The spark plug plays a critical role in getting your vehicle up and running.
It’s a small component comprising (typically) a copper core housed within a ceramic insulator. This is then encased in a threaded metal shell that screws into an engine’s cylinder head, with the firing tip facing the combustion chamber.
While the copper core is an excellent electrical conductor, it’s soft and has a low melting point. So, the firing tip is typically covered with a nickel alloy, platinum, or iridium to help reduce wear.
This Article Contains:
- What Are Platinum Spark Plugs?
- What Are The Benefits Of Platinum Spark Plugs?
- Where Are Platinum Spark Plugs Used?
- 4 FAQs on Platinum Spark Plugs
Let’s fire up the ignition.
What Are Platinum Spark Plugs?
The all-important firing tip of a spark plug comprises the ground electrode and center electrode, which are exposed to heat, fuel, and debris in the combustion chamber.
A platinum spark plug is simply one that uses platinum as its protective material on the firing tip.
Platinum spark plugs come in two types:
- The single platinum spark plug has a platinum disc welded to the center electrode
- The double platinum spark plug has a platinum disc on the center electrode and ground electrode
Apart from reinforcing the soft-but-highly-conductive copper from the high voltage sparks generated, using a precious metal like platinum on the spark plug electrode comes with a couple of other benefits.
We’ll look at those next.
What Are The Benefits Of Platinum Spark Plugs?
Here’s how platinum improves spark plug performance:
A. Platinum Is Harder And Has A Higher Melting Point
Platinum is a much harder material than the nickel alloy used on conventional copper spark plugs. It also has a much higher melting point than copper, defined at 3215oF compared to the 1984oF of copper.
This combination of hardness and higher melting point allows platinum spark plugs to maintain a sharp edge on their center electrode and ground electrode longer.
Why is a sharp edge important?
Sparks like to arc from the sharpest point on the center electrode to the sharpest point of a ground electrode. So, the ability to hold a sharp edge long translates to a spark plug that can retain firing efficiency much longer too.
While copper plugs are typically replaced at 20,000 miles, the platinum plug generally needs replacement at 60,000 miles and can go up to 100,000 miles!
B. Platinum Spark Plugs Run Hotter
Platinum spark plugs generate more heat than other spark plug types.
This means they burn off combustion debris buildup better, which helps prevent dirty fouled spark plugs that can affect the functioning of your ignition system.
So, can you use platinum spark plugs in any vehicle engine?
Let’s find out.
Where Are Platinum Spark Plugs Used?
Single platinum spark plugs are usually used in newer vehicles with an electronic distributor based ignition system (DIS).
If your owner’s manual specifies platinum spark plugs, don’t downgrade to copper spark plugs. These might be cheaper spark plugs but might not work well with your ignition system.
Double platinum spark plugs are designed for “waste spark” DIS. This type of ignition system causes the spark plugs to fire twice — once on the compression stroke and once on the exhaust stroke.
The single platinum spark plug or conventional copper plug can’t handle the reverse spark, so don’t use them if your manual specifies double platinum spark plugs. However, an iridium / platinum combination plug (iridium center electrode with a platinum ground electrode) will work.
When in doubt, an OEM plug that matches your current spark plug is the best spark plug for a spark plug replacement. It’ll ensure fuel efficiency and help you maintain fuel economy as designed for the vehicle.
We’ve gotten the basics of platinum spark plugs down.
Let’s go through some FAQs.
4 FAQs on Platinum Spark Plugs
Here are the answers to some common platinum spark plug questions:
1. What Do Spark Plugs Do?
Spark plugs are the delivery end in an ignition system, generating the spark necessary for an internal combustion engine to function.
Here’s what happens:
The ignition coil draws power from the car battery and sends a high voltage to the spark plug through the spark plug wire or spark plug boot (for coil-on-plug systems).
This high voltage arcs from the sparks plug’s central electrode to the ground electrode, creating a spark that ignites the air fuel mixture in the combustion chamber — thus generating power for your car.
2. Are Platinum Spark Plugs Better Than Copper Plugs?
It really depends on what the spark plug is intended for.
The copper spark plug is the most common type of spark plug, which is why it’s also called a standard spark plug. They are cheaper spark plugs compared to others and are found in most older vehicle models.
The copper spark plug runs cooler and provides more power in performance driving situations than the platinum spark plug. However, the nickel alloy on the electrodes wears down faster than platinum, so copper spark plugs require more frequent replacement.
So, if you need a new spark plug for performance driving, you might want to go for the copper spark plug.
But if you require long-lasting quality spark plugs for regular driving, then the platinum plug is the better option.
Always check your owner’s manual for suitable spark plug types before switching from an OEM plug to a new spark plug type.
3. Are Iridium Spark Plugs Similar To Platinum Spark Plugs?
No, they’re pretty different.
While iridium is a precious metal like platinum, it’s much stronger and harder than platinum, with a melting point over 1200°F higher.
Iridium is extremely costly. But because it’s a very strong metal, manufacturers can significantly reduce the size of the center electrode on the iridium spark plug, down to 0.4mm (compared to the 1.1mm center electrode on platinum spark plugs).
This smaller center electrode on the iridium plug comes with certain advantages:
- It requires less voltage which increases firing efficiency
- It also generates a highly concentrated spark burning fuel more efficiently, thus powering the engine faster
The iridium spark plug is more durable than the platinum spark plug, with a lifespan up to 25% longer. In fact, the only downside to the iridium spark plug is its much higher price.
4. Does The Spark Plug Gap Change On Platinum Spark Plugs?
The spark plug gap will definitely widen with time and use.
However, this process will be much slower on platinum and iridium spark plugs, as these metals are much harder than the nickel alloy on copper spark plugs.
A faulty spark plug creates misfires, engine stalls, or an engine that won’t run at all. In this situation, getting the correct replacement spark plug is highly important.
Platinum spark plugs are durable and burn off combustion debris efficiently. If the platinum plug is originally specified for your engine, it’s probably your safest choice for a spark plug replacement. This will ensure your engine maintains fuel efficiency and fuel economy.
If you’re unsure which is the best spark plug for you or need help switching out the spark plugs, you can always rely on RepairSmith.
RepairSmith is a mobile auto repair and maintenance service, available 7 days a week with an easy online booking process.
Contact RepairSmith, and our ASE-certified technicians will drop by your driveway to handle your spark plug replacement (or any other vehicle issue) ASAP!