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Doing maintenance is an integral part of owning a car. Many components need to be maintained, including tires, batteries, brake rotors, spark plugs, and more—all of these need to be replaced at some point. Skipping the smallest component, like windshield wipers or spark plugs, could make your car unsafe to drive. However, when it comes to plugs are spark plugs brand specific?

Here’s how good spark plugs should work

A spark plug assembly.
A spark plug assembly | Getty Images

Spark plugs are a vital component of the internal combustion process that allows your car’s engine to run. When you start your car, a combination of fuel and air is supplied to the engine cylinder from the valves. However, this only serves as potential energy.

In order to get your car moving, that energy has to be converted into kinetic energy. The spark plugs do this by igniting that fuel/air mixture, creating a powerful explosion.

When spark plugs are worn out, you might feel some unexpected jerks from your car as the engine struggles to perform properly. Rough idling and starting are also common symptoms of a spark plug problem.

You can also gauge the condition of your spark plugs by popping the hood and looking at them. A blown spark plug will likely be covered in oily residue and black carbon deposits. Spark plugs with melted electrodes or damaged insulator tips should also be replaced immediately.

Are spark plugs brand exclusive?

According to Jalopytalk, it’s not necessary to buy the same OEM spark plugs as replacements. You can disregard the brand as well: it’s more important that you get replacement plugs made from the same material. There are a few different types of spark plugs used in most vehicles.

Iridium spark plugs are generally the most common type of spark plugs installed in new vehicles. While the plugs in older cars need to be replaced after 40,000 miles, these ones can last upwards of 100,000 miles. It also doesn’t take a lot of voltage for these plugs to produce a spark, so they’re more reliable in extreme conditions.

If you have a car that was manufactured before the 1980s, Oards says that you probably need copper spark plugs. These plugs require more voltage to kick off the combustion process and will need to be replaced more frequently. On the upside, they cost much less than a set of iridium spark plugs.

Single and double platinum spark plugs are pricier, but they’re more resistant to carbon buildup. These plugs have a platinum disc that protects the electrode from overheating. Silver spark plugs are less common nowadays, but you still see them on the engines of motorcycles and certain European cars.

How to know if you have the right spark plugs

The right set of spark plugs will fit perfectly into the threads that connect them to your engine. If your car has a V6 or V8 engine, you can find the threads on the sides of the engine. The spark plugs on four-cylinder engines are placed on the top of the unit. 

When you install the correct spark plugs, you also shouldn’t have any performance problems while driving. To determine what kind of spark plugs your vehicle uses, consult your owner’s manual.

Online auto parts databases can also help you locate the right spark plug replacements. If you’re still unsure, it never hurts to double-check with a mechanic. They can also help you install the plugs if you don’t feel confident handling the task on your own.


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