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Today’s Technology…  Not like the “Good Old Days”
Written by:  Derek Martel

Do any of you remember the “good old days” when a tune-up consisted of Ignition Points and Condenser, Spark Plugs, etc.?  The Ignition Points air gap may have been set based on the thickness of a matchbook cover, spark plugs were gapped by eye, ignition timings set by ear, and carburetors adjusted by feel.  Those were the good old days. But where has modern technology brought us today?
A tune-up on newer model vehicles is a little different.  It is more about fluid maintenance and filter replacement rather than replacing spark plugs and other commonly replaced parts. On many of today’s newer vehicles just to change the oil requires resetting some computer or oil life counter.  Rotating tires may now require you to re-learn the tires new position to some computer, and low pressure tires now give you a warning message while driving.  Go to the gas station, fill up your gas tank, forget to tighten the fuel cap and guess what? That pesky “Check Engine Light” comes on.  A simple alignment may not be so simple anymore. It may require the need to reset a steering sensor so the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) knows the correct steering position.  On some vehicles, the check engine light may illuminate for using the wrong viscosity weight of oil. I could go on, but I think you are getting the point.
Back in the day, if you wanted to performance tune you older muscle car it was done by jetting the carburetor, twisting the distributor to change your base ignition timing, or changing the centrifugal weights and springs to modify the ignition timing advance curve.  Today, you need to purchase software to connect to your vehicle’s computer using a laptop computer, learn how to use the tuning software, modify the fuel and/or ignition charts and tables, and then upload or flash the new program to your vehicle’s computer. In these modern times, it is practically impossible to work on a newer vehicle without the use of a computerized scan tool, a valuable piece of diagnostic equipment that has the ability to communicate with onboard computers to gather data, reset memories, relearn computers and much more.
With all the advances in technologies; powertrain management, electronic accessories, navigation, Bluetooth, etc., it is important for people to be properly trained in vehicle maintenance and diagnostics.  In some vehicle lines, there are over 85 onboard computers with multiple communication networks between them.  Vehicles today are not like the “good old days” but they sure are fun to drive!
For more information on automotive degree programs offered by New England Institute of Technology, please call 401-467-7744 or visit their website at