|Remember: Always consult your owner’s manual.
All About Tune Ups
We often have people request a tune up when their vehicle’s engine is running rough.
Most vehicles made since the early 1980s require a “Tune Up” only once every 30,000 miles. Some of today’s new cars and trucks don’t need a tune up for 60,000 miles!
Actually, there is no such thing as a “tune-up” anymore. It’s really preventive maintenance and involves changing the spark plugs, inspecting or replacing the air filter, fuel filter, PCV valve and inspecting engine performance.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a tune up as “an adjustment to assure efficient functioning”. In the early 1970s when many cars still had point ignition systems, inspecting and adjusting the points and ignition timing every 12,000-15,000 miles was usually necessary to compensate for wear. Making adjustments with the carburetor idle speed and idle mixture was also part of the “tune up”. Also every engine back then ran on leaded gasoline, which meant the spark plugs rarely lasted 12,000-15,000 miles before they became fouled with carbon deposits. Because of this, annual “Tune Ups” were established.
With the arrival of electronic ignition systems, the need for the periodic adjustment was eliminated. Once set, the ignition timing will remain unchanged unless something is failing. At this point the engine would usually cease running. The switch to unleaded gasoline stretched the spark plug life to 30,000 miles, so the annual “tune up” is a thing of the past.
Today, virtually everything from the idle speed to the ignition timing is computer controlled. Since there is nothing left to “tune” in the traditional sense, what is normally required for proper maintenance is to change the spark plugs, air & fuel filters, and inspect other wear items periodically.
Back then, having a “tune up” performed usually restored engine performance and was often credited for being a “cure- all” for what ailed your engine. This is not the case today. If your engine is running rough, proper diagnostics by a skilled and certified technician is required to find what is causing the rough running condition.
What Is a Tune Up?
The term “tune-up” was coined back when Henry Ford was working on his first prototype for the automobile. The first ignition system was very simple; one ignition coil for one spark plug, so if there were four spark plugs, there would be four ignition coils. These ignition coils needed to be adjusted to provide the same spark intensity for better idle and acceleration. As these coils worked, they made a buzzing sound. So when the ignition coils were adjusted properly, they all buzzed the same tune…thus, they were in tune and that is how the term “tune up” was coined. This term stuck and was associated with the replacement of the spark plugs and any performance or rough idle problem that could be associated to engine operation. Once the distributor was developed, the term had no meaning as to how an engine performed. The consumer, however, still automatically associates poor running quality with the need to be in tune.
Today’s automobiles do not require tune ups. Automobile manufacturers have set forth, in there recommended maintenance schedules, intervals for replacing spark plugs, PCV valves, Fuel filters etc., while recommending that other items related to engine operation be inspected for proper operation and/or adjustment, such as ignition timing, idle speed and other emission control related devices. When and only when the maintenance has been performed would a performance problem be addressed to correct any given set of problems. If an operating or performance problem is still present after the maintenance has been performed, an engine analysis would be required. Therefore, the term “tune up” indicates the need for routine maintenance and should not be associated with poor performance. If your vehicle experiences any operation or performance problems between maintenance intervals, that specific problem should be addressed by performing an engine analysis to isolate that particular problem.
Are You Ready For The Road?
With more travellers opting for road trips over air travel, the highways again will be packed. It’s going to be especially important for motorists to see and be seen. Two simple checks that will increase your chances of avoiding a vision-related crash involve wipers and lighting.
WIPERS – In the 2001National Car Care Month vehicle check lanes, 21% percent of participants had wipers that smeared, streaked or chattered across their windshields. Although climates vary, wipers generally need replacing every six months. An easy reminder is to change wiper blades in the spring and fall when you change your clock. Be sure the windshield washers are working properly, too, and keep the reservoir filled with solvent.
LIGHTING – Another important pre-trip check should be exterior and interior lighting. Vehicle check lanes revealed an overall failure rate of over 25 percent in the lighting category. The Car Care Council reminds motorists to check their lights monthly. Other suggestions from the Council include turning on headlights both day and night. This helps define your car’s position on the road, and its distance from other drivers. When your vehicle’s lighting is defective, other motorists may not get the message that you intend to stop or turn. The end result could be disastrous.
10 Point Pre-Trip Checkup Can Pay Off
Car trouble, usually a result of neglecting preventive maintenance, brings an abrupt end to vacation plans. The situation usually means more than just a repair bill. It can involve towing charges, lodging and possibly a rental car. Add to that the cost of extra phone calls, meals and general inconvenience, and the ordeal becomes expensive. This scenario usually can be avoided with a pre-vacation inspection performed by a qualified automotive technician.
This “physical” for your automobile should address the following systems:
-Electrical and ignition
In addition, the tech should evaluate engine performance, tires/wheels, A.C./heater/defroster, instruments/gauges, windshield wipers, horns/lights/mirrors, seat belts and the car’s body, inside and out.
Not only can a pre-trip inspection help reduce chances of costly and possibly dangerous road trouble, it also provides an opportunity to have repairs made at home, with one’s own technician who knows the vehicle. Especially important, it provides peace of mind. While no inspection can guarantee a car’s performance, it’s comforting to know proper precautions were taken.