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Different Types Of Spark Plugs: Which One Is Right For Your Car?

Spark plugs in an engine. Choosing the right spark plugs for your car can be a daunting task. Use this guide to pick the perfect spark plugs for your type of vehicle.

There are many different types of spark plugs on the market, and the lineup includes choices made with materials ranging from humble copper to pricey platinum. This means you have a decision to make when choosing spark plugs for your car.

Typically, the type of vehicle you drive will play a big role in determining the spark plug that’s an ideal fit. Below, we’ll take a look at the different types of spark plugs and discuss the importance of heeding your car’s owner’s manual when making a purchasing decision.

Types of Spark Plugs

There are four main types of spark plugs:

  • Copper
  • Platinum
  • Iridium
  • Silver

At the heart of each spark plug is an electrode that connects to the car’s ignition coil via a thick wire. The metal mentioned in the spark plug’s name indicates the material used to construct its electrode. For example, a platinum spark plug utilizes a platinum electrode.

Each class of spark plug has special properties that can uniquely support different types of vehicles.

Picking the Best Spark Plug for Your Vehicle Type

Let’s take a look at some common vehicle categories and the types of spark plugs that each class often requires:

  • High-performance vehicles: As its name suggests, this vehicle class emphasizes performance. Iridium spark plugs tend to do a better job of conducting energy than other choices on the market, and this can help optimize engine power and smoothness. For this reason, iridium spark plugs are often seen in performance cars like the BMW M3 and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
  • Classic cars: Today’s ignition systems use electronic sensors and computer wizardry to govern spark timing. As you’d imagine, this technology generally wasn’t present in older ignition systems. These more antiquated ignition systems were common prior to the 1970s, and copper spark plugs are often used to support them. If you have a classic car that was built before the 1970s, copper spark plugs may be an ideal choice.
  • Natural gas vehicles: Does your vehicle rely on natural gas for fuel? Copper spark plugs are often used in natural gas vehicles.
  • Newer vehicles: Newer vehicles often use electronic distributor-based ignition systems. In many cases, platinum spark plugs offer excellent support for these systems.
  • Older European performance cars: Some older European performance cars specifically require silver spark plugs.

Always Consult Your Car’s Owner’s Manual

Though the guidelines discussed above often hold true, there are always exceptions to the rule. Your car’s owner’s manual offers specific recommendations regarding the type of spark plug that’s best suited for your vehicle. Take this guidance to heart when deciding which type of spark plug to buy.

Summing up, the class of vehicle you drive will play a role in deciding what type of spark plug is best for you. Use the insight shared above to get greater clarity on the issue, and remember to always consult your car’s owner’s manual before making a purchase.

Check out all the electrical & ignition system products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on the different types of spark plugs, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.



Warren Clarke View All

I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.

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