Tune Up Maintenance
Times are changing…cars are changing. One of the biggest changes in today’s automotive industry is the perception of a “tune up maintenance.” Ask 10 vehicle owners their definition of a tune-up maintenance and chances are there’ll be 10 different answers. The classic “tune-up” maintenance was once the heart of the automotive business and contrary to some beliefs; today’s modern vehicles still need tune-ups to keep them performing at the most efficient levels.
The tune-up maintenance was historically associated with the routine replacement of key ignition system parts like spark plugs and ignition points, along with some basic adjustments to help “tune” the engine. Mounting pressure for increased fuel economy and lower emissions drove the car manufacturers to adopt electronics and to do away with ignition points in the ’70s, along with the carburetor in the middle ’80s. This eliminated the need for the replacement and adjustment of a growing number of ignition and fuel system parts.
As the pace of technology quickened, the procedures required to perform a traditional tune-up changed dramatically. Highly sophisticated ignition and fuel systems are now the norm, using one or more onboard computers to control critical engine and transmission management functions. Things that were once handled mechanically are now controlled electronically through the widespread use of onboard computer technology.
Because vehicles have changed so much over the years, the Car Care Council has introduced the 21st Century Tune-up. This program is designed to help re-define and educate motorists as to what a tune-up should consist of on today’s modern vehicles.
“There is a misconception that today’s modern vehicles don’t need tune-ups because they never break down, but that simply is not true,” said 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 with your vehicle. If the vehicle isn’t being properly maintained, you’re not going to get where you want to go.
- battery, charging and starting
- engine mechanical
- power train control (including onboard diagnostic checks)
Vehicle owners ask for tune-ups for a variety of reasons, including improving performance, maintaining reliability, planning a vacation, preparing for winter/summer or because they’re giving the car to a friend or family member.
To help ensure good performance, fuel economy and emissions, the Car Care Council also recommends that motorists take the time necessary to become familiar with their vehicle from every aspect. Study the owner’s manual to become thoroughly acquainted with the operation of all systems. Pay special attention to the indicator lights and instruments.
Mechanical failure—an inconvenience anytime it occurs–can be deadly in the winter. Preventive maintenance is a must.
- Engine Performance – Get engine drivability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a ASE repair shop. Cold weather makes existing problems worse. Replace dirty filters-air, fuel, etc.
- Oil – Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual.
- Cooling Systems – The cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled about every 24 months.
- Windshield Wipers – Replace old blades.
- Heater/Defroster – The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility. Newer models have a cabin air filter that should be replaced periodically. Check your owner’s manual for the location and replacement interval.
- Battery – The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care: Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
- Lights – Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
- Exhaust System – Your vehicle should be placed on a lift and the exhaust system examined for leaks. The trunk and floor boards should be inspected for small holes. Exhaust fumes can be deadly.
- Tires – Worn tires will be of little use in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressures once a month. Check the tires when they are cold, before driving for any distance. Rotate as recommended. Don’t forget your spare, and be sure the jack is in good condition.
- Carry emergency gear: gloves, boots, blankets, flares, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, tire chains, and a flash light. Put a few “high-energy” snacks in your glove box.
Summer’s heat, dust, and stop-and-go traffic, will take their toll on your vehicle.
- Air Conditioning – A marginally operating system will fail in hot weather. Have the system examined by a qualified technician. Newer models have cabin air filters that clean the air entering the heating and air conditioning system. Check your owner’s manual replacement interval.
- Cooling System – The greatest cause of summer breakdowns is overheating. The cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled about every 24 months.
- Oil – Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual.
- Engine Performance – Replace filters (air, fuel, PCV, cabin etc.) as recommended-more often in dusty conditions.
- Windshield Wipers-Replace worn blades.
- Lights – Inspect all lights.
- Tires – Have your tires rotated about every 5,000 miles. Check tire pressures once a month; check them while they’re cold before driving for any distance. Don’t forget to check you’re spare as well and be sure the jack is in good condition.
- Brakes – Brakes should be inspected as recommended in your manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, grabbing, noises, or longer stopping distance. Minor brake problems should be corrected promptly.
- Battery – Batteries can fail any time of year. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment.
- Emergencies – Carry some basic tools-ask a technician for suggestions. Also include a first aid kit, flares, and a flashlight.
Car care is definitely a win-win situation. A properly maintained and operated vehicle will run more efficiently, will be safer, and will last longer-up to 50% longer, according to a survey of ASE-certified Master Auto Technicians. The following tips should put you on the road to conscious car care.
- Keep your engine tuned. Follow the service schedules listed in your owner’s manual. Replace filters and fluids as recommended.
- Check your tires for proper inflation.
- Keep your air conditioner in top condition and have it serviced only by an ASE certified technician, competent to handle/recycle refrigerants.
- Observe speed limits.
- Drive gently.
- Avoid excessive idling. Shut off the engine while waiting for friends and family.