I also thought about titling this "How Many Packages Does It Take To Ship Four Spark Plugs", here's why...
The NMS-North FIAT 500 Abarth crossed the 32,000 mile mark on the odometer a while ago, and that means new spark plugs for all four cylinders. Our chief mechanic at NMS-North (that's me) is a big believer in following the maintenance guide in the owner's manual in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Besides, how much could a couple of little old spark plugs cost?
Well, if you're shopping the OEM iridium tipped spark plugs for the FIAT Abarth, and look up the price from the FIAT-Chrysler-Automobiles website, you're going to see them listed for $22. Not bad for a bit of a tune up was my first thought, but then the fact that it was $22 EACH kind of got my attention, like "jumping-into-a-bathtub-full-of-ice kind of way! Don't ask me how I know what that bathtub experience feels like, but I can guarantee that you DON'T really ever want your body to go through what the Titanic did.
OK, 88 bucks for four spark plugs makes no sense to me, so I did a bit of research on line, and found something similar at my local auto parts store. Managed to stop by there after work one day, and the very helpful counter guy looked it up on his computer and said they were about $12 each. Hey, now we're talking, maybe only 48 bucks instead of 88! Oh, except that they didn't have them in stock and then he said something about eight dollars for shipping. Hmmm, I thought to myself, 48 plus 8 is still only 56 bucks, so that wouldn't be too b... WRONG. That was eight bucks PER BLANKETY BLANKING SPARK PLUG, so now (if my math is correct) four times 12 plus four times 8, carry the three, and that would be 81 bucks, not counting tax or a possible military discount.
Back to the drawing board, and let me just say right about here that AMAZON.COM sells pretty dang much everything, so now I find spark plugs on Amazon for 12 bucks each, plus a little bit of tax to keep the government running, and no shipping thanks to a little thing that rhymes with "Amazon Prime". I ordered the spark plugs and THEY WERE OUT OF STOCK! Regardless, I let the order ride, and it only took a few weeks before a friendly email said that they were on the way. FINALLY!
Then an odd thing happened. Another email arrived saying the spark plugs were on the way. And then a THIRD email said the same thing. Wow, I wonder if I clicked "order" three times in all the excitement on line and I accidentally ordered 12 plugs? Another mystery!
The mystery was solved when the first package arrived, and it contained not 12, not 8, not 4, but only TWO spark plugs! So it seems that these NGK iridium tipped spark plugs are so hard to find that even Amazon had to send me 4 spark plugs in 3 shipments! By this time I'm at a loss for words on how that reflects on society, the amazing mail-order system, the design of specialty spark plugs in Italian cars built in Mexico to be sold in the US, so let's just get on with it and put these sparking plugs (as they might say in England) into the FIAT. Here we go with the highlights:
You can remove the red engine cover with your basic 8mm socket, just three of these bolts on the front, and then we'll loosen the rest of the stuff that's in our way. This red cover also has some flanges that slide into holes in the back, not too tricky to wiggle it out.
Here we've just removed the red cover, and now you can see my immaculately clean...I mean gently used air....hold on, let me say dirty K&N air filter. Good chance to remove a few dead bugs...it's just amazing how dead bugs can work their way into ANY place in an engine bay.
The air filter just lifts out. Imagine if you were doing this in zero-gravity, it would just float out!
Air filter out of the way, here's what's left. First I'm going to loosen the hose that goes into the lower right of the photo, it just has another little 8mm bolt holding it into the grille for air intake. By taking that off on the far end I won't have to remove the hose end that you see coming in from the lower right corner.
Also, in the upper left portion you might see another large air hose that feeds into the air box, which we'll loosen with that cool metal clamp that can be removed with either a regular screwdriver or a small wrench. This is a genius bit of engineering, having TWO ways to fasten the same part!
On the right you can better see the hose coming straight at us, just that little bolt to take off!
Now we're back to the air hose in the upper left, I'm holding it and the bolt/screw is just there by my left thumb. The photo makes my hand look like it's pale enough to belong to the Mummy, but trust me I'm wearing some rubber gloves, although I probably could use some sun!
Over on the right, you can finally see where the spark plugs live, each of the four in it's own man-cave under those black rectangles. The black hose going over the one on the left then up above the plugs shouldn't be too much of a problem.
On the left, proof that a 5/8th wrench will work, although you should get a 5/8th spark plug wrench, which is exactly what I did after removing the first one. Why did I do that? Well, I enjoy buying new tools, and going to the auto parts store, and because a regular wrench isn't really good for your park plugs.
Regardless, old used 36,000 miles of spark plug on the top, and shiny new unused spark plug on the bottom. If you don't like the out of focus effect of my camera, Christmas is coming!
Maybe your car's manual recommends 100,000 miles between spark plug changes like my old Mustang did, but FIAT goes with changing spark plugs every 32,000 miles. I didn't notice any problems by going an extra 4,000, but as they say, "your mileage may vary".
On the right, we're ready to go in there with my new spark plug socket and get to the next customer.
Just a closer look into spark plug world. You can click on the photo to maybe enlarge it a bit.
Besides buying a new tool, I also invented one! The first time I used the new socket, the little plastic or rubber piece inside of it came off and stuck on the spark plug, you know, way down there.
Luckily I had an old style wire coat hangar, and bent it up a bit to hook it down and get the plastic piece off the new spark plug. What an idiot I am! Probably time to buy some more tools, like a long reach plastic what-ya-macallit thing made for stuff like this!
This plug on the far left of the engine bay was the most difficult, only to work around that black hose that is partly over top of the hole. Not a big deal, but I guess next time I'd suggest just removing it from one end or the other to make life a little easier.
One good thing to note here, the FIAT has only 4 plugs, and since the engine is mounted sideways, it was very easy to reach all of them. Now if you have a 6 cylinder or 8 or 12 cylinder, and half of your spark plugs would be on the other side of the V up against the firewall, well, good luck!
Hey, if you're a spark plug expert and read the tea leaves here as far as what this kind of discoloration means, feel free to drop a comment on this blog page. Otherwise, I think it was worth it to finally get to replace these old spark plugs. Just for fun, feel free to use the English term and refer to them as Sparking Plugs: it's a ton of fun!