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I Have Slightly Modified My Motor - Do I Need a Colder Spark Plug?

April 8, 2018

The term heat range refers to the speed with which a plug can transfer heat from the combustion chamber to the engine head. Whether the plug is to be installed in a boat, lawnmower or race car, it has been found the optimum combustion chamber temperature for gasoline engines is between 500°C–850°C.  Within that range it is cool enough to avoid pre-ignition and plug tip overheating (which can cause engine damage), while still hot enough to burn off combustion deposits that cause fouling.

 

 

 

Spark Plug Heat Dissipation

 

The spark plug design determines its ability to remove heat from the combustion chamber. The primary method used to do this is by altering the internal length of the core nose.  In addition, the alloy compositions in the electrodes can be changed. This means you may not be able to visually tell a difference between heat ranges.

   *When a spark plug is referred to as a “cold plug”, it is one that transfers heat rapidly from the firing tip into the engine head, keeping the firing tip cooler.

   *A “hot plug” has a much slower rate of heat transfer, which keeps the firing tip hotter.

An unaltered engine will run within the optimum operating range straight from the manufacturer, but if you make modifications such as adding a turbo or supercharger, increasing compression, timing changes, use of alternate fuels, or sustained use of nitrous oxide, these can alter the plug tip temperature, necessitating a colder plug. 

A good rule of thumb is, one heat range colder for every 75–100hp added.

In identical spark plug types, the difference from one full heat range to the next is the ability to remove 70°C to 100°C from the combustion chamber.

 

 

The heat range numbering system used by spark plug manufacturers is not universal. 

For example, a 10 heat range in NGK is not the same as a 10 heat range in Champion nor the same in Autolite.

 

 

Some manufacturers numbering systems are opposite the other - for Champion, Autolite and Bosch, the higher the number, the hotter the plug. However, for NGK, the higher the number, the colder the plug.

It is not recommended that you make spark plug changes at the same time as another engine modification, such as injection, carburetion or timing changes.  Performing too many modifications or tune-ups at once will lead to misleading and inaccurate conclusions if any issues occur (an exception would be when the alternate plugs came as part of a single pre-calibrated upgrade kit).

When making spark plug heat range changes, it is better to err on the side of too cold a plug. Running too cold a plug can only cause it to foul out, whereas running too hot a plug can cause severe engine damage.

 

Comments

rod barrett

Apr. 9, 2018
thanks I always thought heat range was in the gap but is the plug itself very helpful keep up the good work.

larry thompson

Jan. 7, 2018
great information ..

Damien Da Silva

Mar. 27, 2016
Great right up. We just rebuilt a 1500cc fiat engine and slapped on a Turbo in an x19. Have gone to your colder plug after reading this. Thanks loads. Cheers,

Anonymous

Nov. 30, 2015
This information was over satisfying Im going to go home with more knowledge than ever befour

A headscratcher

Dec. 27, 2013
Thanks for the info, helped me loads while myself and the shop attendant were trying to figure out the different heat ranges!!
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