Who doesn’t love motorcycles? The wind in the hair, the open roads, twisties and the sheer aura of invincibility that you exude while on a motorcycle are powerful stimulants for anyone wanting to ride their heart out. A motorcycle represents personal freedom, go-anywhere ability and also at times helps to create an unforgettable persona. But like all things mechanical, motorcycles also have certain demands from the rider. They demand proper love and care, timely and regular maintenance and more importantly they demand attention to the minutest detail.
While most riders and mechanics pay attention to the engine, sometimes one ends up ignoring the most important component in the engine- the humble sparkplug. Not so humble either considering the fact that an engine without a sparkplug is as good as a heap of junk. Here then, are top tips to help keep your sparkplugs properly maintained.
Tip 1: Master the ancient art of reading plugs
Just like ancient shamans could predict the future by reading bones, so too can sparkplugs tell you about what’s exactly going on in your engine. Watch your sparkplug carefully the next time you remove it from the engine. A normal and properly functioning plug will have a brown to light grayish brown color to the insulator. The electrode itself will be slightly worn with most of the metal intact.
Any kinds of ash, soot, oil deposits on the plug indicates fouled plugs due to internal problems in the engine like worn oil/piston rings, worn valve seats and/or guides. Mechanical damage to the plug like chipped insulators or electrodes could indicate presence of foreign bodies or hard deposits in the combustion chamber which could end up damaging engine internals. Blistering or burn marks or glaze on the plugs could indicate that the plugs are running too hot or are probably not the right heat range.
Tip 2: Understand heat range
Every manufacturer specifies plug types depending on the particular characteristic of their engines. Therefore manufacturers suggest a standard plug specification depending on the heat range that the plugs require. Ensure that you use ONLY the type and make specified by the manufacturer. Using the wrong type of sparkplug can result in improper ignition in the engine and may in extreme cases cause detonation.
Tip 3: To run lean or rich
The ratio of air and fuel in the combustible mixture going into the cylinder can also affect your plugs. Lean mixtures will result in excessive load on the plugs resulting in increased wear and tear. Unnecessarily rich mixtures can cause pre-detonation resulting in valve pinging thereby damaging your valves, piston and plugs. Ensure that the air/fuel ratio is in line with manufacturer recommended settings. Any aftermarket accessories like free flow exhaust, replacement filters etc. can affect the ratio. Ensure that you calibrate the mixture accordingly. Also pay attention to the ignition timing. Over-advancing ignition timing can also burn out plugs or cause heavy erosion. Any changes to the camshaft profiles or cam lobes can also indirectly affect sparkplugs.
Tip 3: Clean, set and smile
Keep your sparkplugs clean. In case of oily deposits or ash deposits, clean your plugs properly in petrol or kerosene with a wire-brush and wipe off after cleaning. Keep the electrodes clean and sand off eroded metal parts with sandpaper. Never use plugs with chipped insulators or broken electrodes.
Also make sure that the spark plug gap is set properly in line with manufacturer recommended settings. Improperly set gaps affect combustion and thus the plugs in turn. Use a feeler gauge to check gaps and set accordingly.
Tip 4: Don’t forget the cords and cap
The spark plug cord is also important for the plug since it carries the electric charge into the plug. Cracked, torn or worn out cords must be changed immediately to avoid leakage of electricity and also to ensure that the plug gets the right amount of electricity since that affects the spark directly. The spark plug cap also helps to keep the plugs dry and clean. Cracked caps should therefore be avoided. Also keep an eye on the length of the cord. It has to be just the right length so as to ensure it is not stretched too tight which might result in the cap slipping off the plug. Generally it is recommended that cords and plugs be changed simultaneously.
Tip 5: Use the right equipment
Ensure that plugs are removed and fitted with a spark plug spanner only. Also ensure that the threads are properly aligned and the plug screws in properly. Avoid over tightening the plug since it might damage the threads. All these tips will help keep the spark plug clean and functioning efficiently resulting in more smiles per mile. Enjoy and happy riding!!