Today's Tune Up
If you’re not sure what a “tune-up” includes these days, just ask one of Forest Grove’s expert technicians. The definition of a tune-up, like everything else in the auto industry, has changed dramatically through the years with technology. While car models vary and requirements differ, today's vehicles still need tune-ups to keep them running efficiently.
In the past, tune-ups meant replacement of key ignition system parts like spark plugs and ignition points, along with some basic adjustments to the engine. In recent years, calls for increased fuel economy and decreased emissions have caused car manufacturers to rely on electronics instead. Ignition points were introduced in the '70s, along with the carburetor in the middle '80s. Both eliminated the need for replacement and adjustment of a number of ignition and fuel system parts.
Things that were once repaired mechanically are now controlled electronically through onboard computer technology. Highly technical ignition and fuel systems are now the norm. Because vehicles have changed so much over the years, the Car Care Council introduced the 21st Century Tune-up. The 21st Century Tune-up is designed to re-define and re-educate motorists on what a tune-up should consist of today.
"There is a misconception that today's modern vehicles don't need tune-ups, but that simply is not true," says Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "If you're at work and your computer goes down, you can't get any more work done. It's the same situation with your vehicle. If the vehicle isn't being properly maintained, you're not going to get where you want to go."
For an effective 21st Century Tune-up on today's modern vehicles, the following systems should be inspected:
Battery, charging and starting
Powertrain control (including onboard diagnostic checks)
Vehicle tune-ups are still good maintenance practices to improve performance, maintain reliability, or prepare for a far-away vacation or winter/summer/fall changes of weather. Many motorists also seek tune-ups before loaning their car to a friend or family member, or passing it on to a young driver.
Recommendations for Vehicle Owners
For best performance, fuel economy and emissions, the Car Care Council recommends that motorists become familiar with their vehicles in every respect. The council urges owners to read their manuals and become thoroughly acquainted with the operation of all systems.
Drivers are also advised to pay special attention to indicator lights and instruments on their dashboards. They serve as early warnings of potential problems. Some problems can be solved by mechanically inclined owners; others require the skill and training of a professional auto technician.
Car, truck and van owners should follow these guidelines:
Routine care. A well-maintained vehicle is not only a pleasure to drive, but your car, van or truck also lasts longer with routine care and sells for a higher price on resale. Make sure to keep all surfaces clean and connections tightened. Any corrosion should be removed. If you do it yourself, avoid direct contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid and always wear eye protection and rubber gloves. Otherwise, tell your technician that you’d like routine care with your oil changes.
Oil. One of the surest ways to keep your vehicle running well and void of surprises is changing your oil and oil filter according to your manufacturer’s manual. If you lost your manual or didn’t receive one, a good rule of thumb is to change oil about every 3,000 miles. If you make frequent short jaunts, extended trips with lots of luggage, or tow a trailer, you might want to change it a little more often.
Engine Performance. For best engine performance, rely on preventive maintenance, replacing dirty filters and other small items that can cause big problems later. Watch for driving glitches, such as hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc. You may need to replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.). Follow manufacturer guidelines for replacement intervals, but take your vehicle in more often in dusty, cold or other more severe conditions. Cold weather, high humidity and heat can aggravate existing conditions, so be sure to check out all aspects of your vehicle before winter arrives. Have all driving issues corrected at a reputable auto shop.
Lights. Replace burned out lights and bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, avoid using dry rags.
Exhaust System. Examine exhaust system for leaks. Inspect trunk and floor boards for small holes. Leaks and holes can be deadly.
Tires. Always check tires when they’re cold – before driving any distance. Worn tires can lead to disaster, especially in winter weather. Inspect for remaining tread life, uneven wear, cupping, bulging, etc. Check sidewalls for cuts and nicks. When tires reveal uneven tread-wear or your vehicle pulls to one side, bring it in for alignment. Rotate tires as factory recommended or every 5,000 miles. Get tire pressure checks regularly.
Spare Tires. Make sure your spare tire and jack are stored in your car and in good condition.
Windshields | Wipers. Dirty or cracked windshields can lead to vision problems, eye fatigue and poor reflexes in reacting to other traffic. Foggy, icy, smoggy, snowy or filthy windows pose a safety hazard. To keep vision clear, replace worn blades at the first sign of malfunction. Replenish windshield washer solvent regularly to be ready for unexpected weather or road conditions.
Brakes. Keep your brakes working safely by having them inspected as recommended in your driver’s manual. If you notice noises, pulsing, grabbing, or stopping variations, have brakes checked immediately . Minor brake problems should be corrected promptly to avoid major problems that could be more costly – or deadly.
Battery. Batteries can fail any time of year, not just in winter months. Take your vehicle in for a regular battery check, or use professional equipment to test battery strength. Check battery fluid level monthly.
Mechanical failure. Break-downs are troublesome anytime they occur – but they can be deadly in Northern states in winter. Preventive maintenance is the best way to avoid mechanical problems that lead to break-downs, failures and other vehicle operation issues.
Emergencies. To prepare for emergencies, carry some basic tools in your vehicle. If you’re not sure what to take, ask a technician for suggestions. A few tips include items like a first aid kit, flares and a flashlight. Carry a cell phone for an emergency call and keep a few snacks in your glove box in case you’re stranded. In winter months, you should also tote gloves, boots, blankets, flares, sand or kitty litter for ditch slides, and small shovel. It’s wise to be prepared for summer's heat and dust with reusable window shades, along with paper towel and window cleaner.
Air conditioning. Don’t wait for your air conditioning to fail in the heat of summer. Have your heating and cooling system examined by a qualified technician. Check your owner's manual for inspection intervals, or stop in at your garage before summer (or winter) arrives. Newer model vehicles may have cabin air filters that clean the air entering the heating and air conditioning system. Ask your technician when those air filters should be changed.
Cooling system. Avoid overheating – the main cause of many break-downs. Your cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled about every 24 months. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) If you check this for yourself, never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps and hoses should be checked by a certified technician.
Environmental and Economic Efficiency
Preventive maintenance, or routine car care, is the best way to protect your investment in transportation. Besides being good for the environment, a well-maintained vehicle runs more efficiently, gets better gas mileage, is safer to drive, and will last up to 50 percent longer, according to a survey of ASE-certified Master Auto Technicians.
Keep your engine tuned. A misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30 percent. Follow service schedules in your owner's manual. Replace filters and fluids as recommended.
Check tires for proper inflation. When your tires are deflated, your engine has to work harder to make your vehicle move.
Keep wheels aligned. When wheels are out-of-line, engines must work harder, too.
Keep your air conditioner in top condition. Have it serviced only by a technician who is certified competent to handle/recycle refrigerants, as air conditioners contain CFCs-gases that have been implicated in the depletion of the ozone layer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, almost one third of the CFCs released into the atmosphere come from mobile air conditioners. Some CFCs simply escapes, but more leaks out during service and repair -- so it's crucial to use a qualified technician.
Dispose of used motor oil, anti-freeze/coolant, tires, and old batteries properly. Ask your repair facility if they accept these items, or call your local municipal or county government for information on recycling sites.
Never dump used oil or anti-freeze on the ground or in open streams.