How to Clean Spark Plugs for an Instant Start Every Time

A clean spark plug

Each part of your car is critical for ensuring top performance of your ride. Healthy spark plugs are essential for keeping your vehicle running in peak condition. So, it's vital to learn how to clean spark plugs if you want your car performing at its best.

Your entire engine depends on these little workers. So, it is crucial to find out how to examine them properly. Knowing how to clean spark plugs is a cheap way to maintain your car and keep it running effectively.

Your spark plugs are always working, from the moment you turn on your engine until you shut it off. This fact is why ensuring your spark plugs are clean will affect the critical functions of your car, such as fuel consumption, idling, power, and acceleration.

What Is a Spark Plug and What Does It Do?

Before you learn how to clean spark plugs, you first have to know what they are and what they do. Spark plugs are little electric devices connected to the cylinder head of internal combustion engines. This piece of equipment is responsible for igniting compressed aerosol through an electric spark. An insulated wire connects spark plugs to a magnet circuit or an ignition coil. This connection forms a spark gap in the cylinder.

Your entire engine depends on these little workers. So, it is crucial to find out how to examine them properly. Knowing how to clean spark plugs is a cheap way to maintain your car and keep it running effectively.

Spark plugs serve two primary functions for your vehicle. First, spark plugs ignite the air and fuel mixture. This step is performed when electrical energy is transmitted in the spark plug. The electrical spark drives the air or gasoline mixture toward the combustion chamber.


Second, spark plugs also act as a heat remover, so their temperature must be kept manageable to prevent problems such as pre-ignition. Spark plugs are your car’s heat exchanger. They pull the thermal energy from your vehicle’s combustion chamber and transfer the heat to the cooling system of your engine.

Why Do Spark Plugs Get Dirty?

A dirty spark plug

Image via pexels

Although spark plugs are built to be self-cleaning, their fouling is normal. When your engine is running, the shell that surrounds your center electrode increases its temperature and aids to burn off ash or fuel deposits. This chemical reaction makes the spark plug dirty. The heat range of your spark plug dictates its operative temperature and how long it can resist fouling.

If you want to maintain your spark plug’s health, it is vital to keep driving on highways and engage in full-throttle acceleration instead of driving for short trips and prolonging its idling time. These cases will make your spark plugs too hot. Because of this, deposits form. As these deposits gather, you become more at risk for a misfire. The electrical energy from your ignition coil will short circuit across your deposits instead of jumping the electrode gap.

If you notice your spark plugs fouling constantly, you might have an engine problem. The deposits are usually brown. But once you find black deposits, your car has issues. Here are other causes of why your spark plug is dirty.

Damaged valve guide seals and guides

Damaged engine cylinders and piston rings

Malfunctioning head gasket

Fuel mixture

Cause of wet and dirty spark plugs

How Often Should Spark Plugs Be Replaced?

How to Clean Spark Plugs

Learning how to clean spark plugs is surprisingly easy. All you need to use are abrasives such as file or sandpaper. And there aren’t that many steps for proper maintenance to follow as well.

Locate battery and plugs

You can’t simply clean your spark plugs while they are attached to your vehicle. You first have to look for the battery in your trunk or engine bay. For newbies, the battery looks like a black box with two metal terminals on the top.

Locate the negative terminal, which features a “-“ sign. Loosen its bolt and slide the cover off. Don’t forget to attach the cable properly, so it doesn’t make contact with the battery.

Now, you need to find the wires to your spark plug. These wires are thick cables that run from the ignition coils to the top of your car’s engine. There will be one plug and cable for each engine cylinder. For instance, a V6 engine will have six, while a two-stroke motorbike will have one.


If you’re having trouble finding the battery or spark plug, read your car’s manual or check your manufacturer’s website.


Blow debris away


Once you’ve located your spark plugs, you can start cleaning them by blowing compressed air over them. This step will remove the majority of dirt and debris in the area. Don’t skip this part because the junk might fall on the cylinders if your spark plugs are not yet attached. If debris falls into your cylinder, your engine will get damaged.

Eye protection is important for this step to keep the debris from entering your eyes.


Disconnect spark plug wire

To ensure that no debris falls into your cylinders, clean your spark plugs one at a time. Removing them all at once might get confusing. And this situation also increases the likelihood of debris falling into the holes. Grip the cable of the spark plug as low as you can and pull it away. If you pull high on the wire, you might separate the inside of the cable from the connector. If it’s too hard to pull away, twist it a little to help loosen it up.


Put your spark plug socket on the extension and connect it to a ratchet. Then, position your socket over the spark plug you want to remove and turn it counterclockwise. Remove the extension and socket from the wrench once it becomes loose. You can now unscrew it by hand. Again, be on the lookout for dirt before pulling your spark plug out.


Use sandpaper

Look for the end of the spark plug that goes into the engine. On the side, you’ll find the electrode, which is a piece of small metal sticking out. If it is discolored or has a black shade, slide your 220-grit sandpaper over it to clean it up. Check out the Dura Gold Premium Sandpaper. Do this until the clean metal becomes visible.


If it is immensely dirty and sandpaper can’t clean it, it may be time to replace it. However, if you are in a bind, you can sand it away using a small file. This maneuver will get rid of the majority of unwanted carbon buildup on your spark plug’s electrode.


You also need to eradicate the oil and grime buildup on the threads since it would make the spark plug difficult to install. Scrub the threads using a wire brush. The brush should be moving in the same direction as the thread. Once it clears up, you can switch the angle for better cleaning.

To make wiping off the grime easier, you can use a brake cleaner. This step will also aid the parts to dry faster. Repeat the process for each spark plug.

Other techniques

Sandpaper is not the only tool you can use. It is important to know how to clean spark plugs using a blow torch for specific situations you may encounter.

Blow torch

Your Ride Is Ready Again

Spark plugs function like bolts of lightning in your car. Without these little magic devices, your vehicle won’t start. Because the health of your spark plugs affects your car’s condition, learning how to clean spark plugs should be a top priority.


Have your own tips on how to clean spark plugs? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

Featured Image via pexels

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