Changing spark plugs after 127K

2000 Chevy Cavalier, 2.2L, 127K miles; friend of mine’s car

He was telling me the other day about how the car is due for some maintenance things, and how I’d be happy to do some of the stuff he needed. He mentioned the fact that, in nine years and 127K miles, the spark plugs have NEVER been changed, inspected, or even removed at all.

I’ve done my fair share of spark plug changes and normally I’d do it in a heartbeat, but in this case I’d be worried. How likely is it that the threads might come out with the plugs considering the time and mileage? Any special tips to prevent this, or is this probably better left to a shop? I know enough to do it when the engine’s cold, but I’m also not up for shredding cylinder head threads if I can help it.

Personally, I would not touch this car. If he allowed plugs to remain there that long there’s a high probability that there could be problems with the threads.
Odds are the plug wires are gone too; or will be once you disconnect them.
Replace the plugs/wires, the car hiccups 2 weeks later due to some other neglected item, and it will be your fault.

If you attempt it I would advise gently see-sawing the plugs back and forth a bit rather than twisting them on out. Once they’re loose you might apply a squirt of PB Blaster, etc. to the plug and allow it to soak for an hour or so before attempting to remove them.

These things are always a coin flip. Doing repair jobs for friends and relatives can often be something that is best avoided. Friends may desert you but relatives and in-laws will crucify you at the next family reunion. :slight_smile:

ok4450 has expressed it very well.

No matter how negligent your friend has been with his car maintenance, ANY problem that surfaces with his car after you have put your hands on it will be your fault–at least in his mind.

Even though he thinks that you will be happy to take care of his maintenance at this point, his happiness will turn to hostility if his long-term negligence leads to any problems with the car.
Trust me–if there is a problem, nothing will convince him that his negligence was a contribuing factor.

Personally, I would stay away from the car.

I agree 100%. Let your friend find, and pay, a mechanic to do the work for him. There is potentially big trouble lurking here, and, as the saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Thanks guys, this is basically my line of thinking anyways. I found it strange that he’s kept up on maintenance for the most part (as he tells it), but how spark plugs got ignored all this time is beyond me.

He’s not really the kind of person to get upset about something like a car (I get the sense he’s ready for something newer anyways), but I’ll advise him to let a shop do this and probably anything else. Not a risk I’m willing to take.

If the car has platinum plugs, I wouldn’t hesitate, they have a plating on them so they will come out easily.

This I have no idea of, and I’m not betting on my friend knowing either. I’d like to think there won’t be a problem, but it’s just too many question marks.

Many years ago I rebuilt a Vega carb for a friend at work. I’d done a number of them including my own. It ran great after the rebuild and tunup. But I swear every time something happened, incuding a dead battery, he blamed me for it.

I swore I’d never do that again. Ever since, I’ve helped, I’ve shown, I’ve taught, but I always let them do the work and just assist.

And yeah, this one comes with potential problems. I’d pass on this one. Or perhaps advise at the most. Let HIM break the plugs.

Look in the owners manual. If the regular maintenance schedule says the plugs are good for 100,000 miles, they can be removed easily. If it recommends replacement every 30,000 miles, then thats a different story.

Since your friend claims to keep up with his maintenance for the most part, I’m guessing that it is 100,000 miles.

Didn’t somebody say they had used an impact wrench to remove spark plugs? There are electric (corded), and battery powered, impact wrenches. Just as nuts and bolts can be removed without stripping,…

Probably true, but if an impact wrench is needed I definitely ain’t touching it. Scary stuff.

As other have said, don’t touch that car for all the reasons indicated. For the sake of saving your friends a few dollars, you cannot take that risk. Please explain why removing the plugs at this mileage requires EXTRA SKILLS AND CARE!!!

“If the regular maintenance schedule says the plugs are good for 100,000 miles, they can be removed easily.”

That just means the manufacturer doesn’t have to deal with them under warranty. My Toyota Matrix calls for 100 or 120K miles (don’t have the manual handy) but I plan to take a look at them every 30K, then put them back in with some anti-seize.

Sounds like great advice to me. I had a “friend” ask me one time to change plugs and air filter on his car and his car wasn’t running up to par, he thought. I sensed there was something he wasn’t telling me since he couldn’t tell me exaactly what it was that the car was or wasn’t doing and why he zeroed in on the plugs. He then wanted me to test drive the car to see if I could tell what was wrong and that made me more suspicious. I had him drive the car while I rode along. Yep, the car had some problems, clunks and hesitations and stuff that - it just didn’t sound good. I told him the best I could do was put the OBD tester on it if a light came on. I refused flat out to work on it. He got very upset and eventually brought it to a certified mechanic. He’s still fighting over the car with the garage. Whew! That was a close one. Always trust your gut!

127K? How many more miles does your buddy expect to get out of this car? If the answer is “not a lot, maybe 10-15K” then maybe the better part of valor is just to leave the plugs be. They apparently aren’t causing problems now. Maybe they will outlast the car. 10 years and 127K is a little early for “Only_Fix_What_Breaks”, mode, but if it’s mostly short trips in a cold climate and especially if the car lives in road salt country, maybe it’s time.

Or you can lend your tools to your buddy and show him how to remove the plugs. Explain the risks and let him make the call and do the actual work.

I told him today to let a shop do the work. (He said “How about Mr. Tire?”, to which I replied “Please don’t; go to an independent.”) It’s been pretty much kept up on other things like oil changes, brakes, and such. He said it also needs a coolant flush, another thing that’s apparently never been done all this time.

I wouldn’t call Harford County, MD (just north of Baltimore) salt country per se, and the car is still in pretty good shape, but I’ve no idea what else has been left undone.

Yes, it sounds like the ONLY PREEMPTIVE work that has been done is oil changes. If I was shopping for a used car this would be one I would avoid.

If your friend takes the car into a good independent shop, do not be surprised if the shop will have a list of items needing to be replaced. I would therefore not recommend a specific shop or you will be indirectly accused of causing all this needed work.

Your friend has been cheap about PREVENTIVE maintenance all these years, but the time has come to spend some money if he wants the car to run for a few more years.

At this mileage, some things to expect:

  1. Cooling system flush with all hoses and thermostat replaced; probably also the water pump. Radiator may be so clogged as to need replacement as well.

  2. Serpentine belt

  3. If automatic, certainly a fluid and filter change

  4. Battery could be on its last legs

  5. If the car has a timing belt it will certainly need replacing.

“he’s kept up on maintenance for the most part (as he tells it), but spark plugs got ignored”


Time for a reality check!
You have to realize that EVERY person who comes to this site with problems that clearly resulted from lack of maintenance also states that he/she has been “pretty good with maintenance”.
That is–of course–in their opinion, and that opinion is rarely backed up by facts.

In fact, upon further questioning, their “pretty good maintenance” usually consists of only oil changes, and those oil changes were done only after far too many miles had been driven. These “pretty good” maintenance people almost always did nothing besides the occasional oil change, but in their minds, this random changing of oil is some kind of panacea.

This is sort of like the people who are stopped for DWI. When questioned about how much alcohol they consumed, the answer is ALWAYS “two beers”. Isn’t it amazing how “two beers” always seem to lead to BAC levels that are incredibly high? In other words, denial is a wonderful thing for guilty parties, and in their minds, it is preferable to dealing with reality.

In a similar vein, isn’t it amazing how people who have been “pretty good” with maintenance seem to have terrible problems with their cars? Trust me–your friend’s idea of good maintenance and your idea of that concept are many miles apart. If you ask to see your friend’s maintenance records, I can virtually guarantee that you will see that maintenance on his car was not done as it should have been, and this “deferred maintenance” involves much more than just his spark plugs.

You’re probably right. At no point in time did he ever talk about his car needing something done, until this recent conversation about the plugs. Naturally I’m asking him about other stuff, he says it might need the coolant flushed, and all I can think of is “Might? After the plugs have been neglected all this time, what else is there?”

I don’t think he’s willfully ignoring these things…I just don’t believe they occur to him. He’s really not car savvy in any way; I think all he knows is to get the oil changed regularly, get the brakes fixed when they make noise, and (maybe) change out the serpentine belt after a certain amount of time. Outside of those, I’m pretty sure he just doesn’t know. The only saving grace is that this engine doesn’t use a timing belt, or else he’s probably have had a very expensive lesson in car maintenance by now.

Think I’ll talk to him soon about what else it might need. I 100% guarantee that he will not be prepared for the doubtless long list of service recommendations should he get the spark plugs done.

The only good thing I can say is the fact that a Cavalier has lasted 127KM with the original spark plugs. If he didn’t change the plugs I doubt he has done much else either, which makes a good case for advertising a 127KM maintenance free car!