The Five Most Common Causes Of Oil On Spark Plugs

In order to increase the vehicle’s fuel efficiency, many modern automobiles offer an eco mode setting. When it’s on, the engine produces less power, which makes it function less efficiently and makes the gas pedals less sensitive. The automobile accelerates more slowly as a result of the loss of power. Eco mode has the advantages of consuming less petrol and emitting fewer emissions. Driving slowly is ideal for using the eco mode.

Prior to the development of onboard diagnostics, many mechanics would routinely check the spark plugs in a car to learn more about the condition of the engine as a whole. Even though this method is less common than it previously was, it might be helpful when trying to solve spark-related problems.

The presence of oil soaking an electrode tip is a frequent finding, during spark plug examination. In other cases, oil may collect around one or more spark plug wells of an engine. Even while this should obviously raise some red flags, the situation is considerably more complicated than first appears.

For additional information on the many causes of oil-contaminated spark plugs, continue reading.

Are Spark Plugs Damaged by Oil?

Spark plugs clogged with oil are never a sight to behold. However, if this contamination is of an external character, it may not be as serious as one may initially believe. An excellent illustration of this situation is when oil is present in the spark plug wells of an engine. This is frequently a symptom of external oil pooling, like the one that was brought on by a bad valve cover gasket.

However, high oil saturation of the electrode of a spark plug is considerably more concerning. This often indicates that too much oil is entering one or more of an engine’s combustion chambers. The source of the oil itself has a significant impact on how severe this illness is.

Oil on Spark Plug Threads: What Causes It?

Spark plug oil pollution can be caused by a variety of factors, some of which are more serious than others. Having an understanding of these factors is frequently essential for the diagnosis procedure.

Here are a few of the most typical reasons why spark plug oil becomes contaminated.

1. Valve Cover Gasket Leak

Oil can leak from beneath an engine’s valve cover due to a damaged valve cover gasket. As a result, this oil frequently leaks into the well or void that surrounds the spark plug body of an engine.

2. Faulty plug well grommets

Specialized grommets are found on many engines, and their purpose is to stop oil from leaking into the aforementioned plug wells. These grommets, however, are prone to age and heat deformation, which causes them to offer less protection over time.

3. Worn valve seals or guides

A pair of matching guides that have specialised seals to prevent oil incursion into the combustion chamber centre the engine’s intake and exhaust valves. These seals may gradually wear down, enabling oil to flow where it would not otherwise.

4. Defective Piston Rings

In addition to preventing compression loss, a cylinder’s piston rings also stop oil from entering the combustion chambers of an engine. But, old or broken piston rings could not be up to the task, enabling oil to get inside one or more cylinders and clog them up.

5. Damaged Piston

A damaged or broken piston is another possible source of spark plug oil pollution. When a failure of this kind happens, oil from the engine’s crankcase is permitted to enter the cylinder containing the injured piston.

The signs of oil on spark plugs

A driver can frequently tell whether there is oil on one or more spark plugs by easy visual inspection. This frequently works well when trying to quickly address any problems that may develop.

Here are a few of the most typical signs of contaminated spark plug oil.

1. An engine fire

Spark plugs that have been exposed to oil often struggle to ignite. This frequently manifests as a cylinder or cylinders misfiring.

2. Exhaust Smoke with a Blue Color

Blue smoke, which is typically produced by burning oil, is much simpler to spot than white smoke and associated problems. This hue of exhaust is typically a sign that at least one combustion chamber has been contaminated with oil. This kind of exhaust smoke also frequently has a bad, “burnt” smell.

3. Lowered fuel efficiency

Spark plug pollution is not an exception to the rule that any decrease in combustion efficiency might result in greater fuel consumption.

Spark plug fouling may be to fault if you’ve started to experience more discomfort at the pump.

4. Backfiring 

When spark plugs are clogged with oil, an engine may even start to backfire in extreme circumstances. A less than optimal combustion efficiency is the cause of this.

Can You Drive With Oil-Wet Spark Plugs?

Driving with spark plugs polluted with oil is undoubtedly conceivable. However, it is never advisable to do so.

First and foremost, oil saturation dramatically impairs a spark plug’s ability to arc as designed. This in turn frequently results in a clear misfire issue. Furthermore, problems linked to sparks will only get worse with time if the source of this oil pollution is not fixed.

Operating a vehicle’s engine with oil-fouled spark plugs can also result in a number of additional problems, some of which may ultimately require expensive repairs. One illustration of this is the harm to catalytic converters that frequently arises from a misfire issue that is not corrected.

Will Oil Burn Off in the Spark Plug Well?

If the underlying issue that’s causing the oil to pool in the spark plug well of a car is fixed, the oil will actually burn off. Nevertheless, if the source of this oil is not found and fixed, more oil will just keep accumulating there at a pace considerably quicker than “burn-off” can occur. An enormous mess will result from this in turn.

Any residual oil will be burned out within a reasonable amount of time, assuming the cause of any oil-pooling has been properly resolved. The quantity of drivetime accumulated at operational temperature will determine how long this procedure will take exactly.

How to Clean an Oily Spark Plug?

There are many methods for draining oil from a spark plug well. However, using a store microfiber towel is usually the most efficient.

Before making an attempt to soak up any leftover pollutants, any objectionable oil can be thinned up with a little amount of brake cleaner or carburetor cleaner.

With the use of an extension or any comparable long object, a shop towel may be tucked into the spark plug well. For the shop towel to have enough time to absorb the majority of the remaining oil, it should be kept in place for 10 to 20 minutes.

Are the spark plugs reusable?

Even if you might have seen a former acquaintance use a hand-held propane torch to clean cooking grease off of a spent spark plug, doing so would not be the wisest move.

These techniques are better used when trying to start a motorbike or lawnmower rather than a car, even if they do work in certain cases.

Spark plugs are generally inexpensive to buy, and many of them now come pre-gapped, which speeds up installation. There is therefore little justification for reusing outdated, neglected spark plugs of any kind.

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