How To Tell If Your Car Needs A Tune Up

f 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.

Simple Tips To Keep Your Car In Tip Top Shape

A car is an expensive investment, so knowing how to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape can save you tons of money. Overall, the cost of owning a car is a lot higher than many might think – there is the cost of car insurance, taxes, interest on the car loan, repairs, fuel costs, and the cost of the vehicle itself. By implementing all or some of these car care tips, you can begin to save a significant amount of time and money.

Just a little time spent on research can save you future repairs and tons of money. You don’t need to be mechanically savvy to detect common vehicle problems. You just need to be able to use your sense of smell and sight.

Take a Look Around

Are there stains under your vehicle? Do you see drips? They may not be a problem but if you see wet spots, it can be a symptom of something far more serious. What color is the liquid you are seeing? Is it blue, orange, yellowish green? Then it could indicate a radiator leak, damage from an overheated engine, or a water pump that needs repairs. Leaks such as these should be addressed quickly.

Black oily fluid or dark brown could indicate an oil leak on the engine. A bad gasket or seal can cause this type of leak. These types of repairs can quickly run into a lot of money so it’s a good idea to take your vehicle to a mechanic you trust.

A red oily spot could indicate power steering fluid leak or transmission leak. Sometimes you will see clear liquid, which is usually just condensation and nothing to worry about. If you see light smoke coming from your wheel while you are driving it could mean you have a brake that’s stuck and you should pull over. Any type of smoke means you need to see a mechanic regarding a vehicle repair.

Put Your Nose to Work Don’t be afraid to sniff around and see if you can detect a problem with your vehicle. If you smell burned toast it may be burning insulation or an electrical short. Don’t risk driving it. If you have a rotten egg smell it’s likely the catalytic converter and it will need to be repaired.

A thick sharp odor is often a symptom of burning oil. Have a look under the car to see if you can spot a leak. You may also see a bluish smoke coming from your vehicle’s tailpipe – you need to have this looked at as soon as possible.

If you smell gas after your vehicle fails to start the engine may have become flooded. Wait a few minutes and try again. If you continue to notice a gas odor you may have a leak somewhere in your fuel system, which can be dangerous, so have your vehicle taken to a mechanic as soon as possible. These simple tips will help to alert you of a potential problem with your vehicle that should be addressed.

Be A Good Car Owner And Keep Your Car Serviced


Use all-season tires. These tires should carry you safely from season to season, but it is imperative that you check the tires regularly for wear or damage. Ideally, tires should be checked on a weekly basis. If you live somewhere that there is a lot of snow and ice, winter tires are a must.

The brake system serves one main purpose: to slow down or stop the car when it is needed. If you step on the brake pedal and it goes all the way to the floor, you’ve got trouble. Late model automobiles are equipped with a brake warning light. This dashboard indicator will light up if something is wrong with your brake system. If your brake warning light indicates trouble, it is imperative that you check the brake system immediately. Consult your owner’s manual for maintenance advice, and call an experienced mechanic for repairs. Brake repairs or replacements are no jobs for a weekend or hobby mechanic.

In 2005, over 2,300 pedestrians died because drivers suffered eye problems or had faulty headlights in the automobiles. Properly maintained vehicle headlights help you drive safely, and see more clearly. Replace your headlight bulbs at least once per year.

Many people don’t think of changing their wiper blades until it is too late. This is one of the easiest and most inexpensive parts of the car to maintain. Change your wiper blades twice a year, in the spring and just before winter.

There are 10 common reasons why automobile owners visit the mechanic:

1. Electronic/Ignition control
2. Suspension/steering
3. Electrical problem
4. Brake system
5. Oil change/filters/lube
6. Exhaust system
7. Radiator repairs
8. Fuel system/carburetor
9. Clutch/transmission
10. Air conditioning system

Routine check-ups and proper maintenance of a car be expensive, and budget restrictions are often the leading factors in keeping car owners from living up to their responsibilities. This does not need to be a problem. The key is in knowing how to save on car maintenance and repairs. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) confirmed that $20 billion has been wasted on unnecessary auto repairs due to fraud and incompetence.

If your car is not performing to its full potential, remember the following tips to help you save money on repairs:

Preventive Maintenance
Be your car’s best friend, and you can save a bundle. By conducting regular preventative maintenance, such as regular oil changes and radiator flushes, you prevent unnecessary damage to the car and save a lot of money in the long run. Regular check-ups by a qualified repairperson will keep your car running better, longer.

Even automobiles need to take a break now and then. If you drive your car every day the miles will add up quickly, and damage can occur prematurely. To avoid this, consider carpooling with friends and coworkers. Ask around to form your own carpool group. You’ll all save on maintenance, and you’ll be able to pool your fuel and parking expenses.

Before choosing a mechanic to repair your car, be sure to get a written estimate. If the mechanic wants more than your budget can afford, shop around. Compare estimates to find the best deal. Just be sure that you are paying for quality service.

Do It Yourself
You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish after doing a little research. Read over your owner’s manual from time to time. Learn as much as you can about your car. Understand potential problems and how to solve them. For example, that mysterious clunking noise might be bothersome but could be as simple to fix as tightening a bolt. Regular maintenance tasks like oil changes and radiator flushes are fairly easy to do if you understand your vehicle and take the time to do the job properly.

As an automobile owner, you have a responsibility to keep your car properly maintained at all times. Consider it an investment in your car’s future, and remember that it could save a life.

Regular Car Maintenance Can Avoid Costly Repairs

When does the car need to go in for an oil change? When was the last time the wiper blades were changed? When were the brakes were last serviced? You know that car maintenance is important, but between work, family and everything else that life throws at you, it can be hard to stay on top of everything.

Keeping up with basic car maintenance not only ensures that your vehicle is road ready but it can also prevent costly problems from developing. Read on to discover some parts that require basic maintenance and what you can do to keep each part in proper working order


Responsible for delivering the traction and grip you need to travel, it’s easy to take your tires for granted. Driving on tires that are in top condition is key to staying safe on the road. If the tread of your tires is worn or bare, it can spell disaster. Not only will you have reduced traction when you need it most, but you’re at a higher risk of suffering a blown tire. Another issue to keep an eye on is the pressure of each tire. Under or over inflated tires both cause problems like premature wear and poor fuel mileage.

What you can do:  Give your tires the attention they deserve and examine your tires on a regular basis for signs of excessive and/or uneven tread wear and bulges in the sidewalls. If you detect any abnormalities, replace the affected tire immediately and see your trusted mechanic as you may have other issues with your vehicle. Use a pressure gauge to check the tire pressure on a regular basis to ensure that all four tires are set to the manufacturer-recommended PSI. Also, consider rotating your tires every six months or 6,000-8,000 miles to promote even tread wear.

Spark Plugs

A key component in the combustion process, your car’s spark plugs create a spark that fires the air/fuel mixture in the engine to generate the combustion that powers your vehicle. Over time, your vehicle’s spark plugs can become fouled or dirty which can diminish their performance. Driving with dirty or fouled spark plugs can lead to a drop in gas mileage, poor acceleration and trouble starting the vehicle.

What you can do:  Have your spark plugs changed according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. (You can find the suggested maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual.) Also monitor your vehicle for any changes in performance. If you suspect that your spark plugs may be the culprit, you can check the spark plugs yourself by following these instructions (insert link to August article) or by having your trusted mechanic check out your vehicle.

Brake Pads

You rely on your brakes to work every time you press down on the brake pedal. One of the most important safety systems on your vehicle, don’t ignore your brake pads – your safety and the safety of your passengers depend on it. Driving with thin and worn brake pads is extremely dangerous, as you won’t have full stopping power when you approach that stop sign or have to suddenly hit your brakes in an emergency situation.

What you can do:  While driving, be aware of the performance of your brakes. Take note of how the brake pedal feels and listen for noises like grinding, growling or squealing. If the pedal feels soft or spongy or you hear any noises, it typically means that your brakes are in need of service. For more tips on checking your brake pads for wear, check out this article. If you suspect that your brake pads are in need of service, make an appointment with your mechanic right away.

Staying current on routine maintenance

Caring for your vehicle can seem daunting, but there are some easy things you can do to become an informed owner. Consult your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s recommended service schedule. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to keep up with routine maintenance.

To help you keep track, set reminders on your smartphone and once the service has been completed, write down what was done on a vehicle log. Many times, the owner’s manual has a vehicle log in the back; there are also a variety of smartphone apps available for tracking this important information.

Why Is You Car Squealing When You Turn The Steering Wheel?

So you’ve just gotten comfortable behind the wheel, put your belt on, lifted off the brakes and you’re ready to head out when you notice your steering causes an alarming noise. Luckily, you aren’t the first to encounter such sounds. If your car is making a squealing or squeaking sound when turning the steering wheel, there could be any of several culprits at play, and it’s important to get the problem checked out with a car mechanic.

One common cause is low power-steering fluid, which affects how your steering wheel feels and sounds. When the fluid that powers and lubricates conventional power-steering systems in a car gets low, it can lead to a squealing noise that may sustain for as long as the car’s steering wheel remains off-center. It can also be fairly loud.

Checking the fluid and replacing it if necessary might be enough to solve the problem. Contamination of the fluid by dirt and debris also could be at the root of this problem with your car. A failing power-steering pump could likewise be the cause. If adding fluid doesn’t solve the problem, a technician should be able to identify the cause and recommend a repair for your car.

A suspension or steering component that’s lost lubrication also could cause a squeak or squeal when you turn the steering wheel. Your car’s tie-rod ends, seals, ball joints and universal joints all need lubrication, and if they dry out, that could lead to a squeal, screeching or similar noise; you may even hear a grinding noise. Again, a technician or mechanic should be able to identify the problem and recommend a repair.

We’ve also experienced squeaks from the steering-wheel housing in new cars rubbing against interior trim to wear it down — typically in hot weather when materials expand and gaps close up. In these cases, a trip to the dealer mechanic or body shop might be in order for your car — hopefully for warranty work.

Finally, tire noise could be the cause of the squeal that you’re hearing, especially if it happens only when you are driving on certain surfaces.

If your vehicle is making a squealing sound when the steering wheel is being turned, start by checking the power-steering fluid level and replacing or adding the fluid as necessary — and if that doesn’t eliminate the noise, make an appointment with a service technician to find out if something else is going on.