Looking for an update? Skip the phones, check your order status online.

Spark Plug Ground Electrode Designs

Ground Electrode Location on a Spark Plug

Ground electrodes come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Standard spark plugs typically feature a traditional ground electrode. Ground electrode variations include angled, cut back, DiamondFIRE, DFE (double fine wire electrode), flat, hybridinverted v-tip, low-angled, multi-ground, oversized, PSPE (projected square platinum electrode), semi-surface discharge, shield strap, side discharge, slant, squaresurface discharge, surface gap, taper cut, tapered v-profile, trapezoid cut, trimmed side, U-groove, v-trimmed, and wedge shaped.

 

Search for spark plugs by specifications and dimensions

 

Standard Spark Plug Ground Electrode

Angled Ground Electrode

 

An angled ground electrode serves a similar function to a cut back ground, fine wire ground and taper cut ground electrode. The angle electrode design exposes more of the flame kernel to the air/fuel mixture, improving combustion and reducing quenching.

Cut Back Ground Electrode

A cut back ground electrode serves a similar function to a taper cut ground, fine wire ground and angled ground electrode. All trimmed designs have the same purpose: to reduce quenching and shadowing by reducing the surface area between the electrodes which could hinder the growth of the flame nucleus.

E3 Single Prong PlugE3 2 Prong Spark Plug E3 3 Prong Spark Plug

E3 has taken multiple spark plug design features, such as cut back ground electrodes, sharp edges and surface gaps, and combined them to create a new ground electrode design.

Surface gap plugs present the flame kernel to the piston (or rotor) more directly, reducing the travel time from the spark to the combustion gases.  Cut back ground electrodes decrease the obstruction of the flame kernel to the air/fuel mixture, preventing quenching.

E3's DiamondFIRE design features an open section at the top of the ground electrode, combining the benefits of additional sharp electrode edges with a cut-back electrode design. The increase of available edge-to-edge surface area encourages a more rapid spark discharge while also reducing quenching and shadowing. 

Double Fine Wire Electrode Spark Plug

Double fine wire electrode (DFE) spark plugs apply a fine wire pin to the ground electrode in addition to a fine wire center electrode.

A smaller electrode requires less voltage to jump the gap, resulting in fewer misfires, which translates to increased fuel economy and horsepower. A smaller electrode also reduces flame quenching.  

Reducing the electrode size on a standard nickel plug would result in a drastically shortened life span, so smaller electrodes require exotic metals such as platinum or iridium to maintain (and at times surpass), the longevity of a traditional spark plug.  

 

Flat Ground Electrode

A flat ground electrode is shorter and closer to the metal shell and center electrode, providing a faster path to transfer heat away from the ground electrode. Its low profile design is resistant to vibration.

Hybrid Spark Plug

Developed for engines that tend towards increased carbon depositing as a result of their design, hybrid spark plugs have a standard ground electrode as well as two smaller ground electrodes on each side. When the insulator becomes clogged with carbon, the ignition voltage jumps over to the side electrodes, enabling the plug to operate even under severe conditions. Once the plug has reach operation temperature and the deposits are removed, it returns to "normal" operation, with the spark jumping between the center and main ground electrode.

Low Angled Ground Electrode

A low angled ground electrode is shorter and closer to the metal shell and center electrode, providing a faster path to transfer heat away from the ground electrode. Its low profile design is resistant to vibration.

A smaller electrode requires less voltage to jump the gap, resulting in fewer misfires, which translates to increased fuel economy and horsepower. A smaller electrode also reduces flame quenching.  

Reducing the electrode size on a standard nickel plug would result in a drastically shortened life span, so smaller electrodes require exotic metals such as platinum or iridium to maintain (and at times surpass), the longevity of a traditional spark plug.  

 

Multi Ground Spark Plug Multi Ground Spark Plug with 3 Ground Electrodes Multi Ground Spark Plug with 4 Ground Electrodes

Some engine designs require the spark plugs have the ground electrode placed to the side of the center electrode rather than below as on a traditional plug. This may be for combustion chamber design as in the case of a rotary engine, or a surface gap design as used in leaner air/fuel ratio’s on industrial engines.

The side electrode design tends to wear faster than a traditional plug. Erosion at these points creates a larger gap between the center and ground electrodes, causing plug misfire. Thus, if the engine design requires a side discharge plug, more ground electrodes extend plug life.

Multi-Ground plugs are offered in 2, 3 and 4 ground electrode designs.

It is important to note that multi-ground does not mean multi-spark, there will still only be one spark at a time.

Caution should be made in selecting a "high performance" plug.  If your car came OE with a multi-ground plug, your engine will likely wear through single electrode plugs, especially fine wire plugs, at a rapid rate.

Oversized Ground Electrode

Oversized electrodes are designed to withstand higher thermal and mechanical shock inherent with high compression motors.

Projected Square Platinum Electrode

Projected square platinum electrode (PSPE) spark plugs apply a square shaped tip of platinum to the end of a shortened ground electrode.

This ground electrode shape allows the spark to be focused between the fine-wire center electrode and projecting platinum ground electrode. A smaller electrode requires less voltage to jump the gap, resulting in fewer misfires, which translates to increased fuel economy and horsepower. A smaller electrode also reduces flame quenching.  

 

Semi Surface Discharge Spark Plug

In a semi-surface discharge design, the voltage path skims across the surface of the insulator. When the spark discharges, it burns off any carbon build-up. The wide gap improves ignition capability and is less sensitive to gap growth. Additionally the concave cut in the ground electrode promotes even gap growth.

Semi Surface Discharge Sequence

Shield Strap Ground Electrode

Autolite uses a one-piece ground shield strap design on their HT (High-Thread) plug for improved heat transfer.

Side Discharge Ground Electrode

Side discharge ground electrodes move the ground electrode to the side of the center electrode, reducing the obstruction of the flame kernel to the air/fuel mixture, preventing quenching, and presenting the flame kernel to the piston (or rotor) more directly, reducing the travel time from the spark to the combustion gases.

Slant Ground Electrode

A slant ground electrode is shorter and closer to the metal shell and center electrode, providing a faster path to transfer heat away from the ground electrode. Its low profile design is resistant to vibration.

Square Platinum Electrode

A thin square pad of platinum is welded to some ground electrodes to ensure durability.

Surface Discharge Spark Plug

True surface discharge or surface gap spark plugs have no side electrode, instead utilizing the entire face of the plug shell as a ground to ignite. Thus the gap remains constant through the plugs entire life. They have no given heat range as the electrode design prevents the firing tip from overheating, and the insulator is flush with the metal shell to dissipate heat quickly. Therefore, these plugs are susceptible to fouling in cold applications.


Surface discharge plugs may be required in high compression applications or with high energy ignition systems. They are also used in rotary engines as they present a flush face to the combustion chamber, eliminating interference with an electrode tip and exposing the spark to the entire air/fuel mixture for improved combustion.

Surface Discharge Sequence

Many variations of the surface discharge plug exist, including the semi-surface discharge, intermittent gap, supplementary gap, and surface air gap plug. All designs create a spark along the insulator nose to remove carbon build-up.

Taper Cut Ground Electrode

A taper cut ground electrode serves a similar function to a cut back ground, fine wire ground and angled ground electrode. Also known as an inverted v-tip, tapered v-profile, trimmed side, v-trimmed or wedge shaped ground electrode, all trimmed designs have the same purpose: to reduce quenching and shadowing by reducing the surface area between the electrodes which could hinder the growth of the flame nucleus.

Trapezoid Cut Ground Electrode

A trapezoid cut ground electrode is a variation of a taper cut ground, which serves a similar function to a cut back ground, fine wire ground and angled ground electrode. All trimmed designs have the same purpose: to reduce quenching and shadowing by reducing the surface area between the electrodes which could hinder the growth of the flame nucleus.

U-Groove Spark Plug

U-groove spark plugs are a patented design by Denso to improve ignitability and reduce quenching.

The U-groove cut in the ground electrode gives room for the spark to grow into a larger flame for greater firing energy and more complete combustion.

This same design reduces quenching, which has a negative effect on the spark.