As some of us might already know, the spark plug wires of days past are quite unlike the new ones we see in the EFI/distributor-less ignition systems of today.
The old wires had a short 2-3 inch boot that covered the connector seated on the top of the spark plug. The new ones have a rigid probe 3-6 inches long, with a similar connector at one end, and a quick-release plug at the other end, which usually plugs into a coil igniter pack.
When I did the first tune-up to my 1999 Toyota 4Runner, I was met with the odd puzzle of realizing the spark plugs resided in the narrow niche of a shaft well below ready access, unlike on the head of my familiar 22R’s.
My spark plug socket failed to allow me to retrieve my old spark plug, which I wound up recovering with a magnetic retrieval tool. This was fine, but what about reinstalling my new plugs way “down thar”? Few of us have the fancy T-tool also used for spark plugs, so I came up with this cheap trick.
Using one of your old spark plug wires, cut the cord off near the head of the hex-shaped end of the probe. After gapping and lubing the spark plug threads with anti-seize compound, insert the plug in the end of the probe, and start threading the plug by hand back into the head. After tightening as much as you can by hand, use your spark plug socket to finish tightening the new plug and install your wire.
When pulling plugs, first loosen the spark plug with the socket, then use the old probe to grasp the top of the plug and remove it. The space where the spark plugs are mounted are tight enough to fish around until you feel the probe seat on the plug. Installing new plugs this way also allows you to feel the plug being threaded, and likely will minimize the chance of cross-threading a plug in the future.