What Does it Mean When There is Oil on Spark Plugs?

The spark plugs in any given vehicle are an important part of that vehicular. The spark plugs play a part in the everyday operation of a car, truck, or SUV. Spark plugs are responsible for creating the spark that ignites the fuel, that in turn powers the vehicle. Without the spark plugs, a car or truck could not go. During routine maintenance, a person may find oil on a spark plug when removed, or notice oil in the hole for the spark plugs. This article provides insight in what this means.

The Good News

Oil on a spark plug is not the end of the world. The car is still able to be driven and may function as normal. Overall performance may not be affected or, if it is, it may be so small a change as to go unnoticed. Oil on only one spark plug notes that the problem is isolated and not widespread. Diagnosis of this problem usually reveals that only a seal is broken or faulty.
The root cause for oil on the spark pugs of a vehicle can be fixed. Replacement of a valve cover gasket simply requires that the old seal be removed and a new seal be inserted. Once this new seal is in place the presence of oil will disappear. Most mechanics can do this with relative ease.
This repair job can be done from home. If a person has a working knowledge of a car and the necessary tools, the job should be relatively easy to complete. Most cars have manuals that show step-by-step replacement of various parts, including the valve cover gasket. The user will simply need to buy the gasket and any other necessary supplies to complete the job.

The Bad News

This problem will not just go away and may get worse. It does not pay to ignore it. While mild leaks may not be a serious concern, heavy leaks should be. These can damage the spark plug, the spark plug wires, and, ultimately, the engine. Presence of oil in the plug areas poses a fire risk as well. While the oil will not be exposed directly to the spark created by the spark plug, oil is flammable and heat could cause a fire to ensue.
If the problem is widespread, then the risk increase greatly. If multiple plugs have oil present on them, then the vehicle is likely going to experience greater problems. This included misfires and other issues. Misfires will occur due to the oil interfering with the normal operation of the plug or wire. This will lead to chugging and possibly dying of the engine. This could lead to greater gas consumption which creates decreased fuel economy. There are other issues that can occur as well.
While the repair can be done by the owner, it does require some basic mechanical skill and aptitude. If a person does not have this, they may wind up doing more damage than good. The cost for the home repair is cheaper than the repair done by a mechanic. A mechanic could charge upwards of a couple hundred dollars for the job, based on their hourly rate, cost of parts, and the make/model of the vehicle.

Depending on the scale of the leak, a driver may be able to keep a vehicle with oil on the spark pugs going indefinitely. However, this is not advised, especially in cases where there is a serious oil leak. The problem should be addressed to prevent abnormal wear of spark plugs and wires, as well as increased fuel and oil consumption. Safety is a concern as well, and should be the main reason a person addresses the issue as soon as possible.