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Switch From Copper to Iridium Spark Plugs

Spring is here and it is time to think about getting out your powered yard equipment—your lawnmower, garden tractor, weed—whacker, rotor—tiller, Etc. If you failed to prep them properly before storing them away in the tool-shed last fall, you will need to tune them now to get them ready for the hard work ahead. I am not going to talk about changing the oil, the air filter elements, the oil filter, sharpening and balancing the cutter blades in this article but about switching from the standard copper spark plug to an Iridium spark plug. An Iridium spark plug is much more reliable than a copper spark plug and ensures that your powered yard equipment will start reliably every time you yank on the recoil starter or turn the key for an electric start machine.

Spring is here and it is time to think about getting out your powered yard equipment—your lawnmower, garden tractor, weed—whacker, rotor—tiller, Etc. If you failed to prep them properly before storing them away in the tool-shed last fall, you will need to tune them now to get them ready for the hard work ahead. I am not going to talk about changing the oil, the air filter elements, the oil filter, sharpening and balancing the cutter blades in this article but about switching from the standard copper spark plug to an Iridium spark plug. An Iridium spark plug is much more reliable than a copper spark plug and ensures that your powered yard equipment will start reliably every time you yank on the recoil starter or turn the key for an electric start machine.

Spark plugs lead a hard life.

A spark plug has only one job to perform and that is to supply the spark that ignites the fuel—air mixture in the combustion chamber. All lawn mower engines are designed to operate at 3,600 RPMs (Revolutions Per Minute), but, depending on the cutting load, will run at somewhere between 2,800 and 3,300 RPMs. For a 4—stroke cycle engine, where the spark plug fires once for every two revolutions of the crankshaft, a spark fires between 1,400 and 1,650 times every minute or between 84,000 and 99,000 times every hour. That is hard work. Think how your fingers would feel if you had to flick a Bic that many times in an hour. Now add to that the extremely high combustion chamber temperatures of roughly 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit and you will begin to realize just what destructive forces the spark plug faces as it goes about its job of producing the spark needed to ignite the fuel air mixture every time the piston reached TDC (Top Dead Center) on every compression stroke.

It is all about the center electrode.

When a spark plug fires, the spark always travels from the sharp edges of the center electrode circumference to the grounded electrode. The sharper the edge, the hotter the spark. The hotter the spark, the easier an engine will be to start, not to mention the more power it will produce efficiently once running. There in lies the difference between a standard spark plug with a center electrode made of copper and one with a center electrode made of Iridium. The extremely high combustion chamber operating temperatures quickly cause a copper electrode to become rounded. Once it loses its sharp edges the spark becomes weaker and less efficient at igniting the fuel air mixture. When this happens the engine becomes harder to start and produces less power once running. Iridium,unlike copper, has a much higher melting point. Iridium, a precious metal, has a melting point of 4, 229 degrees Fahrenheit as opposed to copper's melting point of 1984 degrees Fahrenheit. With a melting point over twice that of copper and 1.17 times that of the combustion chamber operating temperature, the Iridium electrode is much more durable. The average combustion chamber temperature is actually 1.8 times the melting point of copper so is any wonder the electrode wears out so quickly?

Cost of an Iridium spark plug.

An Iridium spark plug will cost three to four times as much as a copper spark plug but they will also require less frequent replacement and that will make the investment worthwhile.

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Comments (10)

Great work Sir. Thanks

Well done and very informative. This will give me something ro talk with my SIL about. He is out mowing the lawn now.

Well you greatly increased my knowledge of spark plugs

Ranked #5 in Tools

You offer some valuable help here.Thank you.

Very informative. Excellent advice for keeping our engines in great shape.

i always buy the best spark plugs ..thanks for the valuable info

Jerry, this is really great information. Keep up the great work, my friend. I cannot get my Skype to work. I hope to figure it out soon to chat with you.

Great info and I'll pass this on to my hubby who knows more about this stuff.

Good info to have... nice work

Great information on handling electric tools at the wake of spring. Thank you dear brother Jerry.

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