What happens when your spark plugs call foul?

When a spark plug is ‘fouled’, it basically means it’s becoming too worn or contaminated to work properly.  

While they’re a lot more reliable in modern cars, there are still things inside your engine (like fuel and carbon) which can build up onto your spark plugs, and eventually render them ineffective in either firing or just generally working.

Spark plugs need to be kept clean, and when foreign matter like oil or other liquids layer up, they can foul, and ultimately fail.

Unfortunately this does ultimately lead to more serious issues down the road, and you might be looking at problems in your engine, or stuff like failed gaskets and O-rings, which are never much fun.

How do you give new life to spark plugs?

Luckily for you, spark plugs do have a handy self-cleaning function.  The heat that the engine generates allows them to burn off anything that might be building up.

If you haven’t been out for a drive in a while, or only drive for short distances, you might find that your spark plugs are more prone to fouling because they haven’t been given ample time or distance to self-clean.  That said, you should find they’ll stay in good condition.

If that’s the case, think about hitting the road for an extended drive, maybe a short road trip around the coast in the name of your car’s wellbeing, as much as your own?  You’ll thank us when you avoid those pesky bills down the track!

If this doesn’t work, the only solution is to removed your potentially oil fouled spark plugs and inspect them closer, so make sure they aren’t subject to corrosion arising from a mixture of fuel and air exposure.

We don’t necessarily recommend taking this into your own hands, though.  There is definitely some complexity involved in inspecting and cleaning your spark plugs.  Head to the My Auto Shop service area if you are experiencing fouled spark plugs and need to talk to a qualified mechanic.

If you find that your spark plugs are too fouled and beyond cleaning, you might be looking at a replacement set which can cost around $150-$500 NZD depending on the type of plugs you need, your car’s make and model, and so on.

What kind of serious issues or problems can arise from fouled spark plugs?

If you do end up replacing your spark plugs and they continue to go foul on you, it’s more than likely to be an issue with your engine.  This could range from a rich fuel mixture leaving large black spots on the plugs, a leaky head gasket, which means your spark plugs are exposed to engine coolant, contaminating them.  

Other underlying issues can include damaged piston rings, engine cylinders, valve guides or valve guide seals which allows oil to seep and layer onto the spark plugs.  Not pretty!

If you’re experiencing engine issues related to your spark plugs, and need a bit of peace of mind, we’re here to help!  Head over to the My Auto Shop service area and we can sort you out with a few quotes to compare from qualified mechanics in your area.  Too easy.