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The glow plug is the source of ignition in a "glow engine" hence the name. The thin wire element is initially heated using a 1.2 to 1.5 volt battery during the starting process. When the engine is stable the battery may be removed, the engine combustion heats the wire up and it usually stays hot until the next cycle of fuel and air is compressed and ignited. If the idle speed is very low the glow plug may go cold and hence the engine will stall. This problem may be overcome by switching on a battery to heat the plug when the throttle is closed for idle.
See also: Nitromethane.