Best Spark Plug Gap Tools: Properly Adjust Your Spark Plug Gap
Re-gap your spark plug with these top spark plug gap tools
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The spark plug gap is where the discharge that ignites the engine’s air-fuel mixture comes from. Your factory spark plug may come preset by the manufacturer, but you need to gap most aftermarket replacements. Our buying guide includes some of the best spark plug gap measuring tools that will help you get the correct gap size.
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Why Buy A Spark Plug Gap Tool?
- Achieve better spark plug performance. The size of the gap of a spark plug determines its firing performance. The gapping tool will help you manually open the gap to the exact factory measurement recommended in your owner's manual. That way, you boost the efficiency of the spark plug in putting out a large enough spark to ignite the air and fuel mixture in your engine.
- Correctly gap your new spark plug. Your original spark plug may come pre-gapped by the manufacturer. These plugs have a designated ignition gap, heat range, and torque that works for your engine. A new spark plug may not have the same gap size, and if you install it with a smaller or larger gap, you may notice a significant decline in your engine’s performance.
- Prevent burnt electrodes. Used spark plugs may have a slight discoloration at the electrode (negative probe). Further inspection may reveal that the gap between the ground electrode and the center electrode is wider. If the gap is not properly aligned, the electrode will continue to discolor and will eventually burn away.
Types of Spark Plug Gap Tools
A feeler gauge is made up of a collection of calibrated metal strips of varying thicknesses. The blades look like a pocket knife when joined together. It's the best tool for measuring and adjusting the spark plug spacing. It’s easy to tell the difference in the blade sizes, and you can easily tell which gap size you are setting your plug gap to. Moreover, feeler gauges are inexpensive, and you can easily replace them in case you lose or bend them.
Ramp Style Gauge
A ramp-style gauge is similar to a silver dollar with size markings running around the edge of its face. The outer edge is the thinnest, and the gauge gets slightly thicker as you move to the middle of the tool. They are the least expensive and most convenient type of gauges since you can resize the spark plug gap and bend the electrode with them. However, they aren't as easy to read as feeler gauges, and they may have accuracy issues since the edges may bend or curve.
Wire-Loop Style Gauge
A wire-loop gauge also looks like a silver dollar coin with the difference being that the outer edge has several wire loops of different thicknesses. It may have a hook (electrode tool) that helps you bend the electrode on the plug. These gauges are just as accurate as feeler gauges and can be used without the help of other measuring instruments just like ramp-style gauges. A wire-type gauge is typically accurate but isn't the best for measuring a spark plug with an odd gap size since it has a limited number of loops.
CTA is a specialty tool manufacturing company that was founded in 1978. It originally started as a distributor of hand tools for other companies but then started making its own tools, which are sold throughout the world. The company produces more than 1,000 tools, including wrenches, spark plug sockets, valve spring compressors, and measuring gauges. Some of its best spark plug gap measuring tools are the CTA Tools Spark Plug Gapper and the CTA Tools Spark Plug Gap Gauge.
A&E tools have more than 80 years of experience in the production of aftermarket automotive accessories. From its headquarters in Racine, Wis., the company supplies the industry with top-notch scanning tools, ratcheting wrenches, locking pliers, battery tools, and measuring gauges. One of its best-selling spark plug gap gauges is the A & E Hand Tool Spark Plug Gap Gauge.
Proto is a Connecticut-based manufacturer of hand tools. It’s a subsidiary company of Stanley Black & Decker, which was founded in 1907. Proto was the first-ever company to make the combination wrench, and some of its other products include ratchets, adjustable wrenches, and spark plug gap adjustment tools. One of its best-rated spark plug calibration tools is the Stanley Proto Spark Plug Gap Set.
Spark Plug Gap Tool Pricing
- Under $5: Most gapping tools are generally inexpensive, and most of the products within this range do not compromise on accuracy. However, only a few offer both the metric and SAE measuring system. Expect to find mostly ramp-style gauges within this price range.
- Over $5: This price range holds all types of measuring tools featuring high-quality steel constructions and easy-to-read measurements. Your decision will largely depend on the tool’s measuring size range and ease of use.
Select a measuring gauge that’s calibrated in the measuring system that you are most comfortable using. You can get one that has both millimeter and inch markings if you don’t want to bother with the conversion. Select one that offers a size range that’s similar to the gap size of your spark plug for utmost accuracy.
The best measuring tools are made of heavy-duty steel construction. They are good enough for measuring iridium and platinum plugs. Steel is strong and more resistant to corrosion. However, there are some steel gauges that may rust with time. You need to get a product from a well-known brand to make sure that you are paying for a quality product that won’t curve, rust, or corrode at the edges.
The best measuring tools have laser-etched markings on the steel. They are easier to read and do not fade out with time. It’s also easy to tell if you are getting the precise measurement since the exact size you need is dented in the steel. You can match it to the gap without using a marker to indicate the points.
- Flexibility: The measuring instrument should be flexible enough to allow you to change from one measuring size to another with ease. The most flexible tools are feeler gauges since blades of different sizes can be pulled out, pushed back, and interchanged with ease.
- Ease of Use: Choose a measuring tool without a complex design. You should ideally know how to set the measurements and set it on the gap or electrode to increase or reduce the gap, respectively. Wire-type gauges are easy to use since you only have to rotate the gauge when measuring.
Best Spark Plug Gap Tool Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Handle your spark plug with care when cleaning or installing it. Dropping or mishandling the spark plug could reduce the gap size. Clean the spark plug with quick-drying alcohol (90 percent) and a soft brush before adjusting the gap size.
- Spark plugs usually have a build-up of white soot on the electrode, which can reduce the size of the gap. If you notice black soot on the electrode, consider buying a new spark plug, since that one has burnt out.
- You shouldn't use too much pressure while bending the electrode. It can be quite delicate and may fracture if bent by more than 0.2 inches with a single push. A fractured electrode may cause engine misfires. Also, be careful not to damage the core (center of the plug) to avoid buying a new one.
Q: What happens if I don’t gap my spark plugs?
A: You may end up with a gap that’s too close and may not deliver the right amount of spark to combust the air-fuel mixture. If that happens, the engine may ignite too soon or skip firing. The spark plug won’t remove the excess heat from the cylinder ignition chamber and transmit it to the engine’s cooling system. If the gap is too wide, the spark plug may not fire at all.
Q: How do I know if the gap needs readjusting?
A: You need a measuring tool with the original gap size for your spark plug. Try and insert the measuring tool in the gap, and if it's a perfect fit, you don't need to readjust the hole. If the measuring tool goes through and leaves some space, then the hole is too wide. If it doesn't go through, then you need to reopen the hole to match the tool size.
Q: Can I use two blades to adjust the gap size?
A: Only if your spark plug has a big gap size, such as 0.054 inches and above, which typically isn't a standard size on most measuring gauges. You can use thin blades of different sizes to get the accurate size of the gap. Just be careful not to break the electrode, since using double blades increases the strength of the tool.
Q: Do I have to replace the measuring tool every time I replace my spark plug?
A: To maintain accuracy, it’s best to replace the measuring tool, especially if you have used it for over 20 measurements. The measuring tool may wear out, curve, or get corroded on its edges, which significantly reduces its accuracy.
Our top pick is the OEMTOOLS Blade Master. It conveniently comes with a penknife design filled with 26 blades of different thicknesses, which will help any professional mechanic to re-gap spark plugs of different sizes. You can also use two blades at the same time if you have a spark plug with an odd gap size.
If you need a cheap yet accurate measuring and adjusting tool, then consider the CTA Tools Spark Plug Gapper. It’s a key-chain measuring tool that offers more than 15 accurate measurements.