Spark plugs play an important role in starting your car. They’re available in many different materials and can directly affect your car’s engine performance and fuel efficiency.
Copper spark plugs, for example, are among the most common. They’re usually recommended for older vehicles and late-model cars with turbocharged engines.
So you might be wondering, how long do copper spark plugs last?
Moreover, is there any way to make them last longer?
We’ll answer those questions in this article. We’ll also look at some common FAQs about copper spark plugs, including how they compare with others and what happens if you don’t change them on time.
This Article Contains:
- How Long Do Copper Spark Plugs Last?
- Can I Make Copper Spark Plugs Last Longer?
- 5 FAQs About Copper Spark Plugs
How Long Do Copper Spark Plugs Last?
Copper spark plugs (also known as conventional spark plugs or the regular spark plug) are the cheapest and most commonly used spark plugs on the market.
The standard copper plug can go anywhere between 10,000-20,000 miles. Compared to iridium plugs or platinum spark plugs (which last for over 60,000-100,000 miles), copper spark plugs wear out very quickly.
Why is that?
Copper plugs have a copper core, a softer metal with a lower melting point that tends to wear down quickly. For this reason, standard copper spark plugs consist of a nickel-alloy outer material to protect the copper center electrode.
As such, old copper plugs need to be changed more often than iridium plugs or platinum plugs to prevent carbon fouling and misfires.
So is there any way to make them last longer?
Can I Make Copper Spark Plugs Last Longer?
Partly, yes. While you can’t use conventional spark plugs beyond their recommended mileage, you can ensure they last their longest in good condition.
Here are some tips to help your copper plugs last long:
- Periodically inspect the electrode ends of your old spark plug to ensure they’re clean. Make sure that the center electrode and ground electrode don’t have any rust buildup.
- Always maintain the spark plug gap.
- Ensure the new spark plug wire connectors are coated in a dielectric compound to prevent corrosion.
- Always clean the mounting area. Dust and dirt build-up can sometimes misalign the spark plugs.
Most importantly, get your old spark plug checked and replaced at the recommended service intervals to prevent potential ignition system and fuel economy problems.
Next, let’s glance over some common queries about standard copper spark plugs.
5 FAQs About Copper Spark Plugs
Here are some frequently asked questions about copper spark plugs and their answers.
1. What Does A Spark Plug Do?
A spark plug is a small device in your engine that creates an electrical spark every time you start your car. This electrical spark fires the air-fuel mixture, creating a small explosion that creates sufficient power for the pistons to keep moving.
Spark plugs consist of a ground electrode (side electrode) and a center electrode. These electrodes are typically made up of high-quality nickel alloys and have a small gap.
Here’s how they work:
- One spark plug end is connected to a high voltage supplier (ignition coil).
- The other end with the two electrodes goes inside the combustion chamber.
- The current passes through the coil and the center electrode, creating a voltage difference between the two electrodes.
- Once the voltage increases enough to exceed the dielectric strength of the gasses between the spark plug gap, the ionized gasses act as a conductor, and the electrons jump the gap.
- This sudden movement of electrons causes a rapid influx of heat in the region, causing a small spark in the combustion chamber.
2. What Happens If I Don’t Change My Spark Plugs?
As with any other engine components, spark plugs deteriorate over time. As it nears its changing cycle, the old spark plug can cause several problems like reduced fuel efficiency, poor engine performance, and lower fuel economy.
If you don’t get a new spark plug in time, you may experience difficulty starting the car. Eventually, worn spark plugs may lead to complete engine failure.
3. How Are Copper Spark Plugs Compared To Others?
Conventional spark plugs are commonly used for their high heat resistance and conductivity. However, they do tend to wear out faster than others.
Here’s a general breakdown of how long each spark plug type lasts:
- Copper spark plugs: Standard copper spark plugs can last for about 10,000 to 20,000 miles.
- Silver plugs: Silver spark plugs can also last about 20,000 miles.
- Platinum spark plugs: A platinum spark plug can also last for 60,000 miles.
- Double platinum spark plugs: A double platinum spark plug can last for 100,000 miles or more.
- Iridium spark plugs: Expensive iridium spark plugs last up to 120,000 miles.
- Extended life or long life plugs: These types of plugs have a lifespan of 100,000 miles to 120,000 miles, sometimes even more. Long-life plugs can have a precious metal iridium or platinum disc on their electrodes.
4. Is A Copper Spark Plug Better Than An Iridium Plug?
Not really. It depends on the type of car you use and your driving habits.
Generally, precious metal iridium spark plugs are considered to be superior to copper plugs. They’re more durable and last longer than copper plugs. However, getting an iridium spark plug replacement can be pricey.
In contrast, copper spark plugs cost far less. They also perform well under pressure, have a better heat range, and are the recommended type for most old vehicles.
However, the best spark plug for your car is the one recommended in your owner’s manual. Using a bad spark plug or the wrong plug can have detrimental effects on your engine and lead to costly repairs.
5. Do Platinum Plugs Perform Better Than Copper?
Yes and no. In theory, no spark plug is ‘better’ than another. It just depends on which one is the best spark plug for your vehicle.
Copper plugs have a higher heat range. However, this also means that their nickel alloy coated electrodes will melt faster and need frequent replacing.
A platinum plug (single platinum or double platinum) also has a copper core but makes use of a platinum disc on the center electrode. The platinum disc is more durable than the nickel alloy, helping the platinum plugs last longer.
Spark plugs should be maintained regularly for optimum performance of your ignition system.
Especially in the case of shorter-lived copper spark plugs, you need to get a new spark plug within the recommended interval to avoid engine misfires, rough idling, and other issues.
If you need help with a spark plug replacement, engine tune-up or any other car issue, give RepairSmith a call!
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