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Change your spark plugs yourself to maintain peak performance and high gas mileage. In most cases it's a simple job as long as you have the right tools.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

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You already know that spark plugs wear out. Well, “burn up” is more like it, because when a spark jumps the gap between two electrodes, it actually burns off (erodes) minute amounts of metal from each one. Over time, the gap grows to the point where the spark can no longer make the jump. That’s when you get misfires, poor gas mileage, lousy acceleration and, ultimately, the dreaded “Check Engine” light. Read on to learnhow to change spark plugs. We’ll also explainwhen to change spark plugs.

To keep vehicles running at peak performance for longer service intervals, many car manufacturers install extended-life spark plugs. Because their electrodes are coated with precious metals that have higher melting points, these plugs can sometimes maintain a precise gap for up to 100,000 miles. But even with higher melting points, metals like yttrium (2,779 degrees F), platinum (3,222 degrees F) and iridium (4,429 degrees F) can’t stave off erosion forever. The electrodes eventually erode, increasing the gap, and, well, you’ve already heard the rest of this story.

If you’ve changed your own spark plugs in the past but are intimidated by the newer-style coil-on-plug (COP) ignition systems (pretty much the standard since 2000), it’s time to reconsider. COP systems may look complicated, but they’re actually easier to work on than the older, distributor-based systems. Sure, you’ll have to learn a few new tricks, but the basics are still the same.

Changing spark plugs takes about an hour (for a four-cylinder engine) and will save you at least a hundred bucks in labor. You can use the same old tune-up tools (ratchet, spark plug socket and gap gauge). You should use a torque wrench to tighten the plugs. But there’s a way to get around that if you don’t have one. Just follow these steps and you’ll be tuned up in no time.

Spark plug misunderstanding

When you change the spark plugs, don’t be shocked to see the center electrode “worn down” to the size of a pin. If your car was equipped with fine-wire iridium spark plugs, the center electrode on those plugs can be as small as 0.4 mm when new. You’re probably used to the much larger 2.5-mm diameter on a traditional copper spark plug center electrode.

We talked with Dave Buckshaw, Technical Trainer for Autolite Spark Plugs, to get the skinny on the latest spark plug technologies. Dave’s advice was simple: Regardless of which brand you buy, spend the extra money for fine-wire iridium-tipped spark plugs. These plugs cost a little more than platinum plugs, but they last longer and provide a much better spark.

For longer spark plug life, buy an iridium plug with a platinum-enhanced side electrode. They’re available at all auto parts stores.

Unlike manufacturers’ guidelines for oil changes, which are overly cautious, the recommendations for spark plug replacement intervals tend to be overly optimistic. For example, if you’ve already got 80,000 miles on a set of 100,000-mile plugs, they’re 80 percent worn and beginning to take a toll on engine performance and gas mileage. Worse yet, after that many miles, spark plugs have a tendency to seize in the cylinder head. Removing a seized plug can be a costly job, especially if the threads in the cylinder head are damaged in the process. When you consider the gas mile-age falloff and the possibility of seized plugs, early replacement makes sense.


J.P. Cormier

Multi award winning folk music artist

J.P. Cormier

“…one of the most important guitar players of his generation.” Chet Atkins, referring to JP Cormier
To date he has won thirteen East Coast Music Awards and one Canadian Folk Music Award.

About JP Cormier

At the age of 5, JP began teaching himself to play the guitar. At 9, he won his first guitar competition against 30 other players 4 times his age. By his mid teens, he was playing a variety of stringed instruments, including the fiddle, mandolin and banjo. He recorded his first album of bluegrass instrumentals at 16, which led to 10 years of living and performing in the US. His time there included many memorable nights at the Grand Ole Opry with artists such as Waylon Jennings, Marty Stuart, Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Charlie Louvin and Vince Gill.

Since returning to Canada, JP has released over a dozen award-winning albums. His impressive body of work has earned him a loyal fan base and multiple award nominations and wins. He continues to dazzle and delight audiences while performing 250 shows a year. JP’s complete bio can be viewed here.

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Stress is one of the biggest reasons teachers leave the classroom early, and for school leaders, helping colleagues deal with stress can be a key factor in staff retention.

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One way of reducing stress is to remove the factors that cause stress, whether they are workload, unrealistic expectations or pressure from parents.

But in the absence of that, there are steps school leaders can take to help their staff become more resistant to the effects of stress. By building resilience they can help colleagues deal with stress while minimizing the impact on their emotional, mental and physical well-being.

Being resilient does not mean being impervious to stress, but it does mean adapting to and coping with stressful situations. It is not an inherent quality: it can be acquired through learned behaviours, thoughts and actions.

Among the ways of building resilience to stress are:

Maintaining and forming relationships: relationships are often among the first things to suffer when someone is under stress, but good relationships are critical for mental and physical health. Relationships are also a good source of support and a sympathetic ear, while offering help and support to others can make you feel good about yourself;

Exercise: physical exertion helps counteract the effects of stress and can also lead to better sleep;

Relaxation: easier said than done when you’re stressed, but setting aside some time to unwind can be a good way of easing the pressure. Whether it’s yoga or meditation, or even a walk in the park, time out of a normal busy schedule can help you get a new perspective;

Having fun: laughter can reduce stress and help us feel more positive. Even if you don’t feel ‘in the mood’, making an effort to do fun activities, particularly when they are with friends, can mitigate the effects of stress;

Positive attitude: focusing on how things could be better in the future, rather than the seemingly insurmountable problems in the present, can make them feel less daunting. Similarly, changing the way you look at a situation can take away some of its power to frighten you, while it could also be helpful to look at the positive things in your life, rather than just the negative ones;

Taking control: people who are stressed often feel at the mercy of events beyond their control, but even initiating small actions can give you a sense of empowerment, which can give you the confidence to take bigger steps;

Acceptance: some things you may not be able to change, at least in the short term, so instead of worrying about things that are beyond your control, focus on those things you can alter;

Keep working at it: resilience takes time to build, so it’s important not to be discouraged if you don’t see the effects immediately. Instead, persevere with the strategies you find work best, and be assured that resilience is not innate and is something that can be learned.

The American Psychological Association publishes some useful advice on dealing with stress and building resilience. Sufferers should also consult a doctor if it is affecting their mental or physical well-being.

But it is important to recognize that stress does not have to take a heavy toll. It may be hard to avoid, but it can be tamed.

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Being able to bounce back from devastation may seem like a superpower, but there are several things you can do to prepare in advance.

[Photo: Flickr user Kory Westerhold ]
4 minute Read

Some people just seem to bounce back from whatever life throws at them. Whether it’s illness, loss, or tragedy, they do the tough work of picking themselves up, dusting themselves off, and carrying on—even when it seems impossible.


If you’ve ever thought, “I could never do that” when looking at one of these apparent “superheroes,” don’t be so sure. It’s actually possible to build resilience to make yourself better able to bounce back from even the most difficult times.

Frank Niles, PhD

“It’s the ability to get back in the game after you’ve had some sort of failure. And indeed, we can learn to become more resilient,” says social scientist and leadership expert Frank Niles, PhD . Niles says there are a number of science-backed areas people can address to help them be more resilient.

Here are some ways you can shore up your “resilience bunker” to better prepare for when tough times strike.

Niles says the concept of “preparing” for bad times often throws people off. “They’re like, ‘Wait a minute. A disastrous change is like losing a job. How do I prepare for that?'” It starts with mind-set, he says. Accept that change is inevitable, and realize that you can choose how you react, and whether you decide to be optimistic. People with positive outlooks tend to have greater resilience and financial and business success.

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When possible, lay the groundwork for recovery before you need to: Keep your skills up to date to stay in demand in the market, have a financial reserve in case of job loss or illness, etc. Of course, tragedy or devastating events can disrupt the best-laid plans, but developing the right mind-set—including the ability to reframe negative events —and taking action to mitigate potential damage where you can may go a long way in helping you recover in a worst-case scenario.

“Your ability to become and remain resilient is directly related to your emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your mood and emotions, be aware of the moods and emotions of others, and to use this awareness to guide your behavior. Emotional intelligence determines how you interact with others, manage relationships, stay motivated, make decisions, manage your emotions, influence others, and much more,” says organizational communication and leadership expert Diamoire Jewels 18kt Yellow Gold 034ct Pave Diamond Infinity Earrings I BQGdeUIKy2
, author of Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience and Triumph .

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