I'm tired of breaking spark plug wires every other time I remove them from spark plugs. What are the best tools and techniques for doing better?
I currently grip it by the boot, twist, and pull. If necessary I rock it a little. If that doesn't work then I use channel-lock pliers on the boot, and usually the clip stays stuck to the plug while the rest comes off.
I use dielectric grease whenever I put wires onto plugs and I think it helps. I've never put it on the boot but I put it directly on the spark plug's terminal, which is where it is sticking. I don't want to run it too far down since it's conductive. That only helps if I was the last one to work on it...which is more common now than it used to be.
Cheap spark plug wires probably make it worse.
Some more googling has given me some other ideas:
- In addition to twisting it, push down before pulling up...that might help break any seal.
- There are plenty of spark plug boot pliers, most sell for $10. Looking at them I'm not sure how they'd do any better than channel-locks...they look like they're designed not to rip the rubber boot but not otherwise any better.
- There are spark plug wire puller tools that are just a hook. Again I'm not sure how they'd help when the clip is stuck to the spark plug. This one looks easy enough to make myself:
I use the twist and rock method by hand and that works fine 95% of the time for me. When I do rip the end off, I do it with my bare hand.
Perhaps when you grip the boot with the channel locks, you actually squeeze the metal clip against the grove of the plug so tightly it cannot expand enough to slide off- and that's why the rubber cover comes off and the wire core breaks.
I haven't ever used the special tool, but the type in your pic would likely be the simplest and easiest to use.
I've seen tools that are made specifically for removing spark plug boots. They are made similar to a pair of pliers, but have a rubber coating over the part that grips the boot to prevent the metal from damaging the boot. I'm not sure what they call them, but I'm thinking I've seen them at Harbor Freight.
A little bit of dielectric grease will also prevent them from sticking. Anti seize would probably also work.
Mostly I'm dealing with wires bought and installed by other people or OEM wires. I have gotten Xact from Rockauto and Advance Auto, and recently got a set of BWD Select for the Buick. Hopefully the BWD Select is as premium of a product as claimed...maybe I won't have this problem again.
I always apply dielectric grease to the inside of the boot with a Q-Tip. I only had the problem you describe when I was using cheap wires. For the past 15 years or so I've only bought OEM, or Niehoff (For older vehicles with the distributor ring). Plus, if they break they have a lifetime warranty.
I think you've got about the best method already. Push, twist, rock, pull, snap, "FingPOS!", and get new ones.
If they are not clean you are getting moisture down in there. It's a good idea to put a little silicone grease (not anything that eats rubber!!!) on the contact, and up where the plug makes contact with the valve cover.
Two years ago I realized that I had a bad wire. It was all crunchy and had no conductivity... but the car ran with out missing, so I left it for a year when the problem got worse (it missed at idle in the rain). That time I fixed it with a bit of high voltage wire from an old TV, some heat shrink tube, and most of the original wire. About two weeks ago I replaced them with new (cheapo aftermarket) wires. The "fixed" one was still working, but I felt like 35 bucks was an okay price for a higher quality wire.
Edit: The wires I bought where the cheapest from AutoZone. They seemed fine, even came with pre-greased contacts