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FAQ Tune Ups


Electronic ignition, computerized engine controls, and electronic fuel injection have eliminated many adjustments that were once part of a "traditional" tune-up. Most would agree that a tune-up today is a preventive maintenance service and engine performance check.

Call it what you will, a complete tune-up should combine elements of preventive maintenance, adjustment and performance analysis. One of the main reasons people bring a vehicle in for a tune-up is because they are experiencing some kind of drive ability problem.Things like hard starting, stalling, hesitation, misfiring, poor fuel economy, or lack of power are seldom cured by a new set of spark plugs and a few turns of a screwdriver.

Every tune-up should include a comprehensive performance check to verify that no driveability problems or trouble codes exist. Another item that should be included is an emissions check. Thirty-five states now have some type of annual vehicle emissions inspection program, and all but two include a tailpipe emissions check. Most mechanics will
check EGR valve operation, the PCV valve, and make a visual inspection of other emission control components and plumbing. But unless an actual emissions performance check is made at the tailpipe, there is no way to know whether or not the vehicle will meet applicable emission standards. An emissions check is a must.

Taking into account longer service intervals and reduced maintenance requirements of today’s vehicles, a tune-up is probably only necessary every 30,000 miles, or once every two to three years. This is altered when a driveability or emissions problem arises that requires diagnosis and repair.

The best guide to tune-up frequency is probably the recommended spark plug replacement interval in a vehicle’s owners manual.

Our list of items that should be included in a "complete" tune-up includes:

-Replace spark plugs
-Replace rotor
-Check ignition wires (replace if necessary)
-Check timing (adjust if necessary)
-Check distributor cap (replace if necessary)
-Check choke (carbureted engines)
-Clean fuel injectors
-Check ignition performance (firing voltage and ignition patterns)
-Check compression and/or power balance (identifies bad fuel injectors as well as compression problems)
-Check vehicle computer for trouble codes
-Check manifold intake vacuum (reveals exhaust restrictions)
-Check exhaust emissions (verifies fuel mixture, ignition performance and
-Install new air filter
-Replace fuel filter
-Replace PCV valve
-Check all emission control~ (EGR valve, air pump, etc.)
-Check all vital fluid levels (engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, brakes, power
-Check belts and hoses
-Check safety items such as lights, wipers, tires (including inflation pressure),horn, etc.


Most hose manufacturers recommend replacing hoses every four years. V-belts should be replaced every three years or 36,000 miles. The incidence of failure rises sharply after the fourth year of service for hoses and third year for belts.

The lifespan of a typical serpentine belt is about five years or 50,000 miles. Serpentine belts are thinner and more flexible than V-belts. They run cooler and last longer, but costs are about twice as much to replace.

The hard part is convincing customers to change belts and hoses as preventative maintenance before they fail. Few people do, yet they could save themselves a lot of unnecessary grief and expense if they would.

A visual inspection will often uncover bad hoses. Pinching hoses to check for age cracks, brittleness or mushiness can also help locate hoses that need to be changed.

However, neither technique will reveal all the hoses that might need replacing because hoses wear as much from the inside out as they do from the outside in. A hose that appears okay on the outside may actually be on the verge of failure because of internal deterioration.

Rubber hoses deteriorate with age. Tiny cracks develop in the rubber which eventually cause hoses to split, blister or leak. Oil contamination and atmospheric ozone can accelerate the process. "According to research done by one hose manufacturer, internal corrosion caused by electrochemical degradation is the primary cause of cooling system hose failure". Thecoolant acts like an electrolyte and allows a current to flow between engine and radiator.

This causes micro-cracks to form inside the hose which eventually leads to pinhole leaks and weakening of hose fibers.

The additional friction between belt and pulley will make a belt run hotter. After millions of journeys around the pulleys, even the best drive belt begins to suffer the effects of age. Rubber begins to crack and fray and the internal cords become weak and brittle.

When a belt is replaced, it is important that the belt be properly tensioned. If too loose, it will slip and wear quickly. If too tight, it may damage internal cords as well as overload shaft bearings on accessories it drives.

As a rule of thumb about tightening a belt until there is about half an inch of give between the two furthest pulleys is not always accurate. A belt "gauge" that measures actual tension is the only sure way to know if a belt is tensioned properly. You cannot always determine a belt’s true condition by appearances alone. Any belt obviously cracked and frayed should be replaced.


Change oil and filter often enough to protect the engine from premature wear and viscosity breakdown.

For most cars and light trucks, the standard recommendation is to change oil and filter every six months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Most late model owner’s manuals say that except for "Severe Service" applications, oil change interval can be safely stretched to once a year or every 7,500 miles, with filter changes at every other oil change.

Except for Chrysler’s 7/70 powertrain warranty, and a few others that go up to 5/50 or 6/60, most new car powertrain warranties don’t go beyond 3/36. So where’s the risk? There isn’t any.

When automakers make such recommendations, one assumes they are based on extensive durability testing. After all, automakers themselves would have to bear the warranty costs should their maintenance recommendations prove inadequate.

With proper maintenance, there is no reason an engine shouldn’t go 100,000 miles or more without developing a thirst for oil. That is why most oil companies, as well as aftermarket service professionals, recommend changing oil and filter every six months or 3,000 miles.

They also make such recommendations because many motorists are not aware that they should follow the "Severe Service" maintenance schedule in their owner’s manual, calling for oil and filter change intervals of three to six months or 3,000 miles.)

Severe service (as defined by auto makers themselves) includes:

-Making frequent short trips (less than five miles)
-Making frequent short trips (less than 10 miles) when temperatures are below freezing
-Driving in hot weather stop-and-go traffic
-Extensive idling and/or low speed driving for long periods of time (taxi, police, door-to-doordelivery, etc.)
-Driving at sustained high speeds during hot weather
-Towing a trailer
-Driving in areas with heavy dust (gravel roads, construction zones, etc.)

Protective additives in a motor oil do not hold up as well under such driving conditions for several reasons. If the engine is not running long enough to get the oil hot, condensation and fuel vapors will not boil off. Contaminants will accumulate in the crankcase, leading to formation of corrosive acids and sludge.

Excessive idling and high operating temperatures from towing and high speed driving during hot weather accelerate viscosity breakdown. Exposure to dust can put dirt particles in the crankcase. The filter also needs to be changed every time for two reasons. Today’s pint sized filters do not contain as much filter material as their quart-sized counterparts. The filter contains dirty oil that can contaminate fresh oil added during an oil change.

Considering what four quarts of oil and a filter cost, versus the cost of replacing an engine, it is better to change oil and filter a little more often than might be absolutely necessary rather than risk not changing it often enough.



Vehicle owner’s manuals give motor oil recommendations based on what works best with the engines made by the company. Choice of viscosity grades is usually provided depending on ambient temperature conditions.


10W-30 is best for all engines for year-round driving, 10W-40 is more popular in the aftermarket, but 10W-30 is superior oil because the additive package holds up better over the long haul. General Motors, for example, does not recommend lOW-40 oil for any of its cars.

5W-30 is now approved for most late model engines on a year-round basis. It is not approved for many ‘turbocharged or diesel applications, some high output V-8s, or applications that involve driving at sustained highway speeds or towing in hot weather. It may not be the best choice for older engines with high mileage. 5W -30 is the factory fill oil on most new cars because it pumps through the engine more quickly after start-up. It also makes cold weather starting easier and reduces fuel consumption.

Straight viscosity oils have limited temperature ranges and lack the versatility of multiviscosity oils. Even so, some people prefer them. They can be safely used as long as their temperature limits are observed:
Straight 1OW is okay for cold weather starting and driving, but too thin for warm weather driving.
Straight 20W is okay for all around driving, but doesn’t provide the temperature protection of straight 3QW (which is too thick at low temperatures for easy cold starting). Straight 40W and 50W oils are primarily for heavy-duty applications.

Special multiviscosity oils, like 20W-50, are typically formulated for racing or severe duty applications such as towing; they are not usually intended for everyday driving.

Synthetics are a good alternative for any of the above because most provide extended temperature protection and longevity.


It is best to follow the Severe Service maintenance schedules found in most new car owner’s manuals, with a few exceptions:

Air filters need to be inspected regularly and replaced as often as needed, regardless of mileage or time. Dirty air filters can increase fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

Fuel filters should be replaced yearly and/or at every tune-up, especially on fuel injected cars. The fuel filter in a vehicle with electronic fuel injection passes a much larger volume of fuel than its counterpart in a carbureted application. If the tank is dirty or rusty, constant fuel re circulation can pick up a lot of debris that ends up in the filter. If the filter plugs, the engine is starved for fuel or unfiltered fuel is allowed to bypass the filter. The latter can damage injectors.

Oil filters need to be replaced at every oil change (every six months or 3,000 miles in most cases) despite the advice in many owner’s manuals to only change the filter at every other oil change. A new filter is cheap insurance against major engine damage, so why take unnecessary risks?

Few owners’ manuals have a suggested change interval for the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) or fluid filter unless the vehicle is used for towing. Most transmission specialists say the best preventative maintenance for prolonging automatic transmission life is to change fluid and filter every two years or 30,000 miles.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on the specific type of ATF to use. The type of ATF should match the specs required for the application.

All GMs, most late model Chryslers and many imports use Dexron II. All 1988 and later Fords require Mercon ATF. Most universal ATF fluids are acceptable for either of these. Older Fords or imports require Type F fluid.

High Mileage Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance


One of the best ways to do this is prolonging the life of your current vehicle. With new car prices in the United States averaging well over $10,000, money invested in keeping your existing vehicle in good shape could save you hundreds (even thousands) of dollars a year.

When you consider the real cost of buying a new car (price of the car, sales tax, license, registration fees, and insurance), it is not difficult to rationalize investing a few hundred dollars to repair your present vehicle.


If your vehicle has passed the 100,000 mile mark and you want to significantly prolong its useful life, it is time to have it thoroughly evaluated by a professional automotive technician who can recommend needed repairs or service. This facility is equipped to perform this. We employ technicians who use factory-level information detailing your vehicle’s service requirements.

Our high mileage inspection and evaluation goes beyond and is designed to get to the root of potential problems. Ask your service advisor or technician to show you exactly what is involved in this service. He or she will be happy to go over the evaluation form with you before you okay the inspection and provide you with a comprehensive estimate for any work recommended as a result of your vehicle’s checkup. They will tell you about repairs that are necessary today, and also alert you to items that are potential problem areas you may want to address today for more trouble-free miles tomorrow. Of course, you make the decision as to what work is actually performed.

Working together, we can add years to the life of your car or truck.


The safety aspect of properly maintaining your vehicle, especially with high mileage cars, should not be overlooked. Failing brakes, exhaust leaks and other problems can be prevented by following good car care practices. Unfortunately, most manufacturers only provide maintenance guidelines for the first 100,000 miles or so. Clear and extensive procedures for maintenance beyond this mileage do not exist. If lucky, manufacturers provide interval service schedules, such as every 15,000 miles. These schedules should be followed whenever possible. If they are followed correctly, you can reasonably expect thousands more satisfactory miles from your vehicle.

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