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The basic engine design involves three things to work: air, fuel, and fire. Obviously, nobody is sticking a match in an engine to get it to work, but the same idea occurs with the function of a spark plug. Screwed in tightly into the engine head component of the engine assembly, spark plugs are triggered with air and fuel are compressed against them with pistons. That in turn triggers the spark to ignite and the combustion process occurs driving the engine. Sounds great, but like everything mechanical spark plugs eventually wear out and need to be replaced. However, folks driving a Chevy Colorado like other models don’t always know when.
Spark Plug Replacement on the Chevy Colorado
The Chevy Colorado as a pickup truck is designed to drive harder and farther than a typical sedan or compact vehicle, but it too has spark plugs that eventually need to be replaced. And, while they can be replaced frequently, there’s no real need to. That doesn’t mean one should wait for the last second for the service. Technically, per the Chevrolet guidelines made available through every dealership and in the owner’s manual, the Colorado’s spark plugs can last as long as almost 100,000 (the actual replacement is recommended at 97,500 miles). That said, the manufacturer’s recommendation also assumes everything is working correctly and the truck has been maintained correctly by the Colorado owner.
A Short History of the Vehicle Spark Plug
The first working spark plug was created in 1901 by Robert Bosch, the same surname that one of many brands today are named after. The original, early plugs used a copper component for conductivity and ignition. Unfortunately, while copper performs extremely well in transferring a charge, it’s a softer metal and wears down faster. Eventually, this required plugs to need replacing around every 20,000 miles.
Obviously, modern spark plugs represent a product evolution and that was in the form of the platinum electrode built into modern plugs. Platinum provides just as good a conductivity channel and, being a harder metal, it lasts much longer. The typical platinum spark plug can easily perform anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 miles. No surprise, platinum spark plugs became the standard for longer efficiency, longer reliability, and better ignition performance overall.
What Happens When Spark Plugs are Ignored?
The typical problems that occur when pickup truck spark plugs go bad or are ignored with poor maintenance are common enough to be identified and predicted. And they almost all have to do with engine performance. The dynamic of the ignition process is critical to making everything work properly so, no surprise, when the sparks are not performing well, it’s realized with the rest of the engine function, even when the sparks do continue to fire. Typical problems include:
- Rough engine running and sputtering
- Loud misfire from the exhaust
- Fuel consumption is far higher than normal due to waste in misfiring
- The vehicle can’t accelerate properly
- The idle sputters or struggles to maintain
- The vehicle doesn’t start or takes a long time to achieve a full engine running cycle
Unfortunately, spark plugs don’t go bad in just one, singular way. A lot of different situations can contribute to their deterioration, both immediately and over time while driving regularly. For example, if the sparks are not gapped properly (this distance between the electrode and needle of the spark, the ignition won’t occur reliably. Secondly, if the fuel/air mix is bad, too much insufficiently burned fuel can create oily gunk or carbon on the spark plug tip inside the piston chamber. That will foul up the spark and make ignition perform badly as well. Issues leading the spark can cause problems too, such as the spark cap wires being frayed or damaged. It doesn’t have to be a full cut or damage. An intermittent contact will cause problems as well yet let the engine run sporadically.
Other Reasons Not to Ignore Spark Plug Replacement
Aside from being able to drive your truck properly, good spark plugs go a long way in helping your vehicle perform for you as well as your neighborhood and community. Today’s cars work extremely well, but that depends on all the parts working correctly as well. The other benefits of good working spark plugs in your Chevy Colorado include:
- A reliable combustion system avoids other damage to your engine and avoids sudden, erratic performance that stresses out the other systems.
- Your fuel economy will drop by as much as 30 percent with poor performing spark plugs. The Colorado can produce a very healthy 30 mpg on the highway only when its system is working correctly.
- A poor performing engine is dumping raw gasoline out the exhaust and emitting extra heavy emissions that contribute to pollution and health problems. Keeping your sparks clean and fresh avoid these problems for you and your neighbors.
- Good sparks ensure your truck will start when you need it the most, and that matters when you’re out in the cold, needing to travel at night or far from home.
The Cost of Spark Plugs is Minimal as a Maintenance Expense
Here’s the most telling factor: spark plugs are cheap, a few dollars at most. In most cases the cost one pays for the replacement is for the technician labor, not the plugs themselves. When combined with a tune-up or periodic recommendation service, your plugs can be changed out quickly and you’ll be back on the road with a reliable car instead of a guessing game.
So, when’s the best time to change your spark plugs versus when they are recommended at the latest condition? Savvy truck drivers who take care of their vehicles will change them out every 30,000 to 50,000, twice as often as the latest duration recommendation lasts. Again, the owner’s manual will state 97,500 miles, which is under very ideal conditions. Most pickup truck drivers and Colorado drivers are going to push their pickup a lot harder than ideal conditions. So, don’t take chances, and don’t leave yourself stranded in a bad spot by a preventable problem.
Prevention is Your Friend
Remember, car maintenance is also one of the best prevention steps a Colorado owner can take in keeping repair costs to a minimum. By simply taking care of needed changes for your vehicle on a regular basis per recommended schedules, a truck owner can easily keep a Chevy Colorado running right for years. And every service check allows factory-trained technicians for Chevrolet to examine your vehicle and check for any issues before they get serious and more expensive. The maintenance attention will add up over time.
While it might seem unnecessary in the first years of owning your Colorado, often being told everything is fine and no need to worry, as the vehicle puts on miles the wear and tear will add up. Regular maintenance ensures that consumables and similar parts are replaced early before their failure becomes a contribution to a more serious problem. Spark plugs may last longer in the Chevy Colorado, but at the end of the day, they are regularly replaced as well. So, don’t trade a few dollars in maintenance for a major engine failure on the road later on. Stay on top of your maintenance and your truck will take care of you.