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Ford Truck Club Forum > GARAGE TALK > Garage Talk: Shop Class 101



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Old March 15th, 2011, 04:48 PM
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Thumbs up How Spark Plug Wires Work

The spark plug wire has a seemingly simple job: Carry the high-voltage electricity produced by the ignition coil to the terminal of the spark plug. Once at the plug, the electricity travels to the other end of the plug, and jumps a gap between electrodes to produce the “spark” that ignites the fuel mixture. Because high-voltage electricity looks for an easier path to jump across than a pair of electrodes in a spark plug, containing the electricity within the wire takes a thick jacket of insulation, and some plugs have an outer jacket to resist cuts, high underhood temperatures, etc. If that outer jacket is damaged, the electricity may leak out to follow the easier path. In addition, high-voltage electricity produces radio waves, which can cause interference with all types of on-car electronic devices, from sensors and computers to radios and other entertainment systems. So, a simple length of solid wire can create problems.

The electrical conductor typically has a carbon-impregnated core of a suitable fiber, and everything from nylon to Kevlar has been used by different makers. That conductor (often covered by a second layer of a nonconductive material such as synthetic rubber) has enough electrical resistance to suppress radio interference without unduly weakening the spark. Some premium wires may have copper or stainless steel wire wound around the carbon core to reduce resistance. In some special applications in which minimum resistance is needed for engine performance, a solid metal wire has been used as a conductor, but over the inner layer of insulation is a layer of wound wire as a shield. On other types of wires, the outer jacket of the wire may have a metallic shield to prevent interference.


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