Monday, September 12, 2016

Camry Diagnosis: Spark Plug-ectomy!

One thing that makes our family car the Toyota Camry virtually indestructible is how little maintenance it needs. Since it takes synthetic oil, you only have to change it every 10,000 miles, not the 3,000 like in the old days. Also, the owner's manual says the OEM spark plugs are good for 120,000 miles. "OEM" is not a Japanese brand of spark plug, it stands for original equipment manufacturer, or basically "just as good as the original part". Maybe I'm just not a patient person, but I've been waiting to change these four little dudes for a long time, and today was that day! Even though our 2011 Toyota only has 111,000 miles, I thought that was close enough!



So you go down to your local auto parts store, or order on line if you want, and buy four iridium spark plugs that fit your model of car and engine. Easy. Bring them home and get ready to do some very simple stuff. 


Above, you can see the Camry engine bay, your typical all American dusty room filled with wires and metal and plastic. Somehow it makes the car go, don't ask me how. That's what Google is for isn't it? Anyway, first we'll remove that big black plastic cover in the middle, the one with the round hole in it for the oil filler cap. This cover is just held in with three snap on slots, and it comes off by pulling it straight up. Hey, we're already getting somewhere and haven't had to use one single tool yet! 



Above, there we've done step one and removed the cover! It's just that simple! Let's zoom in a bit in the next photo. You can always click on the photos on the NMS blog to see them larger too. 



Closer in, you should be able to tell that there are 4 black things held in place by one bolt each, and the black things have an electric connector to them. If you're not a trained mechanic and don't understand the technical terms "black things" and "electric connector", you can probably just keep reading anyway.  I'm going to start from the left and do just one at a time, starting with taking off the bolt in the lower left corner. This is where it gets fun, because finally we have to grab some tools. For this little bolt, a socket wrench with a 10mm socket will do. If you want this to be technical, we'll discuss 6 sided VS. 12 sided sockets some other day, and then maybe compare 3/8th inch to 1/2 inch socket sets just for fun.




Say hello to Mr. Left Hand, now putting the socket on the bolt, ready to take off #1. Easy. 
If you want something difficult, try taking this shot with one hand, holding the wrench with the other, and holding the hood up with the other hand. 



The bolt was removed, and here I've pulled out the spark plug connector. The clip is still connected, so you will want to disconnect the wire at the top for the rest of the cylinders, because the wiring is too tight to pull this part out with it still connected. All of this is way easier than it looks, and simpler than my ability to write about it too!

The spark plug is still down in there, so we'll make sure we have enough extensions on the wrench to get down there, and add a 5/8th spark plug socket at the end. These are made just for spark plugs, because the inside of the socket is covered with rubber so that you don't damage the plug or strip the threads. It probably also makes it easier to grab the spark plug once it's loose and pull it out. 




Above you can see the old plug on the top and the new one on the bottom. You can click on the photo for a closer look, and see how the old one has some build up on the tip that has turned it into a volcano cone instead of a plain cylinder, caused by firing up a bazillion times over 111,000 miles. 


Put some anti-seize grease on the threads of each plug, and put them back in to the car. Assembly is the opposite of disassembly, and if you've done it correctly you'll be good for another 120,000 miles. Sure, you can always do maintenance more often than required in the manual, but it just costs you more money if you go crazy with it.

Drive safe!

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