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You asked Google & NGK SPARK PLUG answers! – Part 1: Spark plugs

At NGK SPARK PLUG, we know a thing or two about spark plugs! And as the world’s leading ignition and sensor specialist, we do our utmost to keep our customers up-to-date with all types of information about our products. This is why we have decided to round up ten of the most common questions that people have asked Google regarding both our company and spark plugs. Join us for the first instalment of our ‘You asked Google’ series, where we provide technical yet easy-to-understand answers on the mighty spark plug.


1. What does ‘NGK’ stand for?

‘NGK’ stands for ‘Nippon Gaishi Kkabushiki-gaisha’ which is the Japanese name of NGK Insulator Company Ltd., the company which NGK SPARK PLUG was spun-off from in 1936.

2. What does a spark plug do?

A spark plug’s basic function is to ignite the air-fuel mixture within the combustion chamber of a petrol engine. Spark plugs provide a path for electrical energy from the ignition coil to generate a spark needed for this air-fuel mixture. The quality of the ignition spark directly affects several factors for both the quality of the driving experience and the environment. These include starting, smooth running, general engine performance and efficiency as well as the reduction of harmful emissions. Since a spark plug must ignite a fresh charge of air and fuel between 500 and 3,500 times per minute, the NGK SPARK PLUG hallmarks of quality and reliability are paramount.

3. What are the symptoms of bad spark plugs?

Symptoms of bad spark plugs include reduced fuel economy, rough idling, engine misfiring and difficulty starting the engine.

4. Why do spark plugs fail?

There are a variety of reasons why spark plugs fail. These include: old age (recommended replacement interval has been ignored), carbon build up, overheating, oil present in the combustion chamber and the incorrect spark gap.

5. What metal is used in spark plugs?

A variety of different metals can be used in spark plugs. Almost all spark plugs feature a copper cored inner central electrode because copper is an excellent electrical conductor. Copper, however, is a very soft metal with low resistance which means that it is not suitable as an outer centre or ground electrode. NGK SPARK PLUG’s standard range of plugs feature a nickel alloy outer centre electrode (fused to an inner copper core) and a nickel ground (side) electrode. The company’s premium range features extremely hard metals like iridium and platinum which guarantee longer replacement intervals.

6. How often do you need to change spark plugs?

This depends on a range of conditions such as the engine’s condition, if the plugs were correctly installed, the type of metal present on the plug’s outer centre and ground electrodes etc. Generally, the driver or rider should refer to the maintenance intervals recommended by the manufacturer. In this context standard nickel spark plugs need to be replaced earlier than precious metal spark plug types that are more resistant with regards to wear.

7. Which are better, iridium or platinum spark plugs?

This answer depends on the priorities of the driver or rider. Iridium, on one hand, is six times harder and eight times stronger than platinum and has a melting point of 698°C higher. Platinum, however, is a less cost intensive material that still offers significantly better durability than standard nickel plugs. With NGK SPARK PLUG’s Laser Iridium range, the positives of both precious metals can be enjoyed since this type of plug features an iridium centre electrode and a platinum ground electrode.

8. Is there a spark plug in diesel engines?

No, diesel engines do not require spark plugs. They do, however, use glow plugs to assist with the ignition process. Unlike the ignition combustion engine (petrol), diesel engines self-combust by compressing the air which then reaches a temperature high enough to ignite the diesel present in the combustion chamber. NGK SPARK PLUG’s wide range of glow plugs provide the optimum aid to diesel engine combustion.

9. Do you need a specialist to change your spark plugs?

This depends on your level of technical know-how. Although the replacement of a spark plug is a relatively simple procedure, it is very important to strictly follow the installation instructions, with special attention paid to removal, cleaning, proper seating as well as the correct torque. Failure to correctly install a spark plug can result in a variety of problems, ranging from poor fuel economy, carbon fouling all the way to catastrophic engine failure.

10. Are all spark plugs the same?

No, spark plugs come in a variety of sizes, satisfying the needs of all types of engines such as smaller ones used in lawnmowers and chainsaws. It is very important never to take a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Afterall, NGK SPARK PLUG manufactures well over 1,000 different spark plugs for cars alone, with each car having its own particular spark plug specifications. The company’s catalogues or online part finder are useful tools to identify an engine’s correct plug.

While the above has provided some technical insight into the workings of NGK SPARK PLUG’s most famous product, there are indeed many more interesting questions to be answered about spark plugs and the company’s other products. Join us again when we will delve further into the world of ignition and sensor technology.

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