Winter Reminders for Every Driver: The Right Maintenance Steps (Part IV)

December 18, 2008

Note to Reader: The following tips apply to “pre-winter” and ‘middle of the season’ winter maintenance. Now, just because winter has started, it doesn’t mean you should neglect your duties as a car owner. I was actually looking for a better word apart from “duties” to describe what you need to do to help keep your car in tiptop condition during these cold months, but I couldn’t find any. Yes, you have a duty to keep your car in great shape. While vehicle maintenance may not seem like a pressing duty these days, neglecting simple things like auto tune ups can eventually lead to costly reparations, or worse, expensive auto-part or entire-vehicle replacement.

Tip #8: Conduct a Tune-Up!

Now if you’re a responsible vehicle owner, then you already know the importance of regular tune ups. But in case you missed my previous posts on this topic (multi-posts at that!) then I’ll give you two reasons why you should conduct regular auto tune ups: (1) It helps keep your car performing at its best by making sure your engine and ignition components are in great shape, and (2) it helps you catch small auto issues before they become full-blown, migraine-inducing, automotive problems—possibly saving you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

While a couple of auto breakdowns during the warmer seasons may seem like “petty issues” to some of us, it’s a completely different story when you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter with a busted car. When you feel

every muscle in your body starting to freeze when you step out of your car, then you’ll know you’re in deep trouble. Avoid turning into a human popsicle by making sure your car is in great shape before, during, and even after the winter season.

Because broken fan belts, hoses-gone-bad, frozen water pumps, arcing ignition wires, and malfunctioning distributor rotors and caps, are the usual culprits when it comes to auto breakdowns, it’s better to make sure each one of these auto units are in good condition before embarking in any long winter trips.

I know that the word “tune-up” can encompass virtually anything and everything that has to do with repairs and replacements, that’s why we’re going to be tackling some of the most important steps you shouldn’t forget when conducting a tune-up. If you decide to do a little “extra” work on your car, then that’s good news for both you and your car! If you don’t have the time to go through every single component in your vehicle, then I suggest checking at least the following:

Misc. Tip

Its widely known that winter time brings with it more auto expenses. Auto accident rates skyrocket with snow and icy conditions. Proper maintenance will certainly help you and your auto be better prepared for these conditions. In the mean time you might want to check out some cheap auto insurance savings tips as there is a very good chance you will have even minor accidents this winter.

Step #1: Check your tire pressure levels. If you don’t have the tools to check your tire pressure levels, then you can ask your local mechanic to do it for you—sometimes even for free! But since it’s Christmas, you might want to leave a nice tip for your mechanic.

If your vehicle has built-in tire pressure monitors, then you won’t have to worry about frequent tire checks, since these monitors should alert you when there are drastic changes in your car’s tire pressure levels. But if you notice one or all of your tires going soft gradually, then it’s best to still conduct a manual check once in a while.

Spark Plug Wires

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Spark Plug Maintenance

November 15, 2007

Checking the Spark Plug

1. The use of compressed air is necessary when trying to remove the spark plug. This would blow out the foreign matters all over the base.

2. It is proper to remove the wire from its terminal boot rather than pulling onto the spark plug wire itself.

3. To avoid confusion and easy identification of wires, an organized system can be implemented such as the use of numbered clothespin. This can be clipped on the wire which makes the task uncomplicated.

4. A deep socket that contains a magnetic or rubber retainer is preferable to use.

5. Make sure to classify the spark plug with its appropriate cylinder.

6. Check the spark plug for potential cylinder failures.

7. Make the plug clean through a solvent and let it dry with the aid of compressed air. Likewise, ensure that the insulator is free from carbon, paint as well as oxide. These stuffs are formed from the fuel additives.

8. When there is a rounded-off electrode, it is required to make it filed flat.

9. Using a steel brush, remove particles formed in the threads such as carbon and rust.

10. Ensure the width of the gap using a round spark plug wire type gauge. Apply the necessary gap adjustments between the electrode and ground to their correct arrangement and specifications, normally, in the range of .022 to .040 inch.


Setting up Spark Plugs

1. Make sure that both the plug threads and cylinder threads are dirt-free.

2. Even if you have new plugs, it is still necessary to check the gap setting.

3. For plugs that require head gaskets, be sure that you install new ones at all times.

4. With the use of hands, make the plugs tighter. After that, using a torque wrench, re-torque the plugs according to the recommendation of the manufacturer. It may vary whether in cast iron heads or aluminum head from the range of 10 ft. lbs. to 35 ft. lbs.

5. Check the spark plug cable. Ensure that it is securely fitted in the plug terminal.

6. Regular inspection must be done on plugs. A lot of manufacturers suggest checking these components every 16,090km or 10,000 miles.

Spark Plug Functions and Conditions

November 13, 2007

Based from the term itself, the spark plug is responsible for providing an electrode gap to produce an ignition to the vapor packed in fuel-air mixture. It also provides the gas-tight path starting from the high-tension lead wire to the supplied electrode gap. At great engine velocity, about 20,000 volts must be produced in roughly 40 times every second without any dripping to the ground.

There are three main parts consisting the spark plug; the electrode, insulator and the threaded meta shell. To combine all of these and form a complete leak-resistant component, dry powder or cement is being used. Both the insulator tip and electrode are prone to intense change in temperature, from the normal fresh air to about an extreme 4,000oF as well as under great pressure reaching to 800 lb for every square inch. The tip of the insulator determines the range of heat of the spark plug, whether cold or hot. Due to potential replacement or great force during removal, the insulator tip can be broken, cracked or even damaged.

Generally, the best possible heat range of the spark plug can be determined based from the engine design and working conditions. When the vehicle engine is cold and there are many start and stop driving, a hotter spark plug is employed. On the other hand, when the engine is hot and used in continuous driving especially in hot weather conditions, a colder plug option can be used. Because of these conditions, getting the proper temperature range of the plug is important. Fouling of the spark plug, in Jaguar spark plug is caused by the combustion products that accumulate on the insulator. Additionally, extremely hot plug can damage the insulator. It can also be a source of premature burning of the fuel-air mixture which then fritters away fuel, decreases power and even damages the engine. However, fouling can be prevented when the spark plug is hot enough while pre-ignition and fast wearing down of electrodes can be avoided when the plug is adequately cold.

In addition to the abovementioned functions of the spark plug, the component can also be a helpful indicator regarding the condition of the car engine. This is because the spark plug is extended into the vehicle’s combustion chamber. Accordingly, it is necessary to check the plugs.

The following are the spark plug conditions helpful in determining the possible cause of failures.

1. When the plug is operating in good condition, a gray or light tan color can be observed. There is a small gap clearance and minimal amount of deposits on the tip of insulator.

2. A worn-out ground and electrode is a big sign that a new one must be at hand. Moreover, if all of the plugs in the car engine are experiencing the same situation together with sticking valves, weak condenser or coil, faulty breaker points and defective ignition leads, then a new hotter plug must be utilized.

3. An oily, muddy and black deposit accumulated on the spark plug causes oil fouling. Though a hotter plug can be of assistance, repair must still be implemented.

4. When plugs contain splotchy particles on the insulator, splashed fouling may occur. The deposits have been built up from misfiring or poor operation. To restore better and accurate performance, a new plug is a good choice.

5. Materials found between the ground and electrode and are produced from combustion can initiate gap or core bridging. This may likewise cause plugs to become defective. When there is a poor oil control or continuous start and stop driving, too much deposit accumulation is most likely to happen.

6. Three conditions can indicate overheating of the spark plug. These are poorly eroded electrodes, yellow or white glaze and burned insulator nose. A defective thermostat, improper heat range or too rich carburetor can be a cause of this plug problem.