Keeping you car dependable

Part III

Hello.  Welcome back.  We continue the saga of keeping your car healthy this week.  We will be covering tune-ups (yes, they still exist), suspension, brakes, and tires.  If I miss something, I’m sure I will cover it in detail in later posts.  This series of posts covers why it’s essential to maintain your car.  I keep rambling about different stuff.  I could have explained the importance of maintenance in one post. But I turned it into a series of posts.  Let us get started.

Engine tune-ups:  yes, they still exist

Remember when an engine tune-up took all day: adjusting linkages, adjusting the ignition system, checking fuel pressure, and adjusting/cleaning the carburetor.  You would also check and replace coolant parts and look for and fix leaks.

The left spark plug with a proper gap. The right spark plug, the gap is too wide

On modern cars, you don’t have to replace points, set the dwell angle, replace distributor caps, rotary buttons, or adjust carburetors.  Any adjusting on a car today requires an act of Congress.  To change the car’s stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, you download new government-approved software to your engine’s computer.  The Federal Government regulates a car’s emissions.  Still, don’t ignore tuning your vehicle.

I covered the importance of changing the engine’s air filter.  Your car needs to breathe.  You also need to have your spark plugs replaced.  Both items increase fuel mileage and help your engine.  Another aspect of tuning up a car these days is fuel.  Carbon build-up can damage catalytic converters.  Most of your carbon build-up is from unspent fuel or lower quality gas.  I always tell my kids to fill up on super unleaded once a month, to help the engine burn cleaner.  Or you can use an additive when filling up your gas tank to help clean the carbon build-up off the valves.  Always follow the additive’s instructions.  You can also have a shop perform a fuel injection cleaning service.  I’m your average tech.  I may have skipped a few things, but these are the critical issues to help your car keep going.  You can always consult your maintenance schedule and follow it.

The engine air filter is getting clogged.

Brakes, suspension, and tires

I will keep this short.  I will be covering each of the subjects as I build this blog into something better than it is now.  The brakes, tires, and suspension parts are essential for safety.

We will start with the brakes.  Every car’s maintenance plan has a schedule to check the brake wear.  Some vehicles come with brake sensors.  They light up an indicator in the instrument cluster when the brake pads wear.  Other manufacturers install a piece of metal that will touch the rotor when the pad wears.  It gives you an audible signal when applying the brakes.  Both systems have problems.  The sensors are on one pad on the front and one pad on the rear.  If one of the other pads wears down first, you won’t get the warning.  Brakes will make noises due to weather and other conditions.  This noise gives you a false signal that brakes may need replacing.  A visual check of the brakes is the best option.  Rotors also wear down.  They need measuring.  If below specification, replace them.   I covered changing the brake fluid earlier.  The brake lines also need inspecting and replaced, as necessary.

New brake pads. Looking good.
Worn brake pad with brake wear sensor.

The suspension needs maintaining as well.  I forgot to mention the transfer case and differential fluids when discussing fluids.  It is vital to change these fluids at service intervals.  Suspension parts are all intertwined to support your car.  It also smooths out the ride as you go over bumps and uneven surfaces.  In the past, you would grease the joints as a part of maintenance, but now most come sealed.  The rubber boot tears, and the grease dries out, and you start hearing a squeaking noise as you drive.  Instead of greasing the joint, you replace it.  A big reason why it is vital to replace suspension parts as needed, one part depends on the other for support.  So, one suspension problem left unattended leads to other suspension problems.  It is a must to inspect your suspension on a schedule.  Aligning the suspension is also necessary.  It not only keeps you moving in a straight line, but it also prevents your tires from wearing.

The missing piece of this lower control arm is where the ball joint used to be.
This car was towed into the shop. Preventive maintenance and inspection could have saved a tow bill.

This brings us to tires.  To get close to the advertised mileage of the tire, you need to maintain them.  In other words, you buy a 60,000-mile tire, and you may get close to that 60,000 miles.  Aligning the vehicle helps your tires.  Rotate your tires when needed.  You cannot rotate offset tires.  In my experience, you get better performance with a wider tire in the rear but get less mileage out of your tires.  Check your tire pressures.  If your car comes with a spare tire, you will also want to check that tire pressure.

Sidewall damage on the inside of the tire. You may not know you are riding on danger without a proper inspection.
This tire is worn on the inside, indicating an alignment is needed. Also the tire needs replacing.

Most cars have a tire pressure monitoring system installed today.  Don’t ignore that little tire symbol in your dash too long.  If you lose enough tire pressure in one tire, it could also affect the traction control system.  Okay, that might be rambling.  And I’ve rambled long enough on why car maintenance is essential.

The goal of these posts is to inspire you to take better care of your vehicle so that it will take better care of you.  I will be going into detail on each of these subjects in later posts.  I hope everyone has a great week here in the age of Covid-19.  No, I won’t be discussing that.  You are getting enough information on that from the powers that be.

Until next time….

That Awesome Auto Tech

car maintenance

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