Iridium is harder than platinum, and in most cases, iridium spark plugs last about 25 percent longer than comparable platinum spark plugs. Because iridium is costly, iridium spark plug manufacturers reduce the diameter of the center electrode to as little as .4mm. In addition to saving money, the “fine wire” center electrode on iridium spark plugs increases firing efficiency.
Many carmakers require iridium spark plugs or iridium/platinum combination spark plugs for (COP) ignition systems. If your owner’s manual specifies iridium spark plugs, don’t downgrade to platinum spark plugs, or double platinum spark plugs, or even copper spark plugs. They won’t perform as well as the iridium spark plugs in this case.
As the spark ignites the air/fuel mixture, the colder side electrode tends to “quench” the flame. To combat quenching, some spark plug manufacturers cut a “U” or “V” shaped channel into the “spark receiving” surface of the side electrode. The larger channeled area reduces quenching and allows the flame to grow more quickly. Other manufacturers split the end of the side electrode to reduce the flame’s contact with the side electrode and allow the flame to shoot straight down into the cylinder.
Are these channeled electrodes the best spark plugs you can buy? There’s no industry-wide consensus on whether these designs work better, but if channeled spark plugs make sense to you, buy them. They’ll perform at least as well as a non-channeled plug, if not better.
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Always replace spark plugs before the recommended service interval. Waiting until the full service cycle could cause them to seize to the cylinder head, making removal difficult. In addition, the wear that occurs during the last 20% of a spark plug’s life will cost you far more in reduced gas mileage than the cost of a new set of plugs.
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