Water Intrusion on a Spark Plug

Tiny
WORDLOVER
  • MEMBER
  • 2000 KIA SEPHIA
  • 1.8L
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 99,000 MILES
Problem: Sputtering at idle. When accelerated, sputtering stops.

This car has been babied for 6 years, well cared for. I don't drive it more than a few miles a week (so it doesn't get hot, which rules out overheating or loss of coolant). If anything goes awry, like loss of power (needed a new battery) or check engine light (just a quirk, it was re-set), I fly to my long-time mechanic.

It is parked under a carport, protected from the sun. It rarely rains and when it does, I don't drive. So, there's no water jumping up into the spark plug wires making its way to the spark plugs.

Was the check engine light on? NO
Was there white smoke coming out of the exhaust? NO
Is the sputter at idle intermittent or does it happen every time? Happened twice during the two 10-minute times I drove it, and the 2nd time is when I drove to the mechanic.
Does your car overheat? NO The engine did not get hot. It never does.
Have you had to add coolant to the radiator? NO
Has your car been exposed to water? NO
Did your mechanic ask you any of these questions? NO

P0300 showed up on the diagnostics. Mechanic pulled the plugs, and said 3 (yes 3) plugs showed "water intrusion." This condition wasn't listed in your spark plug ailments (wet with gas or oil).

There's more to this. Let's start here and please tell me what you see. If you can show the photos to a mechanic who has not seen this email, I'd appreciate that, too, so that his or her opinion will not be colored by the back story.

Thanks.

wordlover

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Saturday, August 9th, 2014 AT 7:46 AM

9 Replies

Tiny
HMAC300
  • EXPERT
It probably fouling from driving only a couple of miles a day which is very hard on a motor. It should be driven at least 10 miles prior to shutting motor off because gas infliltrates the oil and thins it out. If you cannot do that then drive the car on the eway about 20-25 miles once a week to get the excess fuel out and the car will heat up to normal temp
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Saturday, August 9th, 2014 AT 9:56 AM
Tiny
WORDLOVER
  • MEMBER
Thank you HMac300.

Thank you for looking very carefully at the 3 photos of the four spark plugs.

You say, "It [is] probably fouling from driving only a couple of miles a day."

1. Can you please tell me what kind of fouling you see?

Is it oil and/or gas and/or water fouling, please?

2. How many spark plugs are affected, in your opinion?

3. Would replacing the affected (or maybe even all) the spark plugs and wires---at a minimum---be a reasonable next step, followed by driving it more to get the excess fuel out?

Thanks again, HMac300!
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Saturday, August 9th, 2014 AT 11:52 AM
Tiny
HMAC300
  • EXPERT
It is probably gas and oil fouling which usually happens on cars drive n 10 miles or less one way. Replace all the spark plugs.
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Saturday, August 9th, 2014 AT 4:53 PM
Tiny
2CARPROS MIKE
  • ADMIN
All of the plugs look fouled, two of them seem to be worse than the others and would certainly cause misfiring. Replacing all of them is a great start. If you have never changed the plug wires a complete tune up should help a lot. Also have the throttle bore cleaned as well.
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Saturday, August 9th, 2014 AT 6:28 PM
Tiny
HMAC300
  • EXPERT
One thing about short trips on a motor. The gas builds up and gets into the oil so while also replacing the plugs and wires start changing your oil more often say at 3000 mile interval along with an oil filter so you can get the fuel out of the oil as well as driving on eway like I had said previously. Doing that will let your engine perform much better.
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Sunday, August 10th, 2014 AT 4:45 AM
Tiny
CADIEMAN
  • MEMBER
THE WATER IS COMING FROM A LEAKING HEAD GASKET. LOOK UNDER THE OIL CAP. DO YOU SEE ANY JELLY SUBSTANCE THEIR? YOU CAN BUY ANTI FOULING ADAPTERS. THEY SCREW ON THE SPARK PLUGS TO KEEP THEM FROM FOULING OUT.
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Sunday, August 10th, 2014 AT 1:00 PM
Tiny
WORDLOVER
  • MEMBER
Thank you all for your responses, even though they are different, so I don't know what to do or think. Still yours are not the only opinions I have sought in my exhaustive quest to figure out what my mechanic did.

Cadieman, the mechanic did not mention, nor say on the work order, that he removed the oil cap. I will try to get someone to do that.

EVERYONE I've shown the plugs to, whether master mechanics or parts salesperson, whether in person or in an online forum, EVERYONE has an entirely different opinion of what the issue is and how to solve it. That is not a criticism. It is just a fact. And it's driving me nuts.

Every time I ask this question, I get new answers. And then I do more and more research and get even more confounding information. I'm at my wits' end.

The most consistent response, however, is that 2 of the 4 plugs look like they have gas/oil fouling, but not how it happened (like HMac300 said). Most opinions are that the other 2 plugs look fine. They suggested that a good start would be to replace all the plugs and wires, followed by a tune up if necessary, just like you said, Mike.

But HMac300, I gotta tell you, man, your reply makes absolutely the most sense to me. I DO only drive a few miles a week, and so the car's temp doesn't go high enough to reach that important temperature necessary to burn these residues off, right? And, since I've not gotten to that point, nearly for years, these plugs show up as they do and need to be replaced. My money is on you HMac. But there is more to this.

And that is not what my mechanic said and not what he did.

Instead, after he determined the plugs had water intrusion, he "pressure tested cooling system" as the next step and this showed that "cylinders 1, 2 and 3 are leaking coolant."

So, my next questions are:

1. If those 3 cylinders were so damaged, wouldn't that show up as codes P0301, P0302 and P0303 on the scanner? You know, as opposed to the original reading of P0300?

2. How does coolant get inside the cylinders?

3. Wouldn't there be several tell-tale signs of this "coolant in the cylinders issue?" Like white smoke or overheating, which was not the case?

There is more to this, of course, but I shall wait for your learned and wise replies, and then I'll drop the water (intrusion) balloon.

Thanks!

Wordlover
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Sunday, August 10th, 2014 AT 6:23 PM
Tiny
HMAC300
  • EXPERT
Misfires which are the codes you mentioned could or could not show up on a scanner but with a leaking head gasket you would use coolant which you said is not the case in your first question. True it doesn 't heat up enough to get actually warm. A car engine has to go about 10 miles each direction to sufficiently warm up to get rid of condensation and the like. Do what I said in first reply and you should be ok. If you notice water or coolant useage then you can try one of the head gasket sealers on the market. One thing about parts people most only know parts not what is wrong with a car they haven't done it for a living like a pro mechanic has. Same thing for the forums, they have a lot of good things there but it's what fixed THEIR car and it may have not had the same problem. Finally coolant gets into the cylinders because of head gasket to block and aluminum head, the aluminum moves at a different rate than cast iron which the block is in most cases and over time cause a leak andit will get into cylinders. With every mechanic you will probably get different OPINIONS for various reasons. Plugs nd wires are a cheap fix and if work s be happy. If not then do something else.
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Sunday, August 10th, 2014 AT 6:34 PM
Tiny
CADIEMAN
  • MEMBER
COOLANT GETS INTO THE CYLINDERS DUE TO A AGING HEAD GASKET! IT'S GOING TO KEEP GETTING WORSE UNTIL YOU FINALLY ARE BLOWING OUT GRAY SMOKE ONE DAY. MIKE ASK ME TO STEP IN HERE I'M JUST TRYING TO HELP.
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Sunday, August 10th, 2014 AT 8:04 PM

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