This study investigates the effects of the air-fuel mixture (charge) properties on the exergy balance in spark ignition engines. A thermodynamic cycle model including compression, combustion and expansion processes is used. The principles of the second law are applied to the cycle model to perform an exergy analysis. Variation of the exergetic variables during the investigated portion of the cycle are examined as a function of the charge properties, i.e., fuel-air equivalence ratio, residual gas fraction and initial charge temperature. The results show that increasing fuel-air equivalence ratio causes an increase in irreversibilities and also exergy losses with heat transfer and exhaust gases, but enriching the air-fuel mixture beyond the stoichiometric ratio makes no significant contribution to the exergy transfer with work transfer. A slightly lean mixture also gives the best first and second law efficiencies. It is observed that there is a linear relation between the residual gas fraction and the exergetic variables. An increase in the residual gas fraction decreases the irreversibilities and exergy losses aside from the exergy transfer with work transfer. However, increasing the residual gas fraction positively affects the first and second law efficiencies because of the diluting of the charge. Increase of initial charge temperature creates a reduction in the irreversibilities and the exergy losses and, it also results in a lower exergy output by work transfer. Further, increase of initial charge temperature negatively influences the first and second law efficiencies. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.