Old 06-16-03, 12:31 PM
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I have a very dumb 3 part question for you all.

On a 1997 Olds Cutlass:

1. What parts are involved in a Tune-Up? I am thinking spark plugs, wires, and air filter. Is this correct? Anything else?

2. Is it something a novice can do? I have literally done no work what so ever on my car (unless replacing the mirror counts). Not even changing a tire.

3. When they talk about gapping the spark plug are they talking about the area where it sparks, or how tight you wrachet it down to the car?
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Old 06-16-03, 02:05 PM
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fjclaus, not a dumb question. Everyone has to start somewhere. I would suggest that you go to your local public library and check out a Motor Manual for your car. It will have the information about what is required for a routine tune-up. In fact, on modern cars what you have named is just about it. Do you have the owner's manual for your car? They usually give the maintenance schedule for the various items to check, adjust or replace. All of the maintenance items you mentioned are ones that a novice can perform with a minimum of tools and instruction. The air cleaner generally requires no more than a screw driver or nut driver to remove. "Gapping the spark plug" is adjusting the air gap which the spark jumps every time the plug fires. All that is needed to do that operation is to get a .99 plug gauge at the local auto parts store. You will need a spark plug socket of the correct size, a ratchet wrench and probably a 6" extension. By the way, don't remove all the plugs or the plug wires at the same time in order to avoid crossing them up. Just remove one, gap the plug and replace the new wire for that plug before going on to the next one. Good luck!!
Old 06-16-03, 04:41 PM
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Thumbs up

I agree with Thiggy. He gave you some good advice.

Use GM/AC Delco parts on the plugs and the filters if possible.
Old 06-16-03, 05:05 PM
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Thanks guys for the advise. My brother-in-law used to do this for me before he moved to Florida. I trusted his work since he was ASE Certified. You mentioned AC Delco plugs. Is it true that the more expensive they are the better they are? My brother-in-law used to make me buy the ones that had two sparks off them. I forget what they were called. I think it was Platinum. Come to think of it, I am not sure if they were even AC Delco. All I know is they were about $5.00 a plug. Are the expensive ones any better than the ones that are $5.00 for a 4 pack?
Old 06-16-03, 07:12 PM
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really there isn't much difference between the cheaper plugs and more expensive ones they both have the same function, however platinum plugs do last longer and will not wear out nearly as quick as a regular sparkplug, there is atleast a couple of brands that have more than one ground electrode such as splitfire, and bosch, but this does not create a dual spark the spark will go to whichever electrode that has the least resistance to ground not to both.
if the engine is in good condition and doesnt burn any oil i would suggest using a/c delco platinum sparkplugs which is likely what this car was originally equiped with, if it does burn some oil and has alot of miles you may just want to put a cheaper regular spark plug back in it due to the engines condition which will require more frequent plug changes due to fouling of the spark plug.
Old 06-16-03, 07:49 PM
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Just look in your owner's manual. Go to any parts store dealing in AC Delco parts. In the back of the owner's manual, where the capacities and specifications are, it will give the part #s for routine maintenance parts. Stick with those.

Anything other than stock plugs matching the part # that's shown in the owner's manual is a large waste of money for this vehicle. Stock OEM Delco is fine and is a good value for the price.

As BeJay said, the OEM plugs may have been platinum. "Keep Your GM vehicle all GM" as those old air cleaners used to say on the sticker
Old 06-16-03, 10:09 PM
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I agree with the advice on one plug at a time. I made this mistake when changing a distibutor cap and it was a royal pain to get it right, especially since my car has a new engine block with a different firing order than the one in the book......lol

most of that stuff is easy, I suggest a chilton's manual and it will give u a complete list of tools/parts needed. A chilton's manual is a priceless tool.
Old 06-17-03, 05:22 AM
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Thanks again. I was mis-informed about split-fire plugs I guess. I was told they have two sparks. Someone mentioned if the car burns oil and has a lot of miles on it I should use cheaper plugs. Well, it does not burn oil. I never have to add oil between oil changes, and there are no leaks, but it does have a little more than 80,000 miles on it. Should I still stick with the Delco platinum plugs?

I checked my owners manual and you were right it was AC Delco platinum plugs in the car originally.

thanks for the advise.
Old 06-17-03, 06:33 AM
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Simple. Buy the # that the owner's manual recommends. Best and cheapest way.

I run regular Delcos in all my GM cars, no fancy plug. A spark plug is a spark plug, no mystery to it .

Use what the OEM recommends and pocket the savings or use it for the other parts.
Old 06-17-03, 10:32 PM
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Hello Fjclaus,

First, I want to encourage you to perform a tune up yourself. Also, be informed of what you are doing and what you need to accomplish and the obstacles you may encounter.

To begin with, buy a $20 Chiltons 'repair' manual for your make and model.
There you will find a section on 'maintenance schedules'. Read it. If this disinterests you already then do not proceed. This published schedule will outline accurate, detailed items that "should" be performed at given mileage intervals. The schedule will outline an easy to understand pattern of 'every x thousand miles, to "inspect or replace" a list of items. And every x thousand miles, perform these listed tasks. The book explains it all quite clearly. Even if you decide not to tune up your own car, reading the book will give you a clearer understanding of the maintenance issues. The Chiltons will contain your spark plug gap specifications, and may even show a picture of someone using a $1 tool, gapping a plug. It will have all the information you need to know to perform a tuneup.

Here is an partial example of some things you might find in the 60,000 mile tuneup schedule. This is just a random sample, so please don't quote me.

Replace oil and filter.
Inspect or replace air filter.
Replace spark plugs.
Inspect or replace plug wires.
Replace fuel filter. (note requires special tool)
Replace transmission filter.
Replace engine coolent.
Inspect or replace PVC valve.
Check fluid levels, (i.e, battery, power steering, coolent, etc)
Inspect or replace belts.
Lubricate door hinges, hood hinges, ...etc.
Inspect / replace hoses.
Inspect lamps, bulbs, yada, yada, yada...

Enought of that. You get the idea. Now on to your particular question. First I want to say that I have no comment on what type of plug to buy. Low priced OEM plugs are what the engine is engineered for. If you want more, go for it, it's only money. (In case your wondering, I buy the 1.29 cent plugs). If you want the $5.00 plugs, then you probably are going to ask about synthetic oil in your followup post. Hey, it's only money.

Regarding the spark plugs. The new electronic ignitions can make a spark plug last a long time, say up to 100,000 miles.
Sounds good, huh !? The bad news is that sometimes you can strip a plug hole just trying to remove that old plug that is trying to cease inside that engine head after 5 years. Althought it is not commonly spoke of, shops steer away from changing plugs on older cars (cerca 1985 to 2000) for a couple of reasons. First they risk stripping and subsequent repairing a plug hole. Second, the time and labor to replace plugs is not as profitable as a fast change of wires and filters. Take a good look at how many one-price tuneups include new spark plugs. Not many. My point is this, be prepared to encounter a stubborn plug.

Twenty years ago, you could brag that you could change a set of plugs in 10 minutes. Not so today. You could spend your Saturday trying to gain access to some of the deeply recessed plugs. Often you need special swivel ratchets, extensions and swivel sockets to overcome tight engine compartments. To compound this, old plug wires will heat-cease to the plug, making removal difficult. There are even special tools made just to remove the plug boot from the plug. The rubber actually bonds to the boot. Remember that you must remove the boot in order to get a socket on the plug to remove the plug. So just ripping the wires out of the boots will not solve the problem. Grab the boot, not the wire, and twist the boot first to break it free. If the plug won't budge with a ratchet use a long handle ratchet that provides plently of slow torque to minimize the chance of stripping.

To make this task less pleasant is the advent of the side mount engine where half of the plugs cannot even be seen easily. Which reminds me,, buy a 2" inspection mirror (any auto store) and a florescent drop light.

When you install the new plugs, you should buy the boot dielectric grease and coat the inside of the boots as some protection against future heat-ceasing. It also helps prevent arcing. Many new wires are packaged with the grease inside each boot, but it is just 'dabbed' in, and you should smear it around with your finger.

The wires must be properly routed exactly the way they were installed at the factory. Otherwise, you risk electronic driveablity problems with your myriad of electronic components in the engine compartment.

Finally, although less important in the big scheme of things,, when you buy new plug wires, avoid the lowest cost 'copper' core wire. These are inexpensive but "may" or "may not" contribute to hard-to-diagnose driveablity problems due to their natural higher Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI), (often referred to as RFI). Get the magnetic core wires for a very few dollars more. Do not confuse mag core wires with 'expensive wires'. The market sells low priced mag core wires, and they sell high priced copper wires; as well as cheap copper and expensive mag core. By the way, copper core wires do serve a purpose; they are nice on race cars (Accel brand), and fine for very old cars without computers, and cost effective for cars on their last budgeted leg. But for you and your work aday car, get the mag core in any brand you like.

Now all the above is to help inform you of what to expect, thus increasing your success rate and enjoyment of doing your own tuneup. I'm sure there are other pointers on the topic, but I think I have covered the basics.

Good luck, spend some money (tools and parts) and feel the reward of Doing-It-Yourself.

Happy tuning,

Last edited by Lugnut; 06-18-03 at 05:33 AM.
Old 06-18-03, 08:59 AM
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i agree with lugnuts list,but i would just like to add,

throttle body service
fuel injection service

add this to the list and you will have done all the tune up items you can,you might also want to check to see if your vehicle has a timming belt,check the serp belt for cracks etc. alot of people change those when doing a tune up,if your vehicle has a timming belt check your owners manual to see when it needs to be replaced,that is very important,and most are recommended to be changed around your mileage,i highly recommend replacing water pump and cam seals when doing your timming belt becaue it will save you labor when your pump or seals do let go,just do it all at once while your in there.
Old 06-18-03, 09:31 PM
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One thing I do any time I am replacing spark plugs is to use Anti-seize on the threads of the plugs. This will help keep the plugs from seizing up in the head for ease of futur changes.

P.S. I use either or of the aluminum or the copper, but prefer the aluminum. Either works just as good as the other.
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