For nearly a century, Mercedes-Benz has been synonymous with luxury, grace, and style. Under the slogan “The Best or Nothing,” their automobiles strive to be the zenith of both superior functionality and enjoyment. Even in the best of designs, problems can arise, even due to natural wear and tear. Spark plugs are an infamously volatile engine part, and due to their unpredictable timing of malfunction, they are often a source of confusion and frustration for motorists.
Despite their reputation for unforeseeable breakdown, spark plugs are a lot more durable than they used to be. After 160 years of innovation, progress has made spark plugs nearly 100 times more stable than their humble beginnings. Spark plugs used to be at the top of the mechanic’s list of potential issues for engine trouble. Now, they can often go 100,000 miles before requiring a replacement under normal circumstances.
Innovations in both engine and spark plug technology have led to this new trend of excellent stability. Still, Karl Benz himself noted back in the early 1900s that ignition is one of the “trickiest problems” faced by car manufacturers. While problems with spark plugs are an increasing rarity, they can still happen and can lead to destructive results. If you attempt to work on your spark plug without proper experience or parts, you may end up with fire, detonation, and melted pistons.
Fortunately, our technicians are here to help. We use only genuine, specialized parts straight from the Mercedes-Benz factory. Our team of trained, experienced, and efficient professionals make changing spark plugs an affordable and quick experience. If you suspect your engine is having problems with its spark plugs or otherwise, bring your car to us, and we’ll treat both you and it with the respect you deserve.
The Function of a Spark Plug
A spark plug is an integral part of your car’s beating heart: the engine. Using electricity, it sends a spark into the combustion chamber, igniting the fuel/air mixture. That mixture is what propels you and your car wherever you need to go. The spark plug is also older and more complex than its sleek and simple design would suggest. The old cars of the mid-1800s had spark plugs in their combustion engines, just like your Benz does today.
The spark plug was first patented in 1901 by the brilliant German inventor Robert Bosch. The Bosch model, however, was not the first spark plug. Robert Bosch built upon the concept to create his improved version of the spark plug, as the original was never patented. Early, unpatented designs were unstable and dangerous. Thankfully, we now have the safe and resilient modern spark plug, built on the Bosch design.
Of course, there were other proposed ignition systems before the advent of the spark plug. Gottlieb Daimler proposed a glow-tube system. Sadly, that often led to fires and was not safe for use in automobiles. Early attempts at a battery power system worked but limited the range of the car to nearly nothing. Bosch’s invention, and the improvements made upon it by his engineers Arnold Zähringer and GottlobHonold, is the first truly direct ancestor to the modern wonder inside your Benz.
Anatomy of a Spark Plug
The spark plug relies on several different components, all working in tandem, to function correctly. There are several kinds of spark plugs in use today. Each one is unique, but all of them are based on these same central components.
The center electrode is a metal wire that runs lengthwise through the spark plug. The wire connects the ignition coil with the electrode gap, which is the gap in a spark plug that allows for the controlled creation of an electrical spark.
Next, there is a side electrode. The side electrode is a short wire which connects the central electrode to the metal casing ends. The metal ends, in turn, are screwed into a gap in the engine to connect the spark plug to the power source. The simple screw design allows for easy installation and extraction from the engine.
The spark plug sits inside a ceramic insulator. The ceramic casing around the spark plug is a simple but effective way to keep the central electrode exposed. Before Honold started using ceramic casings, fires and melting insulators were commonplace. Ceramic is heat-resistant and non-conductive, making it the perfect casing.
How often do spark plugs need replacement?
In the past, spark plugs needed to be replaced every 3,000 to 7,000 miles. However, modern spark plugs are made with better quality materials than they used to be. In addition, carburetors and air intake systems are more efficient than ever before. The modern spark plug only needs replacing about once every 100,000 miles, barring any issues.
Fascinatingly, the actual design of the spark plug has stayed more or less the same since the early 1900s. The real innovation has been in the design of modern engines. Using better materials, a more controlled manufacturing process, and a more ingenious engine design, modern spark plugs last up to ten times as long as they used to.
Take, for example, a modern variation on the spark plug, known as the double fine-wire electrode. This spark plug variant lasts even longerthan the average spark plug. It is made possible only with platinum, iridium, or other specialized rare earth metals. Before car manufacturers learned to use these metals, the double fine-wire electrode was impossible, as it was too small to be durable.
Of course, if you’re noticing engine trouble, especially if you’re experiencing frequent misfires or difficulty starting your car, you should bring your car in. Even if you haven’t driven 100,000 miles since your last replacement, you should not ignore these signs of engine trouble. Your spark plugs could be damaged by weather, impacts, or just bad luck.
The Dangers of Not Replacing Your Spark Plug
It can be tempting to ignore the much-needed spark plug replacement if your engine isn’t having any obvious problems. While we understand the temptation, it is highly ill-advised. A damaged spark plug can lead to several problems, ranging from highly inconvenient to expensive and destructive.
At the least problematic end of the scale, not replacing your spark plugs in adequate time can lead to an increase in misfires when you try to start your car. A pleasurable and straightforward drive can become a frustrating chore when your engine misfires on startup or idle. If the damage is extensive enough, eventually, your car might not even start. Even worse, a damaged spark plug can cause shaking and vibration of the engine. That shaking can damage other critical systems.
An overdue spark plug is one thing, but what about a bad spark plug? Spark plug replacement in a Mercedes-Benz requires training and the correct Mercedes-Benz specially manufactured spark plugs. The use of non-official spark plugs is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in repairing your car.
Aftermarket plugs are common but dangerous, as they are often indexed differently than official Mercedes-Benz spark plugs. This difference can cause spark plugs to detonate and possibly melt engine pistons, leading to devastating and expensive engine failure. Fortunately, we have the parts your car needs and the know-how to install them correctly.
Even with the correct spark plug, installation can be tricky for the layperson. The engine gap needs to be the correct size, and that size can differ for different engines. Too small of a gap will lead to misfires and failure to start, but too large a gap takes more voltage to spark for no good reason, costing you money and battery power.
While Mercedes-Benz engines come from the factory with the gaps pre-sized, normal wear and tear, or earlier errors in replacement can lead to incorrect gapping. Fortunately, our team is prepared to fix the gap and ensure the correct size for your make and model.
Woodinville Sports Cars Can Help
Now you know what a spark plug is and its dangers if damaged or worn out. If you were thinking of ignoring an old spark plug or replacing it yourself, consider this a warning call to action. Chances are you would rather find a place that will care for your car and its spark plugs.
Our mechanics will take care of routine maintenance or repairs affordably, efficiently, and correctly. If you’re a member of the Mercedes-Benz community in Washington and you need repairs, you’re in luck! Our team of factory-certified technicians and master mechanics are ready to service your car just the way it needs.
No matter where you are in Washington, we promise to be worth the drive or tow to us. We service European imports from Bothell, Kenmore, Kirkland, Mill Creek, Monroe, Redmond, Snohomish, and Woodinville, WA.
We know that Mercedes-Benz owners demand “The Best or Nothing,” as the slogan says, and our local team is determined to provide excellence. For your spark plugs and other European Auto Repair needs, our team of trusted professionals looks forward to taking care of you. Call us today for an appointment.