How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs


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How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby WingAdmin » Wed May 19, 2010 10:08 pm



Replacing your spark plugs is a simple and cheap maintenance task that can be done easily with basic tools (the tool kit that comes with the motorcycle is all you need), and can produce a significant performance boost - correcting missing and misfires, and increasing mileage. Unlike modern cars, which have platinum-tipped plugs that can last for 100,000 miles or more, old Goldwings use standard plugs, and Honda recommends that they be replaced every 4,000 miles.

1. First, gently remove the spark plug wires from the stays.

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2. Gently pull upwards on the protective rubber boot - NOT on the plug wires to remove the boot and hoods from the plugs.

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3. Pull the boot away from the plugs and push it off to the side.

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4. I like to use a blast of compressed air to clean out the spark plug wells. This prevents any dirt or debris that may have collected in the wells from falling into the engine when the plug is removed. It is VERY important that nothing fall into the engine - severe damage can occur to the pistons and cylinders if unwanted debris falls into it! It's also a good idea to clean out the well drains - you can see the small holes just below each plug. This is to allow rainwater to drain away out of the well. If the wells are clogged, rainwater can collect in the wells and short out the plugs, causing the engine to miss or stall.

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5. Using an appropriately-sized spark plug socket and a ratchet, or the spark plug tool in the motorcycle's tool kit, loosen the plug from the engine, turning counter-clockwise.

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6. Once the plug has loosened, remove it the rest of the way by hand. The threads in the soft aluminum engine head are EXTREMELY soft and easily damaged, so I like to do most of the work with the plugs by hand to give a better feel.

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7. Once the plugs are removed from the engine, set them on a clean surface so that they can be analyzed.

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8. These plugs, from my engine, are in reasonably good shape after 3,500 miles. The side electrode (curved part) and center electrode (metal part on top of the white insulator) should be a light brown or grayish color as shown here. Quite a bit can be diagnosed about the health and condition of the engine from the appearance of the spark plugs - see the end of the article for details on "reading" spark plugs.

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9. The new spark plug comes with a the electrodes gapped to a specific size. This may or may not be the correct size for your bike, so you need to "gap" the plugs before installing them.

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10. Using a gapping tool, push the appropriate size wire between the electrodes. You should not have to push the tool hard to get it through - it should slide between the electrodes easily, but there should be no space for the gap tool to move when it is between the electrodes.

GL1000 (all years): 0.6 to 0.7 mm (0.024 to 0.028 inches)
GL1100 1980-1981: 0.6 to 0.7 mm (0.024 to 0.028 inches)
GL1100 1982-1983: 0.8 to 0.9 mm (0.031 to 0.035 inches)
GL1200 (all years): 0.8 to 0.9 mm (0.031 to 0.035 inches)
GL1500 (all years): 0.8 to 0.9 mm (0.031 to 0.035 inches)
GL1800 (all years): 1.0 - 1.1 mm (0.039 - 0.043 inches)

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11. Use the gapping tool to gently bend the side electrode closer or farther away from the center electrode until the gap is perfect.

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12. Most spark plug sockets have a rubber interior that will grip the plug tightly so that it won't fall out. Spark plugs have porcelain insulators, and if dropped on a hard surface, this insulator will crack, causing the plug to fail. Any spark plug that has been dropped must be scrapped! Be careful not to drop your plugs!

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13. Place the plug securely into the plug socket.

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14. Spark plugs are subjected to tremendous heat, and changes in temperature, and they will have a tendency to seize in the head of the engine. This is bad, as the soft aluminum threads can be damaged trying to extract the plug. For this reason, it's important to use high-temperature anti-seize compound on the plug threads before inserting it into the engine.

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15. Apply the anti-seize compound to all of the threads of the spark plug.

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16. Gently insert the new plug into the engine, being careful not to bump the side electrode. If you do bump it, you should re-gap the plug and try again.

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17. Once the plug is in the well, I like to start threading it in by hand, to be absolutely sure that it is not going in cross-threaded. Because of the soft aluminum head, it is very easy to cross-thread a spark plug. If you feel any resistance at all, back the plug out and try again. There should be NO resistance when threading the plug in correctly.

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18. Once you have threaded the plug in by hand several turns, put the spark plug tool on and continue to screw the plug gently into the head until it stops. This means the crush washer has contacted the engine. Once you get to this point, turn the spark plug tool exactly 1/2 turn, and remove the tool - the plug is now fully tightened. A plug that is tightened too tight can overheat and fail, or destroy the threads. Because the crush washer only crushes once, I do not re-use spark plugs in my bike. Honda does not publish a correct torque value for torquing plugs, so the only way to know that they are torqued correctly is to use new plugs, and to use the 1/2 turn method of tightening.

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19. Once the new plugs are installed, replace the boots on top of them, and push into place to make sure they make contact correctly, and that the wells are sealed.

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20. Gently reinsert the plug wires into the stays, one at a time. You're done!

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How to read spark plugs

Normal
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Brown to grayish-tan color and slight electrode wear. Correct heat range for engine and operating conditions.

Worn
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Symptoms: Rounded electrodes with small amount of deposits on the firing end. Normal color. Causes hard starting in damp or cold weather and poor fuel economy. Plugs have been left in the engine too long. Replace with new plugs of the same heat range.

Carbon Deposits
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Symptoms: Dry, sooty deposits indicating a rich mixture or weak ignition. Causes misfiring, hard starting and hesitation. Make sure the plug has the correct heat range. Check for a clogged air filter or problem in the fuel system. Also check for ignition system problems.

Ash Deposits
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Symptoms: Light brown deposits encrusted on the side or center electrodes or both. Derived from oil and/or fuel additives. Excessive amounts may mask the spark, causing misfiring and hesitation during acceleration. If excessive deposits accumulate over a short time or low mileage, install new valve guide seals to prevent seepage of oil into the combustion chambers. Also try changing gasoline brands.

Oil Deposits
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Symptoms: Oily coating caused by poor oil control. Oil is leaking past worn valve guides or piston rings into the combustion chamber. Causes hard starting, misfiring and hesitation. Blue smoke will be seen coming from exhaust. Correct the mechanical problem causing the condition and install new plugs.

Gap Bridging
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Symptoms: Combustion deposits lodge between the electrodes. Heavy deposits accumulate and bridge the electrode gap. The plug ceases to fire, resulting in a dead cylinder. Remove the deposits from between the electrodes.

Too Hot
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Symptoms: Blistered, white insulator, eroded electrode and absence of deposits. Results in shortened plug life. Check for the correct plug heat range, over-advanced ignition timing, lean fuel mixture, intake manifold vacuum leaks, sticking valves and insufficient engine cooling.

Preignition
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Symptoms: Melted electrodes. Insulators are white, but may be dirty due to misfiring or flying debris in the combustion chamber. Can lead to engine damage. Check for the correct plug heat range, over-advanced ignition timing, lean fuel mixture, insufficient engine cooling and lack of lubrication.

High Speed Glazing
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Symptoms: Insulator has yellowish, glazed appearance. Indicates that combustion chamber temperatures have risen suddenly during hard acceleration. Normal deposits melt to form a conductive coating. Causes misfiring at high speeds. Install new plugs. Consider using a colder plug if driving habits warrant.

Detonation
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Symptoms: Insulators may be cracked or chipped. Improper gap setting techniques can also result in a fractured insulator tip. Can lead to piston damage. Make sure the fuel octane is high enough. Use care when setting the gaps on new plugs. Avoid lugging the engine.

Mechanical Damage
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Symptoms: May be caused by a foreign object in the combustion chamber or the piston striking an plug that is too long. Causes a dead cylinder and could result in piston damage. Repair the damage and correct the cause.

Coolant Leak/Head Gasket
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Symptoms: Coolant is entering the cylinder, either through a leaking/failed head gasket, or a cracked block. The coolant "steam cleans" the plug, so the plug appears clean and shiny.


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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby nightstalker0352 » Wed Jun 16, 2010 10:45 am

Considering the differance between the standard plugs and platinum, split fires, and others? Looking for a better fuel burn.
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby WingAdmin » Wed Jun 16, 2010 12:37 pm

I've read online where people have tried both platinum and splitfires, and went back to the original plugs because they ran better. I haven't tried it myself, but then I haven't had a need to.
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby saverchoices » Mon Jun 21, 2010 11:16 am

AWESOME INSTRUCTIONS AND PICTURES!!! Thank you... :D
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby par4ugolf » Thu Jul 01, 2010 8:55 am

Removing, analyzing and replacing the plugs is not the real problem. The real problem is how in the world do I get at them? Yes I am a newbie to the world of Goldwings and some simple maintenance I can do myself, so I need all the help I can get.
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby WingAdmin » Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:34 am

par4ugolf wrote:Removing, analyzing and replacing the plugs is not the real problem. The real problem is how in the world do I get at them? Yes I am a newbie to the world of Goldwings and some simple maintenance I can do myself, so I need all the help I can get.


What kind of Goldwing do you have?
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby par4ugolf » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:33 pm

Sorry that I didn't include that info. It is a 1999 SE. I did go out and tussled with it and was able to finally figure it out , bu thanks for the reply.
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby whtent85LTD » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:37 pm

Great article WingAdmin. Now I can tackle my own plugs to see if my starting problems
on my 85 GW 1200 center around the plugs. If not, then its on to the fuel section.
Is there anything you know about that is as detailed and descriptive on fuel combustion- ie.
fuel running from tank on through fuel pump, fuel filter and then into the combustion chamber
...back to the plugs firing? I'm still working on that problem. (the worst part of it is...we're just
coming into some good weather now and NO go on the bike . I have to determine why fuel
may not be making it to the plugs if there is spark and lastly no ignition starting bike.
In any event, WE appreciate this web site and everyone submitting articles.
Al
south Surrey,BC

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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby whtent85LTD » Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:18 pm

Hi WingAdmin,
Re-read your articles and pics on the plug removal. Again. This should be helpful to all needing assistance.

I still don't have any spark at my plugs with the ignition turned on, the kill switch set to run.
Check out my other post on "no spark". I've placed an update of what all I've done to date.
I think that I have to move on to the coils, and maybe back to the ignition wires and kill switch- to
100% verify they are working. Turning the key on does light up the LED dash and the proper red lights
come on with the kill switch set to RUN. Hitting the start button simply turns the starter over and motor
but no ignition (no spark). ????
Tks. Al
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby gino5876 » Mon Jul 26, 2010 11:50 am

Great article and pictures. When ever I'm changing spark plugs I use a short piece of 5/16-3/8 fuel line to start the plugs with, just stick the plug in the line and use the line as an handle to start the plug, that way if you start cross threading the plug will turn in the line and not cause damage to the threads.
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby khartsh » Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:54 pm

nightstalker0352 wrote:Considering the differance between the standard plugs and platinum, split fires, and others? Looking for a better fuel burn.

I installed Auto lite High Performance Platinum and ran for 30 miles and couldn't wait to get home and put the original NKG plugs back in. I will Only run the original NKG D-8ESL plugs from now on. Big Difference.
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby tonyincny » Sun Oct 10, 2010 10:24 pm

I just pulled, cleaned and regapped the plugs in my truck. Before I put them back in, I debated whether or not to oil or grease or somehow lubricate the threads.

So, I checked the internet. As usual, there is an equal amount of reason for lubricating or not lubricating. One statement said that "experienced" mechanics DON'T lubricate because it hinders the metal to metal contact which is necessary to properly ground the plug and make for a good spark. They said that if the plugs are properly torqued that there should be no problem removing them the next time. It was, they said, only when plugs are "muscled in" that they are so hard to remove.

Now, my truck probably has steel heads so they are strong and can withstand the torque to insert or remove the plugs without lubrication. But, if the GL1100 has aluminum heads then there would be an obvious need for lubricating the threads, I would think. Does that anti-sieze compound you use have metal particles or something to improve the grounding of the spark plug? Or, has your ignition system been working just fine even if the anti-sieze compound doesn't have anything to improve grounding?
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby WingAdmin » Mon Oct 11, 2010 3:27 pm

I would never put plugs (which have steel threads) into an aluminum head without anti-seize. You're just asking for trouble.

That said, there is plenty of metal-to-metal contact in the threads as well as on the top of the plug (where the hex nut part is) that rests against the top of the plug hole. Anti-seize is not going to hinder the spark.
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby tonyincny » Mon Oct 11, 2010 4:52 pm

It took some digging on the internet but I finally found out what the anti-seize stick is that you are using in this article. It is made by AGS Company and is called Thread-Magic Spark Plug Anti-Seize.

Depending on how it is displayed in the store, it can have the product number of TM-1 or TMK-1, I believe. Although, it does look as if the TMK-1 has a dark colored tube rather than the red tube. Better stick with the TM-1 red tube.
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby RoadDawg » Tue Dec 28, 2010 10:07 am

Has anyone replaced their plugs with the new IRIDIUM? In my manual for my 2009 GoldWing it states the gap on the regular plugs should be .039-.043. A fellow Wing owner just installed his and advised the gap should be .044 on the Iridium.

Anyone have any stats on this that you can share?

Thanks,
Ken
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby veryfit1 » Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:13 pm

Great do it yourself article!
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby starfleetengineer » Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:06 am

WingAdmin wrote:I would never put plugs (which have steel threads) into an aluminum head without anti-seize. You're just asking for trouble.

That said, there is plenty of metal-to-metal contact in the threads as well as on the top of the plug (where the hex nut part is) that rests against the top of the plug hole. Anti-seize is not going to hinder the spark.


I just read this and it's good! But, take this for what it's worth to you, I work for a forklift company who is autho to sell and repair Cat and Nissan forklifts. Cat now owns Nissan. Anyways Nissan uses all aluim blocks for their engines now and have been experimenting with the spark plugs. There has always been a problem with the plugs sticking in the heads. A couple of years ago they told us to put anti seize on the plugs. This worked for the sticking, for about a month, then they stuck again. The answer to this was the reach was 3 threads too long. Carbon built up on the end of the threads and thats all she wrote. Plugs won't come out. We changed to a shorter reach plug and that worked. But now we had a problem with spark plug failuer.. After another year of testing, they found out that the anti seize would not disapate the heat, hense causing the plug failuer. The spark plugs couldn't get rid of the extra heat through metal transfer of the heads. We tried it with the new plugs and no anti seize. This worked! Evey 500 hours we would pull the plugs and check the gap and put them back in. 500 hours is around 2000 miles, I think. Don't remember for sure. When you put the plugs in, seat them, then turn them 1/4 turn. They are seated fine and you haven't over crushed the washer. I have no worries about taking my plugs out anytime and putting them back in. But then again I have been a mechanic for over 30 + years.
Again.... take it for what it's worth. I just thought I would add my 2 cents worth and experiance to this.
How many times do I have to tell ya,,, The right tool for the right job!
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby midnightrider1 » Thu Mar 17, 2011 4:26 pm

Just what the doctor order up for me. Its getting warm out just put in a new battery and fire the 85 wing up I bought this 85 Interstate in Dec. setting on my porch all winter.
Getting ready to go threw everything on it now and plugs are on my list along with other things. :D
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby RoadDawg » Thu Mar 17, 2011 5:13 pm

I recently changed the plugs in my 2009 Wing to IRIDIUM. The tool kit that comes with the bike has a spark plug wrench that is sized to fit into the spark plug slot on the engine(most regular spark plug sockets are too thick and won't fit in the slot).....you have to push somewhat on the spark plug wrench because there is a rubber piece inside that fits on top of the contact of the plug...I found it difficult at first, but put a little dielectric grease on the contact point of the old plug and the rubber piece inside of the wrench went nicely on the contact point of the old plug...... but they come out easily once you get that done.

Oh...before removing the old plugs, take a compressed air gun or whatever you have and remove any grit that is in the area to make sure it does not fall into the spark plug hole when the old plug is removed. Does not take much time but likely a good idea.

I have always used an anti sieze compound on my plugs plus a dielectric grease on the contact point/spark plug boot.....have never had a problem at all with starting, missing etc.

Read the manual about tightening the plug...various plugs require different tightening (turns) and some you need to tighten, then slightly loosen the plug, then tighten again to seat the plug. Just check your manual or the specs for the plugs. A torque wrench can be beneficial if you have one but most of us do not.
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby joekrugg » Sat Apr 02, 2011 4:38 pm

I just finished my first spark plug change on my 86 interstate, boy I had no idea what a difference it would make in performance. Ive had the bike a year now about 8000 miles and have only changed oil. I'm a rather large person so the sluggish acceleration was not surprising. After the change ,it warmed up almost immediately, and shot forward surprisingly fast .Live and learn I will definitely change every 4000 or before . :shock:
Peace, Steve<><
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby Dulok » Mon Apr 11, 2011 5:43 pm

I used a standard 5/8 spark plug socket on my '79 GL1000 but it was too small. I then used the next size up spark plug sock which is a 13/16 socket but t was too big. What size do I use?
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby WingAdmin » Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:00 pm

Dulok wrote:I used a standard 5/8 spark plug socket on my '79 GL1000 but it was too small. I then used the next size up spark plug sock which is a 13/16 socket but t was too big. What size do I use?


It's a Japanese bike, remember...METRIC. :) You need an 18mm deep well socket.
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby RoadDawg » Tue Apr 12, 2011 7:12 am

Dulok wrote:I used a standard 5/8 spark plug socket on my '79 GL1000 but it was too small. I then used the next size up spark plug sock which is a 13/16 socket but t was too big. What size do I use?


In the tool kit that came with my bike there is a spark plug socket that fits perfectly.....not sure if you have one in your kit?? If so, give it a try.
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby Smokey66 » Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:10 am

Heres my 2 cents; I don`t like "Anti-Seize" either for two reasons;plugs are poorly grounded and the heat dissapation problem some one else mentioned. I use copper paste.Yep the same stuff I put on the back of my brake pads to stop squealing is also an excellent conducter AND has anti-seize effect. Try it.I`v used this succsefully for 20 years now.A tube only cost a buck or so and will probley last a life-time(I`m still using the same tube I bought 20 or so years ago;also great on the back (AND ONLY ON THE BACK)of the disc brake pads on your car should they they squeal.)
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Re: How to remove, analyze, gap and replace your spark plugs

Postby tonyincny » Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:46 pm

I bought a jar of anti-seize compound at NAPA, I believe. When I opened it, I noticed that it was a copper compound. I haven't fired the bikes up yet to test out how the anti-seize affects the spark plug performance but it should have good conductivity AND anti-seize properties. I agree with a previous poster that I wouldn't want to put steel thread plugs into an aluminum head without something to prevent seizing.


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