Monday, March 11th, 2013

A View from the Pumps: We Do Automotive Tune Ups


Keep Your Car Running Smoothly

A few years ago there was a billboard on Rte. 41 Northbound. It had a very simple message on it and I can’t remember who paid to have this message posted (shame on the marketers) but I do remember the message very clearly. It boldly said “ignore those chest pains and eventually they’ll go away”. Very succinct, clear and very threatening!

What does this have to do with vehicles? Every day I talk to vehicle owners, and every day I answer the same questions always with a very different viewpoint but primarily they are always the same answers. There is not one day that I do not get a phone call from a future client asking, “do we do tune ups?” Now for us old timers a tune up was a yearly event or about 12,000 miles.

Spark Plug Services

We would diligently replace all the spark plugs which by the way were usually pretty worn, or fouled. Replace the points and condenser and the fuel filter, reset the dwell and timing and adjust the idle and the mixture until the engine would idle as smooth as a baby’s behind and let it go. Then came electronic ignitions and the “tune ups” went from every 12,000 miles to 30,000 miles. Then we went to extended gap plugs and the tune up went to 60,000 miles. Now we have double platinum plugs and the “tune up” has now reached 100,000 miles.

Likewise the price of spark plugs has jumped from $.99 each to $15.00 each and sometimes even higher. With the engineering of today’s vehicles, the hour’s necessary to change those spark plugs has also risen to over 3.5 hours in some vehicles. If you happen to be the proud owner of a 5.4L Ford truck that “tune up” can cost $400.00 as long as one of those spark plugs doesn’t break. Consequently I see many vehicles out there with in excess of 100,000 miles and they have never changed a spark plug.

The most prevalent answer I get is “it’s running ok”, but the reality of it all is they are getting less miles per gallon, and less performance, and the odds of those spark plugs breaking in the head at 100,000 miles is great, at 125,000 miles it’s guaranteed. The very next question I ask is “how long has your check engine light been on?” Months or sometimes years is the usual answer. That check engine light is there for a reason, and many times it may seem for a trivial thing such as a loose gas cap or an evaporator system code which nobody understands, and because the vehicle doesn’t really run badly people just ignore it.

Now I opened this piece with a medical analogy let me show you how this story could turn out. If you went to your physician and told him that you just weren’t feeling right, and that you told him that you had just a little chest pressure. What if he told you that it’s ok you didn’t have a heart attack yet just wait until the pain is real bad. What would you do?

We have grown up with making sure that you see your dentist twice a year, and getting your yearly physicals, mammograms and pap smears. Yet with this entire conditioning process people still do not maintain their vehicles proactively, but re-actively. In other words we don’t fix it until it breaks.What is the cost to you, the consumer, while using this logic?

Brake and Rotor Maintenience

We already used the cost of fuel while running an inefficient running engine. Through experience we know that the average vehicle will not need brakes until 40,000 miles. An average maintenance brake job should run about $289.00 using top of the line brake parts and refacing the rotors. Wait until the brakes are making noise and the price will accelerate quickly to $400.00-500.00 depending on the price of the rotors and calipers if you waited too long.

Transmission Services

Most manufacturers recommend that the transmission fluid be flushed and the filters changed every 60,000 miles. Average cost $175.00 with a flushing agent and a seal rejuvenation, and 11qts of transmission fluid. Cost to rebuild that same transmission $1800.00-$2500.00.

Coolant Flushing Services

The cost of replacing your coolant hoses and flushing the coolant system every 7 years or 70,000 miles may be as high as $300.00 depending on the vehicle. What would the cost of rupturing a radiator hose on Rte. 75, while driving at 80 miles per hour and overheating the engine? Depending on how lucky you are $300.00 plus a towing bill and maybe a night at a motel if you were on your way someplace. Or conversely if you really got it hot and you blew a head gasket figure $1000.00, plus a towing bill and probably 3 days of rental car expense.

The true reason for preventive automotive maintenance is to “reduce the cost of ownership and to provide a safe and reliable vehicle”

In closing I would like to quote another commercial made famous by Fram filters. “PAY ME NOW OR PAY ME LATER”


Gregg’s Automotive Maintenance & Repair Center

236 S. Tamiami Tr.
Punta Gorda, Fl. 33950