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GENERAL MAINTENANCE

It's Time for the 21st Century Tune-up

Times are changing...cars are changing. One of the biggest changes in today's automotive industry is the perception of a "tune-up." Ask 10 vehicle owners their definition of a tune-up and chances are there'll be 10 different answers. 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.

The tune-up was historically associated with the routine replacement of key ignition system parts like spark plugs and ignition points, along with some basic adjustments to help "tune" the engine. Mounting pressure for increased fuel economy and lower emissions drove the car manufacturers to adopt electronics and to do away with ignition points in the '70s, along with the carburetor in the middle '80s. This eliminated the need for the replacement and adjustment of a growing number of ignition and fuel system parts.

As the pace of technology quickened, the procedures required to perform a traditional tune-up changed dramatically. Highly sophisticated ignition and fuel systems are now the norm, using one or more onboard computers to control critical engine and transmission management functions. Things that were once handled mechanically are now controlled electronically through the widespread use of onboard computer technology.

Because vehicles have changed so much over the years, the Car Care Council has introduced the 21st Century Tune-up. This program is designed to help re-define and educate motorists as to what a tune-up should consist of on today's modern vehicles.

"There is a misconception that today's modern vehicles don't need tune-ups because they never break down, but that simply is not true," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "If you're at work and your computer goes down, you can't get any more work done. It's the same with your vehicle. If the vehicle isn't being properly maintained, you're not going to get where you want to go."

As part of the 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.

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

Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Winter

Mechanical failure—an inconvenience anytime it occurs--can be deadly in the winter. Preventive maintenance is a must. Besides, a well-maintained vehicle is more enjoyable to drive, lasts longer, and could command a higher resale price.

Some of the following tips can be performed by any do-it-yourselfer; others require the skilled hands of a professional auto technician.

  • Engine Performance - Get engine drivability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good repair shop. Cold weather makes existing problems worse. Replace dirty filters-air, fuel, etc.
  • Fuel - Put a bottle of fuel de-icer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Note that a full gas tank helps keep moisture from forming.
  • Oil - Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual—more often (every 3,000 miles) if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips.
  • Cooling Systems - The cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled about every 24 months. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) DIYers, never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a pro.
  • Windshield Wipers - Replace old blades. If your climate is harsh, purchase rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on windshield washer solvent-you'll be surprised how much you use. Carry an ice-scraper.
  • Heater/Defroster - The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility. Newer models have a cabin air filter that should be replaced periodically. Check your owner's manual for the location and replacement interval.
  • Battery - The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care: Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
  • Lights - Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
  • Exhaust System - Your vehicle should be placed on a lift and the exhaust system examined for leaks. The trunk and floor boards should be inspected for small holes. Exhaust fumes can be deadly.
  • Tires - Worn tires will be of little use in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressures once a month. Check the tires when they are cold, before driving for any distance. Rotate as recommended. Don't forget your spare, and be sure the jack is in good condition.
  • Carry emergency gear: gloves, boots, blankets, flares, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, tire chains, and a flash light. Put a few "high-energy" snacks in your glove box.

Getting Your Vehicle Ready For Summer

Summer's heat, dust, and stop-and-go traffic, will take their toll on your vehicle. Add the effects of last winter, and you could be poised for a breakdown. You can lessen the odds of mechanical failure through periodic maintenance. . . Your vehicle should last longer and command a higher resale price, too!

Some of the following tips are easy to do; others require a skilled auto technician.

  • Air Conditioning - A marginally operating system will fail in hot weather. Have the system examined by a qualified technician. Newer models have cabin air filters that clean the air entering the heating and air conditioning system. Check your owner's manual for location and replacement interval.
  • Cooling System - The greatest cause of summer breakdowns is overheating. The cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled about every 24 months. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) DIYers, never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a pro.
  • Oil - Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual-more often (every 3,000 miles) if you make frequent short jaunts, extended trips with lots of luggage, or tow a trailer.
  • Engine Performance - Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended-more often in dusty conditions. Get engine drivability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good shop.
  • Windshield Wipers - A dirty windshield causes eye fatigue and can pose a safety hazard. Replace worn blades and get plenty of windshield washer solvent.
  • Lights - Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean dirt and insects from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
  • Tires - Have your tires rotated about every 5,000 miles. Check tire pressures once a month; check them while they're cold before driving for any distance. Don't forget to check your spare as well and be sure the jack is in good condition. Examine tires for tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. An alignment is warranted if there's uneven tread wear or if your vehicle pulls to one side.
  • Brakes - Brakes should be inspected as recommended in your manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, grabbing, noises, or longer stopping distance. Minor brake problems should be corrected promptly.
  • Battery - Batteries can fail any time of year. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care: Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check the fluid level monthly. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
  • Emergencies - Carry some basic tools-ask a technician for suggestions. Also include a first aid kit, flares, and a flashlight. Consider buying a cellular phone.

Keeping Your Vehicle in Tune with the Environment

Car care is definitely a win-win situation. Besides helping the environment, a properly maintained and operated vehicle will run more efficiently, will be safer, and will last longer-up to 50% longer, according to a survey of ASE-certified Master Auto Technicians. The following tips should put you on the road to environmentally conscious car care.

  • Keep your engine tuned. A misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30%. Follow the service schedules listed in your owner's manual. Replace filters and fluids as recommended.
  • Check your tires for proper inflation. Under inflation wastes fuel-your engine has to work harder to push the vehicle. Wheels that are out-of-line (as evidenced by uneven tread wear or vehicle pulling) make the engine work harder, too. Properly maintained tires will last longer, meaning fewer scrap tires have to be disposed.
  • Keep your air conditioner in top condition and have it serviced only by a technician certified competent to handle/recycle refrigerants. Air conditioners contain CFCs-gases that have been implicated in the depletion of the ozone layer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, almost one third of the CFCs released into the atmosphere come from mobile air conditioners; some simply leaks out, but the majority escapes during service and repair-so it's important to choose a qualified technician.
  • Do-it-yourselfers: dispose of used motor oil, anti-freeze/coolant, tires, and old batteries properly. Many repair facilities accept these items. Or call your local municipal or county government for recycling sites. Never dump used oil or anti-freeze on the ground or in open streams.
  • Observe speed limits. Mileage decreases sharply above 55 mph.
  • Drive gently. Avoid sudden accelerations and jerky stop-and-go's. Use cruise-control on open highways to keep your speed as steady as possible.
  • Avoid excessive idling. Shut off the engine while waiting for friends and family. Today's vehicles are designed to "warm up" fast, so forget about those five-minute warm ups on cold winter mornings.
  • Remove excess items from the vehicle. Less weight means better mileage. Store luggage/ cargo in the trunk rather than on the roof to reduce air drag.
  • Plan trips. Consolidate your daily errands to eliminate unnecessary driving. Try to travel when traffic is light to avoid stop-and-go conditions. Join a car pool.

Remember, how your car runs, how you drive it, and how its fluids, old parts, and tires are disposed of all have serious consequences on the environment.

ASSOCIATIONS

  • AAA Approved Auto Repair
  • ASE Master Technician
  • ACDelco
  • NAPA AutoCare Center
  • Car Care Aware

Testimonials

  • Matt Jr. went above and beyond. He found out what problems we had, took care of them in a timely matter and explained in writing what was done, why it was done, and had us on our way. Matt, Jr.. Thank you so much for being honest and dependable.
    -Tere B.

  • I love working with Atherton and the service guys! This has been the only shop I use in town for the last few years. Junior always treats me fair and takes great care of my car. They always accommodate a loaner car if I need it. I would recommend them for your service needs!
    -Carrie L.

  • Matt Jr and his employees did a great job getting my car fixed and back on the road in a very short time, actual in shop time of about 4 hours; they even dropped me off and picked me back up at the motel I stayed at for the night, great bunch of guys.
    -David G.

  • Great service and friendly staff!!
    -Hayley M.

  • Great customer service, honest and dependable. I highly recommend Atherton Automotive to anyone needing any type of work done to their vehicle from standard maintenance to fixing major issues.
    -Sean C.

  • We have been doing business with Atherton's for over 40 years. Great bunch of people. They get the job done at a fair price. Thanks guys!
    -Jolan B.

  • My boyfriends car broke down on our 1000 mile trip to Colorado. We got stranded in Council Bluffs and were afraid we would not make it to Colorado in time. Athertons helped so immensely. They had the car fixed in one day at a decent price I am so grateful for there help!
    -Phoebe H.

  • My family and I have done business with Athertons for years and I would not go anywhere else. The "guys in the back" are all very professional and I question NOTHING they tell me. They know what they are doing and go above and beyond to take care of their customers!! Love them. Always will.
    -Karen C.

  • Great service, great people
    -Hannah F.

  • Very knowledgeable bunch of guys. Went beyond what the dealership offers as far as checking the vehicle over for any potential issues or safety concerns. Very honest and take good care of their customers.
    -Michelle F.

  • Reliable, Trustworthy, Excellent automotive care.
    -Jarin M.

  • I have known this family for over 30 years, and my husband has known them for over 50! Very trustworthy and hard workers. Easy to get your car in. Always fix what's wrong with it. Easy to work with! Smart and nice group of guys!! I'm so glad I cannot hear anymore squeaks from my car!!!!!!
    -Rita W.

  • I recently had my wife's SUV serviced at Atherton Automotive and was moved to post this review because of their excellent work. Atherton Automotive services all of my family's vehicles - a new truck to a well used SUV. They are professional, knowledgeable, courteous, and efficient. Their pricing is very reasonable. We highly recommend Atherton.
    -Robert L.

  • Atherton Automotive is the only place I will take my cars to get serviced. They have earned my trust with the honesty and quality work they provide. They are very personable and friendly and once you talk to them you know you can trust them. I own a small business and I know the importance of having great customer service and Atherton's is exactly that. Thanks you guys!
    -Wayne C.

  • Quality work, fair prices, and professional courtesy every time...highest recommendation for any automotive service needed.
    -Scotty S.

  • Atherton's has always been our place to go for service. A family owned business you can trust. Great service, great prices, very knowledgeable techs.
    -Jake D.

  • Great work and easy to get things done; also, they are always explaining options.
    -John P.

  • The crew at Atherton's did a great job on my 1997 F250 and it's nice to have someone who knows what there doing.
    -Ray P.

  • Very good service, friendly and helpful. Over the years, we have grown to depend on them for all our vehicles' needs. Matt always lets us know what's critical and what can wait. This is a well-run, family-owned business and I'm happy to support a local small business enterprise.
    -Kit C.

  • Atherton Automotive is the most thorough repair shop in the local area - they spell everything out in detail and let you make the decisions you want to. Solid advice and timely service. I've been taking vehicles to them for the past ten to fifteen years - they are also a certified AAA shop and provide the related discount.
    -Jeff G.

  • Atherton Automotive Service has great service, experienced techs, and reasonable prices. Their courtesy inspection was great and kept me informed of what needed to be done and gave me quotes before work was done. I definitely recommend Athertons.
    -Lynn S.

  • These guys are very professional and always fix my vehicle when I bring it in the first time! I never feel like they take advantage of me and the price is always fair.
    -M. Turpen

  • Anytime I have any questions, they are very good to explain things so I will understand the issue. They have always been really helpful and understanding when need some service done and have never tried to "sell" me on things that I don't need.
    -Karen J.

  • Great guys that do quality work!
    -Yevett P.

  • Great fast, friendly service ! Done before they promised and works great.
    -Jim M.

  • I have taken my cars here for several years. They have always great! I can't recommend them enough. Jr, Nick and the guys do good work and stand behind it.
    -Byron T.

  • Great service!
    -Kristina C.

  • These guys are fantastic! They went above and beyond to help me out! They are super cooperative and friendly and will do anything to help you out. They don't try to sell you extra things, or rip you off in any way. They are just genuine and wonderful people to work with! It's good to know that I have a permanent mechanic I can trust since moving here!
    -Mikaelyn K.

  • We dropped our car off and they were fast and efficient and quick to get our car back to us. I would recommend anybody who has car troubles to take it into Atherton's.
    -Alyssa D.

  • My vehicle lost power about 30 miles outside of Council Bluffs while traveling across country. Had the van towed to Atherton Auto about 10:00am. I had an fair estimate (alternator) by 4:00pm the same day and approved the work. I was back on the road by 10:00am the following morning with the cost being below estimate. The breakdown could have cost me several days. Very pleased.
    -Scott M.

  • Very professional, honest and friendly. I would highly recommend Atherton Automotive to my family and friends.
    -Michelle T.

  • They provide quality service at a fair price and I highly recommend them for all your automotive repairs and service. Just got my 2006 F-150 back for the first go around of numerous repairs needed and I'm completely satisfied with what they've done so far.
    -Larry H.

  • I've been taking my vehicles here for at least 20 years. Matt and Junior have always been honest and helpful. They provide top quality service at a reasonable price. They tell me what repairs are needed and which can wait. I always get my vehicle back quickly. I highly recommend them!
    -Susan P.

  • Great place the guys there are honest and truly care about their customers. Took my old truck in for some repair and the work was done promptly and affordably. Definitely recommend bringing your vehicle here!
    -Jessica G.

  • I was VERY impressed with Jr's ability to allow me to feel comfortable to trust him. The quality and efficiency of service is BAR-NONE! Not only did he do what I came in for, he went above and beyond my expectations. From now forward, they will be the only ones who work on my car.
    -Lisa W.

  • I've never dealt with a better automotive repair center in my ENTIRE life. I was driving from San Diego to Connecticut, and I happened to break down there in Council Bluff, IA on the highway. I felt quite isolated and far from home. Right off the bat I could tell this company was a tight, clean, friendly operation. And then I learned they were a family run business - two sons, both ambitious and hard working. They got to my car quickly and had me back on the road that night. And the friendliness is was made this experience so pleasant. I met the whole family and each guy was just incredibly nice and thorough. When I made it back to Connecticut I called them back and they were giving me troubleshooting advice over the phone for unrelated problems. Just utterly top notch guys. A+++++
    -John V.

  • Excellent, timely service. I took in a used car that I was considering buying and they did a very thorough examination that turned up a number of issues. As a result I was able to make an informed decision about the purchase. I would definitely take future business there.
    -Kevin P.

  • So glad I found a 'neighborhood ' mechanic I can trust. Thorough, yet practical.
    -Kat D.

  • Perfect service. All three vehicles were serviced professionally, including some mechanical work on steering mechanism (Buick Riviera) and water pump (Chevy Silverado pick-up). Communications with Atherton Automotive are exceedingly articulate and clearly easy to understand. I heartily recommend Atherton Automotive for your auto maintenance and service needs.
    -Dr. J. Christensen

  • Great communication here at Atherton. Even though I know very little about cars Matt Jr. seemed to value my input about my truck's symptoms and took down a thorough history of my truck before actually working on it. I also liked how the shop explained WHY I needed things done, instead of just telling me "you need to do this." The quality of service was very good and I'll definitely be back in the future.
    -P. Schauwecker

  • Not only excellent technical work but a safe and friendly environment to visit while your car is being serviced for an oil change, etc.
    -J. Bixler

  • Gosh I miss this place! I basically grew up here, the Atherton family was like a family to me! Butch, Matt Sr., Linda and all the kids had such an influence on me growing up. Thank you for you kindness and I'm glad to see the place is still going stronger than ever ! Much love for you all from Florida!
    -C. Dennis

  • Really appreciate the great job you guys do for us when the van needs TLC. Trust you to do what is necessary to keep me and my family safe on the road. Thanks.
    -J. McQuinn Owen