How to remove a broken spark plug embedded deep down in the engine block
By Suhulmichael A.
Tigrai Online, April 23 2010
My trustee Toyota runs great for an old car. I have had it for about 9 years now and it is in good shape. Every two years I have to summit it for emission testing in the state where I live. Two years went fast and I need to take my car for an emission test this year before I can renew my registration.
I took it down to the emission testing center but it failed. I knew it wouldn’t pass the first time because the car was way past due for a much needed tune up. So, it wasn’t a big deal when the testing technician told me my car didn’t pass. I knew he would not give me any meaningful advice but I asked him what he thought I should do to get it to pass the emission. His reply was predictable: "sir, I can’t tell you what to do we are not allowed to give out advice; however a general tune up would help you" he said. I said to myself, he is right I will change the oil, the air filter, put premium gas and bring it back. I did all that and took it back but, the car failed for the second time. This time, I was really worried what to do with the car to pass the emission.
I asked some people and everybody had their own idea what I should do but, no one came up with a solid answer. I went to the mechanics and they wanted from $450.00 to $1200.00 to do the work and still it is not guaranteed my car will pass. I decided to Google around and I was overwhelmed with the thousands of results. After a while of sifting through the google jungle I found some hints. It looks like I have to change my car’s spark plugs, so I bought the best spark plugs I can get. The next day my friends and I started changing the spark plugs and when we were changing the last one it broke almost in half. That was a disastrous and costly mistake with no easy solution.
My car now is completely disabled leaving me with no transportation. I went back to the mechanics and they said it will cost me from $1800.00 to $2000.00 dollars to fix it. When I asked why is it so expensive? The lead mechanic said “because we have to take down the head of the engine block, tap out the broken spark plug, install a new head gasket and ……. blah blah blah he kept going on and on making a long list of things that needed to be done. My car is worth about $2800.00, how would I spend that amount of money to fix an old car?
I had no idea what to do when I went to bed and thought about it for a while. The next morning I googled for more Ideas and found out this happens sometimes. Most of the articles I read suggested the only way to get the broken spark plug is to take it to a professional mechanic. But, there were some people who attempted to do it themselves and their ideas ranged from crazy to reasonable. On one of the forums about auto repair one guy wrote a short paragraph how he had the same problem and how he did get it out himself. It made perfect sense to me because I was thinking in a similar way. I decided to give it a try so, I gathered the tools we had in the house and I bought the ones we didn’t. As you can see in the diagram below the tools have to be arranged in a very specific way for this to work.
The above picture shows how the tools should be lined up
1. The three eighth (3/8th) inch Ratchet is shown in both the back view and front view above.
2. A seven sixteenth (7/16th) inch star socket is needed to connect the Ratchet and the six inch extension socket.
3. You need to flip the six inch extension socket up side down so it would fit to the seven sixteenth (7/16th) inch star socket and the screw extractor.
4. A number five screw extractor (easy out) this is the main tool that would do the job.
A needle nose pliers is required to insert the screw extractor to the broken spark plug in the engine block and to remove it after it has extracted the broken piece. The reason is even though the screw extractor fits perfectly to the six inch extension socket, it is not a snap tight fit.
Before I tried to do anything, I cleaned the part of the engine where the spark plug goes with PB blaster and paper towel. Next I sprayed a good amount of PB blaster and waited about twenty five minutes. The PB blaster would loosen the threaded part of the spark plug which is embedded about seven inches deep down in the engine block.
After waiting nervously for half an hour it was time to give it try. First I carefully dropped the number five screw extractor (easy out) using a needle nose pliers right into the center of the broken spark plug. Second I flipped the six inch extension socket and attached it to the number five screw extractor. Third I attached the seven sixteenth (7/16th) inch star socket to the three eighth (3/8th) inch Ratchet then I attached the other end of the seven sixteenth (7/16th) inch star socket to the top of the six inch extension socket.
After all the tools were carefully lined up I started turning the Ratchet counter clockwise or to the left very slowly and steadily. The trick here is to hold the Ratchet and the whole tool assembly perfectly horizontal, don’t push it down or pull it up and take your time. Since the screw extractor is narrow at the tip and gets wider at the top, it will drill down to the broken spark plug as you turn the Ratchet more and more. As the screw extractor goes deeper into the broken spark plug, it unscrews the broken spark plug at the same time. In about two minutes, out comes the nasty broken spark plug. I did it and it didn’t cost me $2000.00 dollars, I spent less than $20.00.
I put in a new spark plug and my car is good as new.
The above picture shows a number five screw extractor (easy out)still attached to the broken piece of the spark plug after I took it out.
In my case the broken part of the spark plug was hollow so I didn’t need to drill a hole. If you need to drill a hole you have to make sure it is absolutely centered and the right size.
I am not a mechanic, I don’t even like to work with cars but drastic problems call for drastic measures so I took a risk. I have to admit my background in engineering gave me a little confidence. On top of that my car is old and is not worth much. If you decide to follow these instructions, you have to know there is a risk you might botch it and damage your car; therefore you will be responsible for your loss. I hope you read this before you spend countless frustrating and stressful hours or spend thousands of dollars. Good luck.