Auto Tune-Ups: DIY: What You Need and What You Need to Remember When Tuning Your Auto

June 28, 2008

Considering doing your auto’s tune-up yourself? Then you’ll need to have the right tools and materials in hand. The following are some of the basic tools and auto parts you’ll need when tuning your own vehicle:

Spark Plugs: the number of spark plugs you should have in stock depends on the number of engine cylinders you have. Remember, it’s one spark plug per engine cylinder.

A Replacement Air Filter: since you’re going to be checking and possibly even cleaning your air filter, it’s always handy to have a replacement part with you in case your filter is damaged beyond repair.

A Spark Plug Tool: for easier and safer spark plug removal

Torque Wrench: the torque wrench should come in handy when you’re removing various auto parts under your hood. (spark plug sometimes included)

A Spark Plug Gapping Tool: If you’re planning on replacing any of your spark plugs then you need to find the right amount of space for proper airflow. This is the main purpose of this handy tool.

Fuel Filter: as you can already gather from its name, this handy auto part helps clean your fuel from impurities. It also prevents debris from settling into your gas tank and destroying your engine. This auto part needs to be replaced every few years or every 30,000 to 40,000 miles—all depending on what your owner’s manual specifies.

Clean Cloth or Cloths: there’s no better way to soak up spills than with a nice, clean cloth.

Brush or Brushes: small brushes will help you clean even the most hard-to-reach places between your auto’s numerous components.

PCV Inlet Filter or PCV Filter: this auto part is found in your air cleaner assembly, near your air filter. Replace immensely dirty or clogged filters to improve your engine’s performance.

Masking Tape and Marking Pens: use these tools to label the parts you take out for easier reassembly.

Compressed Air: you can get compressed air from a can or an air compressor.

Other auto parts you may need:

Replacement Distributor Cap: if your distributor cap is damaged or cracked then you need to replace this cap as soon as possible.

Ignition Wires or Cables: exposed to extreme heat, these high-voltage current carriers are usually prone to damage and meltdowns. Replace busted wires ASAP to prevent stray current from destroying the auto parts under your hood.

Distributor Ignition Rotor: in most cases, replacing the distributor also requires you to replace the rotor found with it. If you’re planning on getting a tune-up kit, make sure your kit contains this vital part.

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Auto Tune-Ups: Is Your Vehicle Running Out of Tune?

June 27, 2008

If you play the piano or the guitar, then you’d surely know when something’s gone amiss. A string or a key out of tune can easily be heard and can seriously affect the overall performance of the musician. The same goes for your vehicle. Inside your vehicle (whether we’re talking truck, car, convertible or SUV) is a series of auto parts all designed to work well together in providing you with the best performance your vehicle can offer. When one of these parts malfunction or stop working altogether, you’ll certainly notice it with the decrease in vehicle handling, fuel economy, speed or ride quality of your vehicle. So how do you know that your vehicle is in dire need of a tune-up?

The following are some easy-to-spot symptoms of an auto that desperately needs a tune-up:

*note: Though a tune-up may not be able to solve bigger auto problems, it helps you determine the cause of your vehicle’s poor performance or malfunctions.

BAD FUEL ECONOMY: With the prices of fuel on the rise, you definitely don’t need the hassle of constantly having to refill your tank because your ride’s wasting too much gas. If you notice a decline on your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, then your auto needs a tune-up ASAP.

EXHAUST PROBLEMS: When checking your auto’s exhaust emissions, is it appearing denser or does it smell more pungent? Is your car releasing large clouds of white, bluish or dark smoke?

ENGINE PINGING, ROUGH-RUNNING and KNOCKING: Do you hear knocking and pinging on your exhaust or under your hood each time you drive? Is your engine running rougher these days? (A rough-running engine presents itself best when your vehicle is idling).

FEEDBACK and PROBLEMS with AUTO-STARTS: Is your vehicle these days more prone to stalling? Do you experience difficulties each time you start your ride? Notice a feedback even when your auto’s engine is turned off?

If you answered yes to any of the questions listed above, or if you are experiencing problems with your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, then you need to conduct an auto tune-up as soon as you can.

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Auto Tune-Ups: Answering the What’s, When’s and Why’s of Automotive Tune-Ups

June 21, 2008

The Parts Bin | Automechanic

The auto tune-up is one of the most popularly known vehicle maintenance tricks out there. As you can already surmise from its name, the tune-up involves tweaking your car a little bit and replacing old filters and small parts to help keep your vehicle running at its best. But what exactly is an auto tune-up?

The Tune-Up:

Based on experience, I’ve found that going to different garages and talking to various mechanics can give you different answers to the question: “what is an auto tune-up”. But though definitions of the term “tune-up” may differ depending on the auto mechanic, most of its basic processes and standard operations remain the same. The following are some of the standard operations performed in a tune-up:

  • Checking and if needed, replacing spark plugs, fuel filters, air filters and the PCV filter
  • Checking the work condition f the ignition and replacing damaged parts (once again, if needed)
  • Inspecting the wires running between your vehicle’s distributor cap and cylinders for damage and doing necessary repairs or replacing
  • And cleaning the distributor cap and replacing it if it’s damaged or cracked

The tune-up could also mean checking all the different components located under your vehicle’s hood. The extent of your inspection or checks would depend on how extensive you want your tune-up to be.

Why Should You Get a Tune Up?

The primary reason behind the tune-up is to make sure your vehicle is still in tiptop shape. Regular tune-ups should also help prevent complete engine breakdown, since you’ll be repairing and replacing damaged auto parts before they can cause more harm to your engine’s system and your vehicle’s overall performance.

While most drivers are predisposed to getting tune-ups only when necessary, i.e. when the vehicle is going to be checked by a state safety program or emissions program, it’s more advisable to conduct regular tune-ups every year. Besides, it takes more than a tune-up to cure massive auto problems that have been gradually worsening in your vehicle in the past few months.

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Car Maintenance 101: Flushing your Vehicle’s Cooling System

June 20, 2008

The Importance of your Vehicle’s Heating and Cooling System

Beyond the comforts offered by being able to control the temperature inside your vehicle, your auto’s heating and cooling systems are necessary in preventing your ride from breaking down due to incredibly high operating temperatures.

Checking your auto’s cooling and heating systems is particularly crucial in the weeks preceding the subfreezing winter season and the sweltering heat of summer. But it’s more advisable that you check these systems every time you conduct a routine car check-up or you engage in basic vehicle maintenance.

Every time you drive, your radiator uses up coolant and water mixture to help lower the temperatures in your vehicle’s engine system. The longer and the faster you drive, the bigger the stress on your engine, allowing temperatures to skyrocket to incredible heights leading to the increase of the likelihood of overheating. Because of the coolant’s crucial role in maintaining your engine’s efficiency, you need to keep your ride equipped with the right coolant mixture (pretty much the same way you’d pick out the right type of gas for your car).

Coolant, like all the other fluids used by your vehicle, has a tendency to break down over time. This is why you need to replace your coolant mixture once in a while. When the coolant breaks down, more stress is placed on your radiator and your engine begins to run hotter than normal. Gunk and mineral deposits also build up under your vehicle’s hood, effectively reducing your vehicle’s overall performance. Prolonged use of bad coolant can also result to radiator damage, requiring you to replace your radiator sooner than you actually have to.

How Often Do You Need to Flush Out Your Cooling System?

The frequency required by your vehicle may depend on the type of auto you own and the weather conditions. If you live in an area that has moderate climates, then you can flush out your vehicle’s cooling system once a year. If, however, you live in an area known for its harsh winters and/or sizzling summers, then you may need to change your coolant mixture twice a year—at the start of summer and at the start of winter. Browse through your owner’s manual for more information on this matter.

The following are some steps on how you can flush out your vehicle’s cooling system.

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Car Terminology: What Do You Mean By “Flooding the Engine”?

June 14, 2008

The Parts Bin | Automechanic

Let me start this post by saying that this practice is not recommended.

While it’s normal for most drivers to “step on the gas” or depress the accelerator a bit when starting their vehicles, it’s not normal to do this repeatedly or to hold the accelerator down completely. We often depress the gas pedal to send some fuel into the system. But if you do this repeatedly or for long periods of time, then too much fuel enters your engine system (more than what is needed and definitely a lot more than what’s recommended), resulting in you accidentally flooding your engine—although to be more precise, it’s actually your carburetor that gets flooded. When this happens, you’ve got a bit of a problem.

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Addressing Auto Problems: Finding out What Your Vehicle’s Smoke Signals

June 13, 2008

The Parts Bin | Automechanic

Exhaust problems are some of the most common auto problems experienced by drivers around the world. You may, at one point, have noticed that your vehicle is emitting too much smoke or that your auto has been releasing puffs of white or very dark emissions. You’re not quite sure if the type of smoke or the amount of smoke being released by your vehicle is still within boundaries of what could be considered “normal” for your vehicle. You’re asking yourself: “Is it normal? Is it bad? Should I take my vehicle to a mechanic?” Before you start panicking or dismissing your vehicle’s exhaust emissions as something trivial, read some of this pointers and clarifications first.

As was mentioned in the previous post, it’s normal for small amounts of exhaust emissions to exit your vehicle at any given time. Large clouds of smoke may even be normal if you’ve just started your vehicle during a particularly cold morning. The clouds of smoke may be attributed to condensation. If, however, your vehicle is releasing excessive smoke, or if the smoke is grayish, black or white in color, then this indicates part malfunction. Read the rest of this entry »

Addressing Auto Problems: the Misfiring Engine or Engine Cylinder

June 7, 2008

The Parts Bin | Automechanic

While today’s engines are more efficient and at times less gas-guzzling compared to their predecessors, some engine problems continue to plague various vehicle owners. One of the most common engine problems encountered by drivers is a misfiring engine. There are times when it’s not the total engine or the complete number of engine cylinders that misfires, sometimes it’s just a single engine cylinder that constantly misfires every time the vehicle is used. And that’s just the tip of an iceberg. Read the rest of this entry »