Lengthen Your Car's Life

courtesy AutohausAZ

The old fashioned tune-up to improve your car's performance is nearly non-existent these days. With electronic ignition and fuel injection came computers that took over control of enginesettings. Early versions allowed for some tinkering, but today's engines require advanced equipment and training. You can, however, replace normal wear items and still have a beneficial effect on engine performance. Most new engines still use distributor caps, rotors, spark plugs, and plug wires. Here are the common maintenance items you can replace on your own to significantly improve your car's performance:

Spark Plugs

Your car's spark plugs are good indicators of engine condition. Removing and inspecting the spark plugs can tell you a lot about how well the engine is running and what may be causing problems.

It's also important to note that all spark plugs should be removed and checked every 30,000 miles -even if your car is a "low maintenance" vehicle where you don't need to change spark plugs until you hit 100,000 miles. This prevents the plugs from seizing in the block, causing expensive repairs down the road.

Always note which plug came from which cylinder. This can tell you if a particular cylinder has a problem. New spark plugs can make a difference in a vehicle's performance, but only if replaced with the proper replacement plug - the original equipment manufacturer's (OEM) plug is always recommended!

Distributor Cap & Rotor

Both the distributor cap and the rotor are usually plastic and, thus, deteriorate with age and use. Cracks may develop, allowing moisture in; the metal contacts on both can then corrode, causing misfiring. These parts should be replaced at recommended intervals or if showing any excessive wear.

Spark Plug Wires

Spark plug wires have become less of a problem than in the good old days. New materials and sizing have reduced the failures. Electronic ignitions have increased the operating ranges.

These should be tested for proper resistance before replacement. They are no longer replaced routinely with the cap, rotor, and plugs.


According to experts, changing your filters on a regular basis may have more to do with your car's longevity than any other single factor.

Oil Filter: Oil filters are easy to replace and help prevent unnecessary engine wear. The job of the oil filter is to remove soot, rust particles and other solid contaminants from the oil. Oil filters should be replaced every 3000 miles, as should engine oil.

Air Filter: Air filters remove dirt by trapping the particles as air passes through. They also protect the carburetor in older vehicles, preventing dirt from clogging the air bleeds and metering jets and protect fuel injectors in late-model vehicles. Air filters should be replaced every 20,000 miles but more often if you live or drive in dusty conditions. Any filter that looks heavily loaded should be replaced regardless of the number of miles, as should any filter showing damage.

PCV Breather Filter: The PCV breather filter assures that only clean, filtered air is drawn in through the PCV breather. A clogged breather filter prevents the PCV from siphoning away the blowby gases and moisture created by engine combustion, resulting in oil breakdown and sludge buildup. The PCV breather filter should be replaced every 30,000 miles; however, yearly replacements are good preventative maintenance.

Fuel Filter: A number of contaminants can get into your fuel system and if not trapped by the fuel filter, they can clog the injector inlet screens. If dirt reaches the injector itself, it can clog or damage the pintle valve and seat. In older vehicles, dirt can plug the carburetor's fuel metering orifices. If the fuel filter is not replaced on a regular basis, the fuel flow to the engine will become restricted, resulting in stalling, a loss of high speed power and hard starting. The fuel filter should be replaced every 30,000 miles; however, many professionals recommend a yearly fuel filter change and a change whenever other fuel system parts are replaced.

Automatic Transmission Filter: Properly filtered transmission fluid transmits energy and cools/lubricates the moving parts of the transmission. A clogged transmission filter can produce transmission slippage, engagement problems, and hesitation. Many professional technicians recommend this filter be changed every 12,000-15,000 miles; doing so will extend the life of your automatic transmission.

Other Maintenance Parts

Among the parts needing occasional replacement, many are mistakenly seen as non-critical. Though not true tune-up parts, the functions of these items can definitely affect the benefit of any tune-up. Plus, as emission laws have gotten more stringent, these parts have, indeed, become critical -if you want your car to pass emissions the first time around!

O2 Sensor: The O2 (oxygen) sensor can and should be replaced at the recommended intervals. A worn oxygen sensor drastically changes engine settings!

Vacuum Hoses: Many of your vehicle's major systems depend on manifold vacuum for signals and/or function. All vacuum hoses should be checked and replaced as needed. Even a slight leak can cause major problems with performance; in some cases, the car won't even run if there's a vacuum leak!

Temperature Sensors: Temperature sensors for the various engine functions can also be a good weekend project. These sensors control the fuel injection system, the cooling system, and even the exhaust system. And they can cause performance problems.

Things to Remember

Heed the following maintenance tips and you're well on your way to extending the life of your car and improving its overall performance on the road-especially gas mileage and emissions:

General overall cleanliness of your engine is the best preventative maintenance you can perform on your car. A clean engine runs cooler and is much less likely to cause premature failure of other parts. It's also easier to work on!

Regular routine replacement of all filters, lubricants, coolant, and the other items noted here is critical. Use the mileage guidelines shown as your benchmark. Sensing and mechanical tolerances have become so tight that even slight variations can create drastic performance changes!

Know your vehicle's systems and any particular requirements before starting any repairs. Do not attempt to fix what you don't understand!

Remember that some repairs may not take effect right away if your vehicle's computer is designed to learn and adjust. The computer may need to see various parameters before making any permanent setting changes.

Your Tune-Up Parts Shopping List

Here is the list of tune-up parts you should consider when performing maintenance work on your car:

  • Spark plugs
  • Spark plug wires
  • Distributor cap and rotor
  • Oxygen sensor
  • Oil filter
  • Air filter
  • PCV breather filter
  • Fuel filter
  • Transmission filter
  • Vacuum hoses
  • Temperature sensors
  • Lubricants
  • Coolant hoses
  • Belts

*These technical tips are designed only as a starting point. We recommend you seek the assistance of a professional auto mechanic for all automotive repair problems beyond your capabilities.

reprinted courtesy of AutohausAZ AutohausAZ.com. Your warehouse source for factory-original parts at 20 to 70% off. If you have trouble finding parts for your import car visit AutohausAZ. Or call 1-800-240-4620.

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