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Old 08-03-2011, 03:37 PM   #1
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Tips & Tricks to a Successful Spark Plug Change

Just tacked changing the spark plugs on my '95 SE and ended up learning what to do (and what not to do) in the process.

I don't see a need for me to do a full step-by-step guide, as it's really not hard to figure out and I'm sure there are guides already out there.

So, without further ado, I present to you: "Tips and tricks to a painless spark plug change in a 4th Gen Maxima"

Tools Needed (*Recommended, but not necessarily required tools marked by asterisk):

-Six new NGK plugs
-5/8" or 16mm deep (spark plug type) socket
-Ratchet to drive said socket
-At least 9" of extentions for said ratchet
-8mm socket and something to drive it with
-12mm socket or wrench
-4mm Allen key
-Magnets*
-Flash Light*
-A means of pulling out the plugs (very long needle nose pliers would work, or read below for my trick)


These are the extensions I used--I think that's 9" total



Tips are in order of where their helpfulness would be useful:

-Do the back set of plugs first (nearest the firewall), starting with the one closest to the driver's side. Only reason for this is it's the most difficult one to chance, so tackling it first is best. You'll thank me later.

-When removing the first plug (back row, driver's side), you'll notice that something with hoses attached to it is right in the way. Removing the hoses won't really help you. This gizmo is called the EVAP purge control valve. Unplug it. Look behind it and you'll see two nuts holding it onto the engine. Basically, it's just attached to a bracket. Use a 12mm Socket or wrench to loosen these nuts. Mine were very tight, so I hooked two wrenches together to get leverage to get the nuts off. There's very little room to work here and it's frustrating, but just keep in mind that this is the hardest part (remember, hardest first!) When you free this from it's holder, you can push it out of the way and access the plug better.


This is how I loosened the nuts. You'll know you have the right ones because there's a weird star pattern on the top of the threads.


-The first two bolts you remove will let you pull out the coil packs. Unplug them before you pull them. Don't bother with a screwdriver, they're probably too tight and you'll just strip the head. An 8 mm Socket will work beautifully here. They're threaded finely, so it takes a lot of turns to get them out. Here's where the magnets come in handy. The back screws may not follow you out with the socket, so use a magnet to get them!


Another Reason magnets are helpful. You can stick them to the frame and use them to hold the screws, bolts and nuts you'll take off.

-As for pulling the spark plugs, you may not have a long enough pair of needle nose pliers to get to them (I didn't). My first approach was a magnet at the end of a screwdriver. DON'T DO THIS! The magnet will stick to the inside of the chamber and you'll probably spend quite a while getting it back out. I ended up duct taping a magnet to the end of a small piece of pipe. This worked beautifully.

-When replacing the coil packs, put the back screw into the hole on the pack before you put the pack on the engine. Makes life a lot easier!


Example of what I mean by the above tip.


-Anti-seize compound is recommended on the threads of the new plugs. I didn't bother, because I highly doubt I'll have this vehicle for as long as these new plugs will last (I went with Platinum Iridiums). Of course, this may come back to haunt me.

-As for torque on the new plugs, I went until the ratchet was getting difficult to turn, and went an extra 1/4 to 1/2 turn.

-Start it up before you put everything totally back together. Make sure all your coil packs, EVAP valve, etc. are plugged in.



I noticed enough of a power difference to know it's not in my mind. When you floor it from about 30, it really throws you into the seat now...before it was just sort of a gentle push. Don't know if it'll have any impact on my fuel consumption or not.


One of my old plugs. I'm not sure how bad they really were...maybe someone else can tell by this photo.

In my opinion, this task doesn't require a whole lot of mechanical skill. I myself am no star mechanic...I do my own oil changes and brake work, but that's about the extent of it. I did it in about an hour and a half...if I had to do it again, I think I could have it done in well under an hour.
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:37 PM   #2
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Great job. It feels good to do your own work, right?

Now, a few constructive pointers. Primarily, invest in a spark plug socket. You can buy a cheap one for a couple bucks. Well worth the drive to the store. Second, it is very important to be careful when tightening spark plugs. A torque wrench is the best way to reduce relative errors. "Difficult to turn" is a good way to strip an aluminum head. Lastly, remember that you are a used car owner. Try to think of that when you are working on your car. Sure, you may never have to change the plugs, but the next person may be cursing your soul when they go to change them. Take a minute and add a dab of anti-seize to the threads. It's the little things that build integrity. Gather up as many as you can.

FWIW: From the look of that plug, I would say you'll see an increase in mileage. How old is your fuel filter?
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:39 PM   #3
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If this is difficult i cant wait to see you try and tackle an axle nut or replacing a motor mount
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:41 PM   #4
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There are sockets called spark plug sockets that have foam in them to hold on to the spark plug after you have unscrewed it. You could also use a piece of gas line or vacuum line to slip over the end of the spark plug to get it out of the hole.

edit:

damn I'm a slow typer. You guys beat me.

Last edited by DennisMik; 08-03-2011 at 08:45 PM..
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:43 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Crusher103 View Post
If this is difficult i cant wait to see you try and tackle an axle nut or replacing a motor mount
And I'd rather do this than do another air mix door motor under the dash!
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:44 PM   #6
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At autozone for $5 there are sockets with built in magnets, i have never had difficulty getting my spark plugs out even the first time i tried to change them with my sockets.....I will give this guy an A for effort but seriously cmon man. This kind of "information" has been in the stickies for YEARS. If 2 10mm bolts are giving you trouble.....
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:59 PM   #7
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The condition of the plug you took out looks perfectly OK to me.
Judging by the insulator colour it looks like your engine is running pretty lean.
Pity I can't use my see-through spark plug in my Max. Great way of judging mixture.
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Old 08-03-2011, 09:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crusher103 View Post
At autozone for $5 there are sockets with built in magnets, i have never had difficulty getting my spark plugs out even the first time i tried to change them with my sockets.....I will give this guy an A for effort but seriously cmon man. This kind of "information" has been in the stickies for YEARS. If 2 10mm bolts are giving you trouble.....
Stop being a douche and give the guy some slack. Everyone starts somewhere. Don't matter if there is a sticky out there, who gives a s*** now and days? He feels proud of what he did, enough said.
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Old 08-03-2011, 10:22 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nelledge View Post
Great job. It feels good to do your own work, right?

Now, a few constructive pointers. Primarily, invest in a spark plug socket. You can buy a cheap one for a couple bucks. Well worth the drive to the store. Second, it is very important to be careful when tightening spark plugs. A torque wrench is the best way to reduce relative errors. "Difficult to turn" is a good way to strip an aluminum head. Lastly, remember that you are a used car owner. Try to think of that when you are working on your car. Sure, you may never have to change the plugs, but the next person may be cursing your soul when they go to change them. Take a minute and add a dab of anti-seize to the threads. It's the little things that build integrity. Gather up as many as you can.

FWIW: From the look of that plug, I would say you'll see an increase in mileage. How old is your fuel filter?
If you don't want to buy another socket, try putting a piece of electrical tape over the edge (half inside, half outside) of the socket. Sticky side facing the socket. That will give you enough friction to hold the plug in place. DON'T OVERTIGHTEN. Choke up on the handle so you don't get as much leverage.
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Old 08-04-2011, 05:07 AM   #10
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your plugs look fine to me. New plugs dont hurt tho.

First time i did plugs it took me 2.5 hrs. I didnt have the socket with the rubber grommet and it made the job frustrating. Second time i did the job i had the grommet took 1.5 hrs.

EDIT:

Might wanna clean your engine bay too man.

Last edited by cashoit; 08-04-2011 at 05:18 AM..
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Old 08-04-2011, 05:32 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nelledge View Post
Great job. It feels good to do your own work, right?

Now, a few constructive pointers. Primarily, invest in a spark plug socket. You can buy a cheap one for a couple bucks. Well worth the drive to the store. Second, it is very important to be careful when tightening spark plugs. A torque wrench is the best way to reduce relative errors. "Difficult to turn" is a good way to strip an aluminum head. Lastly, remember that you are a used car owner. Try to think of that when you are working on your car. Sure, you may never have to change the plugs, but the next person may be cursing your soul when they go to change them. Take a minute and add a dab of anti-seize to the threads. It's the little things that build integrity. Gather up as many as you can.

FWIW: From the look of that plug, I would say you'll see an increase in mileage. How old is your fuel filter?
I did know spark plug sockets exist, but I didn't have one laying around...my magnet taped to the pipe idea worked really well. I guess the purpose behind this thread is "What to do if you don't have quite everything." I didn't realize how helpful it would have been until I took the backs out...obviously the fronts are a lot easier to get to.

I tried to judge how much to tighten the plugs based on going a little looser than they were before...which was basically a 1/4 turn or so past where they got a little more difficult. I don't think I got tight enough to worry about stripping them.

I agree with the compound...probably a bad idea, but the reality is I know there won't be a third owner at this point...it's got 225K miles, really isn't a practical winter vehicle up here, and there are other things that will happen long before the plugs go (radiator mount is one--not as bad as a lot of the ones I've seen on here, but definitely not in great shape). There's a lot of rust damage from being a non-garage kept New England vehicle for its entire life. I'll keep it as a second vehicle until something happens that just isn't worth it. That's one of the reasons I went with platinums instead of coppers...I'll never have to replace them again.

I have no idea how old those plugs were...I've only had the vehicle for about 10K miles, so at least that. The ones that were in there were NGK platinums. They had to have been bad enough to cause performance issues, because there is definitely a significant change there now (enough so I know it's not in my head! ). I'm at around a 1/4 tank of fuel now, so I'll have to fill it and check the mileage before and after. Typically, I've been getting about 22 MPG (though I saw 28.5 on a highway trip once).

I don't know how old the fuel filter is, but I'm changing it...I took the old one off and the fluid that came out didn't look much like gas. Definitely can't hurt. I may have had more trouble with the plugs than plenty of people, but I can't understand where the difficulty with that filter comes in. That took me a couple minutes tops to get out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crusher103 View Post
If this is difficult i cant wait to see you try and tackle an axle nut or replacing a motor mount
I would never try a task like that, though...because my mechanical skill just isn't there...like I said, I'm perfectly capable of brakes and oil, but not much more. I would also say that this wasn't difficult...the only time I had to really think about it was moving the EVAP valve...and that's only because those screws were on awfully tight and there was so little room to work...even that was no more than ten minutes of time.

Honestly, though...save it. I'm sure there are plenty of things I can do that you'd be struggling with...doesn't mean I'd criticize you for them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by clive View Post
The condition of the plug you took out looks perfectly OK to me.
Judging by the insulator colour it looks like your engine is running pretty lean.
Pity I can't use my see-through spark plug in my Max. Great way of judging mixture.
I didn't think it looked too awful based on my limited knowledge either, but there is definitely a power difference with the new ones...not a huge one, but there definitely is one. As far as running lean, it behaves okay...I don't know what types of symptoms there would be, though.
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Old 08-04-2011, 05:34 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cashoit View Post
your plugs look fine to me. New plugs dont hurt tho.

First time i did plugs it took me 2.5 hrs. I didnt have the socket with the rubber grommet and it made the job frustrating. Second time i did the job i had the grommet took 1.5 hrs.

EDIT:

Might wanna clean your engine bay too man.
Wow, I feel good now! Took me 1.5 my first time with the tools mentioned above .

I know, I know...that engine bay needs a cleaning badly. There was a huge mouse nest in there when I got it (it had sat for months unused), and that's gone, but it's still pretty bad!
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Old 08-04-2011, 06:13 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by jas1203 View Post
Wow, I feel good now! Took me 1.5 my first time with the tools mentioned above .

I know, I know...that engine bay needs a cleaning badly. There was a huge mouse nest in there when I got it (it had sat for months unused), and that's gone, but it's still pretty bad!

Its a V6. The fronts are easy...maybe 20 or 30 min. But the rears take a lil more time. Plus i had to remove and install strut.

I can do a 4cyl in like 30 min lol
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Old 08-04-2011, 06:35 AM   #14
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Stop being a douche and give the guy some slack. Everyone starts somewhere. Don't matter if there is a sticky out there, who gives a s*** now and days? He feels proud of what he did, enough said.
Me being a douche? Am i being a douche or just being honest? Like i said he gets an a A for effort. But posting a thread on how to change plugs on a 16 year old car.....as if we didnt know......
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Nope, that's just crusher being crusher
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Old 08-04-2011, 06:41 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cashoit View Post
Its a V6. The fronts are easy...maybe 20 or 30 min. But the rears take a lil more time. Plus i had to remove and install strut.

I can do a 4cyl in like 30 min lol
Yup, the fronts took me no time at all...the backs were tougher because of their location...basically had to lean over the engine or fender to get to them. My back hurt a little afterwards.

Quote:
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Me being a douche? Am i being a douche or just being honest? Like i said he gets an a A for effort. But posting a thread on how to change plugs on a 16 year old car.....as if we didnt know......
My thoughts are that there are people of varying skill levels here...heck, I've helped someone change their interior lighting fuse on here before. Sure, some people can do it blindfolded, but what about those who can't troubleshoot even basic issues who might want to at least see what's involved.
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Old 08-04-2011, 07:15 AM   #16
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All this fuss over spark plugs?

I was a n00b once, googled a how to... Learned from there....
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Old 08-04-2011, 08:06 AM   #17
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Just swapped my fuel filter...used an OEM one. Took me about 20-25 minutes. My fuel lines freed up easily.

I don't really notice a power difference, but I'm down to a 1/4 tank, so I'll have to fill it up and see what these two things did to my gas mileage.
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Old 08-04-2011, 08:13 AM   #18
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with the axle nut, using the method from motorvate with a long pole is a guarantee one shot to break loose the axle nut.


Quote:
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If this is difficult i cant wait to see you try and tackle an axle nut or replacing a motor mount
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Old 08-04-2011, 11:03 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crusher103 View Post
At autozone for $5 there are sockets with built in magnets, i have never had difficulty getting my spark plugs out even the first time i tried to change them with my sockets.
+++1 on this magnetic spark plug socket. Much better than the older spark plug sockets with foam or rubber inserts. I've been working on my own cars for decades and the magnetic spark pug socket is a really great improvement. BTW - nice writeup. May be a little redundant but more information is seldom a bad thing.
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Old 08-04-2011, 11:20 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kel456 View Post
with the axle nut, using the method from motorvate with a long pole is a guarantee one shot to break loose the axle nut.
Uh what? I'm sure my bent poles and broken breaker bars have something else to say about that...
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Old 08-04-2011, 11:26 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobflood View Post
+++1 on this magnetic spark plug socket. Much better than the older spark plug sockets with foam or rubber inserts. I've been working on my own cars for decades and the magnetic spark pug socket is a really great improvement. BTW - nice writeup. May be a little redundant but more information is seldom a bad thing.
I might have to invest in one. I have a few deep sockets (like what I used here) which are fine for small engines with exposed plugs...but they're not as good here.

Thanks! Just figured it can't hurt to write down a few things that made my life easier when I did this, maybe they'll be helpful for someone else on their first try.
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Old 08-04-2011, 12:08 PM   #22
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broken breaker bars? the pole will bent a bit of course just slowly put your body weight on the pole. it worked for me one shot on each side and great info from motorvate. i guess it didn't work for you.


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Uh what? I'm sure my bent poles and broken breaker bars have something else to say about that...
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Old 08-04-2011, 12:14 PM   #23
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broken breaker bars? the pole will bent a bit of course just slowly put your body weight on the pole. it worked for me one shot on each side and great info from motorvate. i guess it didn't work for you.
Yup, been there done that, I will not be attacking axle bolts without air tools or a 3/4's breaker bar.

Anywho, back on topic...
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Old 08-07-2011, 11:48 PM   #24
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Tips & Tricks to a Successful Spark Plug Change

> One of my old plugs. I'm not sure how bad they really
> were...maybe someone else can tell by this photo.

That plug looks a whole lot better than mine that just came out.

My wife's car had 65,000 when we bought it, and she was told all services were within 500 miles of when due. It is now approaching 90,000, and while playing with my OBD II reader discovered it had a P0325 code (knock sensor, a code which does not set SES). Regular checks showed it to be happening every week.

P0325 is rarely seen on its own but the knock sensor is cheap so bought one, but then learned on here that it is miserably difficult to replace on a 1999 CA emissions car. Guessing that another cause could be plugs or ignition coils, and there are no other OBD codes decided to change the plugs. Maybe the previous owner saved a few $ by using cheap plugs.

Click the image to open in full size.

These are PFR5G platinums but they don't look like 30,000 miles and I've read on the forum that the factory installed PFR50 plugs.

Bad as they all were, only #3 shows no lightness on the ceramic. Don't know if that hints at an ignition coil being better or worse on that cylinder,

If the P0325s stop happening, then the cause will have been the plugs, whether they are original or not.

> - Anti-seize compound is recommended on the threads of the
> new plugs. I didn't bother...

Maybe it won't matter, according to NGK, "Trivalent Metal Plating provides superior anti-corrosion and anti-seizing properties". You don't read much about Nissans with stripped threads, so there may be some validity to the claim.
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Old 08-08-2011, 03:26 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by jaipea View Post
> One of my old plugs. I'm not sure how bad they really
> were...maybe someone else can tell by this photo.

That plug looks a whole lot better than mine that just came out.

My wife's car had 65,000 when we bought it, and she was told all services were within 500 miles of when due. It is now approaching 90,000, and while playing with my OBD II reader discovered it had a P0325 code (knock sensor, a code which does not set SES). Regular checks showed it to be happening every week.

P0325 is rarely seen on its own but the knock sensor is cheap so bought one, but then learned on here that it is miserably difficult to replace on a 1999 CA emissions car. Guessing that another cause could be plugs or ignition coils, and there are no other OBD codes decided to change the plugs. Maybe the previous owner saved a few $ by using cheap plugs.

Click the image to open in full size.

These are PFR5G platinums but they don't look like 30,000 miles and I've read on the forum that the factory installed PFR50 plugs.

Bad as they all were, only #3 shows no lightness on the ceramic. Don't know if that hints at an ignition coil being better or worse on that cylinder,

If the P0325s stop happening, then the cause will have been the plugs, whether they are original or not.

> - Anti-seize compound is recommended on the threads of the
> new plugs. I didn't bother...

Maybe it won't matter, according to NGK, "Trivalent Metal Plating provides superior anti-corrosion and anti-seizing properties". You don't read much about Nissans with stripped threads, so there may be some validity to the claim.
I have a P0325 non-MIL code, too...I also have P0443 which is showing an MIL. I have absolutely no idea what is causing P0443, and I hear P0325 can be triggered by that sometimes. I couldn't care less, though...I pulled the CEL bulb because I got sick of looking at it. I scan it once in a while to make sure no additional codes show up, but as far as the two in there now...I'll investigate it when I'm bored enough to. Doesn't have any impact on how well it runs or anything so far as I can tell.

As far as not putting anti-seize on mine...like I said, there's no way it'll even become an issue with how many miles I have and how long those plugs will last. I seriously doubt I'll have this vehicle as a daily driver for more than another few months, and after that it'll be the second vehicle driven occasionally until something goes that's too expensive or troublesome to deal with.
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Old 08-08-2011, 03:33 PM   #26
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broken breaker bars? the pole will bent a bit of course just slowly put your body weight on the pole. it worked for me one shot on each side and great info from motorvate. i guess it didn't work for you.
ha, some of those axle nuts are on GOOD. A friend of mine with a Z32 which has a smaller 32mm axle nut not our large 36mm ones broke his breaker bar that had a 9ft extension on it trying to get that thing off.
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Nope, that's just crusher being crusher
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Old 08-08-2011, 03:45 PM   #27
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If this is ur first time doing plugs then great job man.
Instead of pliers next time buy a spark plug socket. It's way easier.
Keep learning how to do things on ur own that way it saves u money and u know the job will be done with care.
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Old 08-14-2011, 04:02 PM   #28
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WOW cant believe no one said blow out the damn holes before you remove the plugs,Your coil boot doesn't keep out EVERYTHING and when you removed you plugs, chances are some sand, dirt and other crap got into your cylinders.

Blow out the tubes with compressed air, or use a drinking straw or bicycle air pump.

When i did my plugs i used a straw to blow out the crap and on EVERY cyl i felt little bits of sand/junk hitting my face. And i consider my engine bay fairly clean so beware and plz add this to your OP
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Old 08-14-2011, 04:22 PM   #29
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Most shops dont "blow out" sand and other small particles when changing plugs. Fact of the matter is if you drive down a dirt road you will probably take in alot more sand and dirt than what is sitting in a sealed plug tube, as long as its not huge metal shavings it really isnt a problem. It will just be blown out when the motor is running.

If you were wondering how your oil get dirty its because of sand and dirt entering the intake and getting caught in the oil its part of the oil's job.
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Crusher doesnt need any more crazy a** ideas... he generates plenty on his own on a daily basis...
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Nope, that's just crusher being crusher
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Old 08-14-2011, 05:20 PM   #30
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Most shops dont "blow out" sand and other small particles when changing plugs. Fact of the matter is if you drive down a dirt road you will probably take in alot more sand and dirt than what is sitting in a sealed plug tube, as long as its not huge metal shavings it really isnt a problem. It will just be blown out when the motor is running.

If you were wondering how your oil get dirty its because of sand and dirt entering the intake and getting caught in the oil its part of the oil's job.
Cheers for good info but if i can take 10 seconds to potentially keep dirt and sand out of my comb chamber... Sign me up.

Puts me at easy a bit though considering i didnt blow out the first few plugs until i felt sand getting crushed in the threads when tightening the new plugs. Then blew out the rest and felt junk blow out and hit my face.
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Old 08-14-2011, 05:22 PM   #31
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It cant hurt to do it but it wont be of much help either.
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Crusher doesnt need any more crazy a** ideas... he generates plenty on his own on a daily basis...
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Nope, that's just crusher being crusher
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Old 08-14-2011, 09:34 PM   #32
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when do you plan to wash that engine bay?
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Old 08-15-2011, 04:46 PM   #33
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is anti seize compound needed then or not ive looked at all the write ups and nobody even mentions it
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Old 08-16-2011, 05:02 PM   #34
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For whatever it's worth, my gas mileage was just a tiny bit over 23 MPG last fillup (after the plugs and filter). I was getting 21.5-22.5 before depending on my driving habits. Definitely an improvement, never saw 23 before driving around here (though I've gotten 28-29 on a couple long highway trips). After a few more fillups, I'll have a better average.
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Old 08-16-2011, 07:53 PM   #35
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For whatever it's worth, my gas mileage was just a tiny bit over 23 MPG last fillup (after the plugs and filter). I was getting 21.5-22.5 before depending on my driving habits. Definitely an improvement, never saw 23 before driving around here (though I've gotten 28-29 on a couple long highway trips). After a few more fillups, I'll have a better average.
Are you stomping on the gas pedal a little more often now ?
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Old 08-17-2011, 06:56 AM   #36
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use antiseize and use a torque wrench.

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is anti seize compound needed then or not ive looked at all the write ups and nobody even mentions it
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Old 08-17-2011, 02:23 PM   #37
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Are you stomping on the gas pedal a little more often now ?
Maybe
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Old 08-17-2011, 02:28 PM   #38
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when do you plan to wash that engine bay?
Need to do an oil change in around 500 miles...probably take the time to do it then.
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Old 08-20-2011, 08:43 PM   #39
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Today I changed spark plugs in my 1997 maxima. I did exactly as per the instructions given on top and everything worked fine. Unfortunately "service engine soon" showed up just after changing the plugs. I checked the codes at autozone and it is showing two codes P1445, P0136. Can anyone please suggest what might have gone wrong. Should I have disconnected battery before changing the plugs? The code P1445 is for "EVAP canister purge volume control valve" and P0136 is for Oxygen sensor defective. Can anything during the spark plug change cause both EVAP valve and O2 sensor fail at the same time? I will appreciate for a quick response.
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Old 08-21-2011, 08:56 AM   #40
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Only input I can give is for the first: I believe P1445 is pointing to the valve that you needed to remove to access one of the plugs. I'm sure someone else will have more input here, but first thing I would check is the obvious--did you plug it back in? Are all hoses connected?
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