spark plug cross-threaded or what

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  #1  
Old 10-19-14, 11:09 AM
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spark plug cross-threaded or what

ran into an issue while attempting to unscrew/remove one of the four spark plugs on my 92 Accord. I noticed when beginning to unscrew it that it was about twice as hard to unthread as the other three I already removed. As I continued to unscrew it and it seemed I was getting close to unscrewing it all the way, it began to get even tighter, tight to the point where it actually seemed stuck and would not be turning in that direction unless perhaps I would've tried applying a ridiculous amount of strength/force pulling on the ratchet. Not wanting to risk making things worse by continuing in that manner I decided to reverse direction and screw the plug all the way back in to its seated position into the head again, for now. It seems the plug did indeed screw back in, at least some or most of the way, until it began to tighten again, stuck and not wanting to screw in anymore just tight feeling as I experienced while trying to remove it as I just described. Unsure whether in fact it I might have already screwed it down into its its seated position, I reinstalled an adjacent plug so I could gauge and compare the installed depth between the two. Here with a tape measure I have a reference depth which indicates the depth (down to the plug tip) at which the known properly seated plug is installed:



Here, however, for comparison is the depth to the tip on the problem plug installation, and there is a difference in 3/16 of an inch, indicating that obviously that plug is not screwed in all the way:



For now I've left the problem plug as it is, and reinstalled the others, and have yet to notice any obvious difference in starting or operation of the engine than before. More than likely it's not a good idea to run an engine with any spark plugs not seated all the way, and of course I need/want to be able to get the problem plug out if I can, soon as I can. I suppose the logical assumption is the plug has been cross-threaded but before I come to that absolute conclusion is there another possibility maybe just a lotta gunk/carbon on the threads and I could work the plug out okay if I tried? And, if indeed cross-threading is the culprit here, how best should I proceed then? By the way, the head is aluminum, for what difference that could make. Thanks.
 
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Old 10-19-14, 11:27 AM
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A little carbon got on end of threads in head. Sometimes if you screw plug out till if gets hard (don't force) and screw it back in several times it will come out. Becareful aluminum head. Other guys may have better ideas haven't turned wrenches in years.
 
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Old 10-19-14, 11:46 AM
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A little carbon got on end of threads in head. Sometimes if you screw plug out till if gets hard (don't force) and screw it back in several times it will come out.
Okay I'll try what you said. I was wondering also if it'd help much if maybe I squirted a little PB Blaster in there first, or maybe running the engine first just a few minutes which would probably heat up that area and help out? Or not. Thanks.
 
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Old 10-19-14, 12:19 PM
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Naah, don't heat it up. Soak in some sort of rust breaker, several times and let it sit. And as you start unscrewing it, stop after few turns and add more fluid. You don't want to bust the threads, and that little carbon build up might as well be taking aluminum off threads with it.
If you know how to use tap, you know how to do it right. After you took it out, re-tap the hole. Little smoke outta tail pipe after this is well worth safety and head ache saved to install helicoil.
 
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Old 10-19-14, 12:37 PM
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Ok ukrbyk I will do as you suggest with the rust breaker. When/if I manage to remove the plug, I most definitely then would want to go ahead and re-tap the hole with a tap? Do I need to worry about tap shavings falling down into the chamber? thanks.
 
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Old 10-19-14, 05:30 PM
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You want to worry about piston being down into the cylinder. That you do. When done, rig narrow tube to a shop vac and suck everything out of the cylinder, to you best, via plug hole. Squirt some oil in and hand crank pistons from main pulley bolt. Just remember to always go clockwise. You never know when main bearing seal is directional.
The rest will burn from combustion.

PS and post pic of that plug when you get it out. I'm curious.
 
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Old 10-19-14, 05:44 PM
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Do I need to worry about tap shavings falling down into the chamber?
If the problem is just carbon in the threads, there shouldn't be any metal shavings to worry about, just some powdery carbon falling into the cylinder. If the plug was indeed cross threaded, I don't think you have much choice except installing a helicoil. In that case, I wouldn't waste my time with a tap.
 
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Old 10-19-14, 06:20 PM
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Three questions:

1. After I've soaked the lower (threaded) end area of the plug with a little rust breaker fluid and let it sit, and then start unscrewing it and stopping every few turns and adding a little more fluid, and turning it back and forth a little as I begin to make progress unscrewing it out of the hole, what should I do when I encounter that point again on the threads where it suddenly became extremely tight/stuck and I was fearful of trying to force it any harder, and if it still seems just as tight/stuck? Just keep working it back and forth slowly the same manner and apply a little more and more force if necessary?

2. Of course I hope it's not cross-threaded and it is just carbon but can just carbon on the threads actually be causing it to bind up so extremely tight as I described?

3. So that I'm clear about this, when/if I do get it to unscrew all the way out, to clear the threaded hole of this troublesome carbon I should screw a tap down into the hole and that should take care of it?
 
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Old 10-20-14, 07:09 AM
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It doesn't sound as if it's cross threaded, but it does sound as if the threads on the plug extend past the head and slightly into the combustion chamber when the plug is fully seated. I think I'd try unscrewing the plug to the point you mention where it gets stuck.

what should I do when I encounter that point again on the threads where it suddenly became extremely tight/stuck and I was fearful of trying to force it any harder
And then add a generous amount (pour some in) of a good quality penetrant in the plug well and let it soak again overnight before attempting to once again work it loose. This sounds a lot like the problem Ford had with their 3 valve heads for several years.
 
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Old 10-20-14, 08:09 AM
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It doesn't sound as if it's cross threaded
That's quite good to hear! I'm just curious, though, how we can probably rule out cross threading. How might a cross threaded plug differ than as I described mine is acting?

it does sound as if the threads on the plug extend past the head and slightly into the combustion chamber when the plug is fully seated
Yes I seem to recall in the past when I've had the head off noticing that is indeed the case with this engine.

I think I'd try unscrewing the plug to the point you mention where it gets stuck. And then add a generous amount (pour some in) of a good quality penetrant in the plug well and let it soak again overnight before attempting to once again work it loose
I'll follow your suggestion on that. I can use PB Blaster. But if the problem is just carbon on the threads, can penetrant dissolve/help loosen that? I thought such penetrant is a rust buster, but not necessarily carbon. Also, would it be bad to operate the engine for any length of time with the plug unscrewed to the point I mentioned where it gets stuck, and with the generous amount of penetrant in the plug well?
 
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Old 10-20-14, 11:25 AM
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I can use PB Blaster. But if the problem is just carbon on the threads, can penetrant dissolve/help loosen that? I thought such penetrant is a rust buster, but not necessarily carbon.
You could use PB Blaster I suppose, but from what I recall, Ford had their brand liquid penetrant that they recommended and it supposedly would dissolve the carbon. I think the important thing is to let it soak overnight. I just looked up my copy of the Ford TSB 08-1-9 technical bulletin on how to remove the plugs from the 3 valve 5.4L engines. Ford recommends using Motorcraft Carburetor Tune-Up Cleaner. Ford's problem wasn't exactly like yours, but the carbon in the plug threads reminded me about part of their issue removing plugs. You might want to look up that TSB for reference.

would it be bad to operate the engine for any length of time with the plug unscrewed to the point I mentioned where it gets stuck, and with the generous amount of penetrant in the plug well?
I don't think I would recommend that. If the plug is partially removed, the lower end of the threaded plug well will essentially become part of the combustion chamber and could immediately pick up more carbon of other effects of combustion and later impede the installation of the new plug. FWIW, this is just my opinion. I'd like to hear some other opinions as well.
 
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Old 10-20-14, 11:55 AM
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If the plug is partially removed, the lower end of the threaded plug well will essentially become part of the combustion chamber and could immediately pick up more carbon of other effects of combustion and later impede the installation of the new plug
Right now, with the plug reinstalled as far as I seem to be able to screw it back in, it is actually is not seated all the way down as it should be, and is in fact about 3/16" up from not being seated (as I described (and with photos) in my first post this thread). We're trying to avoid any/all operation of the engine until such time that I can at least get that stuck plug out and then get it (or a new one) installed properly, although because we really do need the transportation until then for a daily very short driving distance (1/4 mile total, for transport of elderly person) I hope that won't be gunking up the lower end of the plug or the lower threads too much worse very rapidly.

Ford recommends using Motorcraft Carburetor Tune-Up Cleaner. Ford's problem wasn't exactly like yours, but the carbon in the plug threads reminded me about part of their issue removing plugs.
Well we don't have a Ford Dealer locally so I'm not sure whether I can get that particular product around here, although if you think maybe a different brand similar type carburetor cleaner product could be a better choice than the PB Blaster for this purpose of busting/loosening carboned threads, then maybe I could/should go that route?
 
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Old 10-20-14, 07:25 PM
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Well we don't have a Ford Dealer locally so I'm not sure whether I can get that particular product around here, although if you think maybe a different brand similar type carburetor cleaner product could be a better choice than the PB Blaster for this purpose of busting/loosening carboned threads, then maybe I could/should go that route?
I have no idea, I am not an expert on these matters. That being said, STP carburetor cleaner might work. I had a friend show me many years ago how to use it to clean gunk and varnish off pushrods, I just cannot say for sure.
As for carbon in the plug well threads, you can always use a tap to chase the threads if they haven't been damaged by cross threading. There are three kinds of taps; taper, plug and bottoming. I'd use a bottoming tap to minimize the chances of contacting a piston.
 
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Old 10-20-14, 07:57 PM
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Ok thanks CasualJoe for your helpful comments here.

PS and post pic of that plug when you get it out. I'm curious.
And ukrbyk, sure I'll be glad to post a pic of it here when/if I get it out. And thanks.
 
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Old 10-21-14, 01:59 AM
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In lieu of a tap, I would try a spark plug thread chaser. The last ones I bought were years ago, but any auto parts store should have them, and I imagine that they are in the $5-10 range. A thread chaser is intended to restore existing threads, not cut new ones, and one intended for spark plugs should stop at the same place as the plug, so should not create any clearance issues.
 
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Old 10-21-14, 06:50 AM
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Have you tried removing the plug with the engine warmed up bit? If not, consider running the engine for a few minutes and see if you can remove the plug.
 
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Old 10-21-14, 07:37 AM
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Have you tried removing the plug with the engine warmed up bit? If not, consider running the engine for a few minutes and see if you can remove the plug.
Yes I have considered that (see my post #3 here), but haven't tried because was advised not to (see response in post #4).
 
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Old 10-21-14, 07:55 AM
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I
n lieu of a tap, I would try a spark plug thread chaser. The last ones I bought were years ago, but any auto parts store should have them, and I imagine that they are in the $5-10 range. A thread chaser is intended to restore existing threads, not cut new ones, and one intended for spark plugs should stop at the same place as the plug, so should not create any clearance issues.
Thanks aka pedro. I'll check at the auto parts store for that. Just gotta make sure I get the right size, of course. But yeah definitely sounds like the proper tool for the job.
 
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Old 10-21-14, 08:30 AM
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Yes I have considered that (see my post #3 here), but haven't tried because was advised not to (see response in post #4).

I'd go ahead and try it immediately after running the engine for a couple of minutes. If this doesn't work, then try it while fully warmed up. Just don't use anymore force than you would with it cold.

Note: Aluminum heats up and expands faster than steel which is why this method sometimes works.
 
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Old 10-21-14, 08:54 AM
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I'd go ahead and try it immediately after running the engine for a couple of minutes. If this doesn't work, then try it while fully warmed up. Just don't use anymore force than you would with it cold.
Ok will try that then ^. Also, will be trying to soak the bottom seat area with carb cleaner (instead of PB Blaster). I read the TSB example mentioned by CasualJoe, and the carb cleaner is supposed to be able to (hopefully) help to soften any carbon deposits/buildup on the thread hole by wicking downward, as it is explained in the TSB. Not sure though whether to try that first, or to try running the engine to heat it up first as you suggest. Thanks for any further comment.
 
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Old 10-21-14, 06:54 PM
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With all respect to "heat it up" idea, as far as I know metals, hole NARROWS down when metal is heated. So hole in aluminum narrows down while steel plug threads expand. That's part of plug in the hole self sealing process on hot engine.
It's just me.
Sgul, maybe you finally need to get to it. I think, after all the time spent here, it's about the right time to actually put scholastic knowledge to the test.
I'm only curious to see the plug threads.
Thread chaser is a great idea. Tool for everything indeed.
 
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Old 10-21-14, 07:04 PM
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Sgul, maybe you finally need to get to it.
I agree! 100 percent! Soon as I can, and I'll keep ya posted. thanks
 
  #23  
Old 10-23-14, 11:11 AM
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An important reason why spark plugs need to be tightened in their holes is to use the engine block as a heat sink. Otherwise the plug can overheat causing the porcelain parts to crack.

Given that the plug was straight in the socket, it was probably not cross threaded. If the threads were damaged, you have a no-win situation. Use of a thread chaser or other cutting tools might cause bits of metal to fall into the cylinder, eventually causing scoring of the cylinder walls when the engine is run.
 
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Old 10-23-14, 11:15 AM
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Any time you use a tap or thread chaser in a situation like that, you put a heavy coat of grease on it to capture chips.
 
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Old 10-23-14, 12:02 PM
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An important reason why spark plugs need to be tightened in their holes is to use the engine block as a heat sink. Otherwise the plug can overheat causing the porcelain parts to crack.
I still have yet to continue my attempt at removing the spark plug. At present, the plug is installed approximately 3/16" up from being properly seated/tightened into its threaded hole (as mentioned/described in my initial post here). I am concerned about operating the engine with the plug installed in this manner, and the car is indeed being briefly driven, out of necessity, for a short distance within the neighborhood one time daily each day.

Given that the plug was straight in the socket, it was probably not cross threaded.
The plug does indeed seem straight in the socket, however it's difficult (for me) to determine that for sure, as the engine design is the type where the plugs are recessed down in there four or five inches where you can't get a real good visual. I am really hoping cross threading is not the issue; we'll see though.

If the threads were damaged, you have a no-win situation.
As I tried to describe before, as I was unscrewing it, it was noticeably tighter turning than the the other plugs, although not what I might consider extreme until just before unscrewing almost all the way out, where the tightness became so extreme I was afraid to continue. So at that time I instead chose to try to go ahead and screw it back down to its seated position, where it then screwed back down most of its threaded distance but began to get tighter, extremely tight again to the point where I didn't want to try to force turn it anymore in that direction either. So it sits now, 3/16" up off its seated position. I don't have any past experience with turning a plug into or out of its threaded hole because of cross threading or because of carbon buildup/clogging of the threads in the hole, but some of the comments here seem to suggest that the cause of issue could well be the latter and not necessarily the former. My plan is to put soak the bottom of the plug area with carburetor cleaner, let it sit maybe overnight, then try working the plug back and forth to see if that can loosen the apparent carbon within the threads enough to at least get the plug out and hopefully without damaging any threads any more than they already might be.

Use of a thread chaser or other cutting tools might cause bits of metal to fall into the cylinder, eventually causing scoring of the cylinder walls when the engine is run.
If I do get to the point of using a thread chaser I'll put a heavy coat of grease on it to capture any possible chips, per Gunguy's advice post #24 here.

Thanks for the input/comments.
 
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Old 10-23-14, 10:04 PM
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Got it out. After putting a little part cleaner down in there to soak it a while, then worked it back and forth slowly, using careful gradual force. Here's a few pictures of it. Looks upon close examination there is a little crud/carbon in a thread toward the bottom and maybe up toward the top to some extent, not particularly all that noticeable or extreme upon first glance anyway. When I shine the flashlight down and look into the threaded hole it looks a little dirty rough-like around the perimeter what can be seen anyway. I suppose tomorrow I'll run a thread chaser in, then go from there. Could maybe put some anti-seize compound on the threads of the plug before reinstalling unless that's not a good idea either. Seems to be mixed opinions on whether that's the right thing to do.







 
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Old 10-24-14, 07:56 PM
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Good for you. I do NOT see any aluminum, shiny build up on threads. That tells me head threads are ok. Yeah, do run chaser with plenty of grease on it.
Now you need to figure WHY there is carbon (read - oil) build up on threads. I bet camshaft tower seals leak oil inside. It's a Honda, it's their Achilles heel.

Btw, you noticed black smudges on porcelain isolator, where it comes out of the plug head? That's exhaust blow by.
 
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Old 10-24-14, 08:33 PM
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I do NOT see any aluminum, shiny build up on threads. That tells me head threads are ok. Yeah, do run chaser with plenty of grease on it.
I was planning on running a chaser but couldn't. The only type they had for sale locally was this Lisle brand one (shown below) which requires a 3/4" socket to use on the hex. The design on my Accord engine is such that the socket extension hole to access down to the threaded plug hole is not big enough around to allow a 3/4" socket to fit. I even tried a thin-walled 3/4" socket but no go. So I had to forego using the chaser altogether and just threaded the plug in back and forth several times keeping the threads wetted pretty good with the parts cleaner stuff. I think doing that did a decent job cleaning/clearing most of any of the troublesome carbon within those threads. Anyway, I did manage to get the plug threaded down all the way and so is now at least seated properly.

Now you need to figure WHY there is carbon (read - oil) build up on threads. I bet camshaft tower seals leak oil inside. It's a Honda, it's their Achilles heel.
Perhaps you're right about that, although about a year ago I did a headgasket change-out on this vehicle and I do recall I went ahead at that time, while the head was off, and changed out those seals too. I guess they might be leaking already. I can't remember whether when the plugs are screwed into the head all the way if maybe there's a few threads that extend below the bottom of the head, into the cylinder slightly? Maybe that's how some of that carbon got onto the threads? Just speculating...

Btw, you noticed black smudges on porcelain isolator, where it comes out of the plug head? That's exhaust blow by.
Probably, or maybe, quite likely from driving a little while here recently with that plug not seated down all the way?

 
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Old 10-25-14, 04:56 AM
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I seem to remember that plugs designed for engines with aluminum heads , come from the factory with anti-seize on the threads ?

Glad to hear you got the old plug out & a new plug in . :-)

God bless
Wyr
 
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Old 10-25-14, 06:25 AM
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Well, you can get a long sturdy plastic/copper brush, like ones to clean bottles, or gun barrels, soak it all in anything from kerosine to any non evaporative parts cleaner, and use it to clean threads.
As of the seals. I bet 5 bucks you didn't do ones I mentioned. You did valve gasket kit, right? But Honda has another set of seals, hidden inside camshaft towers, that not many know of. You actually have to remove camshafts WITH supporting structure. Base of those "towers" that cradle camshafts has another set of seals that leaks oil inside cc-s.
Maybe. But I doubt. All of my used pugs have same smudges. Easy check. Pull other plugs out and looksie.
Antiseaize is a MUST on plugs. To avoid situations like this.

PS Looked closer at pic. You DO have carbon buildup. Oil IS getting into cc. Also, why does that gap look so large? Not saying it's not proper, just looks truck large.
 
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Old 10-25-14, 06:31 AM
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Old 10-25-14, 07:32 AM
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Got it out. After putting a little part cleaner down in there to soak it a while, then worked it back and forth slowly, using careful gradual force.
.................................
 
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Old 10-25-14, 08:56 AM
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Well, you can get a long sturdy plastic/copper brush, like ones to clean bottles, or gun barrels, soak it all in anything from kerosine to any non evaporative parts cleaner, and use it to clean threads.
Good suggestion ^ ukbryk. Hey and check this out. If I ever got rambunctious enough I could maybe even make my own thread chaser this way: Homemade spark plug thread chaser - MX-5 Miata Forum

As of the seals. I bet 5 bucks you didn't do ones I mentioned. You did valve gasket kit, right? But Honda has another set of seals, hidden inside camshaft towers, that not many know of. You actually have to remove camshafts WITH supporting structure. Base of those "towers" that cradle camshafts has another set of seals that leaks oil inside cc-s.
Now that you've mentioned/described it, (^ ukrbyk), and posted that eric the car guy link, I'm reminded that I did indeed definitely change out those seals along with when I did that head gasket job a year ago. In fact those new seals were included in the head gasket set, and just as you did mention I had not known of those seals before that time or really understood where they were supposed to go when I saw them in the kit for the first time. And, believe it or not, I recall googling about them and coming up with that exact same eric the car guy video and watching it carefully to guide me in the installation! Does that mean you owe me 5 bucks? lol, just kiddin'. but true story.

All of my used pugs have same smudges. Easy check. Pull other plugs out and looksie.
I pulled the three other plugs and took a picture of them too, during the time that other one was still stuck/installed. Here they are:



Looked closer at pic. You DO have carbon buildup. Oil IS getting into cc. Also, why does that gap look so large? Not saying it's not proper, just looks truck large.
Yeah, thanks, I'll be trying to investigate/remedy the cause of the oil getting into cc. In regard to the gap, I took a peek at the info in my manual and it says the gap is supposed to be 1.0 to 1.1 mm. Likely isn't gapped properly I'll have to double check on that; I agree looks rather large in the pic(s).

And actually in regard to the smudges on the porcelain and general condition of all those plugs, I'm pretty sure they could be overdue for changing out; I can't remember when I last changed em out to tell you the truth.
 
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Old 10-25-14, 10:36 AM
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I seem to remember that plugs designed for engines with aluminum heads, come from the factory with anti-seize on the threads?
I have no idea about that. Not sure that ever noticed that on any new plug, unless it's not particularly noticeable. Good question/point though.

Glad to hear you got the old plug out & a new plug in.
Yeah I was sure glad to finally manage to get the dang thing out okay. And actually, I didn't put a new plug in, yet. Just the same old one, for the time being. Plan on changing em all out, soon though.
 
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Old 10-25-14, 04:18 PM
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Where do I mail $5 to? Alias, I have NEVER seen a valve cover gasket kit that had THOSE seals. You sure you didn't do the plug well seals and thinking of under the camshaft ones? Seriously, before I send you five bucks. Those have to be purchased separately.
Those gaps ain't no 1mm. I KNOW what 1mm is. I'm metric country 38 yrs background tool and die maker.
 
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Old 10-25-14, 04:28 PM
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I have NEVER seen a valve cover gasket kit that had THOSE seals.
Not a valve cover gasket kit. Head gasket kit. A Felpro kit if I recall correctly.

You sure you didn't do the plug well seals and thinking of under the camshaft ones?
Those seals shown in the eric the car guy video you linked. Actually I think my kit included both the plug well seals and the camshaft ones, but right now I can't recall/remember with absolute certainty about that.

Those gaps ain't no 1mm.
Don't know why the gap is so excessive then. Been running like that for a long time though. I'll be sure to get the gap thing taken care of. Probably be changing out those plugs real soon, just because, and will check and double check the gap. thanks
 
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Old 10-25-14, 07:26 PM
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Well, those plugs need to be burnt white clean with propane torch, if planned to be reused. Then you can regap them. But at 7 bucks a plug, I'd just get new ones.
I am still confused. Not trying to wiggle out of 5 bucks, but we own and owned several Hondas and other Asian makes. They are all same way - plugs are in the center of the cc dome. With long tube for spark plugs. EVERY kit for valve cover I ever bought for them, and I had my share, does not have those camshaft seals.
Head gasket is head gasket, I never saw those small rings in gasket kits either. But hey, you did them - amen.
I owe you 5 American dollars then.
 
  #38  
Old 10-25-14, 07:47 PM
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I don't want to squabble about it of course, but maybe give me a little time to look back and get my facts straight about what I did and didn't do gasket-wise, and what gaskets were in that kit I mentioned. I must say I remember changing out those seals as shown in the video, for sure. Easy enough for me check for certain what came in the kit, when I get a chance. The head gasket "kit" (not valve cover gasket kit) did in fact include a variety of different gaskets, the ones a guy would typically have to or want to go ahead and change out during the course of a head gasket repair job for the car.
I'm glad you noticed the unusually large gap going on with these plugs (I wasn't aware otherwise) and thank for your other helpful comments ukbryk.

Edit: Yep, I checked and this is exactly the kit I got and recall changing those gaskets/seals, for the record: http://www.amazon.com/Fel-Pro-HIS985...ead+gasket+kit
 

Last edited by sgull; 10-25-14 at 08:06 PM.
  #39  
Old 10-25-14, 08:33 PM
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Curious about the gap business for these plugs, I went to the NGK site and looked up the Iridium IX type plugs for my car, as listed in the chart here, and it says gap .044, so I guess that's the gap size from the from the factory anyway. There's a camera icon there if you click on it, a photo pops up which I suppose one might be able to compare my ugly plugs and the apparent difference in gap if they wanted.
 
  #40  
Old 10-26-14, 06:06 AM
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I changed plugs on Wifey's V-6 Chevy with 140,000 miles . The old ones looked kind of like that . Put in new ones . It was a PAIN !

Car ran almost as well with the old plugs as with the new plugs . Just seemed to start a tiny bet easier ?

God bless
Wyr
 
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