People call an orange spark a ‘Weak Spark.’ It means a spark plug has insufficient electrical current for one or more reasons.
Mechanics confirm the presence of a weak spark by performing an ignition test, which involves the following:
- Park the car and turn it off.
- Open the hood and find the ignition coil. The location will depend on the model. Wikihow encourages consumers to find a distributor. If you identify the wire that doesn’t connect to a spark plug, you can follow it to the ignition coil.
- Select a plug and remove the wire connecting the component to the distributor cap. Apply caution, especially if your car was running a few minutes ago. The metal sections are hot. If you can’t wait for the vehicle to cool, use a reliable set of gloves.
- Use a socket wrench to remove the spark plug. Use a clean cloth to cover the cavity. This keeps debris out.
- Reconnect the spark plug to the distributor by reattaching it to the spark plug wire. Insulated tools will protect you from electrocution during this stage.
- Place the plug’s threaded head against any metallic surface on the engine.
- Disable the fuel pump.
- Crank the engine by turning the key in the ignition. Because you need to observe the spark plug, ask a friend to turn the key.
- You should observe a blue spark bright enough for you to see during the day. If you have a weak spark, you will see it here. The spark will take on an orange color.
- The absence of a spark is even more concerning because it points to a dead ignition coil.
Is Orange Spark Bad?
The spark plug ignites the explosive process that allows an engine to move a car. Therefore, the strength of the spark matters. A weak spark may point to a compromised ignition system. Don’t be surprised if the car misfires or refuses to start.
Even if the car starts and moves, you should diagnose an orange spark just in case it creates additional complications down the line.
What Causes Orange Spark?
Orange sparks don’t materialize randomly. They have specific sources. If you can identify the cause of an orange spark, you can solve the problem. The potential culprits include:
1). Thick Deposition On Spark Plug
You should make the spark plugs your first consideration. Inspect these components. What do you see? A rusted fuel system will add a red tinge to the plug. Oil contamination will leave black deposits.
Mechanics associate a yellow color with leaded gas. Interestingly, Underhood Service doesn’t expect consumers to worry about every color they see on the plug. Shades of brown and gray are acceptable.
You expect to see some signs of wear and tear on a spark plug in a car that accrues a few miles over the weeks and months. Thick deposits, corrosion, and cracks should concern you.
2). Wear & Tear Spark Plug Wires
You can’t afford to ignore defective plug wires. If you do, your vehicle’s acceleration and fuel efficiency will suffer. Some laypeople will inspect cars with a weak spark in the hopes of seeing obvious signs of wear and tear, such as cracking on the wires.
They are not wrong. The engine’s parts have sharp edges that produce cuts and tears when they rub against the plug wires. However, if your spark plug wires seem healthy, don’t forget to look for loose connections.
The engine produces vibrations. Those vibrations can compromise the link between the wires and spark plugs. This can damage the ignition coil in the long run. The engine’s heat can produce similar results.
Although, in this case, the heat will prevent the wire from seating securely and performing optimally by burning the insulation and boots. The voltage will jump to the ground. If a physical inspection has produced inconclusive results, test the wires with a multimeter.
Check the manual or the manufacturer’s website to determine the correct resistance. Some experts expect to see a maximum resistance of 12,000 ohms per foot, but this doesn’t apply to every car.
You can also apply a 12V light test. Move the test light along the wire to see if a spark jumps between the two. This will show you whether or not the plug wires have broken insulation.
The ignition test detailed above will also help you. An orange spark can point to compromised plug wires. Many experts use a spark tester during this procedure.
3). Defective Ignition Coil
Plug wires and ignition coils are not the same. Plug wires run between the coil and the plug. The ignition uses a battery’s electrical energy to send a high-voltage current to the spark plug. Defective ignition coils attract various side effects, including engine misfires, poor fuel economy, exhaust backfiring, etc. Use the following procedure to test the coil:
- Remove the ignition coil. The manual will tell you how to do this.
- Find the coil’s resistance specifications. Each coil has unique specifications. You’re trying to determine whether the coil is outside those specifications. Once again, the manual will tell you everything you need to know.
- Get an ohmmeter and touch its leads to the distributor’s electrical contacts. Record the coil’s primary winding resistance.
- While holding a lead from the ohmmeter against one of the external contacts, touch the other lead to the central contact and record the secondary winding’s resistance.
- Compare the readings to the specifications in the manual. Ignition coils are too delicate. Any slight difference proves that you need new coils.
Watch this video to know more in detail!
4). Bad Distributor Rotor and Cap
Check the distributor cap. Is the surface clean? Do you see corrosion or rust? What about the rotor? Does it have carbon deposits or burn marks? Better yet, is it secure? The distributor cap and rotor work together to send electricity to the spark plugs.
Bad distributor caps and rotors can lead to engine misfires. The car may refuse to start. If it starts, the engine light will stay on. Expect a lot of clicking, tapping, and spattering noises. My-Car-Makes-Noise expects a bad distributor to destroy the engine in the long run because misfires and backfires increase the cylinder and piston wear and tear.
How To Fix It?
Make sure you test all the potentially faulty components. You don’t want to waste money replacing a part that isn’t dead. Once you find the problem, you can apply the following solutions:
- Replace defective spark plugs. You don’t have to wait for them to die. Honda expects its customers to replace their spark plugs every 30,000 miles. The quality matters. A paper in Mobility and Vehicle Mechanics (Rosen Hristovm, Radostin Dimitrov, Krasimir Bogdanov) identified Bosch as one of the best brands because it has very low hydrocarbon emissions. However, you should ask the car’s manufacturer for a suitable recommendation.
- Clean dirty plugs. You don’t have to replace dirty spark plugs. It is enough to remove the carbon deposits.
- Replace a bad distributor cap. Mechanic Base expects a new one to cost you $130 or less. That includes the cost of labor. Depending on the severity of the corrosion, you may need to replace the entire distributor to solve the problem. But replacing a distributor means configuring its timing to match the engine’s specifications.
- Replace bad spark plug wires.
- Replace faulty ignition coils.
What Are The Risks Associated With Orange Spark?
Your concern shouldn’t be the orange spark but the consequences associated with the factors that cause a weak spark. That includes poor acceleration, poor fuel economy, popping sounds, and rough idling.
You can do lasting damage to the engine. This is why laypeople are discouraged from ignoring an orange spark. A blue spark is good because it shows you have the correct fuel/air mixture and sufficient power. An orange spark points to many potential faults and defects.