Maintenance: Engine Oil and Spark Plugs
This article will take you through the changing of oil and and spark plug maintenance. Good quality and clean engine oil is essential to the maintenance of your engine. Regular oil changes will not only help maintain your engine but will promote more mileage and a longer vehicle life.
Changing the engines oil is a relatively simple process that can save some money, you will only need a couple of tools and some physical ability.
When performing an oil change you should always change the oil filter at the same time.
What you'll need to change your oil
- Oil filter wrench
- Oil pan or suitable container
- A clean funnel
- A new oil filter
- The correct new Oil
- A clean cloth or rag/towel you don't mind getting dirty
How to change the engine oil
- Research recommended tools and oil type
- Be sure to park on a flat, level surface and allow plenty of time for the vehicle cool down
- Jack the vehicle up on the jacking points and place axel stands underneath for safety
- Open the bonnet and remove the oil filler cap on the top of the engine
- Carefully position yourself underneath the vehicle and find the sump plug, using the correct size/tool. The most commonly used is a Torx screwdriver or Allen Key.
- Release the sump plug slowly.
- Remember to take care, the oil could be hot and flow quickly
- When draining the oil use a container to catch the oil and make sure it is large enough to hold the amount of oil
- Once the oil slows locate and remove the oil filter. Do this by hand or if it’s not possible to turn by hand use the oil filter wrench. Ensure the rubber gasket “O” ring is also removed
- Once the oil has finished draining re-secure the sump plug beginning by hand, be careful to not cross the threading of the bolt
- Position and refit the new oil filter and “o” ring rubber gasket correctly. Pour some oil into the filter and use the filter wrench and tighten, do not over tighten.
- Using a funnel introduce the new oil and refill to manufacturer recommendations and securely tighten the oil fill cap back on
- Start the engine and run for up to 30 seconds, turn the engine off and check the oil level, top up the oil as before if needed
- Start the vehicle again and run for longer and perform the check again. Watch for warning lights and look underneath the car for any leaking
- If there are no steps that need to be repeated reposition the jacks, remove the axel stands and set the vehicle back down.
- After driving the car check the oil level once it has cooled down and on a level surface.
- Do this several times over the next couple of days just to make sure the oil level is as required.
So how do we change a spark plug? Let's first look at what a spark plug is and what exactly the spark does to get a better understanding of just how vital this component is.
What is a spark plug for?
The spark plug is a vital part of your engine without it you wouldn't be able to start the vehicle through ignition. The plug is a high voltage bridge that conducts an electric current, which creates a "spark" when electricity is passing through this bridge inside the engine and ignites the vapours beginning the process of combustion.
How long do spark plugs last?
The life of a spark plug really depends on several factors
- The condition of your engine
- The type of fuel
- How well maintained the vehicle is
- Even driving habits!
- How the spark pluds were originally fitted
- How long they have been in the vehicle
They are often relatively cheap and it is simple job so if you do need to change them often don't worry you won't break the bank. You will definitely save some money doing this maintenance yourself rather than taking the vehicle to a garage. In a large majority of vehicles this is a simple a quick job to do, for most people a simple mix up slows the process down you will see what I mean later.
Before you begin check your spark plug cables to see if you need to replace these or they could even be the reason you think you need to change you spark plugs. See our guide on checking your spark plug wires HERE
Replacing the spark plugs
Ok, let's start. First gather as much knowledge you can about the vehicle make and model, not just for the type of spark plug but also to find out
- Which tools you will need
- How many spark plugs you need
- The position and where the plugs are located
- The recommended torque or "tightness" level of the spark plugs
- Any procedures that may need to be carried out
You will need these tools
- Ratchet Socket Wrench
- 12 inch socket extension or recommended length
- The correct or recommended spark plugs for your vehicle
Locating the Spark Plugs
The best suggestion of visually locating the Spark Plugs is to follow a thick rubber wire and you find them. With a four cylinder you will have four spark plugs and will normally be located towards the top of the engine and in a row. With a V8 normally you will have to locate the plugs on both sides of the engine, there will be four on the right and four on the left. Six cylinder engines can be either-or.
Removing the Spark Plugs
Once you have located the plugs get some making tape or anything else suitable for marking up these wires leading to the spark plugs. These wires are in a certain order and MUST be replaced back in the order they were originally positioned do not mix them up!
Begin at one end and pull the wire out off and up away from the plug with a firm hold, label it and repeat. Do not just vaguely take hold of the wire take hold at the nearest point you can toward the spark plug, damaging these wires can cause costs.
Once you have the plug wires removed and labelled in the correct order it is time to get you plug socket wrench and extension. Look inside the plugs housing and you will see exactly where you need to slot the extension down into. There may be some foam or rubber on the inside end this is to hold onto the spark plug while you remove it.
Set the wrench counter clockwise position it in to the gap and BEFORE turning the wrench make sure it is sat over the end of the plug as far down as it can go and remove the plug.
How Check A Spark Plug
With you old Spark plugs out take the chance to have a look. They will more than likely be dirty maybe a little black soot or if oily or white this could be the key indicator of other problems so take note of their appearance
Replacing the Spark Plug
Place the plug in the wrench socket and gently position down into the gap making sire the threaded ends lines up neatly with the female socket in the engine, push it all the down and carefully guide the plug into the hole. Try not to exert any force it should just sit into place, begin turning and screw the plug into position carefully by hand if possible to avoid cross threading.
When you can no longer turn by hand use the wrench again and tighten, if you do have a torque wrench use the recommended setting of torque level to avoid any over tightening or being too loose. Do not pull too hard.
Repeat these steps one plug at a time until you have replaced them all
- Replace all of the wires back on to the plugs and any casing etc you have removed.
- Make sure you put the wires back on correctly and on the right spark plug.
- Make sure you do not have any tools or items left in the engine bay.
You can now start the engine and listen for any noises, if it runs rough stop the engine and check the plugs and connections again.
Take a break. You now know how to change your spark plugs, complete preventative maintenance and saved money in a few minutes!