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GENERAL MAINTENANCE

It's Time for the 21st Century Tune-up

Times are changing...cars are changing. One of the biggest changes in today's automotive industry is the perception of a "tune-up." Ask 10 vehicle owners their definition of a tune-up and chances are there'll be 10 different answers. The classic "tune-up" was once the heart of the automotive business and contrary to some beliefs; today's modern vehicles still need tune-ups to keep them performing at the most efficient levels.

The tune-up was historically associated with the routine replacement of key ignition system parts like spark plugs and ignition points, along with some basic adjustments to help "tune" the engine. Mounting pressure for increased fuel economy and lower emissions drove the car manufacturers to adopt electronics and to do away with ignition points in the '70s, along with the carburetor in the middle '80s. This eliminated the need for the replacement and adjustment of a growing number of ignition and fuel system parts.

As the pace of technology quickened, the procedures required to perform a traditional tune-up changed dramatically. Highly sophisticated ignition and fuel systems are now the norm, using one or more onboard computers to control critical engine and transmission management functions. Things that were once handled mechanically are now controlled electronically through the widespread use of onboard computer technology.

Because vehicles have changed so much over the years, the Car Care Council has introduced the 21st Century Tune-up. This program is designed to help re-define and educate motorists as to what a tune-up should consist of on today's modern vehicles.

"There is a misconception that today's modern vehicles don't need tune-ups because they never break down, but that simply is not true," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "If you're at work and your computer goes down, you can't get any more work done. It's the same with your vehicle. If the vehicle isn't being properly maintained, you're not going to get where you want to go."

As part of the 21st Century Tune-up on today's modern vehicles, the following systems should be inspected:

  • Battery, charging and starting
  • Engine mechanical
  • Powertrain control (including onboard diagnostic checks)
  • Fuel
  • Ignition
  • Emissions

Vehicle owners ask for tune-ups for a variety of reasons, including improving performance, maintaining reliability, planning a vacation, preparing for winter/summer or because they're giving the car to a friend or family member.

To help ensure good performance, fuel economy and emissions, the Car Care Council also recommends that motorists take the time necessary to become familiar with their vehicle from every aspect. Study the owner's manual to become thoroughly acquainted with the operation of all systems. Pay special attention to the indicator lights and instruments.

Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Winter

Mechanical failure—an inconvenience anytime it occurs--can be deadly in the winter. Preventive maintenance is a must. Besides, a well-maintained vehicle is more enjoyable to drive, lasts longer, and could command a higher resale price.

Some of the following tips can be performed by any do-it-yourselfer; others require the skilled hands of a professional auto technician.

  • Engine Performance - Get engine drivability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good repair shop. Cold weather makes existing problems worse. Replace dirty filters-air, fuel, etc.
  • Fuel - Put a bottle of fuel de-icer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Note that a full gas tank helps keep moisture from forming.
  • Oil - Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual—more often (every 3,000 miles) if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips.
  • Cooling Systems - The cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled about every 24 months. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) DIYers, never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a pro.
  • Windshield Wipers - Replace old blades. If your climate is harsh, purchase rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on windshield washer solvent-you'll be surprised how much you use. Carry an ice-scraper.
  • Heater/Defroster - The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility. Newer models have a cabin air filter that should be replaced periodically. Check your owner's manual for the location and replacement interval.
  • Battery - The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care: Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
  • Lights - Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
  • Exhaust System - Your vehicle should be placed on a lift and the exhaust system examined for leaks. The trunk and floor boards should be inspected for small holes. Exhaust fumes can be deadly.
  • Tires - Worn tires will be of little use in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressures once a month. Check the tires when they are cold, before driving for any distance. Rotate as recommended. Don't forget your spare, and be sure the jack is in good condition.
  • Carry emergency gear: gloves, boots, blankets, flares, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, tire chains, and a flash light. Put a few "high-energy" snacks in your glove box.

Getting Your Vehicle Ready For Summer

Summer's heat, dust, and stop-and-go traffic, will take their toll on your vehicle. Add the effects of last winter, and you could be poised for a breakdown. You can lessen the odds of mechanical failure through periodic maintenance. . . Your vehicle should last longer and command a higher resale price, too!

Some of the following tips are easy to do; others require a skilled auto technician.

  • Air Conditioning - A marginally operating system will fail in hot weather. Have the system examined by a qualified technician. Newer models have cabin air filters that clean the air entering the heating and air conditioning system. Check your owner's manual for location and replacement interval.
  • Cooling System - The greatest cause of summer breakdowns is overheating. The cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled about every 24 months. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) DIYers, never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a pro.
  • Oil - Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual-more often (every 3,000 miles) if you make frequent short jaunts, extended trips with lots of luggage, or tow a trailer.
  • Engine Performance - Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended-more often in dusty conditions. Get engine drivability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good shop.
  • Windshield Wipers - A dirty windshield causes eye fatigue and can pose a safety hazard. Replace worn blades and get plenty of windshield washer solvent.
  • Lights - Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean dirt and insects from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
  • Tires - Have your tires rotated about every 5,000 miles. Check tire pressures once a month; check them while they're cold before driving for any distance. Don't forget to check your spare as well and be sure the jack is in good condition. Examine tires for tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. An alignment is warranted if there's uneven tread wear or if your vehicle pulls to one side.
  • Brakes - Brakes should be inspected as recommended in your manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, grabbing, noises, or longer stopping distance. Minor brake problems should be corrected promptly.
  • Battery - Batteries can fail any time of year. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care: Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check the fluid level monthly. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
  • Emergencies - Carry some basic tools-ask a technician for suggestions. Also include a first aid kit, flares, and a flashlight. Consider buying a cellular phone.

Keeping Your Vehicle in Tune with the Environment

Car care is definitely a win-win situation. Besides helping the environment, a properly maintained and operated vehicle will run more efficiently, will be safer, and will last longer-up to 50% longer, according to a survey of ASE-certified Master Auto Technicians. The following tips should put you on the road to environmentally conscious car care.

  • Keep your engine tuned. A misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30%. Follow the service schedules listed in your owner's manual. Replace filters and fluids as recommended.
  • Check your tires for proper inflation. Under inflation wastes fuel-your engine has to work harder to push the vehicle. Wheels that are out-of-line (as evidenced by uneven tread wear or vehicle pulling) make the engine work harder, too. Properly maintained tires will last longer, meaning fewer scrap tires have to be disposed.
  • Keep your air conditioner in top condition and have it serviced only by a technician certified competent to handle/recycle refrigerants. Air conditioners contain CFCs-gases that have been implicated in the depletion of the ozone layer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, almost one third of the CFCs released into the atmosphere come from mobile air conditioners; some simply leaks out, but the majority escapes during service and repair-so it's important to choose a qualified technician.
  • Do-it-yourselfers: dispose of used motor oil, anti-freeze/coolant, tires, and old batteries properly. Many repair facilities accept these items. Or call your local municipal or county government for recycling sites. Never dump used oil or anti-freeze on the ground or in open streams.
  • Observe speed limits. Mileage decreases sharply above 55 mph.
  • Drive gently. Avoid sudden accelerations and jerky stop-and-go's. Use cruise-control on open highways to keep your speed as steady as possible.
  • Avoid excessive idling. Shut off the engine while waiting for friends and family. Today's vehicles are designed to "warm up" fast, so forget about those five-minute warm ups on cold winter mornings.
  • Remove excess items from the vehicle. Less weight means better mileage. Store luggage/ cargo in the trunk rather than on the roof to reduce air drag.
  • Plan trips. Consolidate your daily errands to eliminate unnecessary driving. Try to travel when traffic is light to avoid stop-and-go conditions. Join a car pool.

Remember, how your car runs, how you drive it, and how its fluids, old parts, and tires are disposed of all have serious consequences on the environment.

ASSOCIATIONS

  • AAA Approved Auto Repair
  • AAA Show Your Card & Save
  • ALLDATA
  • Automotive Service Excellence
  • International Automotive Technicians' Network
  • Identifix
  • Mitchell1 OnDemand
  • Parts Plus
  • Car Care Aware

Testimonials

  • I would like to say thank you so much for such great service. Nate was there to help me very promptly, he was helpful, kind and courteous. He quickly and calmly assessed what needed to be done in what was a stressful situation for me. Thank you very much, highly recommended!
    -Heidi C.

  • Bob's is a reliable, well priced service. They are always friendly and communicative about the service work they do on your vehicle. I would absolutely recommend them for any and all car service needs.
    -Kelly R.

  • Great service. Very polite and explained what needed to be done and broke down the costs for me. Both my husband and I have brought our vehicles here for inspections and repairs and we've been happy.
    -Darcy B.

  • Reliable and trusted service operation. Our family has gone to Bobs for years. They have towed us out of a bunch of snow banks and fixed our cars. They do very good work at a very fair price.
    -Nathan M.

  • Had nothing but a wonderful experience at Bob's. Spanky was so helpful in getting both my car and my husband's truck street legal. They were actually recommended to me and I can see why, they're great!
    -Pamela M.

  • Great service & fairly priced. Surprised by a customer comment on this site that you are treated second rate unless you have an expensive car. I have an older vehicle and have gotten top notch service every time!!
    -Melanie H.

  • I know very little about engines so I ask allot of questions, the employee's patiently answered all my questions and NEVER once made me feel like a pain in the butt! Their labor rates are better than most. FINALLY a garage I can trust!
    -Bonni A.

  • Great service! They get the job done right, and at a reasonable price.
    -Martha S.

  • Outstanding customer service. Roger made the experience very easy and hassle free. I really appreciate the help that they gave me and look forward to continuing to do business with them. I highly recommend going here for any auto repair service!
    -Zach W.

  • As always, Bob's Service Center continues to provide outstanding service in a very positive and user-friendly manner. I appreciate the emails to set up appointments and/or appointment reminders. We are all bombarded with emails but this is one I always open and read. Thank you to everyone at Bob's for your commitment to your customers.
    -Gayle O.

  • These guys are the best! I first came to them right before the 4th of July weekend when my truck broke down. They were able to get me back on the road that day for a very reasonable price. They were very nice, informative and made sure I knew what was going on with my truck. I called them today because I noticed a leak and they said to just come by and have them take a look. They are just terrific! HIGHLY RECOMMEND TO ANYONE IN THE UPPER VALLEY AREA!!!
    -Rachel T. in Hartland, VT

  • AWESOME Nice guys! better than all the rest!
    -Robert D. in White River Junction, VT

  • CAR REPAIR-WHILE ON VACATION IF I EVER BREAK DOWN AGAIN FAR FROM HOME..............I CAN ONLY HOPE IT'S NEXT TO BOB"S. THE PRICE WAS FAIR-THEY DID A GREAT JOB-MOST OF ALL,THEY HAD ME BACK ON MY WAY IN SHORT TIME........
    -George T. in Easthampton, MA

  • terrific service and terrific technicians Thank you for such great service. We were in need a service in a hurry and the guys were terrific. Thank you
    -Gregg F. in White River Junction, VT

  • I've had cars serviced at Bob's for over 20 years. The work has always been done competently, on time and within estimates. These professionals have a great attitude.
    -John J. in Hartford, VT

  • Good service and let me know when my car would be ready so I could continue on with my day.
    -Elaine C. in White River Junction, VT

  • Timely, professional, willing to listen to me, gives cost/benefit analysis - not willing to spend my money unless necessary!
    -Vicky F. in White River Junction, VT

  • struts and shocks A great job! 9 year old van feels great again. Thank you
    -David L. in Wilder, VT

  • Great work, trustworthy guys Bobs got my car in and out quicker than expected. It seemed like a fair price, but they realized that I didn't get enough of a AAA discount. I had no idea but they called me the next day just to let me know they were crediting another $20 to my credit card. I was very impressed. Vehicle:Audi A4
    -Brennan I. in NH

  • Clutch Replacement Excellent service, excellent price. Thanks again, Bob's. Vehicle:Honda Civic
    -Amanda P. in Thetford, VT

  • I have been taking my car to Bob's Service Center for the last 4 years and have always been very happy with their work and customer service. I definitely recommend Bob's for mechanical work and towing.
    -Lisa H. in Hartford, VT

  • Mathew said this business is quick, and reasonably priced.
    - Mathew R. in Lebanon, NH

  • 5 stars Fast, and friendly...I had great service at Bobs. I will definitely be returning in the future. Vehicle:Honda
    -Linsey W. in Norwich, VT

  • Bob's Keeps My Subaru Running Right I recommend Bob's whenever appropriate, to other locals, tourists with car trouble, and hot women looking for guys. I trust you. So, keep up the good work. Vehicle:Subaru Forester
    -Will A. in Hartford, VT

  • Efficient and pleasant Service is always efficient with minimum waits and friendly staff.
    -Howard T. in Hartland, VT

  • The work is always on-time, they do not exceed the estimate and the men are very courteous. Vehicle:Toyota Prius
    -Victor K.

  • The guys at Bob's are great. They did a professional job and their estimate was over the amount paid. I have recommended my neighbor to them and they have scheduled service work on their car also. Thank- you for the good work!!! Vehicle:Ford Pickup
    -Raymond F. in Hartford, VT