plugs they need. That means you may order the spark plugs and find out they’re wrong for your car. So you have to be sure or else you may find yourself paying more in repair and mechanic costs.
This is another longstanding brand name in the spark plug industry, as it’s been in the business since 1936. It’s a Japanese company, where the people know what they’re doing.
This BPR4ES model is a resistor spark plug, and it’s not your ordinary standard spark plug. It’s strongly recommended for a car that has an onboard computer to control and monitor the engine performance. The “resistor” feature makes sure that your onboard electronics aren’t disrupted by electromagnetic interference.
- Get this if your car uses standard spark plugs and it uses advanced electronic systems, such as engine management computers. It’s also great if your car has onboard electronic systems like GPS systems and even 2-way radios.
- Using this appropriately can prevent future problems caused by non-resistor spark plugs. These problems include abnormal combustion, engine run-on, and erratic idling. The engine may misfire at high RPM, or the power may drop off at certain RPM levels.
- These are already gapped, so you don’t need to adjust the gap. However, before you buy it, you need to make sure that it comes with the proper gap for your engine.
- The NGK brand is well-respected, and some people only use NGK for spark plugs. That’s especially true for small engines.
- These things are long-lasting and very reliable.
- This may sound repetitive, but it’s so important that it bears repeating: Make sure this will suit your car and that its 0.030” gap is right. It may not also be your best bet if your manual insists on platinum spark plugs.
This comes with a heat-fused center electrode with pure platinum. The “+4” refers to the use of the 4 nickel-yttrium ground electrodes, and the yttrium enhancement offers a much-improved performance. This is also a fixed-gap spark plug.
- Again, this is not a no-name brand. Even many non-gear heads have heard of this German engineering and electronics company. Bosch exemplifies the excellent engineering that Germans are justifiably known for.
- As this comes with a factory preset gap, you won’t have to adjust or check the gap. As long as your old spark plugs have the same gap, you’re okay.
- It will fit a lot of newer vehicles, but again, you have to make sure.
- The installations shouldn’t be a problem especially if you have a good drive torque wrench and spark plug socket. It should only require 30 minutes or so, though, with the wrong tools, you may damage the damage the spark or the threads in the cylinder head.
- It offers quicker starts and improved idling.
- It results in a more efficient combustion that helps with fuel economy.
- It lasts for a very long while. Although you need to replace your spark plugs according to the owner manual’s recommendations, this one can last for 120,000 miles with no problems.
- These may not be the best plugs for older vehicles, such as those older than a 2000 release. These spark plugs may just be too advanced for them.
This is OEM for BMW E46 cars, but it works for a lot of vehicles. It features corrugated ribs, a copper core, standard platinum center electrodes, and four nickel ground electrodes.
- The corrugated ribs are designed to prevent flashover (high-voltage electric short circuit made through the air between exposed conductors).
- The copper core helps with heat removal.
- It has triple seals that prevent any leakage.
- It features a pure alumina silicate ceramic insulator that improves the strength and heat transfer.
- It’s resistant to abrasion and corrosion.
- It improves ignition capabilities, engine responsiveness, and fuel efficiency.
- Sometimes sellers may feature the wrong part in their pictures, so trust the part number more than the images; you may get spark plugs that are not the same as the picture shown.
Now we’re back to a Denso, and this time it has a copper core, an iridium center electrode, and a platinum ground electrode. The materials and the build quality are terrific, and these are often the very same spark plugs used by conscientious dealerships.
- This is Denso’s longest-life spark plug in their lineup. It’s been 100% pre-fired for the highest quality.
- It has a 5-rib insulator that prevents flashover.
- It uses a copper-glass seal that bonds the center electrode and the insulator for a gas-tight seal.
- The threads have been machine-rolled, so it prevents cross-threading and seizing when you’re removing and installing the spark plugs.
- It really improves fuel efficiency and acceleration becomes smoother.
- It’s pre-gapped (to 0.043 inches), but you can adjust the gap if you want.
- You’ll either want to install this yourself or have a friend with DIY know-how. It can cost a lot more if you have a dealership install this for you (especially if you buy it from them).
Obviously, the best spark plugs for you are those that are rated for your vehicle. But, if there’s an option, choose the Denso (3421) SK20HR11 Iridium Long Life Spark Plug. It’s just a fact that iridium is eight times stronger and six times harder than platinum, so it’s virtually impervious to wear and tear.
If you’re looking for the best spark plugs for performance, this is it. These won’t quit on you even if you use your vehicle for racing or for other extreme applications.
What’s great about this spark plug is that with the right online seller, it’s actually very affordable. Yet its service life is much longer than original equipment spark plugs, so you can use your car roughly and these spark plugs can keep up.