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Spark plug conditions

NORMAL OPERATING

The few deposits present on the spark plug will probably be light tan or slightly gray in color. This is evident with most grades of commercial gasoline (Fig. 13). There will not be evidence of electrode burning. On all engines except the 4.7L V-8, gap growth will not average more than approximately 0.025 mm (.001 in) per 3200 km (2000 miles) of operation.

On the 4.7L V-8, gap growth will not average more than approximately.0015 in per 3200 km (2000 miles) of operation. Spark plugs that have normal wear can usually be cleaned, have the electrodes filed, have the gap set and then be installed.

Some fuel refiners in several areas of the United States have introduced a manganese additive (MMT) for unleaded fuel. During combustion, fuel with MMT causes the entire tip of the spark plug to be coated with a rust colored deposit. This rust color can be misdiagnosed as being caused by coolant in the combustion chamber. Spark plug performance may be affected by MMT deposits.

COLD FOULING/CARBON FOULING

Cold fouling is sometimes referred to as carbon fouling. The deposits that cause cold fouling are basically carbon (Fig. 13). A dry, black deposit on one or two plugs in a set may be caused by sticking valves or defective spark plug cables. Cold (carbon) fouling of the entire set of spark plugs may be caused by a clogged air cleaner element or repeated short operating times (short trips).

Fig. 13 Normal Operation and Cold (Carbon) Fouling Fig. 13 Normal Operation and Cold (Carbon) Fouling

1 - NORMAL

2 - DRY BLACK DEPOSITS

3 - COLD (CARBON) FOULING

WET FOULING OR GAS FOULING

A spark plug coated with excessive wet fuel or oil is wet fouled. In older engines, worn piston rings, leaking valve guide seals or excessive cylinder wear can cause wet fouling. In new or recently overhauled engines, wet fouling may occur before break-in (normal oil control) is achieved. This condition can usually be resolved by cleaning and reinstalling the fouled plugs.

OIL OR ASH ENCRUSTED

If one or more spark plugs are oil or oil ash encrusted (Fig. 14), evaluate engine condition for the cause of oil entry into that particular combustion chamber.

ELECTRODE GAP BRIDGING

Electrode gap bridging may be traced to loose deposits in the combustion chamber. These deposits accumulate on the spark plugs during continuous stop-and-go driving. When the engine is suddenly subjected to a high torque load, deposits partially liquefy and bridge the gap between electrodes (Fig. 15).

This short circuits the electrodes. Spark plugs with electrode gap bridging can be cleaned using standard procedures.

Fig. 14 Oil or Ash Encrusted Fig. 14 Oil or Ash Encrusted

Fig. 15 Electrode Gap Bridging Fig. 15 Electrode Gap Bridging

1 - GROUND ELECTRODE

2 - DEPOSITS

3 - CENTER ELECTRODE

SCAVENGER DEPOSITS

Fuel scavenger deposits may be either white or yellow (Fig. 16). They may appear to be harmful, but this is a normal condition caused by chemical additives in certain fuels. These additives are designed to change the chemical nature of deposits and decrease spark plug misfire tendencies. Notice that accumulation on the ground electrode and shell area may be heavy, but the deposits are easily removed. Spark plugs with scavenger deposits can be considered normal in condition and can be cleaned using standard procedures.

Fig. 16 Scavenger Deposits Fig. 16 Scavenger Deposits

1 - GROUND ELECTRODE COVERED WITH WHITE OR YELLOW DEPOSITS

2 - CENTER ELECTRODE

CHIPPED ELECTRODE INSULATOR

A chipped electrode insulator usually results from bending the center electrode while adjusting the spark plug electrode gap. Under certain conditions, severe detonation can also separate the insulator from the center electrode (Fig. 17). Spark plugs with this condition must be replaced.

Fig. 17 Chipped Electrode Insulator Fig. 17 Chipped Electrode Insulator

1 - GROUND ELECTRODE

2 - CENTER ELECTRODE

3 - CHIPPED INSULATOR

PREIGNITION DAMAGE

Preignition damage is usually caused by excessive combustion chamber temperature. The center electrode dissolves first and the ground electrode dissolves somewhat latter (Fig. 18). Insulators appear relatively deposit free. Determine if the spark plug has the correct heat range rating for the engine.

Determine if ignition timing is over advanced or if other operating conditions are causing engine overheating.

(The heat range rating refers to the operating temperature of a particular type spark plug.

Spark plugs are designed to operate within specific temperature ranges. This depends upon the thickness and length of the center electrodes porcelain insulator.)

Fig. 18 Preignition Damage Fig. 18 Preignition Damage

1 - GROUND ELECTRODE STARTING TO DISSOLVE

2 - CENTER ELECTRODE DISSOLVED

SPARK PLUG OVERHEATING

Overheating is indicated by a white or gray center electrode insulator that also appears blistered (Fig.

19). The increase in electrode gap will be considerably in excess of 0.001 inch per 2000 miles of operation.

This suggests that a plug with a cooler heat range rating should be used. Over advanced ignition timing, detonation and cooling system malfunctions can also cause spark plug overheating.

Fig. 19 Spark Plug Overheating Fig. 19 Spark Plug Overheating

1 - BLISTERED WHITE OR GRAY COLORED INSULATOR

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