Is it Time for a Tune-Up?

We’re going to start today with a brief history lesson, the term “tune-up” applies only to cars built prior to 1981, without an electronic ignition system. The rule of thumb was to get a tune-up every 15,000 – 20,000 miles. For vehicles without an electronic ignition system, a tune-up consisted of replacing the spark plugs, ignition contact points, rotor, distributor cap, adjusting the ignition timing, as well as the carburetor.

On modern vehicles built after 1981, equipped with an electronic ignition system, fuel injection and computer controls, the term “engine performance maintenance” would be the correct term (even though everyone refers to it as a tune-up). The new process consists of inspection, computer diagnosis, testing and adjustment to maintain peak engine performance, maximum operating efficiency and low exhaust emissions. During this process, spark plugs, plug wires, sensors, and modules may be replaced. The frequency at which a newer vehicle needs a tune-up is dependent more upon driving conditions than mileage and recommended tune-up frequencies vary between 30,000 – 100,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer. To learn how often your vehicle needs a tune-up, check your owner’s manual.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer there are some tools you are going to need to “tune-up” your vehicle. Below we outline the most common tools and a few of the less common tools.

Most Common Tools and their Uses

Ratchet: Used to loosen and tighten the spark plugs, as well as loosen any bolts that are in the way of completing the job.

Socket Set: Used in conjunction with the ratchet to perform the same tasks as the ratchet.

Screwdrivers: Used to remove screws holding down items that need to be removed. A standard screwdriver is also used to pry small items in tight areas.

Spark Plug Gap Tool: This tool is used to measure the gap of the spark plug to ensure it is what the manufacturer recommends. This tool is also used to change the gap of certain spark plugs.

Torque Wrench: This tool is used to torque the spark plugs, as well as other bolts, to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Collapsible Magnet: This tool is a magnet on the end of an extendable rod. This tool is used to remove the spark plugs from hard to reach areas as well as bolts and screws that may be dropped in small crevices.

Spark Plug Socket: This is a socket designed specifically to remove spark plugs. It typically has a rubber insert at the top to “grab” the spark plug so it does not fall off while removing or placing the spark plug.

Electrical Grease: This is grease that conducts electricity. It is used on electrical contacts to prevent them from rusting, therefore keeping a good current flow.

Anti Seize: A coating used on the spark plugs to make certain they do not seize to the engine. This makes them easier to remove the next time you perform a tune up.

Digital Camera: Yes a digital camera is great for tune ups so you can take a before picture to ensure you put everything back the way it is supposed to go.

Extendable Mirror: This is a flexible mirror on an extendable rod. This is used to see into those areas that are in a place you cannot see from the top of the engine.

Less Common Tools and their Uses

Spark Tester: This tool is used to test the spark coming from the ignition wire to ensure the spark is getting to the plug.

Feeler gauge: This is generally used for setting the points of an older vehicle. Years ago, this was a very common tool for a tune up, but with new cars not having point, it has become less common.

Timing light: This tool is primarily used on older vehicles. It is used to check the timing of the vehicle is correct after performing the tune up.

If you have any questions about these specific tools, please ask us! You can leave your questions in the comments below or call us directly at 1-417-358-1919(outside of the US) or at 1-877-880-4056(inside the US).

10 Tips to Extend the Life of Your Vehicle

Everyone’s got a friend or relative whose car or truck seems to last forever.  For me it’s my father and future father-in-law. Both of these man know how to squeeze every last mile out of their vehicles. The common thought may be, ‘Oh it’s a Chevy, or It was built Ford tough.’ I know, it’s impressive. I decided to figure this out, and learn from the pros.  I learned that how you care for and handle your car drastically affects its life, I am talking down to how you drive, even your attitude on the road.  Here are 10 tips to keep your car, truck or van on the road for many miles and a long time.

1. Keep Your Gas Tank Full.  Gas contains sediments that are filtered by the fuel filter.  However, the lower your gas tanks gets the more concentrated the sediment becomes, increasing the risk of clogging the system.  Driving near empty also means a greater likelihood of condensation developing in the fuel system, which can cause serious damage.  Your best bet is not letting your fuel drop below a ¼ tank.

2. Regular Oil Changes.  Oil changes are an extremely important and simple way to care for your car.  Oil keeps the parts of your car lubricated, which in turn reduces friction, allowing the parts to last longer.  Over time, however, oil breaks down due to the high heat it undergoes, becoming less effective; hence the need for oil changes.

3. Start Gentle.  In the first few minutes of driving your car engine is “cold”, meaning the optimal temperature at which your car runs has not been reached and oil is thick, not lubricating as well.  Therefore, it is especially important in this time not to gun the engine or slam on the brakes.  In all seriousness, you should always ‘start gentle,’ it is best practice.

4. Wash Regularly.  Keeping your car clean is for more than superficial reasons.  Dirt and especially salt cause serious corrosion problems and the bottom of a vehicle often takes the worst hit.  Corrosion can cause serious structural damage.  Washing debris off your car can help prevent rust.  Be careful not to over wash, excess water can contribute to rust problems.

5. Let the Manual be Your Guide.  Your car manual is a wealth of information written by the foremost experts on your vehicle. It covers everything, from what pressure to keep your tires at, to the optimal fuel you should use, not to mention when and what you should have serviced.  The car manual is made with the intent of telling you how best to care for your car, so you really can’t go wrong following its advice. Gents, I too suffer from “I already know this syndrome,” but if you really should check it out.

6. Don’t Ignore Problems.  No matter how long you wish that pesky check engine light would go away, it’s not going to.  But the longer you drive with a problem, the more serious it will become and could end up costing you a lot more money.  So take your car to a qualified mechanic sooner rather than later and you’ll see a lot less of him in the long run.

7. Prevent Tire Trouble.  Keeping your tires properly inflated and rotating them on a regular basis not only helps the tires last longer but your car too.  Tires directly affect the suspension, steering, and braking of your car, so make sure yours are in tiptop shape. Be sure to check out one of our previous posts, “Road Trip!” it has a great little tid-bit on checking your tire’s wear and tear.

8. Don’t Neglect the Air Filter.  Most don’t give the air filter much thought; I know I don’t, but it’s crucial for preventing debris from getting in the engine and causing unnecessary wear.  A dirty filter does this less effectively and can also cause the fuel injector to produce an incorrect air to fuel ratio needed for the car to run.  Be sure to check on your air filter regularly, we recommend having a look when you change your oil.

9. When Possible Drive on the Expressway.  City driving usually involves short trips in stop and go traffic.  First, there’s the issue that your engine will likely never reach peak function and more wear will occur.  In addition, the jerky nature of city driving is harder on the car.  So when you have the option, pick the expressway route.  If you don’t have the option and/or live in the city, walk! It’s good for you, and your car.

10. Use the Parking Brake.  When you shift your car into park the transmission holds the car in place.  However, the transmissions true purpose is to change vehicle gears, not hold the vehicle.  That’s what the parking brake is for, and by using it you’ll save the transmission a lot of stress.  Put the parking brake in place when your foot is on the brake, before shifting into park.  Just don’t forget to release the parking brake when you’re ready to go…we have all done it, just don’t do it again.

These tips should help you drive your car for a long time to come.  Enjoy the ride!

5 Apps Every New Mechanic Needs

When you’re starting out as a mechanic, there are a couple of apps that can be extremely helpful. They can help you quickly diagnose car troubles accurately and without having to constantly ‘Google’ your questions.
ExpertVideo: Car Repair Basics
Car Repair Basics uses video to demonstrate topics including bleeding auto brakes, checking for battery fluid leaks, and replacing the wheel bearing, App Advice notes. This is an app full of videos that teach you everything you need to know to repair (or help you repair) your vehicle. This app costs $0.99, and it is worth every penny.
TuneyFish recognizes that mechanics sometimes need a refresher on how to check a car’s timing belt or replace a fuse in an older model. TuneyFish provide tips on regular maintenance via videos, and shows how to inspect and know which parts are due for replacement. They also offer you pages of written information and images that corollate with the videos to provide you with deeper insight into how cars work. Many of the videos are geared toward the do-it-yourselfer, but we believe beginner mechanics can benefit from TuneyFish as well.
ASE Study Apps
If you are preparing for the ASE exam, ASE Study apps are a must have. Mechanics Exam offers 70-question multiple choice ASE practice exams that cover automatic transmission vehicles, manual drive vehicles, axles, engine repair, and many other topics. Study for ASE by JamPot Technologies is not the equivalent to your ASE Book, but it does make studying on the go much easier. Coming with a $2.99 price tag, we believe this is a great tool to help you pass your ASE exam.
If you’re a mechanic who often has to search for o-ring sizes, this app is a must-have. Enter installation specifications in inches or metric system, then view matching sized O-rings. The app uses the ISO standard 3601, so you know you can trust the information returned. Learn more about the app here.
Rev is one of the more impressive apps we have ever seen. It records and displays real-time auto codes from the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system. It can also fetch and reset recently displayed “Check Engine” light codes. Not only is the app be useful for mechanics, it can be very helpful for those customers who have regular auto problems. Simply ask them to download Rev, which won the 2009 Popular Mechanics Editor’s Choice Award. Rev comes with a hefty $39.99 price tag, but it is well worth it.
We would love to hear your feed back on this post. Have any of you used these apps? Drop your reviews and comments below.


What to do if your car won't start

Uh oh, your car won’t start? If this has never happened to you, consider yourself lucky; but it is only a matter of time until your luck fades. Everyone should know the proper steps to remedy this situation.

What Your Friends May Have Told You:

  • You just need a jump start
  • It’s probably a sensor or something
  • Your engine has major damage


The Truth

If your car won’t start then there is a chance that you would just need a jump start, but before you try that, make sure that your ‘security’ light is not flashing. If it is then your problem probably does not have anything to do with the battery or starter, it is most likely because your security system is not letting it start. If this is the case then you need to read your owners manual to see how to fix this or contact your dealer. Since all makes and models are different there is no universal way to turn off the security system.
If the security light is NOT flashing then you need to start checking the other things that can cause a no start.

What To Check If Your Car Won’t Turn Over

If your car will not turn over then there are several things to check. Always start with your battery. The most accurate way is to have it load tested. Most auto parts stores and many repair shops will do this for free.

If you can’t or don’t want to do this test you can also try turning on all of your accessories (Heater, radio, lights, etc.). After they are all on go out and see how bright the lights are. If they are dim this tells you that the battery is probably not as strong as it should be.

Another Easy Test

Another great test is for those that either have a voltmeter or are willing to buy a voltmeter. You can use it to do lots of diagnoses on your car.  It should have a minimum of 12.4 volts. A fully charged battery should actually have approx. 12.6 volts.

The next most common cause is the battery cables not being tight or they are too corroded. This is an easy thing to check…just try to wiggle them. If they move, then they are too loose. Also look for white or blue buildup on the connections. This is an indication that the cables are corroded.

Could it be the starter? Let’s hope not. Many times when the starter begins to fail you will hear clicking noises from your engine, sometimes it will take more than one try to get your car to start.

The best way to easily test your starter is to put the voltmeter leads on your battery and have someone try to start the vehicle. Read the voltage at this time. If the voltage drops below 9.6 volts then it is likely that your starter needs to be replaced

It is also possible that your ignition switch has gone bad. Chances are slim and to test this, I recommend you go see your local automotive professional.

What If My Car Does Turn Over?

If your car turns over but still won’t start things become a little trickier. Mainly because there are a myriad of different reasons your car isn’t starting at this point.

The most common causes for this type of problem are:

Fuel pressure, camshaft sensor, crankshaft sensor, ignition problems, etc.

Testing these components can get very technical so my recommendation is to take your car to a good repair shop. Many times people just start replacing parts, and end up spending a lot more money that it would have taken them to just take it to a professional to have it diagnosed.

Until next time!