Engine tune up!


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Today’s cars still need engine care. It may be true that the recommended intervals between tune-ups may be as much as 100,000 miles, but before the advent of synthetic lubricants, 100,000 miles spark plugs, and non replaceable fuel filters the interval was closer to 12,000 miles. If you have an older vehicle, usually pre 2001, that you want to keep in optimal condition, perform a tune-up at least once a year. Performing a tune-up is a bit like surgery. You need the correct tools to do the job correctly. You’ll need a variety of replacement parts including spark plugs, spark-plug wires, points, rotor-button, condenser, distributor cap, vacuum-advance and PCV valve.Materials for your project:

Replacement parts including plugs, wires, points, rotor, condenser, etc.

Screwdrivers, nut-driver, Socket wrench, Socket wrench, Spark-plug gapping tool, Feeler gauge Timing light and timing-light instruction manual Anti seizing lubricant Dielectric greaseVehicle service manual

Timing light and timing-light instruction manual

Before you begin, as with any automotive project that involves working with the electrical system or wiring, disconnect the vehicle's negative battery cable. Getting a good shock is not as fun as you may think. Disconnecting the cable will help you avoid injury or damage to your or the electrical system.

Next, remove the housing for the air-filter to provide access to the top of the engine. Tip: With the filter-housing removed, the top of the carburetor will be exposed. Place a clean rag over the opening of the carburetor to prevent anything from entering it. Pull the spark-plug wires loose from the plugs by grabbing a hold of the boot and not the wire itself and then use a socket wrench to loosen and remove the old spark plugs. Don’t just reach down and yank them out. Twist the boot left to right to break it loose from the plug and it will then slid off.

Take your time when you remove and install spark plugs taking care not to damage the threads. Retooling threads on an engine block is extremely difficult and expensive.

Next hold the old and new plugs side by side. Pay attention to any signs of damage to the electrodes of the old plugs. Is there damage, scoring or carbon buildup? The condition of your plugs says a lot about the running condition of your engine. Refer to your owner’s manual for information about diagnosing engine problems from the condition of the spark plugs.

Next, make sure that your plugs have the proper contact gap each plug with a gapping tool. Check the service manual on what the specifications are for recommended gap width. If there is a slight drag on gapping tool when you slide it out then it’s a good gap. Once you've gapped all the plugs, install them and torque them with a torque wrench to the proper specifications, according to the service manual. Apply a small amount of anti-seizing lubricant on the threads of each of the plugs. The lubricant ensures that the heat of the engine won’t cause them stick. It also makes it easier to remove them in the future.

Next the distributor cap is removed by using a screwdriver to loosen the screws holding it in place. Carefully lift the cap off of the distributor and don’t remove the old spark-plug wires connected to the distributor cap unless you are going to replace them. With the cap removed, locate the rotor button and inspect the condition of the distributor assembly, breaker points, and the condenser. Some makes of cars do not have some of the components listed here and you will need to refer to you manual as to what parts are used in your application.

Remove the rotor button. It easily lifts off. Locate and unplug the wire going from the coil to the breaker points. Carefully remove the screws that retain the breaker in place and lift it free.

Next, remove the condenser by carefully removing the retaining screws. Then disconnect the hose and unscrew the screws holding the vacuum advance and remove. Install the new vacuum advance and reattach the hose. Re-install the new condenser and new breaker points and reattach the hot wire that leads to the coil and the condenser wire. Use a feeler gauge to ensure that the proper gap between the points is in accordance with the vehicle service manual specifications and then reinstall the rotor button. Install a new distributor cap and make certain it is situated the same way as the original one.

Install the new spark-plug wires. Each spark-plug wire is a different length so it is relatively easy to install them in the correct order. Refer to the old cap to prevent confusion as to which wire goes where. Add a small amount of dielectric grease in the boots on the ends of the wires as well as on the contacts. Once you've completed the reassembly and installation of all the parts, reconnect the battery, start the engine, and get out on that highway again.

The final step of your tune-up is to check the ignition timing by using a timing light. This specialized tool indicates if voltage is being properly regulated to each spark plug and that the plug is precisely firing. The timing light connects to one of the spark-plug wires (usually cylinder #1). While the engine is running, the light strobes each time current is sent to the cylinder. The crankshaft pulley has timing marks that rotate when the engine is on. When the timing light is pointed at the pulley while the engine is running, a flashing light illuminates the timing marks to indicate if the timing is properly adjusted. Completely read all your timing lights instructions and follow them so that you can make that exit the next time.

That’s it for the tune up. If you are still having problems you may need to consult a professional as you may have a more sever problem to deal with.

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