The spark plug is a vital component in your car’s engine that keeps it running. Without it, your car wouldn’t even start. Several types of spark plugs are available today, and ruthenium spark plugs are one of them.
This Article Contains
- What Are Ruthenium Spark Plugs?
- What Are the Pros and Cons of Ruthenium Spark Plugs?
- Are Ruthenium Spark Plugs Better Than Iridium?
- 4 FAQs on Spark Plugs
Let’s spark it up!
What Are Ruthenium Spark Plugs?
The ruthenium spark plug uses ruthenium electrodes.
Currently, there’s only one manufacturer that makes them, and that is NGK spark plug — specifically the NGK Ruthenium HX. This NGK spark plug is formulated with NGKs patented ruthenium technology.
The NGK Ruthenium HX spark plug has two different models of these related products:
- Ruthenium HX DFE (double fine electrode), and
- Ruthenium HX PSPE (projected square platinum electrode).
But why use ruthenium when manufacturing spark plugs?
Well, that’s because ruthenium is considerably cheaper and just as good as other precious metal spark plugs (iridium and platinum). Ruthenium is a Platinum Group Metal, which is known to have excellent physical and chemical properties like a high melting point, and it doesn’t corrode easily.
If ruthenium metal is that good, surely it would make a reliable plug, right?
To answer that question, let’s go through some pros and cons of using ruthenium spark plugs.
What are the Pros and Cons of Ruthenium Spark Plugs?
Like other spark plugs, manufacturing spark plugs with ruthenium produces its own benefits and disadvantages. Let’s take a look.
Here are some benefits of of ruthenium plugs:
- Provides a complete fuel burn and has high ignitability, resulting in quicker throttle response, smoother idle, and better cold starts
- Helps produce less emissions and ensures better fuel economy in modern engines
- Enhances vehicle acceleration power
- Performs better at higher temperatures and various driving conditions (leisure drives, light towing, medium-to-high performance, newer engines, etc)
- Has a low chance of fouling because ruthenium is brittle and shatters when dropped, so the outer layer of the electrode will come off along with the dirt and grime
Here are some potential disadvantages of using ruthenium plugs:
- Slightly more expensive than conventional spark plugs
- Is unpredictable under extreme temperatures
- Wears faster in higher engine revs
- Shorter lifespan when compared to traditional iridium spark plugs
- Doesn’t work well with certain engine types
Now you might be thinking, maybe an iridium spark plug is better than ruthenium ones?
Let’s compare them.
Are Ruthenium Plugs Better than Iridium?
Some might say the ruthenium spark plugs are better than traditional iridium spark plugs, or vice versa. They’re both precious metal spark plugs used in modern engines.
We won’t tell you which one you should get, but we can guide you to see their differences. So, here’s a back-to-back comparison between ruthenium and iridium spark plugs based on specific criteria:
A. Physical Properties
Both metals are durable and have anti-corrosive properties, but a ruthenium spark plug wears out faster.
Ruthenium and iridium metals are transition metals and Platinum Group Metals. While both can withstand high temperatures, ruthenium has a higher melting point than iridium. This makes ruthenium more resistant to high operating temperatures.
However, iridium is more stable than ruthenium, making it less likely to corrode when exposed to harsh chemicals of other elements. Iridium also offers the highest durability of the two spark plugs.
B. Operational Performance
Ruthenium and iridium plugs are known for providing excellent operational performance but differ in engine compatibility.
Iridium spark plugs are a better choice for high performance engines (like turbo and supercharged engines) because they produce more power and have higher ignitability than traditional spark plugs.
On the other hand, the ruthenium spark plug is better suited for everyday engines.
Here comes the most obvious difference between the two spark plugs: their prices.
Ruthenium spark plugs cost about $12 a piece, while iridium spark plugs are sold for about $18 to $100 each. Although it’s quite a huge difference, if you compare it to how often you’d have to replace them, using iridium plugs can give your money’s worth when taking into account maximum durability.
Now, still, trying to understand the topic?
Let’s answer some FAQs.
4 FAQs on Spark Plugs
Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions on spark plugs:
1. What Are the Other Types of Spark Plugs Available?
Here are some different types of spark plugs, other than those with ruthenium electrodes:
- Copper Spark Plugs: A more affordable and common type of plug that uses a copper and nickel alloy electrode (also known as conventional spark plugs).
- Platinum Spark Plugs: Has a platinum center electrode and copper ground electrode, which increases its lifespan (compared to a copper plug).
- Double Platinum Spark Plugs: Both the center and ground electrodes are made of platinum, which makes it more expensive but has better longevity.
- Iridium Spark Plugs: Has an iridium ‘fine wire’ center and small ground electrodes that help lower the ignition voltage but still produce high performance.
- Silver Spark Plugs: Has a silver-plated ground electrode and has better thermal stability but a shorter lifespan.
2. When Should I Change My Spark Plugs?
Most manufacturers recommend changing your spark plug every 30,000 miles.
- Difficulty starting your vehicle
- Rough idling due to misfiring
- Loss of power
- Poor fuel economy
- Illuminated Check Engine Light
- Increased emissions
3. How Can I Replace My Spark Plug?
Replacing your car’s plug can seem daunting at first glance, but it’s not as complicated as it seems.
However, you wouldn’t want to cause more damage because you’re trying to save money on repairs. So if you’re not comfortable dealing with car parts, always get a mechanic’s help.
Here’s what a mechanic would do when replacing one:
- Park the car on a flat surface and disable the ignition.
- Remove the engine cover and locate the spark plugs.
- Unscrew the spark plugs from the cylinder heads according to their position.
- Install the new plugs in reverse order (when removing them) and ensure they’re screwed tight.
- Reattach the engine cover and attempt to start the vehicle.
4. Which Spark Plug Should I Use for My Car?
The best way to know which plug is suitable for your engine is to stick to the ones your car manual recommends — whether yours is an older car or one with the newer engines.
Let’s say your vehicle’s owner’s manual states that the engine uses iridium or a platinum plug. Although these can be expensive, do not swap them out for a cheaper copper plug. Doing so can cause your engine to misfire and lead to other costly damages (regardless if it’s one of those supercharged engines or otherwise.)
On the flip side, even when a spark plug is touted to have unsurpassed quality and comes from a series of world class products, it might not be the right one for your engine.
Getting the same model and brand as the OEM spark plug is always the safest option, likely to give you maximum durability based on your engine’s needs. And if you’re considering changing to a different type or thinking of upgrading, you should keep one thing in mind:
Never downgrade your spark plug.
And when in doubt, consult an ignition specialist.
Ruthenium spark plugs are comparatively new to the market but show promising performance. They have high ignitability with complete fuel burn, offer quicker throttle response, and a smoother idle. They might not have the highest durability compared to the premium iridium spark plug, but are cheaper and can last almost as long.
If you’re looking for an ignition specialist to replace your spark plugs, look no further because AutoNation Mobile Service can help.
AutoNation Mobile Service is a mobile auto repair service you can get by filling in a short online form. Our mechanics are fully equipped with the tools and parts they need to get your car back on the road.
Contact us today, and we’ll send our best mechanics to your driveway to replace your spark plug in no time!