'02 Olds Alero V6 - Spark Plugs, how to reach

Is there a trick to reaching the ones on the far side of the engine? It’s a transverse V6. I have a really long extension bar for my ratchet that doesn’t fit. I could get a smaller one, but I still think it’s really tight (though probably not impossible). I can get my fat hands in there enough to take the wires on/off, but I can’t seem to get the ratchet in there with enough clearance.

Anyone have a tip? Is there some widget that allows me to angle the ratchet (presumably at expense of the force being applied)? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen such a thing, but don’t know what to call it.

You may be thinking of a U-joint type of extension. Only about an inch or so long, but gives you the a bility to work at an angle. I used this to get the rear plugs out of my 67 Mustang with a 390 V-8 in it. If your Alero is that tight, you have my understanding and sympathy.

See here for an example. Scroll down a little until you see the SK 3/8 inch Drive Universal Joint. If it’s REALLY tight, you might to need to put 2 of them together.

The official instructions say to remove the windshield wiper module cover and rotate the engine for access, but don’t say anything about how one is to rotate the engine. :confused:

In general, I can get to any rear bank plugs with the right length extension and a flex-head ratchet. Sometimes it really helps to have a wobble extension, which allows angles like this. On some designs, it can still be a just-barely proposition and a royal pain in the patoot.

Picking the right length extension, standard or wobble, is a matter of trial and error, but sometimes an inch – or even a half inch – makes a world of difference.

For the googlers… The key was to remove the distributor. 2 bolts, 2 nuts. 10mm, 13mm, respectively. Take that off and you can get your hands in there enough to remove stubborn boots and have plenty of room to work the plugs in/out. Also, I found a mirror and a flashlight to be helpful but not strictly necessary.

Okay, except…this vehicle has distributorless ignition and does not have a distributor. Perhaps you removed the ignition coil pack, to which all the spark plug wires are attached?

yes, that thingie. :slight_smile:

If you loosen the front motor mounts (two bolts for the both of them) you should be able to pull on the back of the engine towards you, the engine should rotate, and there is a little tang you can sit a screwdriver or something inside of to hold the engine in this state while you administer to the spark plugs.

Yes, there is a trick to it, I have been trying to find a picture of it on You Tube, but I can’t find anything decent. It should be listed in a Chilton Manual as thats how I figured out how to do these GM cars this way back in '90 something.

You track down the SOB who designed it and force him to do it. :smiley:

Its really not necessary as the little trick takes all of about thirty seconds to pull, and you can have easy access to the back after.

I had a Plymouth Duster that had a transverse V6. My technique for changing the plugs may be a little dangerous, but it’s easier and quicker than removing stuff.

Mine was a stick shift, but an automatic should work too. Park the car on dry concrete or pavement, put the tranny in first if manual or park if auto, then hook a come-a-long to the frame of the car and to something solid. I always used a big oak tree next to my drive way. With the hood up, start winching the cable. The torque from the wheels through the tranny will rotate the engine on the rubber mounts. On my Duster, it didn’t take much. Just another inch of clearance was all I needed.

I’m pretty sure I winched it from the front, but if doing so rotates your engine the wrong way, turn the car around and winch it backwards.

I highly recommend you do this with someone nearby in case something happens. But, I’ve done it a few times with no problems at all.

No, this approach will only work with a manual transmission that is in gear. An automatic in park is essentially in neutral, and even shifted into gear will not actually engage the gear without the engine running, and even if it were engaged the slippage through the torque converter would have the same effect as if it were in neutral. There will not be a connection between the wheels and the engine in an automatic.

I used the same technique on my 1991 Buick Regal V6. I put it in park,removed one set of bolts from the dog bone, pushed from the rear, rotated the engine, and had someone put the bolts in the dog bone to hold the engine in place. It was an automatic.

Not to be a smartass or anything, but the real trick is this: Just forget about the spark plugs and don’t ever change them! Modern cars really don’t need them replaced. In fact, unless something specifically goes wrong, modern cars don’t ever need tuneups at all!

I love instructions like that. I see them in shop manuals all the time. "To replace [widget], first remove engine. . . "

Yep, that’s a big help.

If this were actually true, do you think that car companies that are so eager to reduce maintenance costs that they don’t even have a transmission fluid change interval would still have a spark plug replacement interval? I don’t.

I’ll agree that on cars equipped with 100,000 mile platinums, you can probably run quite a long time past even that interval, and so many car owners can very well get away with never changing them, but no spark plug lasts forever. In my book, I think it’s a good idea to change them more frequently because, one, they’re less likely to get siezed up, and also because taking out the plugs and looking at them every once in a while is never a bad thing. Of course I do say this as someone who hasn’t owned car with miserable inaccessable spark plugs in a while.

You can never have too many ratchet drivers, extensions or swivel joints. All mine are locking so the socket doesn’t pull off in some remote nook although duct tape works well in a pinch.

100,000 miles is about the limit and if you wait longer than that it’s going to be a bitch getting them out.

If you’re going to loosen the mounts I would jack the engine up on one side with a floor jack and a piece of plywood against the transmission pan.

Ah, yet another reason I love my 5VZ-FE (one of Toyota’s V6s). It’s not technically a hemi, but the plugs stick up through the valve covers like they do on a typical hemi.

So when did you make that up?

Modern cars absolutely do need to have their spark plugs replaced. The useful life of the plug will vary with its type (conventional, platinum, iridium, etc.) and the engine design. Not only will spark plugs eventually degrade to the point of misfire, in enough cases to matter they can overstress (read ruin) coils and sometimes ignition modules. “Saving” on spark plug replacement is a false economy, sometimes of epic proportions.

Define tune up.