Spark Plugs on the Fritz: Do it yourself to save +$200!

Not everyone has the mechanic's eye.  All too often we find ourselves as helpless babes at the mercy of the all-knowing mechanic.  So let me enlighten you a little bit to potentially save you some serious $$$.  One of the most common things that will activate the dreaded "Check engine light" is a faulty spark plug.  For a remarkably cheap and simple component, spark plugs play a pivotal role in the operation of your car.  They are responsible for igniting the fuel that goes into your engine.  They are relatively easy to replace and can be done with just a little bit of know-how.  So get ready to get your hands dirty and let's learn to change spark plugs!

Your first step is taking a trip to the local auto store.  Any auto specialty store like Auto Zone or Advanced Auto is a great place to get free information.  In many places, they will tell you exactly what kind of spark plug you need.  If not, simply consult your owner's manual to get the specifications.  Spark plugs can be bought individually but I would recommend replacing all of them at once so you don't have a combination of worn and fresh plugs.  Each cylinder of your engine has its own spark plug.  You also need to pick up a spark plug socket and ratchet (If you don't already have one).  This will allow you to extract the old plug and install the new one without damaging it. The only other absolutely necessary component that you will need is a spark plug gap gauge.  You can get one for less that $5.  Your owner's manual will tell you what distance to gauge the plugs.  THIS IS IMPORTANT:  The spark plugs are one of the hottest parts of the engine!  Leave your car off for several hours so you don't scald your fingers!  Unless your fingers are dead from frostbite, a hot spark plug will cause you to scream....

Once you have all your materials together, pop the hood.  Look for rubber cables that feed into your engine.  These are called the distributor spark plug cables.   If you have a 4 cylinder engine, there will be four different cables and likewise with a 6, 8 or 10+ cylinder motor.  When you've made it this far, refer to the instructions laid out by this article.  It has several images to help you recognize all of the parts.  I would highly recommend labeling each cable with masking tape and a marker to avoid confusion when reconnecting them.  Each cable needs to be plugged back into the same cylinder that it came from!  You can do this!  As tedious as this is, the average mechanic will charge you between $200-$300 for parts and labor to do this job that you can realistically do in less than in hour.  Considering the fact that the parts for this job are cheap, doing it yourself can save you a lot of money!  Here is also a useful chart that I found to reference a healthy vs. faulty spark plug.  Good luck!