How to Clean a Small-Engine Spark Plug

All small engines have a spark plug, and cleaning spark plugs from time to time helps keep your equipment running smoothly. Let's do it!

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Next Project

An hour or less




Less than $20


Knowing how to clean the spark plugs on your small engines will save you the time and expense of traveling to a store to buy replacement plugs, and it could get you up and running when a new plug is not readily available. This cleaning job is simple. It takes less than 15 minutes and saves you the $5 to $10 cost of a new plug.

Tools Required

  • Small brush
  • Spark plug gap tool
  • Spark plug wrench

Materials Required

  • Rubbing alcohol

Project step-by-step (5)

Step 1

Remove the spark plug

  • Remove any shroud or covering over the spark plug and use your fingers to pull off the thick wire that’s pressed onto the top of the plug. If the wire doesn’t pull off, rotating it slightly from side-to-side as you pull will help.
  • Loosen and remove the spark plug using a spark plug wrench.

Spark Plug Cleaning RemovalSteve Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 2

Examine the spark plug

  • Look at the end of the plug that’s normally inside the combustion chamber of the engine.
  • The tip of the spark plug will tell you how cleanly your engine is performing. Dry light gray is ideal. Black fluffy deposits indicate an engine that’s running too rich. Wet oily deposits indicate an engine that’s burning excess crankcase oil or, in the case of two-stroke engines, burning gasoline with too much oil mixed in.

Spark Plug ExaminationSteve Maxwell for Family Handyman