Sparked for life?

Q&A with Sharon Peters


Are there really, as my brother insists, “lifetime” sparkplugs these days?


Sort of, if not exactly. For quite some time most manufacturers have recommended changing spark plugs — most often of the traditional copper sort — every 15,000 to 40,000 miles (depending on carmaker and model) to keep performance at its best and to ensure you’re not caught off-guard with a car that won’t turn over. There are, however, also long-life spark plugs, often platinum, double platinum or iridium plugs, that cost a little more and that can function well for up to 100,000 miles.


There have been so many auto safety recalls in the last couple of years, and I know there have been fines issued against carmakers that haven’t fessed up fast enough to the feds. What’s the “timely,” reporting timeframe, according to the law?


Manufacturers must notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration within five days of determining that there is a known safety defect or that the vehicle doesn’t comply with federal motor vehicle safety standards. The car manufacturer is also required by law to promptly conduct a recall.

Recalls are not rare; fines, however, are definitely not levied every day.

In the decades since the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was enacted in 1966 and the Department of Transportation’s NHTSA was given the authority to establish safety standards and to require manufacturers to recall vehicles that have safety-related defects or don’t meet safety standards, more than 390 million cars, trucks, buses, recreational vehicles, motorcycles and mopeds have been recalled.

There have also been recalls on 46 million tires, 66 million pieces of motor vehicle equipment, and 42 million child safety seats because of safety defects.

In 2010 Toyota paid $48.8 million in fines (a record) for its handling of pedal entrapment issues and other issues. And at the end of 2012, Toyota was ordered to pay about $17.5 million for not promptly recalling Lexus vehicles when it learned the floor mat could jam the gas pedal and cause the car to accelerate.

Other carmakers have been levied lesser fines for safety-related problems.

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