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How-to change the PITA #3 spark plug

01-08-2006, 05:26 PM
So many threads have gotten started asking how to change the #3 plug because the intermediate shaft is in the way. "Typically" people say to wedge the socket on, use a wobble, this that an the other thing. They end up fighting with something they don't have to.

So I've decided to show the "EASIEST" way to change the #3 spark plug, (It is by no means the only way). My how-to can be done in about 5 minutes.

Tools needed.
11mm socket
Socket Wrench
2 or 3 Extensions
Flathead screw driver (or prybar if rusty)

Step 1: Turn your wheels straight and leave the ignition key forward enough to keep the steering wheel unlocked.

Step 2: Open the rag joint cover at the base of the intermediate steering shaft.

Step 3: Remove the 11mm bolt at the base of the intermeiate

Here in the picture we see the plastic rag joint cover. The red arrow points to the circled 11mm bolt that has to be removed.


Here is a pic of the bolt removed


Step 4: Use a large flat head screw driver at the base and pry outwards. The steering shaft will start telescoping in on itself. (If your intermediate shaft is a bit rusty, simply spray the shaft with wd40 or similar and use a prybar instead of the screwdriver. Don't worry about prying to hard, the shaft can take a lot. )


Step 5: Lift Steering shaft out of the way (don't worry, the top is fairly mobile)


Do not worry about how you put the shaft back on. The shaft and the splines on the steering box are keyed. (Meaning it only goes on one way) Avoid spinning your steering wheel all the way around though. You don't want to bust the clock spring in the steering wheel.


Here we now see the # 3 plug fully accesable. Simply use a couple of extensions and a spark plug socket to remove.


When putting in new spark plugs, even if you are told they are pre-gapped, take no chances. Check your gap with a gap tool. It's a .25 cent tool, get one! Also you can spread anti-seize on the threads of the sparkplug so you don't have difficulty later. Also use dialectric grease inside the plug boots. This way you won't have a prob when you need to pull them off later and it will create a better contact between the wire and the plug.

Here is a shot of the AC-Delco Rapidfires that I installed. Note the gold tone, that is the anti-seize.


Total time to change all 6 plugs was 20 minutes. This includes collapsing and reinstalling the intermediate shaft. This way you don't have to worry about trying to work other tools in there.

01-08-2006, 06:10 PM
Good post, wish I would have had it a couple of months ago when I did my wire/cap/rotor/plug change!!!

Heh, will keep this in mind for next time though!


01-08-2006, 07:04 PM
Another great thread. Now that people can see how to do it, maybe they'll believe us when we tell them it's easier than fumbling with multiple swivels and extensions.

01-08-2006, 07:31 PM
Hey the pic worked the first time this time lol.

CEO Wrench
01-08-2006, 09:28 PM
Great post!

01-09-2006, 08:46 AM
Pretty awesome!

01-09-2006, 08:17 PM
Thanks again rlith, first it was the door hinge bushing post and now this!!! you are a life saver

Bravada 97
01-09-2006, 11:28 PM
Great info. I wish I had that last fall when it took me 2 hours to change all my plugs. LOL.

01-10-2006, 04:24 AM
Glad its not this difficult on an 89 model . But a body lift helps with clearance . Another good job . Rob

01-10-2006, 09:38 AM
I might actually need this for v8 because from plug 3 on back its a no go lol.

02-14-2006, 12:05 PM
Thats awesome, just another idea as well...snap-on makes an offset sparkplug socket that works great too

02-14-2006, 04:58 PM
I guess my question would be....would this effectthe air bag system in any way?? Just dont want to set off my airbag over a spark plug...lol

02-15-2006, 06:24 AM
I guess my question would be....would this effectthe air bag system in any way?? Just dont want to set off my airbag over a spark plug...lol

No, it won't affect the airbag system. Your airbag sensors are actually under the core support, so unless you bang those with a hammer you've got nothing to worry about

03-07-2006, 07:18 PM
good advice, dude master, i also found on my 2001 jimmy, the flap behind the front wheels/tires, if lifted up, gives good acess to the other 5 plugs, and nothing above has to be removed. i got off easy last time i changed #3, as i used a wobble socket extention and ground a few mm's off both ends of the spark plug socket. it was still hard, but went better that witha regular socket. p.s. are the ac/delco's you put in working well, i put in a set of bosch platnum +2's and i don't think it was worth the money. thanks for the info/helpand graphics are always good!!!

03-30-2006, 01:49 AM
Thanks for the easy steps, even on my 2001 blazer it was almost exactly as you wrote. Im a complete car novice (can hardly change my own oil if i had to) And i got this granted it was a biatch my engine cavity had about 10x the wires as shown in your pictures but with a little TLC you can make it happen!

05-13-2006, 11:01 PM
Excellent tip. I used it today. It greatly shortened the time it took to change the plugs.

Thanks again.


05-14-2006, 12:59 AM
Nice post! Although I found it easier to just remove the wheel and that flap (just tore it off). Then went straight in , also i popped out the rubber stopper in the plug socket. Don't worry i replaced the flaps.

05-24-2006, 11:33 PM
Has anyone else thought to lift the engine up about an inch after that it is a shot above that steering rod.

06-21-2006, 09:26 PM
I have a '99 Blazer and this came in very helpful. I had to pull the air filter unit off first as that was above the steering shaft.

The other thing that is helpful is a spark plug boot puller. I used one my neighbor had and I am going to order one of my own. It was the OTC-7078. It is currently available on americanhomeoutlet.com for $4.95 each. Search for otc7078.

06-22-2006, 10:55 AM
Thanks Rlith for the excellent tip! As a side note, I found a "pickle fork" makes a perfect pry bar for the steering shaft. Also, a few squirts of Dupont Silicone Spray applied to the rubber in the spark plug socket makes for easier socket removal AFTER installing new plugs.

07-22-2006, 01:13 PM
I just used a breaker bar witch had enough clearence to loosen the plug until I could just finish removeing it by hand and to put the plugs back in I've always used a 6-8in piece of vacum hose to help fight cross threading.

09-04-2006, 02:59 PM
This is the most helpful peice of info. Thanks a bunch. I changed my plugs about 6 months ago and couldn't get to the # 3 spark plug :banghead: Now with the help of you I can.

09-04-2006, 09:31 PM
Has anyone else thought to lift the engine up about an inch after that it is a shot above that steering rod.

Problem with that is that you stress the motor mounts

10-27-2006, 11:39 PM
well i'm new here ..... someone mentioned lifting the flap inside the wheel well to get at the #3 spark plug -- that is the way i've seen most gm techs do it and is also how i do it - i just use a 5/8 spark plug socket followed by a swivel ( or knuckle ) then a couple of 3 inch extentions on a 3/8 ratchet - its really crampped in there for big hands but it does work - and might as well do number 5 plug while you are there .

04-04-2007, 12:55 AM
Thank you for this write up, after an hour of finageling and cursing I came in to do some research. After finding this thread, everything was back to normal in 20min. You are a life saver. kudos!

05-11-2007, 07:10 AM
good thread

06-12-2007, 09:14 PM
The way i change the #3 plug is I use a snap on spark plug socket with a 18mm stubby wrench this allows you to get right in there behind the steering shaft and take the plug right out. sometimes it is also easier if you cut the rubber over the shaft. Then to put the plug in i use a little piece of 3/8'' rubber hose on the end of the spark plug to help me start the plug in the hole GOOD LUCK

06-30-2007, 02:05 PM
I didn't have a problem using a wobble and an extension from the fenderwell. I believe I have a plastic cover over the area you show the bolt at, I'm not exactly sure. It was easier getting the plug out than it was getting the wire off :)

06-30-2007, 05:41 PM
It was easier getting the plug out than it was getting the wire off :)
true. the second easiest way to get this plug is to put the plug socet over that plug and use a wrench from up top.

Paul T
08-06-2007, 08:37 PM
Many Thanks to TOM B and RLITH and everyone. The link to RILTH was absolutely amazing advice. I may have given up on getting the Number 3 Plug out but the pictures along with the advice regarding the disconnection of the intermediate steering shaft from the steering box for access was right on the money and nothing short of pure brilliance!

So then, did the "tune-up" get rid of the misfire? Unfortunately the answer is no. But because at the very least I have 6 new plugs/wires, the misfire no longer stalls me and I could get to work.

Right now I still have two error codes. The P0300 (Random Misfire) and the specific P0305 (Number 5 Cylinder Misfire).

Have poured in to the fuel SEA FOAM and have driven the Blazer 120 miles without success. My biggest obstacle is being totally down and missing work which of course isn't good.

I don't know if I have the talent to pull-off an injector replacement in a short period of time. I know the injector is about $90-100.

Any idea on labor or how labor intensive this kind of a job is?

Thanks again to all. I know that at some point I will get to the bottom of it. Soon I hope.

Paul T

08-19-2007, 02:03 PM
Now this works great.. Saved a lot of time the second time around.. didn't even bust a nuckle..

10-29-2008, 10:34 PM
I know no one has replied to this post for about a year but this post was brilliant!!!! I had all 6 plugs out and replaced in less than 30 minutes!! I still have to change everything else but moving the steering shaft was fricken great!!!

11-11-2008, 09:10 PM
Would it be possible to re-upload or rehost the pictures.

07-11-2009, 09:27 PM
I have a 2000 chevy blazer 4x4 automatic 4.3L vortec
I changed one spark plug in it today and the service engine light came on. Im pretty sure that the spark plug boot was on all the way and the engine was not running rough. I put in platinum plugs for it and Im wondering if this may have somehow changed the emission causeing that light to trip.
Any help or suggestions would be extremely helpful. Also i heard that by disconnecting the negative cable for a few minutes will reset the light, is this right??. And anyways if the problem still exists it will trip it again. I put the oringinal ones back in and the lights still on. Please help

09-07-2009, 08:31 PM
Here is the Snap on tool that allows removal without touching the steering column.


09-18-2009, 09:08 AM
I'm not getting any pictures. :(

09-18-2009, 09:28 AM
seems like great advice, but I would really like to see the pictures. I was trying to do the same thing on a Dodge Dakota "95 and had no luck getting the intermmediate steering shaft off. It wouldn't telescope like we thought it probably should. although we didn't try wd40ing it. I guess that might have helped it budge.
I can't figure out why I can't see the pics. In Opera, there's not even a hint that there are supposed to be pictures there. In Fire Fox same. In I.E. I see little squares where the pics should be, but I can't get them show anything. :banghead:

01-09-2010, 08:52 PM
This sounds way more complicated than it should actually be. I went to sears and bought an attachment that is basically a bolt head that fits into the back of your spark plug socket. That made the socket long enough that i could get an offset wrench on it.

I'd much rather do it my way than mess with the steering shaft! O.o

01-14-2010, 12:58 AM
I don't know if it's any help here or not, but with the older ones I always just used a really long extension with a u-joint on the socket end, lifted up the splash guard in the wheelwell and went through there...

06-05-2010, 02:36 AM
Thanks for your thread, but I can't see the images, I am a true novice, and really could use the photos, thanks for your help!

06-08-2010, 10:29 AM
The snap-on tool referenced above is $35 and I know that times are lean but it was a well spent $35. Plug R/R was 5 minutes, no bleeding, and no profanity. Just have a 3/8" socket u-joint ready along with your extension and ratchet and go in through the wheel well. The longest part of the job is spinning the old plug out with your fingertips after you break the plug loose with the tool.

Good luck.

07-14-2010, 06:03 PM
Wow it just amazes me that every one wants to pull apart the steering shaft to do this tune up! If anyone worked in an automotive shop replied here they would tell you their secrets there are two! First off if you work at one and have a half way decent tool guy thru snap on all copyright reserved lol they can get you the socket just for this job and all you do is put a 5/8 or 16mm truely they are both the same on it and wa la its lose and you can get it out with your finger tips or use a gear wrench on it easy as cake. if you dont work at a shop next best thing as long as you own a grinding wheel grind off just a little under 3/8 off of the end that the ratchet would go in start small work you way up start at a little over a quater but you will in the end have a great tool this will alow you to do the same thing without spending 35 dollars on the socket either way once you have it saves you everytime takes less than five minutes a side to change plugs

07-14-2010, 06:11 PM
Problem with that is that you stress the motor mounts
u wouldnt if you unbolted the one side and used a car jack to lift that one sid e just a thought but none the less not how i would do it anyway

09-28-2010, 01:06 PM
There is a warning label on the steering shaft of my 2000 GMC Jimmy 4x4 that turning the steering shaft while disconnected could cause a malfunction of the air bag system. Is this a real danger and how far would it need to turn?

04-23-2011, 04:52 PM
Just wanted to say thanks, this saved me time and more important, skin and stress.

06-06-2011, 05:27 AM
Sorry for the late post but I changed my plugs recently and it was the hardest of the six plugs to do but I didnt have any problems doing it. All I needed was the plug socket and ratchet. Perfect clearance. I have a 1993 Sonoma SLE which is loaded with all kind of extra stuff under hood. Guess I got lucky.

06-19-2011, 05:13 PM
The main thread pictures were a great help in arriving at a slightly different solution. using a "low profile hex cap socket" in the head of a spark plug socket gives you just enough room to take out and install a plug behind the steering. A box end wrench from the top side provides just enough room to rotate the plug out. Took a little fiddling but nothing had to be removed. And no Snap-On special socket is needed. Now all you need is a pick to get those darn boots off.

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