Platinum, Gold, Splitfire, Bosch Platinum, etc. Do these plugs really offer any performance gains over traditional copper designs? The answer to that is not necessarily as cut and dry as it might seem. The truth is, these plugs do not offer any outright performance gains over traditional copper spark plugs. In this article, we’ll talk about what these plugs will and won’t do for you, then we’ll cover some basics in plug wires and hopefully when I’m done we’ll both be a little more educated.
At one time copper and gold tipped spark plugs were all the rage of the automotive industry. Now, however, the gold type spark plugs have been replaced by platinum. What’s the difference? The difference isn’t in better performance as much as longer lasting performance. The traditional copper based plugs wear quickly, usually necessitating a change about every 6 months or so. What you get when you pay 2-3 times more for a platinum tipped plug is a plug that should last 3-4 times longer, depending on the brand and manufacturer.
In the new millenium, even the automotive manufacturers are selling their cars with Platinum spark plugs. There are several reasons for this. The first and most obvious is a longer time in between tune-ups. We have cars now that can go 100,000 miles without a tune up and the Platinum spark plugs go a long way in making that happen. So what you’re really paying for when you buy those platinum spark plugs is a longer time in between tune-ups. That means less time under the hood and more time out on the road for all the consumers out there who hate fiddling with spark plugs and don’t like paying the big fee’s to have someone else do it.
There is no hard evidence to suggest that any type of spark plug will actually increase horsepower over the peak performance of the car. IE, spark plugs should not be considered a horsepower modification because they just aren’t! The performance gain is in longevity, not overall increase. Your car may perform at its peak for a longer period of time but it will not perform better than its peak at any time.
So, as you can see, you do gain performance, just not in the way you thought you might. I have heard the arguments concerning the horsepower increases people saw just by changing out their spark plugs. Let’s clear this up right away. When you replace an old worn out plug with a brand new one, indeed, you will see a gain in horsepower and performance. The car will idle better, run better, and feel more powerful to you. It’s not because the plugs you just installed are better, it’s because they’re NEW, as opposed to your old plugs that have been used up. What you have really done is, in effect, returned your car to its peak performance capabilities by replacing the old plugs with newer ones.
So how about the Designer plugs like Splitfire and Bosch +4 platinum plugs they must increase horsepower right? No, they don’t. In fact you may remember Splitfire’s claim to 5 more horsepower using their patented design plugs. They don’t offer that claim anymore because a judge asked them if they could prove these gains and Splitfire, Inc. could not. So do they help? Sure, but once again they help in terms of longevity of peak performance over any real performance gains. By having 2 or 4 tips with which a spark can follow, the Splitfire and Bosch plugs offer 2-4 ways for the spark to actually get to the engine. Thus, if one electrode/tip becomes dirty, then using the theory that a spark will take the least resistant path, you will still receive a full spark through the cleaner electrode/tip. In this way, these spark plugs offer a longer period of peak performance rather than an actual horsepower gain out of using these spark plugs.
As far as Brand vs. Brand goes, personally, I’ve used them all at one time or another and I have found most to be on equal footing with each other. If I had to recommend one brand of plug over another, I would probably recommend NGK’s, as they seem to be popular with Ford Enthusiasts, but I would also recommend the Bosch or Champion plugs, in platinum form. Personally, I know a lot of guys who like the copper plugs because they get to replace them once every six months, but I’d prefer to spend that time doing other things to my car.
With all that said, there is a trend that has formed in filing away the electrode/tip of a spark plug to provide a higher spark. You can do this with the standard design of spark plug, but the benefits of this are not yet known, and neither are the consequences. One thing for sure, you’re spark plugs won’t last as long like this.