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Maintenance and Tune-up - What's The Difference?    
 (Part 2)    

Cutting Through The Mumbo Jumbo

Whether you do the work yourself or pay someone else to do it, it's a good idea to fully understand exactly what benefits you should expect to gain for the work performed and or money spent.

Below, we'll use our lawnmower example to categorize the various levels of service, and what you can expect to gain from each category. I'll also put together a list of parts and supplies likely to be needed to perform the work in each category. Keep in mind once again that in real life these "categories" are completely arbitrary. My definitions are mine. The business down the road may use some other definition depending on the mood for the day or whatever marketing idea he or she has in mind.

In this category, our equipment is performing well, and our goal is to "maintain" that state of performance. Service would include:

  • Changing the oil and oil filter if equipped.
  • Servicing the air filter as required.
  • Tightening bolts and nuts found to be loose.
  • Sharpening the blade(s).
  • Cleaning under the deck.
  • Wash and clean the machine.
  • Inspection, adjustment, and lubrication of moving parts such as throttle or choke cables, belts, etc.

It's very unlikely that the procedures above will do much in the way of "repairing" anything that might be wrong with the machine. It is simple maintenance and not repair.

Parts and Supplies for Maintenance Tune Up: Fuel, Lubricants, Cleaning Supplies

Minor Tune Up
In this category, our equipment is operating slightly under par and our goal is to improve that state of performance by making a few very
minor repairs. Service would include ALL of the steps listed in the maintenance tune up above, plus:

  • Adjustment of armature air gap if required.
  • Replacing the spark plug and air filter.
  • Flushing the fuel tank and adding fresh gasoline.
  • Replacing the fuel filter, if equipped.
  • Carburetor adjustment, if adjustable.
  • Valve clearance adjustment (OHV style engines).
  • Adjustments to engine rpm/governor controls as required.

Now we are getting somewhere! The procedures listed above will correct many minor problems and increase performance, assuming that the engine is without broken components or internal damage.

Parts and Supplies for Minor Tune Up: Spark Plug(s), Air Filter, Fuel Filter, Valve Cover Gasket, Fuel, Lubricants

Major or Full Tune Up
In this category, our equipment has minor to intermediately serious problems and our goal is to correct those problems in order to put the equipment back into useable service. Service would include
ALL of the steps listed in BOTH of the categories above, plus:

  • Rebuilding the carburetor

At this level of service, adjustments and corrections will have been made to cover just about everything that falls under the umbrella of routine maintenance concerning normal wear and usage.

A wide variety of problems can and will be cured assuming there are no component failures, causes for low compression or internal damage to an engine. Anything over and above this list starts taking you into the realm of repair procedures, which is a totally different picture.

Parts and Supplies for Major Tune Up: Carb Kit, Spark Plug(s), Air Filter, Fuel Filter, Valve Cover Gasket, Fuel, Lubricants

Note - Most manufacturer's will also recommend two other procedures in regards to routine maintenance for preserving engine performance and extending service life. They are, removing carbon from the combustion chamber and/or performing a valve job. Although they are considered to be maintenance procedures, most service businesses will have these services classified under the repair category.

Depending on annual usage for the consumer, these should only be necessary every second or third year, unless a noticeable drop in power is diagnosed to indicate a low compression situation.

Final thoughts:

Whether you plan on doing the work yourself or paying someone else, first make an assessment of what your needs are depending on the present condition of the equipment, then using the guidelines above, choose the category of service that will best suit the need.

If you are paying someone else to do the work, make it clear what your needs are by telling them specifically what type of problem you have or what the symptoms are. If they happen to use the term "tune up" as a suggested solution, ask them to explain what's included in the tune up, and what the estimated price will be.

The keys to avoiding frustration, unwanted surprise, and conflicts regarding service issues are:

  • Be Informed.
  • Be Informative
  • Ask questions for clarification.

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