Tuning Up and Caring for Your Car's Engine

It's important that your car have a major tune up every other year or 35,000 miles, whichever comes first. This will prolong the longevity of your vehicle and produce a far better gas mileage. With the price of gas snowballing, you need to keep your car in tip-top shape to maintain good fuel efficiency.

Major tune ups cost an arm and a leg if you take it to a dealer. It's far better to take it to a privately owned garage where you can get to know the owner and ensure that you aren't taken advantage of. Better yet, tune up and care for your car's engine yourself. Here’s how:

If you have a car with a fuel injector, it doesn't have to be cleaned on a regular basis. Clean it only if it becomes clogged and be sure to use a gas station that you know has clean fuel. The gas filter will need to be replaced every 35,000 miles.

The spark plugs should be changed every 35,000 miles, unless they're platinum, in which case they only need to be changed every 65,000 miles. Be sure to inspect the spark plug wires and replace them, if necessary. Buy high quality wires for excellent and dependable performance. If spark plug wires are permanently affixed to the distributor cap, replace the entire unit.

Replace the distributor cap if it is not permanently attached to the spark plug wires every time you do a tune up.

Replace the rotor if you vehicle has one. Some of the newer models don't have either a rotor or a distributor cap.

If you have a 1978 model or older, change the points and condenser. Newer models have electronic ignitions so there are no points or condenser. Points should be adjusted or replaced twice each year.

Check the timing belt and adjust or replace, if necessary. Cars with electronic ignitions seldom have timing belts, but some do, so be sure you know.

If your car doesn't have hydraulic valves, the valve tappets will need to be adjusted, as necessary. At this time replace the valve cover gasket. Check this frequently, especially if you see that oil is seeping oil onto the top of your car's motor.

Check all belts, and if they're worn, frayed or cracked, replace immediately.

All fluid levels, such as brake, oil and transmission fluids should be checked weekly and before and after a long trip. Change the oil filter every 3,000 miles. Keeping clean oil in your car lengthens the life of the engine.

The air filter should be changed every 15,000 miles, or if you notice that it's dirty. A clean air filter promotes good engine performance, which saves on fuel costs.

If you don't have an automatic transmission, the clutch will need to be adjusted. Some newer model vehicles now come with an adjustable clutch. Be sure to check the Owner's Manual.

Check battery levels at least four times a year, with the changing of the seasons. Add distilled water when needed. Clean the battery terminals and cable clamps with a wire brush. If you have trouble getting them clean, add a bit of baking soda to a little water and place it on the battery. This will loosen the corrosion. Let dry and use the wire brush again. Your battery terminals and cable clamps will look brand new.

If your car is running rough, replace the PCV valve. They're relatively cheap, easy to replace and will make your car purr like a kitten.

Take care of your vehicle to promote longevity, fuel efficiency and good performance. Tune ups aren't a guarantee that you won't have any problems with your car, but they can prevent a wide range of expensive repairs. Good maintenance is the key to keeping your car in great shape.