A basic guide to Automotive Tune up.

 This article's  intention is to help give you the guidance and confidence to perform a tune up on your vehicle.Saving you hundreds of dollars over the long haul. While it is impossible to cover every aspect of every vehicle ever produced, this guide will steer you in the right direction.

 So, where do we begin? We begin with safety. Hot engine parts, gasoline, anti-freeze, oil and grease has the potential to cost you a trip to the emergency room if not handled with care and respect. What can we do to protect ourselves from these hazards? Always use your P.P.E. (Personal Protective Equipment). This includes, but not limited to, gloves, safety glasses, protective type clothing and foot ware. A good set of ramps and or sturdy jack stands can put your mind at ease when working underneath a vehicle. Chalking the tires, setting the emergency brake to help ensure your car doesn't unexpectedly start rolling while your working on it. Disconnecting the battery cables helps prevent unwanted sparks. These are all little things we can do to prevent accidents. Slow down, step back and think of the potential hazards of any job you are doing.

  Things you will need. A basic set of hand tools, including, ratchet,sockets (American standard or metric, depending on what your car has on it.)a spark plug socket that fits your spark plugs, feeler gauges for making sure your plugs are gapped correctly, a set of screw drivers, a set of combination wrench's, a set of allen wrench's, a set of torx wrenches, pliers,funnel some rags for wiping up drips and spills,hand cleaner some penetrating oil to loosen up rusty nuts and bolts. The list could go on and on, depending on how far you personally want to go and how much money you have to spend. Remember your tools could be a one time investment if you take care of them. I have tools in my garage that I've owned for thirty years. One more thing I would suggest is purchasing a repair manual for the vehicle your working on. This is an invaluable tool to have in your tool box.

 The replacement parts you will need for our tune up consist of,distributor cap,rotor button and points if working on an earlier model car. Spark plugs, pcv valve, air filter, fuel filter, oil filter and enough oil to fill your engine back to its proper level.The grade of oil you use is deter mend by the manufacturer, 5w-30, 10w-30, 10w-40  etc. etc..... Check you owners or repair manual. The quality of oil you choose is up to you. Conventional, Full Synthetic or a Blend of the two. Conventional is less expensive. Synthetic cost a little more but is supposed to hold up better under extreme driving conditions (high ambient temperatures, extreme cold and heavy engine loads) The debate goes on.

 OK. We've got our tools, We've got all of our replacement parts. Lets get started.

 You want to start out with a cool engine. Never try to change the spark plugs with the engine warmed up. Not only could you get burned the metals in your engine expand when hot, so you run the risk of snapping off a spark plug in your engine. Not fun at all, believe me. I've done it.

 Locate one of the spark plug wires and follow it down into the engine. carefully disconnect it from the spark plug and move it out of your way. Slide your spark plug socket over the plug and unscrew (counterclockwise)  the old plug out. Using the feeler gauge check the new plug for the correct gap. Install the new plug, attach the spark plug wire, move on to the next one. Doing them one at a time will ensure that you don't get the spark plug wires crossed. It's just that simple.

 The air filter is contained inside it's own housing which is attached to a hose leading to the throttle body or mounted on top of a carburetor depending on your engine configuration. Simply disassemble the air filter housing pop the old one and reinstall the new one. Done

 The PCV or Positive Crankcase Ventilation Valve  is located in the top of the valve cover. Without going into too much detail, one of it's duty's is to reintroduce unburned fuel  back into the intake manifold. over time it becomes gummed up and can get stuck which leads to poor engine performance. Again it's very simple to take the old one out and put the new one in.

 The fuel filter is located in the fuel line leading from the gas tank to the throttle body or carburetor. You will need to relieve the fuel line pressure on a vehicle equipped with fuel injection. In most cases this is done by locating the gauge port on the fuel rail and pressing in on the stem of the valve.The only catch here is you may need a fuel line disconnecting tool. The tool is inexpensive for a set of different sizes. Insert the tool disconnect the fuel line and reinstall the new filter.

 For changing the oil you will need to start the engine and let it run for about 5 minutes or so to warm up the oil. This helps the oil flow more easily and ensure all the old oil drains out. After the oil is warmed up, locate the oil drain plug on the bottom of the engine. You may need to jack the vehicle up a little for this step. Place  your oil pan under the drain and carefully loosen the drain plug. After all the oil drains, locate the oil filter unscrew and remove the old one, reinstall the  new one hand tight then 3/4 of a turn more. Reinstall the drain plug, fill the engine to the appropriate level with fresh oil and your done with your tune up.

 Please refer to your owners manual for parts replacement intervals.

 I wish you the very best in your endeavor to do your own Tune Ups from now on.

Sincerely, Clay Faulkner


DISCLAIMER: though changing spark plugs is a relatively simple task, you can do expensive damage to your engine's cylinder heads by cross-threading spark plugs on re-insertion. You can also get seriously burned by working on a hot engine. As the author of this article, I assume no responsibility for damage to your engine, or injury to your body.