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From chainsaw to forklifts: Spark plugs power far more than you thought

How many petrol engines exist in the world? Before you check the latest car and motorcycle data, pause for a moment. Boats and agricultural vehicles are relevant too. So are generators, pumps and some of the garden tools in your shed. In fact, no-one knows the total. But the question does reveal how widely petrol engines are used, from the lightest lawnmower to the toughest forklift trucks. And they all rely on the power of spark plugs. We explore how these ‘small but mighty’ parts benefit our farms, gardens, industries and even our hobbies.

From deep in the forest, there’s the sound of chainsaws at work. But instead of cutting down trees, these saws are being used in a competition with a difference. Six, experienced lumberjacks have just one hour to carve huge logs into statues of eagles, owls and bears. Chainsaw championships like this are just a tiny example of how we employ petrol engines today, whether for work, home or pleasure. And every user of these engines relies on power they can totally trust, based on one thing in common: spark plugs.

Kai Wilschrei, Manager Technical Services Aftermarket EMEA at NGK SPARK PLUG EUROPE, is one of the leading experts on engine ignition of all sizes. “Spark plugs are essential to petrol-powered tools and equipment both small and large; from lawnmowers, portable generators and flood control pumps to forklift trucks and even go-karts,” he explains. “What’s more, they all have to perform as perfectly as they would do in mainstream cars or motorbikes. From a reliable start-up to ensuring hours of smooth operation, home and garden owners around the world rely on spark plugs regularly almost without noticing it. And professional users are effectively trusting parts manufacturers like us with their livelihoods.”

The latest introductions
To meet more of these challenges, in 2019 NGK SPARK PLUG is launching four, OE quality replacement spark plugs for dozens of specialist requirements as well as certain car applications. Three of these new spark plugs offer powerful, efficient ignition for Honda’s 440 ccm iGX440 engine – which when launched, introduced the world’s first single-cylinder, general purpose engine to feature electronic speed control technology. As a result, the model is used in a wide range of forestry, construction, industrial and agricultural equipment, as well as pressure washers, generators and water pumps. The fourth new spark plug suits mowers, hedge cutters and gardening tools powered by Husqvarna engines.

“It’s amazing how much spark plugs can benefit our lives,” adds Kai. “Ours are selected as Original Equipment for items as varied as brushcutters, stationary engines, lawnmowers, oil and water suction as well as ventilation units – not to mention chainsaws. We also meet many larger scale demands, such as forklifts and excavators. Through our huge range of Aftermarket plugs we can also bring reliable ignition to all these applications and more, whenever a replacement is needed.”

Why smaller engines are so special
How tough do spark plugs have to be, aside from the usual automotive purposes? “Very,” confirms the expert. “The uses of today’s petrol engines are so varied and challenging that their spark plugs must be specially designed to cope with each application. Water pumps, for example, become extremely hot and stressed in extreme situations. Go-karts need to run in all kinds of driving conditions. Power generators are only required occasionally. These all place different demands on the spark plugs, even affecting how frequently they have to be changed. In fact, it’s impossible to generalise on replacement intervals – every user of powered vehicles and equipment must follow the manufacturer’s specific recommendations.”

How to choose the right plug
With so many varying needs, spark plug quality is especially important. Kai’s first advice is to avoid low cost parts. He gives three reasons why fitting such replacement plugs could spell trouble for any size of engine:

- Faster wear: Cheaper plugs often cause misfiring or wear more quickly, shortening their service life. This can mean poor running, unreliable
  start-ups and higher emissions and fuel consumption.

- Wrong heat range: Sometimes the heat range of low-cost plugs is incorrect. This can lead to overheating of the spark plug, resulting in engine 
  damage in extreme cases

- Interference issues: Lower quality spark plugs may not meet the ‘immunity requirements’ of radio networks, potentially causing interference

In contrast, NGK SPARK PLUG’s design features are ideal for all possible demands. Kai explains: “The advanced technologies, superior materials and quality manufacture we put into every spark plug make them exceptionally reliable compared with cheaper alternatives. This is particularly important for generators, for example, when you need a guaranteed emergency power supply.”

In addition to that, the company’s spark plugs have a very stable, rolled thread. This compresses the material, making it stronger and less likely to break when the plug is removed than the ‘cutting method’ used by some manufacturers, where material is taken away.

And what is Kai’s tip for optimum engine performance? “If an iridium spark plug upgrade is available, we always recommend using it,” he smiles. “Their advanced design and durability reduce misfiring, prevent sooting and ensure a longer service life than standard types.”

NGK SPARK PLUG offers replacement spark plugs for almost every need, including small engines, power tools, farm equipment, sports vehicles and boats as well as cars and motorcycles. For continual updates, like NGK SPARK PLUG’s Facebook page NGK NTK, visit NGK SPARK PLUG EUROPE’s LinkedIn, follow the new NGK SPARK PLUG's Instagram account and visit its YouTube channel NGK SPARK PLUG EUROPE GmbH.