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What does a modern vehicle tune-up entail?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by wahoowad, Jul 28, 2008.

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  1. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    My 2003 Chevy Silverado 4x4 has the 5.3 liter V-8 engine. I'm at 77,000 miles and haven't needed to do a tune up, although lately it is feeling a tad sluggish. I thought I would replace the spark plugs even thought the service manual says they don't need it until the 100,000 mark. So it got me thinking maybe I should just take it to a repair shop for a tune up.

    My dealer sucks so bad I won't even think of taking it there. Frankly I don't trust any of the other repair shops in town either - they have all tried to take advantage of me or my gal's car over time. So I usually go to them when I know exactly what I need done and have a feel for what it should cost. But with these modern computerized engines I'm not so sure what is needed for a tune up. Heck, I can replace the plugs, do my own oil changes, air filter, etc. but they always seem to charge high fees for "hooking it up to the computer" without being clear what was adjusted or recalibrated or whatever. That's where I feel like I am being had.

    I did have an oxygen sensor replaced a few months ago - I'm thinking the performance dropped a bit then but not sure. I'm probably just being paranoid but I'm sure my horrible dealer would have skipped any computer adjustments or recalibration steps if any where called for by replacing that thing.

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  2. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I have a 5.3 from 2001 with 113000 miles on it. This is an 8 coil machine with 8 6" long spark plug wires that "should" be cheap to replace along with the proper AC delco platinum replacment plugs that come pregapped at about 8$ apiece.

    You can do the plugs and wires, replace the fuel filter (this should be done very frequently every 15000 but is often forgotten), replace the air filter if needed (seldom if ever a restriction on an air sipping gas engine), oil change, antifreeze flush out (you have dexcool which is known to cause troubles if ignored), but a very important thing to do is the transmission filter change and flush. The trans is messy and the dealer will think that the filter and magnet in the pan don't need to be cleaned but you can and should be doing the trans fluid and filter. I also R&R;the transfer case and axle lubes. One other odd thing is brake fluid. Brake fluid absorbs water is supposed to be changed out every two years. Basicly you bleed the brakes until clean fluid comes out from each wheel. Is yours any color but clear? then flush it.

    Replace the serpentine belt at 60$. Wax the truck's paint. Rotate the tires. Check the battery (at 5 years old it is nearing life expectancy).
  3. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    There really isn't anything to do for a tune up any more with the advent of electronic ignition systems. Breaker points used to wear and change the timing, but GM hasn't used them since about 1973 or so. Most of the mechanics I know say not to worry about it until it starts misfiring, but a new set of plugs every 75-100k miles wouldn't hurt. The electronics really aren't adjustable. GM sensors aren't the most long lived things out there, but the computer will tell you if something is out of tolerance with a check engine light. On the OBD-II systems (post 1995), you really need a scan tool to see what the problem is, but there are $50 read only scanners out there if you don't want to pay a mechanic for his opinion.

    Everyone should have a good mechanic waiting in the wings. I have one that services our 4 cars (combined 530k miles) and trust him enough to drop off the car, leave a voicemail with the details and know I won't get taken for a ride. Start looking for one before you need it. Ask friends and neighbors who they use and try them out. Take the car in for something simple, like brakes or shocks and see how the experience is. One good resource is Click and Clack's Mechanic's Files: http://www.cartalk.com/content/mechx/find.html Punch in your ZIP code and see what others are saying about mechanics in your area. It's just an opinion of course, but a good place to start.

    Chris
  4. Backroads

    Backroads Feeling the Heat

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    I agree with what was posted earlier I would just like to point out a couple of things you should keep in mind.

    Spark Plugs--If you decide to replace, do so with nothing less than a quality platinum plug.
    Air Filter--Like stated will rob MPG fast if dirty, definately recommend this on some kind of schedule.
    Fuel Filter--Not sure for Chevy but sometimes they little clips that are a PITA! I'd pay the mechanic $20 to do this and avoid gas in the face.
    Radiator Flush--Use distilled water NOT Tap water. Many times tap water contains minerals that are bad for the engine.
    Transmission Service--I recommend having it hooked up to a machine at the dealer, just my personal preference. Frequency will depend on driving technique, towing, ect...Also if it has a synthetic fluid or not, mine does and it's pricey.
    I prefer the fluid and filter both be changed if it's hooked up to a machine.
    Oil Change--Firm believer that 3K miles is toooo soon. Today's oils are better than years past and last longer IMHO.

    As for needing the computer read, you can buy a OBD-II reader for a hundred bucks or so OR the guys at Autozone or Advanced usually will do this for FREE!

    Good luck!
  5. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    I'd replace wires too.

    Matt
  6. backpack09

    backpack09 Minister of Fire

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    If you have not been regularly flushing your trans and have waited till you hit 80k the power flush is a BAD thing. They tend to break loose gunk that ends up plugging up sensors and solenoids. A manual flush (drop pan replace filter, pour in required new fluid) is the safer way of doing this. Also, if you have not had the bands in you vehicle adjusted do it while they are flushing the trans (I bought my 100k durango and it needed a flush, checked the front band, completely loose, tore down the trans and there is ZERO friction material left on the front band.)

    Dan
  7. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    Leave the transmission alone. The bands are not externally adjustable on a GM transmission and changing the fluid is asking for trouble. I regularly run Hydramatics to 200K with zero maintenance. My Cavalier doesn't even have a dipstick. The '95 has 242K on it with original fluid and has never needed service.

    Chris
  8. backpack09

    backpack09 Minister of Fire

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    How can you compare a cavalier to a silverado? That is like comparing a bicycle to a harley...
  9. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    More like a sportster and a fat boy with a side car IMHO. Both are made by the same company using the same technology, albiet at different plants. The 4 speed auto trans in the Cavalier is simply a scaled down version of the 4 speed auto trans in the Slverado. They work in the same way, use similar designs (no, I'm not suggesting you can hook up a cavalier tranny to a 5.3).
  10. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    The silverado has a 4l60e transmission and a transfer case. The transmission pan has a drain plug (in 2003) and inside the pan is the replaceable filter as well as a square magnet that picks up tons of metal under normal conditions. These things need attention and flushing a transmission is the lazy mechanic's way of half assing the transmission service. I've done mine several times over the 170,000 miles and have had zero transmission problems despite heavy hauling and towing.
  11. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    Thank you for pointing out that a Cavalier is not a truck; I sometimes forget this...

    The point I was trying to make was that the OP was asking about a simple tune up and everyone started chiming in about all the things he should be doing to prolong his truck's lifespan. While I am a fan of preventive maintenance, I feel that a GM transmission should be left alone, unless maybe you are doing a lot of towing. I also have the 4L60E in a Roadmaster (350) with 242K on the clock and it hasn't caused a whit of trouble and also never had a fluid change. GM Powertrain builds probably the best automatics in the world, so good that they are used in Rolls Royce, Bentley and some Jaguars as well as the Hummer H1. They are also the AT of choice by many medium and heavy duty trucks (see Allison). Ford and Chrysler have had their issues over the years and even the Japanese mfrs don't have this kind of track record.

    When you change the fluid in the pan, you aren't changing even half the fluid as the torque converter holds more than the pan does. Flushing the system is inviting trouble as it stirs up all that crap that was resting harmlessly in the corners. Most mechanics I know agree with me on this one, so I am not alone in my thinking. If you feel the need, go ahead and drop the pan at 100K and clean it out. I don't think it's really necessary. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Chris
  12. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    True, you'll only get 5 quarts out of the pan during a regular filter change service. The remaining 8 or so are in the coolers, torque converter, and lines, etc. and will be mixed with the new fluid. Consider it a "feed and bleed" way of changing fluid.

    Here's a twister for you. I actually did a trans flush using a flushing machine and pumped in 12 quarts of Mobile 1 synthetic ATF while pumping out 12 quarts of old dex3. Then I went back in and changed the filter and topped up with 5 more quarts of synthetic atf. Since then I only change the filters and pan fluid.

    Despite the poor reputation these 4l60e transmissions have in the towing community, I have really enjoyed mine. I think GM did well with it.
  13. Backroads

    Backroads Feeling the Heat

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    They did better with the 4L60E because they learned from their mistakes with the 700R4. All in all though, preventive maintenance is all Personal Preference. Kinda like smoking and not going to the doctor. Some people can get away with it...others can't. It's luck if you ask me...:coolsmirk:
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