Do You Need A Tune Up? Find Out Here

If your engine misfires, hesitates, stalls, gets poor mileage, is hard to start or has failed an emissions test, it clearly needs something, though a tune-up in the traditional sense might not be the cure.

If you tell a repair shop you need a tune-up, the mechanic should ask why you feel you need one before recommending any service. Just like a doctor should ask what symptoms you’re experiencing, a mechanic should seek to diagnose the problem. And just as a doctor may recommend some tests, a mechanic may do the same.

You can speed the process by being ready to describe what happens and when (such as whether your car hesitates when the engine is cold or when passing at highway speeds), any sounds you hear and what you feel when your car’s “illness” shows up.

One caution about lower fuel economy: You should expect it to go down at least a little during the cold months, and maybe a lot. Colder temperatures make your engine and charging system work harder. In addition, winter gasoline blends have slightly less energy content than summer blends, so they don’t deliver as many miles per gallon. A tune-up won’t make Old Man Winter, or his effects, go away.

What are symptoms that might make you think you need a tune-up?

* A misfiring engine (when spark plugs ignite at the wrong time) could be caused by worn or fouled spark plugs. Bad spark plugs can also cause low fuel economy, hard starting and sluggish acceleration. Most plugs, though, should last 100,000 miles or more, and engine computers do a remarkable job of compensating for worn plugs, so that might not be the main or only culprit.

* A dirty or clogged engine air filter is more likely to reduce acceleration than fuel economy, according to tests conducted by the EPA. Because filters get dirty gradually over time, you might not notice a small but steady loss of performance until your car is accelerating like a turtle. But if you haven’t changed the filter in a couple of years (or sooner in areas that have a lot of soot in the air), that could be part of the problem.

* Engine deposits caused by low-quality or contaminated gasoline create drivability problems, and the cure for that might be a fuel system cleaning, either by a repair shop or with a gas-tank additive.

* An illuminated check engine light signals when something is amiss in the emissions control system, but depending on what the issue is it could also affect fuel economy or engine performance, so don’t ignore it. A faulty oxygen sensor, for example, leaves the engine computer in the dark about how to set the air-fuel mixture, and that can result in poor fuel economy.

* An old oxygen sensor (say, 90,000 miles or more) may still work well enough that it doesn’t trigger the check engine light but could still hurt fuel economy. Engine performance can also be reduced by more serious internal problems, such as valves that don’t seat properly or worn piston rings, or by restrictions in the exhaust system.

Because the same symptoms can suggest different problems, and there are often several possible causes and cures, it’s better to consult a professional mechanic than to try to be one if you have neither the experience nor the right equipment to diagnose drivability problems.In short, rather than ask for a tune-up, tell a mechanic what you’re experiencing and ask him or her to find the cause.

Increase Your Autos Performance

In these days of high gasoline prices, it may seem ridiculous to consider ways to increase your car’s performance as they are almost always associated with increased fuel consumption. However, there are four ways to increase performance that does not have to negatively impact your gas mileage. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

1. Reusable Air Filters. Landfills are stuffed with items we use once and then throw out. Auto air filters are one such item and through the life of a car you can go through 6-12 of them with no problem. For approximately three times the price, washable and reusable air filters are a great alternative. When you purchase one it likely will be the last air filter your car will ever need. Reusable air filters enable you to gain slight increases in horsepower and acceleration as well as to impact the environment in a positive way.

2. Performance Chips. All new cars are operated by a computer chip that tells how much torque and horsepower can be displaced. Performance chips or recalibrations of your current chip can produce significant increases in horsepower and torque for your vehicle.

3. Performance Exhaust Systems. Cat-back or “catalyst-back exhaust systems” are a great way to free up trapped torque and to unleash horsepower. Keeping all the important emissions parts in place, a cat-back system incorporates large width exhaust pipes and low restriction performance mufflers into your car thereby lowering exhaust back pressure. A side benefit is a really awesome sound emitting from the exhaust system.

4. Cold Air Intake. A cold air intake is an under the hood mod that helps to reduce the temperature of the air entering the car for the sole purpose of increasing the power of the engine. Side benefits include enhancements to the appearance of the engine bay as this part can be attractive and colorful; the sound the unit makes is also appealing.

Costs for each of these performance enhancements can vary greatly. Shopping online with a trusted wholesaler is one of the best ways to find top quality parts at the lowest possible prices. By doing the work yourself, you can save a bundle and enjoy the fruits of your labor in no time.

Tips For Defensive Driving

People claim to be safe drivers and ascertain that they do their best to follow all rules of the road. But no matter how confident you are in your driving skills, you’re never far from risk.

Even the most skilled drivers can become involved in a crash at any time due to external road conditions or other drivers. While you can’t control the way other motorists drive, you can control how you react to them.

So what can safe, experienced drivers do to help account for the mistakes of others?

Mark Lewis, director of standards at the Institute of Advanced Motorists offers some defensive driving tips that could help you – no matter how competent you consider yourself behind the wheel.

Don’t be too trusting

The biggest problem The Peacemaker faces is that he trusts other drivers to be as careful on the roads as he is. This leads to one of the most common mistakes motorists tend to make: taking on trust that when someone flashes their headlamps at you, they are correctly telling you that it’s safe to proceed.

This is something none of us should do. In fact, the Highway Code very clearly states that we mustn’t – flashing your headlights is the same as sounding your horn. It means “I’m here”. It doesn’t mean “Come on through”. Don’t do it to others and don’t trust others when they do it to you – this is a signal that can be misconstrued with potentially disastrous consequences.

Observe, anticipate and plan

Defensive driving is all about being observant, anticipating problems and planning ahead. So, what can I see? What does that mean for me? And what will I do about it to stay safe? For example, you might notice that the dustbins are out – this means you can anticipate that there might be a lorry around the next corner so you should slow down on the bend just in case.

Be wary of indicators

Just because the car in front of you is indicating left, doesn’t mean it will actually turn. Unless you can physically see the vehicle turning, that action hasn’t been confirmed. Wait and see what the driver does rather than presuming they even realize that their indicators are on.

Create a safety bubble

Keep as much space around your car as possible when you’re on the road so that you have room to manuver when other people make mistakes. Always remember that however hard you are concentrating on the road, the person coming towards you might be messing with their phone, fiddling with the car stereo or just generally distracted. You can never be sure they’re going to do the right or safest thing.

If in doubt, pull over

If the person behind you is driving erratically or too close for comfort then, when it’s safe to do so, pull over and let them pass. Driving is not a race. It’s best to play it safe and avoid putting yourself in a dangerous position.

Safety Tips For New Drivers

While getting a drivers license is an exciting rite-of-passage for teens, it can make a parent frantic—with good reason. The first years that teenagers spend driving are very risky. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds and research shows that more than half of teens who die in crashes are passengers, most of whom are not wearing a seatbelt.

Immaturity and lack of driving experience are the two main factors leading to the high crash rates among teens. Even the best teenage drivers do not have the judgment that comes from experience. It affects their recognition of, and response to, hazardous situations and results in dangerous practices such as speeding and tailgating. Teens also tend to engage in risky behavior—eating, talking on their cellphones, text messaging, talking to friends in the car—and they often do not wear their seatbelts.

If you’re the parent of a new driver, take the following steps to ensure the safety of your teenager.

Pick a safe car

You and your teenager should choose a car that is easy to drive and would offer protection in the event of a crash. Learn about how to choose a safe car—for example, avoid small cars and those with high performance images that might encourage speed and recklessness, or trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs), which are more prone to rollovers.

Enroll your teen in a drivers education course

The more driving practice the better; experience will give your teen confidence behind the wheel, and he or she will be better able to react to challenging situations on the road. Furthermore, a teenager who has learned to drive through a recognized drivers education course is viewed more favorably by insurers and may earn a discount.

Enroll your teen in a safe driver program

Check whether your insurance company offers a “safe driver” program. Teen participants in these programs sign parent-teen driving contracts that outline the young driver’s responsibilities (for instance, not having teen passengers in the car, being home by a certain hour, etc.) and the consequences of failure to meet those expectations. If your teenager completes the program, not only will he or she be a safer driver, you may also be eligible for a discount.

In addition, many insurance companies are helping to reduce the number of accidents involving teen drivers by subsidizing the cost of electronic devices, such as GPS systems and video cameras, which can monitor the way teens drive and alert parents of unsafe driving practices by email, text message or phone.

Enroll your teen in a graduated drivers license program—or create your own

Many states have successful reduced teen accident rates with graduated drivers license (GDL) programs and other laws that allow teen drivers to develop skills and gain experience behind the wheel. With these, new drivers are restricted from certain activities—such as late night driving, having passengers in the car or being on the road unsupervised—until they have had their licenses for a set period.

In states without a GDL program, parents can institute the same policies. Take an active role in your teenagers’ driving practice and expose them to driving in a wide variety of driving conditions to build experience and confidence as you introduce privileges gradually. Allow independent driving only after continued practice, including night driving and driving in inclement weather.

Discuss the dangers of drug and alcohol use

Advise teens never to drink or do drugs, and not to get in a car if the driver has used drugs or alcohol. Encourage your teen to call you if such a situation arises to ensure they have a safe way home.

Understand the dangers of distracted and impaired driving

Talk to your teen about the importance of not driving while distracted. Distractions include phoning or texting while driving, as well as listening to the radio and chatting with friends who are in the car. Teens should also be responsible passengers when in their friends’ cars. New drivers should wait 1,000 miles or six months before picking up their first teen passenger.

Be a good role model

New drivers learn by example, so if you drive recklessly, your teenage driver may imitate you. Always wear your seatbelt and never drink and drive.

And, finally, keep in mind, teenagers mature differently—not all are mature enough to handle a drivers license at the same age. Parents should consider whether teens are easily distracted, nervous or risk takers before allowing them to get a license or even a learners permit.

Services Drivers Neglect and Shouldn’t

While some drivers treat their vehicles like delicate glass figurines, other drivers view their vehicles as machines of practicality—the most efficient way to get from point A to point B. Whichever camp you fall in, you know that regular oil changes and preventative maintenance are two of the easiest ways to keep your car in good health. Even if car care isn’t your favorite topic of conversation, it pays to take it seriously.

No. 1: Differential Service

Here’s a fun physics fact: when your car turns a corner, the outside wheels travel more than the inside ones, meaning they have a higher RPM (or revolutions per minute). To help you turn corners smoothly and safely, your car is equipped with a mechanism that helps the wheels revolve at independent speeds. This set of gears and fluid is called the differential.

If your vehicle suffers from thin differential fluid or loose gears and bearings, you might hear whirring or rumbling when traveling over 15 mph, banging when rounding corners, or a high pitched howl while accelerating.  Differential fluid is one of your car’s many essential lubrication fluids, but it’s also one of the most forgotten due to the fact that it’s not serviced nearly as often as others.

No. 2: Wheel Alignment

Remember playing with toy cars and trucks as a kid? They never seemed to roll straight. While “energetic steering” on your part may have been to blame, it’s more likely that the wheels on your toy cars weren’t aligned very well.

Ideally, a vehicle’s wheels are even with each other and all pointed straight ahead. If your car starts pulling to one side or wearing unevenly, come find us before the problem gets worse. Poor alignment can negatively impact steering components and decrease your tires’ lifespan by thousands of miles. Yup. Thousands of miles. To better protect yourself (and your wallet), I recommend having your alignment checked every 6,000 miles or so.

No. 3: Timing Belt

Your engine’s timing belt regulates the timing (as you probably expected!) of the engine’s crankshaft and camshafts so that your car operates smoothly. If the belt isn’t functioning normally, you might experience difficulty starting your car, overheating, a loss of engine power, or squealing and chirping noises. If you experience any of these symptoms, your timing belt might need to be replaced.

To head off such issues, we recommend replacing the belt every 60,000 to 100,000 miles depending on your vehicle. Timing belts don’t like to give much notice before they fail, so talk to one of our technicians about your vehicle specifically. The technician will be able to examine your timing belt and provide you with a more accurate “timing” estimate for your timing belt.

No. 4: Transmission

If your car were a Thanksgiving feast, your transmission would be the gravy to your engine’s turkey. You can’t have one without the other! While the engine generates energy, the transmission transforms it into torque so that your car actually moves.

The transmission takes care of three important functions:

  1. transfers power to the wheels,
  2. engages engine power to move forwards or backwards,
  3. and enables the car to shift gears.

Without proper maintenance, your transmission could fail, leaving you stalled at an intersection and waiting for a tow. To avoid such an awkward and potentially expensive situation, start taking care of your transmission now. By regularly checking and changing transmission fluid and having your mechanic check transmission components during your vehicle’s regular maintenance, you can save yourself significant stress and cash down the road.

No. 5: Brake Service

Just as you should get an annual physical from your doctor, you should get your brakes checked each year or more often, especially if something feels off. Your car’s braking system contains a delicate balance of pads, rotors, calipers, a brake hose, fluid, and more. A seemingly insignificant problem with any one of these parts could mean the difference between a safe stop and a dangerous veer into the unknown.

No. 6: Fuel System Cleaning

Every car is equipped with a fuel injector. This device takes the gasoline you pump into your car’s tank and transforms it into itsy bitsy particles that mix with the air to generate more efficient internal combustion in the engine. Over time, the fuel system accumulates varnish and fuel deposits, making the fuel injector less effective. By getting your fuel system cleaned annually (or however often your car’s manufacturer recommends), you can avoid a sloppy, sludged up system. As an added bonus, a cleaner fuel system could increase your vehicle’s fuel economy while also improving its general performance. Sounds like your car’s lucky day!

Putting off important car services such as these could cost you big bucks in the long run, but could also lead to dangerous driving situations. Cars may be created equal, but they don’t stay that way. Each and every car wears differently depending on where the car is driven, how it’s driven, and a host of other factors. Don’t wait until a small fix turns into a mountainous problem (you want to be out enjoying the real mountains this winter, right?).