Spark plugs play a crucial role in the combustion process, allowing the engine of the vehicle to start and function correctly. The performance and efficiency of the engine are partially dependent on the type of spark plug you choose. Platinum vs iridium spark plugs is a major topic of debate between automobile manufacturers. Which one is the best for your vehicle?
The majority of the spark plugs come with a copper-core center electrode fitting – a great conductor of electricity. It fares better than other types of materials used to make plugs. In addition, it offers decent heat transferability.
The copper section of the spark plug is generally shielded with a nickel alloy due to its low melting point and softness. In order to increase performance, the electrode might come with an iridium or a platinum tip, based on the kind of plug. We will discuss platinum vs iridium spark plugs and how the difference between them affects your vehicle. But before that, let’s know a bit more about spark plugs.
- Types of Spark Plug
- Copper Spark Plug
- Iridium Spark Plug
- Platinum Spark Plug
- Double Platinum Spark Plug
- Iridium vs Normal Spark Plugs
- Pros and Cons
Structural Formation Of The Average Spark Plug
The significance of spark plugs lies in making the layout of a vehicle simpler. Researchers in the automotive industry are endlessly working to make spark plugs even smaller in size so they can comfortably sit inside a combustion chamber.
On the other hand, spark plugs seem rather simple when it comes to operations as they need a large amount of energy which is later converted into immense work.
Almost every spark plug comes with two electrodes – one located at the skirt and the other at the center. The central electrode features a copper core formation. Thanks to its excellent physical properties of adequate electric conduction and quick heat transmission, copper is the metal of choice. However, copper is also soft and the melting point is low. Thus, nickel-alloy cover.
The other one is called the ground electrode and it is also made of copper. Iridium or a platinum tip can exist on the central electrode to drive the performance. A small space between the tip of the central electrode and the ground electrode is known as the electrode gap. Lately, the central electrodes are also getting smaller in size.
These little spark plugs use less voltage to produce the required flow of electricity in the combustion chamber. Learn how spark plugs work here.
Job of Metal In A Spark Plug
The main task of metal in a spark plug is to gather the electric energy using the spark plug so that it can create a spark whilst moving across the electrode gap. This is the most crucial phase as this is where the ignition process is started.
For the same reason, we can use any kind of metal (hypothetically) as a spark plug that conducts electricity. Although some metals are known to be good conductors, the issue lies within the overheating tendency of these elements. Due to that situation, these metals overheat and cause malfunction, compromising the performance of the spark plugs.
The manufacturers generally choose precious and viable metals to work as the ground electrode and central electrode of a spark plug. Thus, they use metals such as platinum, nickel alloy, iridium, and aluminum too. These metals raise the plug changing interval as well as abate the rate of misfires.
Types Of Spark Plugs
Copper spark plugs are the most common in today’s market. But, there are some other kinds too, like platinum spark plugs, iridium spark plugs, double platinum spark plugs, and more. Mainly, the categories are:
- Platinum spark plugs
- Iridium spark plugs
- Copper spark plugs
- Double Platinum spark plugs
Based on the make and model of the vehicle you drive, some offer pros while others offer cons.
What Is Copper Spark Plug?
Copper spark plugs are arguably the most cost-effective spark plugs out of all spark plugs available. These super common spark plugs are considered the “standard” or basic spark plugs that most vehicles come with. The structure is simple: a nickel-alloy outer layer around the tip with a copper core at the center. In all honesty, copper is a common metal in all spark plugs. The ground electrode also features a nickel alloy construction.
The frame of copper spark plugs is quite possibly the widest out of all the ones mentioned here. This means that it boasts the largest thread diameter. Don’t get too excited; this also means that it requires the most voltage to produce an electric spark.
Pros Of Copper Spark Plugs
- Better for older vehicles that only featured a moderately performing engine
- In comparison to iridium and platinum, copper is a superconductor
- Quite affordable to make
- If replaced at regular intervals, copper spark plugs work quite fine for their price tags
Cons Of Copper Spark Plugs
- Nickel alloy isn’t the hardest material, so there is a loss in longevity
- Needs a larger volume of voltage to generate an electric spark – inefficient
- Have to be changed after every 20,000 miles crossed
What Is Iridium Spark Plug?
Made with a metallic element, iridium spark plugs are super durable spark plugs that ensure great efficiency and performance. They also have a high melting point. When it comes to the properties of a metal, iridium has a lot to offer.
Iridium is quite durable which helps increase the service life of spark plugs. Who wants to replace components of the car after every other month? Iridium spark plugs are resistant to wear and tear plus an incredible consistency. They are definitely some of the best spark plugs the market has to offer today.
We cannot compare other traditional spark plugs to iridium as they offer extended lifespan, concentrated spark, and durability. These plugs power engines faster than a few other plugs thanks to their ability to generate concentrated sparks using the small electrode in the center.
What Is Platinum Spark Plug?
A platinum spark plug is similar to a copper one, with a slight variation in the center electrode – it is made of platinum, attached to the electrode’s tip through welding. The platinum increases the durability of the plug, adding 100,000 miles to its service life.
Platinum spark plugs can generate more heat than their iridium counterparts, ensuring lesser buildup of debris. This kind of spark plug is best if you have a new car equipped with an electronic distributor ignition system.
What Is Double Platinum Spark Plug?
Platinum spark plugs can be of two types: one is the single platinum kind we have already discussed, and the other is the double platinum spark plugs. The latter is very similar in design to single platinum spark plugs as well as copper spark plugs. The only exception is that the ground electrode is made of platinum too.
Pros Of Double Platinum Spark Plugs
- More durable and efficient than single platinum spark plugs
- Cheaper than iridium spark plugs
- Best if the distributor ignition system functions on a waste spark system
- Unaffected by environmental conditions such as humidity, rain, etc.
Cons Of Double Platinum Spark Plugs
- Cannot be used for electronic distribution ignition systems (DIS)
Platinum Vs Iridium Spark Plugs: Differences
Iridium varies greatly from platinum in performance, durability, strength, and melting point degrees. It is almost 8 times stronger and 6 times harder than platinum. In comparison to platinum, iridium’s melting point is about 700 degrees higher.
Platinum spark plugs are weaker to general wear and tear than iridium ones. In fact, it is said that iridium spark plugs are 25% more durable than platinum plugs.
Platinum Vs Iridium Spark Plugs: Materials
Platinum and iridium are both excellent materials used to make advanced spark plugs. They are both significantly better than regular spark plugs. However, iridium tends to be on the higher end of the price spectrum, but it is also stronger and harder.
The strength shown by iridium is quite greater than that of its competition; therefore, iridium’s lasting capability is 25% higher than platinum. If you want an impressively solid spark plug with great strength, excellent performance, and a higher melting point paired with top-notch efficiency, iridium spark plugs are the ones for you. But, if the price is a major concern for you, consider regular or platinum spark plugs.
Platinum Vs Iridium Spark Plugs: Price
If you are debating platinum vs iridium spark plugs price, we already mentioned that iridium tends to run higher than platinum. Iridium is a better quality metal and thus, the price. The average price of iridium was around $2,550 for every troy ounce in 2020. In March 2021, the cost of iridium rose drastically and landed at $6,000 per troy ounce.
Meanwhile, currently platinum costs about $1,015 per ounce. So, iridium is almost 6 times as expensive as platinum.
Iridium Vs Normal Spark Plugs
Iridium spark plugs vary from regular spark plugs in every way, shape, and form. The electrode material found in iridium metal spark plugs has a higher melting point. In addition, the plugs are more reliable, with better efficiency and performance than the average plug.
A normal plug would give up at around 20,000 to 30,000 miles. The average yearly mileage of vehicle owners in America is assumed to be about 13,476 miles. Hence, a regular plug can be expected to last between 1.5 to 2.25 years.
Platinum Vs Iridium Spark Plug Performance
Platinum’s level of performance is much greater than that of regular spark plugs. However, in contrast to iridium, there is a visible difference. Iridium possesses an excellent performance in combusting the air and compression of fuel within the ignition chamber. This is one of the primary reasons why there is a stark difference in platinum vs iridium spark plugs.
Iridium is usually more efficient than platinum, with multiple benefits to prove that it is superior to platinum. Platinum plugs can last up to 100,000 miles whereas iridium glides past the 100,000 miles mark with ease. You might not have to replace the spark plugs if your vehicle uses iridium ones.
Platinum Vs Iridium Spark Plugs: Pros And Cons
Platinum and iridium spark plugs differ in their performance, efficiency, and features. While iridium is stronger than platinum, there is a disadvantage you may want to consider. Before choosing any for your vehicle, carefully consider both the pros and cons of the elements.
Platinum Vs Iridium Spark Plugs: Pros Of Iridium
- Long Lifespan
Select iridium spark plugs if you want the spark plugs in your vehicle to last for a long time. It is estimated that the average iridium spark plug lasts for at least 60,000 miles. However, many cross the 80,000 miles, going up to 120,000 miles in some cases, depending on the vehicle.
Fortunately, this is the average amount of mileage most people get out of their vehicles before buying a new one. So, consider investing in these spark plugs as they are well worth the price. If you are lucky, these spark plugs will never go bad on you.
- More Durable
The silvery-white metal that is iridium is harder than platinum, making it the hardest spark plug in today’s market. Because of this, iridium spark plugs are highly durable and allow you to get the most use out of them.
- Less Voltage Needed
When the iridium spark plugs generate electrical current, not a lot of voltage is required as it comes with a small electrode in the center of it. This might add consistency and reliability to the sparks inside the ignition chamber.
Platinum Vs Iridium Spark Plugs: Cons Of Iridium
Below is the only con we found in iridium spark plugs.
As iridium spark plugs are the best quality spark plugs you can find in today’s market, it comes as no surprise that they are quite pricey. If you are someone who is on a budget, we would suggest looking into cheaper spark plugs. Keep in mind that just because a spark plug is easy on the wallet, does not mean it will be ineffective in the engine. Just make sure to choose wisely.
Platinum Vs Iridium Spark Plugs: Pros Of Platinum
Following are the three biggest advantages of using platinum spark plugs. Overall, we think that platinum plugs are the best value spark plugs one can get.
- More Durable Than Copper
Many features of a platinum spark plug are similar to those of a copper spark plug. A copper plug, however, is equipped with a nickel alloy center electrode whereas a platinum spark plug comes with a platinum center electrode. This is why a platinum spark plug can last up to 60,000 miles whereas a copper spark plug would not last more than 20,000 miles.
- Stays Cleaner
Platinum normally heats up a lot faster than other materials. This feature works in favor of platinum spark plugs as any contaminants that get on the spark plug will burn up immediately. Lesser debris means a smoother ignition system.
- Better Value
If you are searching for a high-quality spark plug at a good price, you cannot go wrong with platinum spark plugs. They last quite a long time for their price and you do not have to settle for cheaper copper spark plugs that will probably deteriorate after two or three years.
Platinum Vs Iridium Spark Plugs: Cons of Platinum
There is just one major negative related to platinum plugs.
- Limited Durability
Platinum spark plugs are surely more durable than their copper counterparts. However, they are less durable than iridium spark plugs so you may have to change the platinum ones sooner. If your priority is durability, then platinum spark plugs will not cut it for you. Spend a bit more and go for iridium ones.
Understanding the basics when comparing platinum vs iridium spark plugs is necessary so you know which plug will suit your preferences the best. Consider their benefits, disadvantages alongside the cost of replacement.
Platinum or iridium spark plugs are okay for most vehicles but their offered advantages are not on the same level. Iridium spark plugs impress with greater performance and efficiency while platinum ones are great value spark plugs for when you are on a tight budget.
Platinum Vs Iridium Spark Plugs: FAQs
Are Iridium Plugs Worth It?
Iridium plugs are very worth it. They are durable, normally lasting between 60,000 to 120,000 miles. Granted, the price is high. But you are making a good investment as you are paying an amount that is supplemented with the value provided.
Which Spark Plugs Are The Best For Performance?
It is vital to consider performance standards when purchasing a spark plug as it tells a lot about what you are expecting from the engine of your vehicle.
What’s Better, Double Platinum Or Iridium?
In comparing double platinum with iridium, iridium has proven to offer more benefits than platinum. The power of iridium spark plugs makes them 25% longer lasting than platinum spark plugs. Thus, iridium can be concluded as the superior material.
Is Iridium Costlier Than Gold?
In comparison to the prices of gold, iridium is much more expensive. In fact, the price difference is greater than you thought. Gold presently costs around $1,812 per ounce. Meanwhile, the data from Johnson Matthey Plc data suggests that the current cost of iridium is a whopping $6,000 per ounce.
So, when compared to gold, the price is three times higher. The present price of iridium makes it much costlier than gold. Platinum vs iridium spark plug prices differs due to a difference in the metals’ prices.
Can I Gap Iridium Plugs?
It is not ideal to gap the iridium spark plugs since they are constructed without needing any gapping in any circumstance. But, in events where you absolutely need to gap the iridium plug, make sure to observe extreme caution. If you gap the spark plugs incorrectly, it may damage the porcelain center or center electrode.
Thus, to avoid doing unwanted damage to the pricey iridium spark plugs, refrain from gapping them. Consult a certified professional if you want to have them gapped. As iridium power plugs can be pretty expensive, you must avoid causing damage to the plugs otherwise the whole engine will be affected.
Can I Clean And Reuse Iridium Spark Plugs?
Iridium plugs are made for the long run, such that you might never have to replace them until you decide to quit using your vehicle or sell it. However, if you suddenly find out that they carbon up and require you to clean them up for reuse, you can do so.
If you ever need to clean your iridium plug for reuse, you could put them in a small container or jar and pour some seafoam into the jar, sufficient to cover the area with carbon. Then, leave them overnight so that they can soak.
After that, brush them with a bristle cleaner brush, and blow the carbon out using an air compressor. This and other few methods can help you clean and reuse iridium spark plugs.
How Often Should I Change The NGK Iridium Spark Plugs?
Ideally, it is recommended that you replace regular spark plugs after each 20,000 to 50,000 miles. However, iridium plugs have been titled “life-ling spark plugs” for a valid reason. As they can last as much as 120,000 miles without the requirement of replacement, you have a long time frame before you have to spend on spark plugs for your vehicle.
However, this also depends on the make or model of the vehicle, its type, and the driving and maintenance style of the owner. Proper maintenance ensures you can enjoy the spark plugs for an extended period. It goes without saying that poor maintenance of any vehicle will result in an untimely breakdown.
Therefore, we recommend you keep the spark plugs clean, in good condition, and clear out the debris from the holes.
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