Problem replacing spark plugs

In my early 90’s Toyota Corolla, the spark plugs are located at the bottom of a long narrow hole. Why this is the case is a mystery to me. Accept this as a given I guess. The only way to install new plugs is with a ratchet, socket, and extension. The problem is the socket often binds a little upon tightening the plug during the install, and then when I try to remove the socket from the hole by pulling up on the extension, the socket comes loose from the extension and stays in the spark plug hole. The only way I’ve found to get the socket out then is with a pair of long needle nose pliers. This is annoying to say the least. Anybody have a tip on how to keep the extension attached to the socket so I can get the socket out of the hole without resorting to using the pliers??

Get a spark plug socket, the one I have has rubber on the inside to hold and pull the plug once loose. A locking ratchet wrench where you have to pus a button to release the socket is also helpful.

My guess is that he’s using a spark plug socket with the rubber insert - which is why it stays with the plug rather than coming out on the end of the extension. And then there’s the problem that the ratchet might lock onto the socket, but the extension won’t.

I have the very same thing with my escort. I just keep using the needlenose. I don’t pull the plugs out but once a year at most though. And there are only four of them. I never really thought of it as a big deal.

Buy a cheap socket and extension, weld them together, and then reinstall the rubber insert. I’m still using one of these homemade tools that I made about 30 or so years ago and cheap or not, it hasn’t broken or failed to do the job yet.

When installing spark plugs it’s best to start them with a length of stiff wall vacuum hose that will plug, snugly, onto the end of the spark plug. Finish tightening the plugs with the socket/extension. This prevents the possibility of cross-threading the plugs.

They sell something called a locking extension. The socket won’t release from the extension until the button is depressed.


I agree with ok4450. You could even use JBWeld to stick them together. Or get a magnet on a long handle to pull it out.

You are right, the socket binds slightly on the plug, causing enough friction to pull the extension off the socket. If you turn the wrench slightly backward the socket will let go of the plug without moving the plug.

Just to add my 2 cents, I usually use a locking extension as Tester mentioned. There is nothing wrong with oldtimer’s method either but using the locking extension in this situation is the best solution IMHO. The extensions come in different lengths just like regular extensions and, depending on the engine, sometimes you need different ones.

Duct tape.

Go to Sears and pick up a Craftsman locking extension or two.

I have a spark plug socket taped to the end of an extension with electrical tape. That’s all you relaly need.

The reason for the tubes is simple. In order to put the camshafts up above the valvestems, the shafts and their associated components are placed up above and to the sides of the sparkplugs. Remember that the valve faces and the sparkplug electrodes both have to be in the top of the cylinders, both in the same surface. In order to put the valvetrains up and to the sides, the plugs therefore have to be installed in tubes.

I’ve attached links that show a typical setup. In page 4 of the second links, you can see the timing chain that drives the camshafts up above the head casting, well above where the spark plug have to be. I hope these drawings help.

Thanks to all for good advice. I’ve been using Little-Mouses’s duct-tape sol’n for the past few spark plug changes, but the duct tape makes for a sticky job to remove once I’m done. I tried Ol’Timer’s idea in the past, but for some reason it didn’t work for me. I was unaware of the existence of a “locking” extension. That seems the best solution for my needs. I’ll pop over to Sears or Harbor Frieght at my earliest convenience to see what they have in stock. And many thanks to Mt Bike for taking time to post a link to a tutorial on why the spark plugs are in the bottom of the holes. That is interesting.

You generally see spark plug tubes on DOHC engines and there’s a reason for this. It centers the spark plug in the combustion chamber and once the fuel/air mix is ignited the flame front spreads out in all directions from a center point instead of starting on one side and flashing to the other.
This helps to hold down pre-ignition rattles and so on.

I have a corolla. Same thing happens to me. I just grab the socket with a 12" needle nose plier and pull it out. Works good…I have found that if you are going to buy a cheap locking extension…you will need the same brand of socket otherwise it will not lock on properly. Every Manufacturers are a little different style of locking inside the socket. Long needle nose pliers is easier and cheaper.

Or a piece of paper towel. Drape it loosely over the square drive hole on the socket and stick in the extension. That little bit extra friction is usually enough to hold the socket and extension together, and no stick residue when you are done.

I was always able to tilt the extension enough to get a grip on the socket and take it out. Not a big problem for me and I am not good at this stuff either.