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Do new cars need tune-ups?


Car Care Tips from race car driver Kelly Williams for tuning up modern cars.

By Kelly Williams

Kelly Williams checks an exhaust system.Feb. 26, 2009 -- Often, I am asked "what is a tune-up?" One of the biggest changes in today's automotive industry is embodied in that question. My answer is "The times are changing...and the vehicles are changing." In fact, go and ask 10 vehicle owners their definition of a tune-up and chances are there'll be 10 different answers.

Certainly 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.

Prior to 1980 or so, a tune-up consisted of replacing the plugs, points and condenser; then setting the timing, adjusting the carburetor and checking or replacing the cap, rotor, wires, gas filter, etc. This service usually needed to be performed every 50,000 km or so because engines did not run as efficiently as today and parts would wear out more quickly.

As the pace of technology quickened, the procedures required to perform a traditional tune-up changed dramatically. The advent of computerized systems and electronic ignitions eliminated the need for the classic tune-up. Newer highly sophisticated electronic ignition and fuel systems are now the norm, using onboard computers to control critical engine and transmission management functions.

Kelly Williams

Just days after she earned her degree to become a high school teacher, Kelly Williams decided to explore a career in race car driving full-time. She knew racing was fun and she loved it. What she didn’t know is that through racing, she would one day also become a successful entrepreneur, business leader and television host.

Kelly Williams gets under the hood.Kelly won her first racing career victory at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1990 and in 1993, made her breakthrough as one of Ontario’s top drivers. That year, she won eight races and finished fourth in the travelling Goodyear Challenge Cup Series. She was also voted as the Most Popular Driver by the fans.

Then in 1994, Kelly took another step up in her career by competing in the CASCAR Late Model Series, the most prestigious arena for stock car racing in Canada. She became the first female driver to capture a win in the 14-year history of CASCAR racing that year. Although it was a qualifying race, she still holds that record today. Her best finish in the CASCAR series was fourth. She also finished tenth in National Series, earning another “Most Popular Driver” award from the fans in 1999. Kelly competed in the CASCAR Super Series for 10 years, securing sponsorships from GM Goodwrench, AOL Canada, Westburne Electric and Kawasaki.
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As a result of all this progress and technological wonder, there is a misconception that today's modern vehicles don't need tune-ups because they never break down. However, that simply is not true. Imagine you are at work and your computer crashes. You can't get any more work done. It's the same with your car. If the vehicle isn't being properly maintained, you are bound to have problems.

The 21st-Century Tune-up

Because vehicles have changed so much over the years, Car Care Canada has introduced the 21st-Century Tune-up in an effort to demystify the tune up issue for Canadians. The idea behind the 21st-Century Tune-up is to help re-define and educate motorists as to what a tune-up should consist of on today's modern vehicles.

So what is a 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.

The 21st Century Tune-Up program is designed to:

• Improve reliability
• Reduce air pollution
• Improve performance
• Improve fuel economy
• Create driver confidence.

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

The 'Be Car Care Aware' campaign is about helping motorists make informed decisions about their vehicles' care and maintenance. With the 21st-Century Tune-up, Car Care Canada will continue to help vehicle owners make strides in reducing vehicle neglect.

Be Car Care Aware is a campaign to inform Canadian drivers about the benefits of regular, vehicle care, maintenance and repair. Car Care Canada is a non-profit advocacy group that offers research, consumer education and information about the Canadian automotive aftermarket industry.

To learn more, visit the Be Car Care Aware website at http://www.carcarecanada.ca.

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