How to Properly Service Spark Plugs

Though the diesel engine is the primary worker on the modern farm, many gasoline power plants are employed for various tasks. By design, they have a spark plug in every cylinder. As simple as a spark plug appears, it often is the recipient of improper service that may result in poor performance, short service life, or a misfire under load.

Residing in the engine’s combustion chamber, spark plugs endure severe temperature fluxes, extreme pressure, electrical degradation, and chemical attack from the components blended into the gasoline.

Before removing the old spark plug, use a compressed air gun to blow away any dirt or debris that may have collected around the exterior. The dirt cannot enter the cylinder bore since it will score the wall and wear the rings.

Always inspect new plugs for damage. If dropped, check for cracks in the porcelain. Make sure the side electrode lines-up with the center electrode and is straight. If not, gently reposition it with needle-nose pliers.

Use a spark plug feeler gauge to obtain the proper gap. When correct, the gauge will drag evenly on both the center and side electrode.

Make sure the gauge is straight and not cocked when checking. If the side electrode needs to be excessively angled up or down to create the proper gap. In that case, the spark plug is the wrong design, or the specification is incorrect.

Coat the thread with an anti-seize compound. This is especially important with an aluminum cylinder head or equipment that is not stored in a building. This will aid in removing the plug in the future without galling the threads in the cylinder head. Keep the anti-seize compound away from the electrodes.

Coat the secondary wire connection and the porcelain insulator where the boot sits with dielectric compound. It can be found in most auto parts or farm supply stores.
This will deter corrosion and prevent the boots from sticking to the insulator and the wires breaking during future service.

The Basics of Biodiesel

Biodiesel’s roots grow deep in the soil of American farms. Yet there is a great deal of misinformation. The amount of biodiesel in fuel is identified alphanumerically (the letter B and a number). B100 is pure biodiesel. B20 is a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum-based diesel.

Biodiesel is manufactured instead of refined. The majority of biodiesel is made from soybeans, but it can be made from other grain stocks, oils, or fats. The soybean is crushed and yields approximately 80% high-protein meal and 20% oil (biodiesel). Soybean-based biodiesel is also very efficient; it returns 5.5 units of energy for every 1 unit consumed.

Biodiesel Advantages

Biodiesel has several advantages over conventional fuel:

  • High lubricity even in blends with as little as 2%. 
  • A high cetane rating. B100 is a minimum of 50 cetane compared to a national average of 40 cetane for conventional fuel. 
  • Reduction in emissions. On newer EPA tier-rated engines, biodiesel provides more efficient conversion of pollutants in exhaust system-based controls.

Good Practices

Biodiesel has a natural cleaning action and will remove gunk and varnish from fuel storage facilities, equipment fuel tanks, and the engine’s fuel system.
When switching to biodiesel, it is best to change all fuel filters (engine and storage tank), and then again at one-half the usual interval. Follow this for two filter changes. Then a regular routine can be employed.

Biodiesel Pitfalls

B20 will cloud and gel at temperatures 10°F warmer than No. 2 petroleum diesel. B100 will gel even sooner. Traditional cold performance additives work just as effectively in biodiesel. 

Biodiesel is right for your farm, your engine, and America. Use it with pride and confidence!