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Spark Plugs and Engine Conditions

Ara Klujian

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Spark plugs provide a bird’s eye view as to what is going on inside the engine and combustion chamber. Usually, the number 1 plug in the firing order is the best plug used to aid in diagnosing conditions. Spark plug changing intervals vary, so check with your engine and or plug manufacturers for specific miles or hours to change them out. Here are some examples of conditions to look for in a spark plug.

Normal- Brown to Grayish tip and slight electrode wear. Can be cleaned and regapped.

Carbon Deposits- Dry black fluffy soot. Indicates a rich mixture, poor ignition, excessive idling, or bad air filter. Can be cleaned.

Oil Deposits- Oily wet black deposits. Caused by oil leaking past rings, excessive clearance between valve guides and stems, or worn bearings. Can be cleaned.

Overheating- Blistered white or light gray insulator with blueish burnt electrodes. Caused by overheating, incorrect timing, or lean mixture. Replace plug.

Ash Deposits- Light brown to white deposits covering the tip and or electrode. Caused by fuel additives or oil entering chamber. Can be cleaned.

Detonation- Melted electrodes or blistered insulator. Metallica deposits indicate engine damage. Incorrect timing, lean mixture, burnt valves, or engine overheating. Replace plug.

Worn- Severely eroded and worn electrodes. Indicates normal wear. Replace plug.
 
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Good info. Pictures for some of the more "mechanically challenged" would be a nice touch...:-D
 

spotman123

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Ara and Newman, thanks for sharing this valuable info. We sometimes forget to check the sticky's. thanks Wayne aka spotman
 

ultracleaning

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I wanted to change plugs in my van the other day, so I removed the doghouse on a 2002 Ford E-350. I couldn't find the plugs so I went to the Internet. I have a 5.4L v-8 which has aluminum heads and the plugs when removed usually bring along the threads which causes the need for a threded steel sleeve. I have 145000 miles on it I bought it new, it has never been hot and is running fine so I'm leaving them alone. Ford won't do anything about this. The Plugs come out the top of the engine which is not very much space. I have a friend that has a pickup and it cost him $250.00 for 2 plugs removed and installed
 

Ara Klujian

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I wanted to change plugs in my van the other day, so I removed the doghouse on a 2002 Ford E-350. I couldn't find the plugs so I went to the Internet. I have a 5.4L v-8 which has aluminum heads and the plugs when removed usually bring along the threads which causes the need for a threded steel sleeve. I have 145000 miles on it I bought it new, it has never been hot and is running fine so I'm leaving them alone. Ford won't do anything about this. The Plugs come out the top of the engine which is not very much space. I have a friend that has a pickup and it cost him $250.00 for 2 plugs removed and installed
When the heads are aluminum make sure the engine is cold when removing the plugs. Spray some wd40 or pb blaster before removal. Massage the plugs out gently. Sometimes loosen, tighten - loosen, tighten back and forth should make the plugs come out better. #1 and #2 plugs are best removed from the firewall with an extension. I use duct tape or locking extensions on the socket and extension if I feel it may separate or get stuck.
 

matt7

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I wanted to change plugs in my van the other day, so I removed the doghouse on a 2002 Ford E-350. I couldn't find the plugs so I went to the Internet. I have a 5.4L v-8 which has aluminum heads and the plugs when removed usually bring along the threads which causes the need for a threded steel sleeve. I have 145000 miles on it I bought it new, it has never been hot and is running fine so I'm leaving them alone. Ford won't do anything about this. The Plugs come out the top of the engine which is not very much space. I have a friend that has a pickup and it cost him $250.00 for 2 plugs removed and installed
The problem is the longer you leave them in the greater the chance of this happening. All aluminum heads suffer from this issue if the plugs are not change regularly as steel tends to seize into aluminum.
 

campergerald

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I have a 5.4 in my Ford Expedition and blew a plug out, threads and all! As stated above plugs are a "bear" to remove , cost 250 to have 1 hole repaired, without head removal. 185000 miles on it now and no more problems.
 

joeynbgky

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I have a 5.4 in my Ford Expedition and blew a plug out, threads and all! As stated above plugs are a "bear" to remove , cost 250 to have 1 hole repaired, without head removal. 185000 miles on it now and no more problems.
That engine had a recall because of blowing plugs. Should have been no charge. Its always good to check ur car for recalls. U just wasted ur money

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Little Nicky

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I know this is an older thread but be aware the people who really need to worry about bringing up threads with the plug or breaking off in the head are Ford owners who have the "3 valve" 4.6 and more often 5.4 L engines. However there is a special tool made specifically for addressing this, making it much easier to fix. If your lawnmower kicks your ass, I'd recommend against trying to tackle it yourself, but there are a lot of people on these forums that are perfectly capable of performing this repair themselves. Feel free to contact me if you need any direction/have any questions

http://www.amazon.com/Lisle-LIS65600-Broken-Remover-Engines/dp/B00267PZUK
 

racebum

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The problem is the longer you leave them in the greater the chance of this happening. All aluminum heads suffer from this issue if the plugs are not change regularly as steel tends to seize into aluminum.

not at all. header placement and heat have a major impact on this

take the GM ls1 for example. very very easy to change 100k plugs

honda 4 cylinders, very very easy to change plugs at 100k. most 4cyl engines are actually

it just depends on the engine
 

Little Nicky

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Race:
I don't see how what you said contradicts what Matt7 said... I think both are correct.

Matt7 was saying in a nutshell that dissimilar metals tend to have a reaction. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galvanic_corrosion for more information. I don't think he was saying that metal composition is the only thing that will affect the tendency for spark plugs to fight you coming out, just that they play a significant role. I tend to think of heat as a catalyst that accelerates the corrosion process but there is probably more to it than that. I've always just taken what I know to be at face value here and not looked for why things are the way that they are. Feel free to point me towards enlightenment please.