Component Confusion Part I: Spark-ing Controversy
Question: How do I know if I need to upgrade my spark plugs?
These days it seems there are ten different spark plug variants for every one vehicle application – what’s up with that? What happened to the days when a car had more cylinders than spark plug options? When I started researching this topic I soon found myself up to my eyeballs in new and different spark plug technologies and pages upon pages explaining how they would indeed make your car better, faster, and stronger. Many brain cells were sacrificed trying to distill the abundance of information into something concise and effective but fear not! Those little neurons didn’t die in vain!
Literal Bang for Your Buck
The most common question I get about spark plugs is “Will they increase horsepower?” and there isn’t really an easy answer – there are lots of variables in this equation. In almost all naturally aspirated applications spark plugs will only give you more HP (we’re talking 2-5hp here, nothing to write home about) if your current setup is not completely burning all of the air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. However, most newer vehicles are so efficient that the computer will compensate for spark plugs that aren’t 100% efficient, so swapping plugs won’t give you any extra HP.
Platinum has become the aftermarket standard in spark plugs and also the OE choice of several manufacturers. With its impressive melting point (3,223˚ F), shockingly high electrical conductivity, and excellent corrosion resistance, platinum is quickly replacing copper/nickel combos that have been the staple of electrode construction for so long. Its “precious metal” status makes it an expensive option (up to $1,400 per ounce!) but a cheaper alternative has surfaced. I present to you… Iridium! Iridium costs less, is denser, more corrosion-resistant, and its melting point is over 1,200˚ F higher than platinum!
When to Upgrade
I find many of our customers think upgrading their spark plugs will be a cheap, easy way to gain a few horsepower and, as I mentioned earlier, it’s not – but there are instances (like nitrous, supercharger, etc) when upgrading your plugs is recommended. You don’t need to upgrade your plugs if you’re running standard bolt-on mods like intake, exhaust, throttle body, etc. If you’re running nitrous-injection, a supercharger, or a turbocharger however, you will definitely need to upgrade – the Zex Power Racer spark plugs are specially designed for nitrous-injected/supercharged applications.
While upgrading your plugs will not guarantee you a big jump in power, replacing your tired old plugs with a fresh set of aftermarket plugs can help your pony run more efficiently. The mind-boggling number of spark plug choices seems daunting (trust me – I know!), but remember that your friends at AmericanMuscle.com are available to help you out. If you are ever unsure of what you should or shouldn’t modify, don’t hesitate to ask!