(Information on this page courtesy of carcarenewsservice.org)
It’s Time for the 21st Century Tune-up
Times are changing...cars are changing. One of the biggest changes in today’s automotive industry is the perception of a “tune-up.” Ask 10 vehicle owners their definition of a tune-up and chances are there’ll be 10 different answers. The classic “tune-up” 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 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.”
As part of the 21st Century Tune-up on today’s modern vehicles, the following systems should be inspected:
- Battery, charging and starting
- Engine mechanical
- Powertrain 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.
Car Care Tips from the Pros Prepare You for Winter Driving
It’s foolhardy to head out in a poorly maintained vehicle in the dead of winter, of course, but even vehicle owners in temperate zones need a car care check as the days grow shorter, note the pros with the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), an independent group that tests and certifies the competence of auto technicians.
Regular, routine maintenance can help improve your gasoline mileage, reduce pollution, and catch minor problems before they become big headaches.
ASE offers these car care tips to give you peace of mind during winter driving:
- Before you do anything else, read your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedules.
- Get engine performance and driveability problems — hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc. — corrected at a reputable repair shop that employs ASE-certified repair professionals. Cold weather makes existing problems worse.
- Replace dirty filters, such as air, fuel, and PCV. A poorly running engine is less efficient and burns more gasoline.
- As the temperature drops below freezing, add a bottle of fuel deicer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Keeping the gas tank filled also helps prevent moisture from forming.
- Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual — more often if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips. A poll of ASE Master Auto Technicians revealed that regular oil and filter changes is one of the most frequently neglected services, yet one that is essential to protect your engine.
- The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water is usually recommended. Do-It-Yourselfers: Never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses also should be checked regularly by a professional technician.
- The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility.
- Replace old blades regularly. If your climate is harsh, purchase rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on windshield washer solvent — you’ll be surprised how much you use during the winter months. And don’t forget to always carry an ice scraper.
- Have your battery checked. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. However, most motorists can perform routine care: Wear eye protection and protective rubber gloves. Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; retighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. A word of caution: Removal of cables can cause damage or loss of data/codes on some newer vehicles, so always check your owner’s manual first. Be sure to avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid.
- Inspect all lights and bulbs. Replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag. Clouded lenses can be refinished by many service outlets or by using a DIY kit found in major auto parts outlets.
- Exhaust fumes inside your vehicle’s cabin can be deadly. Have the exhaust system examined for leaks and problems while the vehicle is on a lift. The trunk and floorboards should also be inspected for small holes.
- Worn tires are dangerous in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressure once a month, letting the tires “cool down” before checking the pressure. Rotate as recommended. Don’t forget to check your spare, and be sure the jack is in good working condition. Under-inflated tires or poorly aligned wheels makes your engine work harder and thus use excess gasoline.
- Have your brakes checked periodically for safety and to prevent costly repairs that can be caused by neglect.
- The transmission is often neglected until a major failure. Routine checks and fluid changes at prescribed intervals can prevent very costly repairs down the line.
- Always carry an emergency kit with you: extra gloves, boots and blankets; flares; a small shovel and sand or kitty litter; tire chains; a flashlight and extra batteries; and a cell phone and extra car charger. Put a few “high-energy” snacks in your glove box.
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) was founded in 1972 as a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated to improving the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive technicians. ASE-certified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact area(s) of certification. Their employers often display the blue and white ASE sign.
Caring for Your Car During Summer
Summer can be tough on cars, especially during high temperatures when heat can destroy batteries and stress the cooling system and tires. As a precaution, these vehicle components should be checked periodically during summer to help avoid breakdowns and car problems, according to the Car Care Council.
- Excessive heat and overcharging shorten the life of a battery. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, which then damages the internal structure of the battery. A malfunctioning component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, allows too high a charging rate, which will eventually destroy a battery.To get the most life out of a battery, the council recommends having the electrical system checked to make sure it is charging at the correct rate. If your car’s battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check it often, especially in hot weather and add distilled water if necessary. Keep the top of the battery clean. Dirt can become a conductor, which drains battery power. If corrosion accumulates on battery terminals, it becomes an insulator and inhibits the current flow.
- The cooling system also works harder during hot temperatures to prevent overheating of the engine. To keep the cooling system working effectively, the coolant and distilled water mixture for a vehicle’s radiator should be 50:50. As a reminder, never open a hot radiator cap when checking the coolant level in the reservoir.As a rule of thumb, the coolant should be changed annually on most vehicles. This will keep the cooling system fresh and clean inside, which helps prevent corrosion and assures that the coolant has the proper boiling point and protection. A pressure test, thermostat test, a cooling fan test and a visual inspection for leaks and corrosion should also be done annually. Hoses and drive belts should be checked for cracks, bulges or frayed edges.The radiator should be kept clean by periodically using a garden hose and a soft brush to carefully remove bugs, dirt and debris
- Tires also need special care in warmer weather as high temperatures put added stress on them. To maximize tire life and safety, check the tire condition and inflation pressure monthly, and have the tires rotated every 6,000 miles. Summer heat will cause the pressure within a tire to rise, therefore, it’s important to check the pressure when tires are cold. The owner’s manual includes the recommended air pressure for your vehicle’s tires.
“It takes very little time and money to make sure your car runs properly during summer, and although breakdowns happen, they can definitely be minimized by taking a few extra preventive maintenance steps,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.
The council reminds motorists that the vehicle’s exterior also can be damaged by sunlight, UV radiation, acid rain, salt, dirt and air pollution. To protect the paint and finish, vehicles should be washed weekly and waxed every six months.