You might think that all spark plugs are the same. After all, the general purpose of a spark plug is to generate an electric current for igniting the compressed air and fuel in the combustion chamber. However, there are some differences when it comes to spark plugs. Certain ones are more efficient and perform better than others. It all depends on what type of spark plugs your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends.
All spark plugs have a central electrode and a side electrode. These electrodes were traditionally made of copper but now they are being manufactured from materials like iridium and platinum. Also, the center electrodes are being made much smaller than they used to be. This means that less voltage will be required to generate the electric current for the combustion chamber.
Overall, you will find the four main types of spark plugs are copper spark plugs, iridium spark plugs, platinum spark plugs, and double platinum spark plugs. Some have better uses than others, depending on the vehicle that you’re driving. Below you will find more details on these spark plugs and what they are good for.
Copper Spark Plugs
This spark plug is mostly made from solid copper. Its central electrode is made from nickel alloy and it has the largest diameter of all the other spark plugs. This means it’ll need more voltage to generate an electric current. Nickel alloy is a material that is soft and not very durable. This means it won’t last long. It is best to use copper spark plugs in older vehicles which didn’t have high electrical needs.
- Pros – Better for older vehicles built before 1980.
- Cons – They don’t last as long; Requires more voltage.
Iridium Spark Plugs
Iridium spark plugs will last the longest. Iridium is a metal that is harder and more durable than platinum. Although you will have to pay more money for iridium spark plugs, you will get what you pay for. These spark plugs have a small center electrode which means they use less voltage to generate the electric current. That is why many car manufacturers are starting to recommend iridium spark plugs for their vehicles. If you already have these spark plugs installed and you need new ones, do not downgrade to platinum or copper because they will diminish the performance of your vehicle.
- Pros – Harder than platinum; Lasts the Longest; Uses Less Voltage
- Cons – Expensive
Platinum Spark Plugs
A platinum spark plug is similar to a copper spark plug, except that its center electrode has a platinum disc which is welded to its tip area. The copper spark plug only has nickel alloy material in this area. As a result, the platinum spark plug is more durable and can last as many as 100,000 miles. These plugs also generate more heat, which means that debris buildup will be reduced. If you have a new car with an electronic distributor ignition system, platinum spark plugs are recommended.
- Pros – Lasts longer than copper; Reduces debris buildup
- Cons – Not the strongest spark plug on the market
Double Platinum Spark Plugs
If your distributor ignition system is a waste spark system, then double platinum spark plugs are recommended. This system causes the spark plugs to fire twice, once in the compression stroke’s cylinder and the other in the exhaust stroke’s cylinder. The spark for the latter gets wasted because there is no ignition there. The benefit of the waste spark system is that it is more reliable and isn’t affected by environmental conditions such as rain or dampness.
- Pros – Recommended for Waste Spark Systems; Reliable
- Cons – Not recommended for electronic DIS