What Happens If Oil Gets on Spark Plugs?
Oil on spark plugs will have a serious impact on engine performance, as the spark plugs won’t produce strong enough sparks to ignite fuel in its combustion chamber and spark off combustion processes.
What causes incomplete or no combustion to take place and cause misfires, blue exhaust and poor fuel economy? Why does this occur?
The piston is at the core of your vehicle’s engine. It converts reciprocating motion into rotary movement that turns the crankshaft to produce mechanical work from thermal energy, producing mechanical work as output from thermal energy. As such, its role is extremely vital and works closely with other systems, such as spark plugs and lubrication; therefore it is imperative that they all continue functioning optimally and receive scheduled servicing at recommended intervals.
Oil on a spark plug well is an indication that one or more systems isn’t operating correctly, as well as that its spark plug may not generate hot enough of a spark to ignite and burn all of the fuel in its cylinder. Any unburnt fuel may end up dumped into your exhaust pipe where you might notice an odor of gas coming out.
Oil on the spark plug is often associated with engine misfire, wherein a spark plug fails to ignite the fuel/air mixture in one of your engine cylinders and sparking occurs instead. Engine misfire typically manifests itself by hesitation or shaking when pressing on the accelerator pedal.
Damage to pistons is one of the main sources of engine oil leaking onto spark plugs. Pistons are subject to extreme heat while operating, which may lead to cracks extending all the way into their walls and into the combustion chamber, where oil can leak in through these cracks and damage spark plugs and other components in your engine.
Cracked pistons can damage compression rings that keep gases out of the cylinder, and when these wear out it reduces compression and power of an engine as well as necessitating more frequent oil changes than usual over 3,000-5,000 mile intervals.
Seeing oil on your spark plug could indicate worn-out piston ring seals that leak. You will likely spot this oil along the spark plug tube as well as white insulators and tip of your spark plug, though replacing cylinder head gasket may require taking additional steps.
Worn Valve Guides
As their name implies, spark plugs are responsible for lighting the air/fuel mixture that ignites an engine, so any oil accumulation on their tips has the potential to significantly decrease fuel efficiency in your car.
Smelling gas while driving is another telltale sign. This occurs because when an oil-contaminated spark plug requires more fuel to ignite its mixture, some of which finds its way through to your exhaust system and is expelled through its tailpipe unburnt; leaving behind an unpleasant stench in your cabin.
Oil on your spark plug can significantly influence how hot it becomes in your combustion chamber, potentially leading to pre-ignition; when an insufficiently warm spark plug creates too early of an explosion for proper vaporization of fuel to occur before burning it up all at once and decreasing fuel economy by significantly.
Oil leakage onto spark plugs may occur for various reasons. Piston rings that have worn down could allow oil to seep down through the cylinder walls into the combustion chamber and onto spark plugs, or failing piston valve stem seals may allow oil seepage past them and into the combustion chamber, both leading to spark plug contamination.
In both situations, oil will pool on the spark plug wells or within its insulator part and should it become excessive, it may indicate that its electrode has begun to fail and needs replacing immediately.
Your tailpipe may start emitting blue smoke due to oil entering the combustion process and not burning as expected, eventually exiting through your exhaust system and entering the atmosphere as a danger for both yourself and other drivers.
Failing Compression Rings
Oil is essential to keeping your vehicle and engine functioning smoothly, but there are certain places it shouldn’t go. One such place is spark plug threads or wells; any time oil appears here it signals there may be an issue that requires immediate attention from you as a vehicle owner.
Oil on spark plugs reduces their chances of sparking, and consequently the chance that their spark can ignite the gas/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber and result in misfiring and power loss. Furthermore, any uncombusted fuel dumped directly into exhaust can produce a strong gas smell while potentially harming catalytic converters over time.
For optimal combustion, the spark plug must be properly aligned with the piston. Worn piston rings prevent them from compressing fuel/air mixture appropriately, leading to hard starts and reduced horsepower.
An engine with leaking piston rings will lose power, possibly rendering it impossible to start in certain circumstances.
Assuming your piston rings have worn away, expect an increase in oil consumption as your engine uses additional engine oil to maintain proper compression pressure.
As soon as you suspect worn piston rings, look out for telltale symptoms such as an unexpected drop in fuel economy or puffs of blue smoke emanating from the tailpipe upon starting up your engine each morning. If any such signs arise, don’t delay in consulting a reliable repair shop immediately to diagnose and address it before it worsens further.
Your car’s engine combines three distinct liquids; combustible air fuel, water/glycol coolant and motor oil. These must remain separate at all times; one key component that keeps these from mixing is the head gasket; if it fails it allows engine oil into the combustion chamber where it may contaminate spark plug wells leading to misfires or even stalling of any cylinder in your vehicle.
If your spark plug comes into contact with engine oil, it can quickly oxidize and burn away quickly, leaving an inert blackened insulator which cannot generate the high temperatures necessary for ignition. As such, this prevents your spark plug from properly igniting fuel/air mixture that would otherwise push forward during acceleration.
Faulty valve guide seals or oil passages in the cylinder head can allow engine oil to seep past the valve stem into the combustion chamber, rendering your spark plug incapable of lighting off its fuel/air mixture and leading to poor engine performance. In these instances, oil will begin leaking past its valve stem into the combustion chamber resulting in poor performance from your engine.
Engine oil on your spark plug may also occur if the piston compression rings of your car become worn-out. These rings lie in the first grooves of its piston and transfer heat away from it into the cylinder head to avoid excessive oil burning in its combustion chamber, but once worn out they leak oil down onto its sides before eventually ending up on your spark plugs, creating white or gray exhaust smoke and creating white or gray exhaust smoke emissions.
Lastly, if the head gasket fails across the fire rings it can allow compression from one cylinder to leak into another and result in poor engine performance and an audible ticking sound at idle. Unfortunately this type of head gasket failure is less prevalent and often difficult to diagnose without disassembling and removing valve covers from engine block.
If your engine is experiencing any difficulties, do not panic – having it checked by an accredited technician can help identify and remedy any potential issues before they escalate into something more serious.