Blog Car Care Advice Platinum Spark Plugs: Benefits, Uses & 5 FAQs
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Platinum Spark Plugs: Benefits, Uses & 5 FAQs

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The spark plug plays a critical role in getting your vehicle up and running. 

Spark plugs typically have a copper core. The copper core is housed in a ceramic insulator, within a threaded metal shell. The threaded section screws into an engine’s cylinder head — allowing the firing tip to face the combustion chamber.      

While the copper core is an excellent electrical conductor, it’s soft and has a low melting point. So, the firing tip is typically covered with a nickel alloy, platinum, or iridium to help reduce wear.

In this article, we’ll be exploring platinum spark plugs, their benefits, and where they’re used. We’ll also answer 5 FAQs for more detail on this spark plug type. 

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Let’s fire up the ignition.

What Are Platinum Spark Plugs?

The all-important firing tip of a regular spark plug consists of a ground electrode and center electrode, which are exposed to heat, fuel, and debris in the combustion chamber. 

A platinum spark plug is simply one that uses a platinum tip. 

Platinum spark plugs come in two types: 

Apart from reinforcing the soft-but-highly-conductive copper from the high voltage sparks generated, using a precious metal like platinum on the spark plug electrode comes with a couple of other benefits.

We’ll look at those next.

What Are the Benefits of Platinum Spark Plugs?

Here’s how platinum improves spark plug performance:

A. Platinum is Harder and Has a Higher Melting Point

Platinum is a much harder material than the nickel alloy used on conventional copper spark plugs. It also has a much higher melting point than copper, defined at 3215°F compared to the 1984°F of copper. 

This combination of hardness and higher melting point allows the platinum spark plugs to maintain a sharp edge on their center electrode and ground electrode for a much longer time.

Why is a sharp edge important?
Sparks like to arc from the sharpest point on the center electrode to the sharpest point on a ground electrode. Therefore, a spark plug with a sharp edge can retain firing efficiency much longer. 

While a copper plug is typically replaced at 20,000 miles, a platinum plug can last up to five times more than a copper plug. 

That said, why should we change spark plugs regularly? 
Changing your old spark plugs can help optimize combustion and lower emission levels from your car. Not only that, but replacing spark plugs regularly also result in improved fuel efficiency.  

B. Platinum Spark Plugs Run Hotter

Platinum spark plugs generate more heat than other regular spark plug types. 

Platinum ones burn off combustion debris buildup better, which helps prevent dirty, fouled spark plugs that can affect the functioning of your ignition system. 

So, can you use platinum spark plugs in any vehicle engine?
Let’s find out.

Where Are Platinum Spark Plugs Used?

You can usually find single platinum spark plugs in newer vehicles with an electronic distributor-based ignition system (DIS). 

If your owner’s manual specifies platinum spark plugs, don’t downgrade to copper spark plugs. These might be cheaper spark plugs but may not work well with your ignition system. 

“Waste spark” DIS uses double platinum spark plugs. This type of ignition causes the spark plugs to fire twice — once on the compression stroke and then on the exhaust stroke. These double platinum spark plugs usually last for around 100,000 miles. 

A single platinum spark plug or conventional copper plug can’t handle the reverse concentrated spark. Therefore, don’t use them if your manual specifies using a double platinum spark plug. 

Instead, you can use an iridium or platinum combination plug (iridium center electrode with a platinum ground electrode). 

When in doubt, an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) plug that matches your current spark plug is the best spark plug for a spark plug replacement. It’ll ensure fuel efficiency and help you maintain fuel economy as designed for the vehicle.

Now that we’ve gotten the basics of platinum spark plugs down, let’s go through some FAQs. 

5 FAQs on Platinum Spark Plugs 

Here are the answers to some common platinum spark plug questions:

1. What Do Spark Plugs Do?

Spark plugs are the delivery end in an ignition system, generating the spark necessary for an internal combustion engine to function. 

Here’s what happens: 

The ignition coil draws power from the car battery and sends a high voltage to the spark plug through the spark plug wire or spark plug boot (for coil-on-plug systems). 

This high voltage arcs from the spark plug’s central electrode to the ground electrode, creating a spark. The spark ignites the airfuel mixture in the combustion chamber — generating power for your car. 

Pro tip: Changing your spark plugs regularly leads to quicker acceleration, better performance, and faster throttle response from your vehicle.

2. Are Platinum Spark Plugs Better than Copper Plugs?  

It depends on what you need the spark plug to do. 

The copper spark plug is the most common type of spark plug, which is why it’s also called a standard spark plug. They are cheaper than other spark plugs and are found in most older vehicle models.

The copper spark plug runs cooler and provides more power in performance-driving situations than the platinum spark plug. However, the nickel alloy on the electrodes wears down faster than platinum, so copper spark plugs require more frequent replacement.

So, if you need a new spark plug for performance driving, you might want to use the copper spark plug. But if you require long-lasting quality spark plugs for regular driving, then the platinum plug is the better option. 

Always check your owner’s manual for suitable spark plug types before switching from an OEM plug to a new spark plug type.

3. Are Iridium Spark Plugs Similar to Platinum Spark Plugs?

No, iridium plugs are pretty different from platinum ones. 

While iridium is a precious metal like platinum, it’s much stronger and harder than platinum, with a melting point of over 1200°F higher.

Iridium is extremely costly. But because it’s a very strong metal, manufacturers can significantly reduce the size of the center electrode on the iridium spark plug down to 0.4mm (compared to the 1.1mm center electrode on platinum spark plugs). 

This smaller center electrode on the iridium plug comes with certain advantages: 

The iridium spark plug is more durable than the platinum spark plug, with a lifespan of up to 25% longer. In fact, the only downside to the iridium spark plug is its much higher price.

4. Does the Spark Plug Gap Change on Platinum Spark Plugs?

The spark plug gap will widen with time and use. 

However, this process will be much slower on platinum and iridium spark plugs, as these metals are much harder than the nickel alloy on copper spark plugs. 

5. What is Spark Plug Heat Range? 

A standard spark plug heat range is the speed at which a spark plug transfers heat from the firing tip to the cylinder head water jacket and into the cooling system. 

Each plug can have a different heat range, and the numbering system used by spark plug manufacturers is not universal.

For instance, with Champion, Autolite, and Bosch, the higher the number, the hotter the plug. However, with an NGK spark plug, the higher the number, the colder the plug. A typical heat range for NGK Spark Plugs varies from 2-11.

Closing Thoughts

A faulty spark plug creates misfires, engine stalls, or an engine that won’t run. In this situation, getting the correct replacement spark plug is highly important. 

Your safest option is to use the spark plug recommended for your vehicle, i.e., if your car needs a platinum plug, that’s the one you should use. Since platinum spark plugs are durable and burn off combustion debris efficiently, they’ll ensure your engine maintains fuel efficiency and fuel economy.

If you’re unsure which spark plug is best for you or need help switching out the spark plugs, you can always rely on AutoNation Mobile Service

AutoNation Mobile Service is a mobile auto repair and maintenance service available seven days a week with an easy online booking process. 

Contact AutoNation Mobile Service, and our professional technicians will drop by your driveway to handle your spark plug replacement (or any other vehicle issue) ASAP!