Getting an Auto Tune-up
Like any other complex machine, a vehicle needs preventative maintenance if it is to run well and for the maximum number of years. A tune-up is a regularly scheduled appointment, usually once a year, to do all of the necessary preventative maintenance.
Most car owners take their vehicle to the dealer or an auto mechanic to have the tune-up expertly done, but others have the know-how to do it themselves. Here are some of the key elements a tune-up should include:
Experts say that changing filters on a regular basis may have the biggest impact of any single factor on a car's lifespan.
The fuel filter eliminates dirt and other particles from the fuel so that it burns cleanly. During the tune-up, the device is either cleaned with a special liquid or replaced outright, depending on its state.
Air filters keep dirt and other particles out of the engine chamber. They should be replaced at least once a year; Failing to change an air filter when it's dirty will result in the engine having less of the air it needs to run properly. Eventually, there will be too much fuel and not enough air in the mixture, and that may cause other parts to fail.
The engine relies on a set of rubber belts to run, including timing belts and transmission belts. The tune-up includes checking them for cracks or general deterioration, and replacing them if necessary. If a belt snaps while the car is in motion, the engine will stop immediately, so it's important to keep the belts in good condition.
Spark Plugs and Wires
The spark plugs are found in each of the engine's cylinders, providing the initial spark that it uses to burn fuel. The spark plugs wear out over time, which can cause the engine to turnover slowly or misfire. So they're usually checked and replaced—along with the spark plug wires. And as they may be permanently attached to the distributor cap, it may have to be changed, too.
(Most new cars have platinum spark plugs, which are longer lasting, and need not be replaced at each tune-up.)
Other parts of the car need regular attention, too. If the vehicle has manual transmission, the tune-up should include adjusting the clutch. The battery should be serviced, with distilled water added (if required), and the terminals and cable ends cleaned.
It's important to replace the PCV valve, which can make the car stall if it becomes clogged. The oxygen sensor(s) also should be replaced at recommended intervals, as a worn oxygen sensor drastically changes engine settings.
Oil and Fluids
Car engines need several fluids to perform properly, including transmission fluid. As part of the tune-up, the mechanic tops up every fluid, including the washer fluid for the windshield wipers. The car also requires an oil change, providing fresh lubricant for all of the engine's gears to turn.
If you're planning to do the tune-up in the spring or early summer, have the air conditioning system checked, too, since it won't have been used for several months.
As noted above, a tune-up generally involves replacing several parts. Some of them may seem relatively minor, but neglecting to replace them regularly can reduce your vehicle's performance and do long-term damage.