What Do The Spark Plugs Do? (3.3L V6 Buick, Oldsmobile)

What Do The Spark Plugs Do? (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 3.3L V6 Buick Century, Skylark, 3.3L V6 Oldsmobile Achieva, Calais, Cutlass Ciera)

The spark plug is such a small component of the ignition system but it plays a crucial role in keeping the engine running.

Since they're a key component of the ignition system, when they fail, you'll definitely know something is wrong. In this article I'm gonna' answer the most commonly asked spark plug questions.

In Spanish You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: La Bujía ¿Qué Es Y Para Que Sirve? (1989-1993 3.3L V6 Buick, Oldsmobile) (at: autotecnico-online.com).

APPLIES TO: This tutorial applies to the following vehicles:

  • 3.3L V6 Buick Century: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993.
  • 3.3L V6 Buick Skylark: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993.
  • 3.3L V6 Oldsmobile Achieva: 1992, 1993.
  • 3.3L V6 Oldsmobile Calais: 1989, 1990, 1991.
  • 3.3L V6 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993.

What Does A Spark Plug Do?

The spark plug's job is to deliver the spark, that the ignition system creates, into the cylinder that it's connected to.

As spark jumps from the spark plug's central electrode to its side electrode, it ignites the air-fuel mixture. The resulting explosion causes the piston to be pushed down.

Symptoms Of A Bad Spark Plug

Here's a basic list of the symptoms you'll see when a spark plug stops functioning:

  • Rough idle.
  • Bad gas mileage.
  • Extended engine cranking (engine takes longer than usual to start).
  • A heavier than normal exhaust smell coming out of the tailpipe.
  • The engine is not as peppy as it used to be.
  • Hesitation when you accelerate the vehicle on the road.

What Causes A Spark Plug To Stop Working?

Spark plugs can give a very long service life. But sooner or later they're going to fail.

Spark plugs will usually stop working due to:

  • Normal wear and tear. In other words, they simply wear out.
  • Carbon deposits blocking the air gap between the center and side electrodes.

Once the spark plug's air gap is blocked with carbon deposits, spark will not jump between the electrodes.

This type of problem, of carbon deposits blocking the air gap between the electrodes, usually only happens on high-mileage engines that are burning oil within the cylinders.

You can tell these engines apart because:

  • The engine burns oil and blue smoke comes out of the tailpipe.
  • The engine oil needs to have engine oil added (to it) on a weekly basis.

How Do I Know My Spark Plugs Need Changing?

There's no fast rule that let's you know when it's time to change the spark plugs.

For the most part, spark plugs are changed when:

  • They've been removed and are showing signs of heavy wear and tear.
  • They're causing an engine performance problem.
  • You are following a recommended spark plug change interval.

Which Spark Plugs Should I Buy?

Your 3.3L V6 Buick (Oldsmobile) comes equipped with AC Delco copper spark plugs and these are the spark plugs you should use (when it's time to replace them).

The AC Delco spark plug brand is the factory original spark plug that all GM vehicles use. Of course any brand of spark plugs that are specifically designed to work in your particular vehicle will work just fine.

Should I Use 100,000 Mile Spark Plugs?

Spark plugs that are advertised as having a service life up to 100,000 miles have platinum or iridium tipped electrodes. Regular spark plugs, which have copper electrodes, do not last that long.

Now the catch here is that if the engine is in perfect working condition (e.g. it's not burning oil) then these spark plugs will give you a service life of about 100,000 miles.

But if you got a high mileage engine that is burning oil, you're not going to see anywhere near 100,000 miles on those spark plugs. Carbon buildup will eventually close the air gap between the spark plug electrodes and cause a misfire.

Important Tips And Suggestions

The spark plugs on your 3.3L V6 Buick (Oldsmobile) are going to need to be replaced sooner or later. When replacing them, keep in mind the following tips and suggestions:

TIP 1: Replace the spark plugs with a completely cold engine. This is a very important suggestion because you run the risk of damaging the spark plug threads of the spark plug holes by replacing them with a hot engine.

Stripping the threads of the spark plug holes is a nightmare that you can easily avoid by removing the spark plugs with a cold engine.

TIP 2: Check the air gap of the new spark plugs with a spark plug gapper. I strongly recommend that you double check that the spark plug gap is correctly set to your vehicle's recommended specification when installing spark plugs.

Don't trust that they are gapped! I've solved more than one driveability problem that was due to incorrectly gapped spark plugs.

TIP 3: Use a torque wrench to tighten the spark plugs. If you don't tighten the spark plugs enough you run the risk of having them come out as you're driving down the road. This could also damage the spark plug hole threads in the cylinder heads.

If you over tighten the spark plugs, then you run the risk of damaging the threads of the spark plug hole.

The way to avoid any of these problems is to use a torque wrench to tighten the spark plugs. Now, it's easier said than done because some of the spark plugs are in very tight places and it can be challenging to use a torque wrench on them. Still, you won't go wrong if you use a torque wrench.

More 3.3L V6 Buick, Oldsmobile Tutorials

You can find a complete list of 3.3L V6 Buick (Oldsmobile) tutorials in this index:

Here's a small sample of the tutorials you'll find in the index:

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Buick Vehicles:

  • Century 3.3L
    • 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993
  • Skylark 3.3L
    • 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993

Oldsmobile Vehicles:

  • Achieva 3.3L
    • 1992, 1993
  • Calais 3.3L
    • 1989, 1990, 1991
  • Cutlass Ciera 3.3L
    • 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993