I can’t even remember how many spark plugs I’ve replaced over the years, but no matter how much experience you may have, every once in a while, you’ll likely have to figure out how to get a spark plug socket out.
It’s a situation many enthusiasts and DIY mechanics dread: a spark plug socket getting stuck on the spark plug or inside the spark plug hole. But, don’t panic, as removing it isn’t as daunting as it might seem.
There are a variety of techniques that might help you, such as gripping it with needle-nose pliers, fitting a locking extension to wiggle the socket out, or even stuffing bread into the spark plug hole to push it out.
Socket Stuck In Spark Plug Hole
With that in mind, between my own hacks and other neat solutions that I’ve found online, here are some effective methods (including simple and advanced ones) that you can try to get a stuck spark plug socket out.
(Click on these to skip ahead to the relevant sections):
- Wiggling and turning to try and get the stuck socket out
- BASIC – Using simple tools to try and pry the stuck socket out (strong magnet, coat hangers, needle-nose vise grips, or a locking extension)
- ADVANCED – Applying a bit more finesse (using heat, using a slide hammer, applying some JB Weld, spraying some penetrating lubricant, or getting some bread)
- Removing the spark plug tube and valve cover (this is the last resort)
1 – Wiggle and Turn
Oftentimes, the spark plug socket might not be actually stuck, but merely lodged in an awkward position. A slight misalignment can cause it to feel more secure than it is.
So, before moving on to more advanced and drastic solutions, try gently wiggling the socket and turning it side to side. Sometimes, this simple action can help in loosening the socket.
- Firmly grip the spark plug socket or the extension that it’s attached to.
- Gently wiggle it from side to side while applying a slight upward force.
- Rotate or turn the stuck spark plug socket clockwise and counter-clockwise to help free it from its lodged position.
- You can continue and persist with these motions until you feel the socket loosening.
2 – Grab Some Tools (Basic Techniques)
If wiggling the stuck spark plug socket around isn’t able to dislodge it, you might need some tools to help you out. There are a few that I’d recommend you use, including (but not limited to):
- A strong magnet
- Heavy metal coat hangers
- Needle-nose vise grips
- A locking extension
2.1 – Strong Magnet
A strong magnet might be able to help you pull the stuck spark plug socket out. Find yourself a very strong magnet, preferably a neodymium magnet due to its powerful magnetic pull.
- Clean the area around the spark plug hole (as well as your socket) to ensure that no debris interferes with the process.
- Slowly lower the strong magnet into the spark plug hole, and making sure it attaches to the socket.
- Now, you can gently pull upward. If the stuck spark plug socket doesn’t come out immediately, try you can wiggling the magnet slightly to adjust its grip.
2.2 – Metal Coat Hanger
If the magnet doesn’t work (or if you don’t have a strong enough magnet), find a sturdy (ideally, one made of metal) coat hanger. Its strength is essential to ensure that it doesn’t bend under pressure.
- First up, you’ll need to straighten out the heavy metal coat hanger.
- Bend about half an inch of one end of the hanger into a sharp V-hooked shape.
- Now, insert this hooked end of the hanger into the square hole at the back of the socket.
- Once it’s been securely hooked, pull upwards with steady force to dislodge the stuck socket.
2.3 – Needle-Nose Vise Grips
One of the best tools for un-sticking things that are stuck in tight spaces is needle-nose vise grips. These are long, thin pliers that can grip objects in tight spaces. These can help with stuck sockets, too.
- First of all, to make sure that you can securely grip the stuck spark plug socket, ensure that the vise grips are clean and free from any oil or grease.
- Open the needle-nose vise grips and carefully insert them into the spark plug hole, aiming to latch onto the stuck socket.
- Once securely gripped, apply a steady upward force to pull out the socket. This might take a few tries, depending on how stuck the socket is.
2.4 – Locking Extension
It’s worth trying to un-stick the stuck spark plug socket with a locking extension, too. A locking extension is designed to grip sockets more securely than standard extensions. So, let’s give this a go.
- Attach the locking extension to the stuck socket.
- Once secured, gently wiggle the extension side to side while pulling upwards. The locking mechanism should help in maintaining a firm grip on the socket.
- Use the added leverage from the locking extension to wiggle and pull the stuck spark plug socket free.
3 – Advanced Techniques To Try
Well, if the previous techniques won’t work for you, there are a few other, more advanced methods that have worked for me before, in getting a stuck spark plug socket out:
- Using heat and cold
- Taking a slide hammer to it
- Sticking with JB Weld
- Applying some penetrating lubricant
- Get some bread
3.1 – Heat And Cold
Metal expands when heated and contracts when cooled. A warm engine can cause the spark plug socket to expand slightly, making it harder to remove. We can use this to try and get the socket out.
- Using a heat gun, apply some heat around the spark plug hole for several minutes.
- Immediately after, use a freezing agent or compressed air (held upside down) to try and cool the stuck spark plug socket.
- Attempt to remove the stuck spark plug socket using any of the basic techniques mentioned earlier… A strong magnet, heavy metal coat hangers, needle-nose vise grips, or a locking extension.
3.2 – Slide Hammer
A slide hammer uses inertia to apply force. However, I’d recommend caution when using a slide hammer, as improperly applying force to the stuck socket might get it even more stuck than before.
- Attach the slide hammer to the stuck spark plug socket.
- Pull the weight of the slide hammer towards you, then push it away, using the tool’s momentum to exert force on the stuck spark plug socket.
- Repeat the process until the socket comes loose. For added effectiveness, you can combine this method with the heat and cold technique, as I mentioned earlier.
3.3 – JB Weld
JB Weld is an adhesive that can bond metal objects together. Here, we’re basically sticking one metal part to the stuck socket, and hopefully, be able to yank it out of the spark plug hole.
- First off, apply some JB Weld to the end of an extension (you could also use that locking extension from earlier, if it didn’t work then).
- Attach the extension (with JB Weld on it) to the stuck spark plug socket and let it set for the recommended curing time.
- Once set, use the extension to pull or twist the stuck spark plug socket out.
3.4 – Penetrating Lubricants
To do this, you’ll have to get some quality penetrating lubricant from a local auto parts store. Otherwise, you could also try using good-old WD-40, but stronger lubricants might prove more effective.
- Spray the penetrating lubricant generously around the area where the spark plug socket meets the spark plug hole.
- Next, you should allow the lubricant to sit for at least 15-20 minutes. This will help in breaking down any rust or debris that might be causing the socket to stick.
- After a brief wait (a couple of minutes will do), attempt to remove the stuck spark plug socket once again.
3.5 – Bread
Now, before you laugh, hear me out, because bread does actually work. Bread can be used as a makeshift hydraulic ram. As you push more bread into a confined space, it compresses and exerts outward pressure.
- To do this, you’ll need to take a piece of bread and push it into the spark plug hole atop the stuck socket.
- Continue adding more and more bread, compressing it down with some sort of tool or rod.
- As the bread compresses (and the crumbs get into all the tiniest nooks and crannies), it will exert pressure on the socket, pushing it out.
- Once the stuck spark plug socket is removed, ensure that all the bread remnants and debris are cleared from the spark plug hole.
4 – Removal of the Tube or Valve Cover
In some extreme cases, the stuck spark plug socket may be lodged so deeply that direct access is required. I don’t recommend that most of you do this, but if all else fails, this might be the only solution.
- Refer to your car’s service/repair manual or consult a mechanic to understand the process of removing the spark plug tube or valve cover.
- Once you have direct access to the stuck spark plug socket, use pliers or other tools to carefully remove it.
- After removal, ensure all parts are reassembled correctly to prevent any future issues.
- Again, I only recommend this to those with a lot of experience and technical know-how with cars, because otherwise, you should consult a professional mechanic or technician for this method.