How to Tune a Cavalier

by Kevin Mclain

Like most cars, the Chevrolet Cavalier requires a tuneup at proper intervals to keep the engine running smoothly and efficiently. A tuneup on the Cavalier consists of cleaning the battery and changing the spark plugs, spark plug wires, oil, air filter and fuel filter. After a tuneup has been performed on the car, continue to perform regular maintenance as recommended by Chevrolet. The maintenance intervals can be found in the owner's manual.

Replace the Spark Plugs

1

Open the hood and prop it in place with the hood locking rod. Starting with the first spark plug on the front driver side of the engine, pull the plug wire off the spark plug.

2

Insert a spark plug socket over the spark plug and turn the socket counter-clockwise with a ratchet until the spark plug is loose. Remove the socket and finish loosening the spark plug with your fingers. Pull the plug out and discard it.

3

Screw the new spark plug into the plug hole and tighten the plug down tight with the ratchet and socket. Do not over-tighten the spark plug.

4

Push the plug wire over the top of the new spark plug. Move to the remaining spark plugs and repeat the same process for replacing the spark plugs one at a time until all of the spark plugs have been replaced.

Replace Spark Plug Wires

1

Pull the plug wire off the front spark plug on the driver side of the engine. Pull the other end of the plug off the connection on the distributor cap.

2

Match the old spark plug wire up with one of the new plug wires to locate the same size plug wire. Push the spark plug wire over the top of the spark plug until it locks.

3

Push the other end of the spark plug onto the connection on the distributor cap.

4

Move to the remaining spark plug wires and repeat the same process.

5

Inspect all of the plug wires to ensure they are connected to the spark plugs and to the top of the distributor cap.

Change the Oil

1

Place a drip pan underneath the drain plug on the bottom of the oil pan.

2

Loosen and remove the drain plug from the oil pan with a ratchet and a socket. Once the plug is loose, finish unscrewing the plug with your fingers. Place the plug to the side.

3

Allow all of the oil to drain out of the oil pan. Screw the plug back into the oil pan and tighten the plug with the ratchet and socket. Do not over-tighten the plug.

4

Move the drip pan underneath the oil filter. Loosen and remove the old oil filter from the bottom side of the engine. Discard the old filter into the drip pan. Screw the new oil filter onto the oil filter housing. Once the filter is tight, turn the oil filter another three-quarters of a turn to properly seat it.

5

Move to the top of the engine and remove the oil dipstick. Place the long-neck funnel into the dipstick tube. Fill the engine with oil. Remove the funnel and reinsert the dipstick. Crank the engine for about 30 seconds and then turn the engine back off. Check the oil level on the dipstick. Add oil as necessary to bring the oil level to the full mark on the dipstick.

Replace Air and Fuel Filters

1

Locate the air filter box on the top of the engine. Open the lid and place it on top of the engine.

2

Pull the old air filter out of the box and insert the new air filter. Reconnect the lid.

3

Unscrew the gas cap to relieve the gas pressure off the fuel filter. Slide under the rear of the Cavalier and locate the fuel filter behind the gas tank. The fuel filter has a screw-on fuel line on one end of the filter and a quick-connect fuel line on the other end of the filter.

4

Place the drip pan under the fuel filter. Remove the quick-connect fitting by sliding the end of a quick disconnect tool into the end of the fuel line. Press the end of the tool into the fuel line and hold it firmly with one hand. Use the other hand to pull the fuel line out of the fuel filter. Loosen and unscrew the other line with a wrench.

5

Pull the old fuel filter out of the bracket and place it into the drip pan. Insert the new fuel filter into the bracket. Push the quick-connect fuel line onto the end of the fuel filter until it locks onto the fuel filter port. Screw the other fuel line onto the fuel filter and tighten the line with a wrench. Screw the gas cap back onto the gas tank.

6

Turn the ignition key to the accessory position for about five seconds and then back off. Repeat this three times. Crank the engine on the fourth turn and let it run for about 30 seconds. Turn the engine off and inspect the new fuel filter for leaks.

Clean the Battery

1

Loosen and remove each battery cable with an adjustable wrench.

2

Clean the battery posts and the battery cable connections thoroughly with a battery post cleaner tool.

3

Wipe away the excess battery post shavings with a clean rag. Reconnect the battery cables to the battery posts and tighten each cable with the adjustable wrench.

Tip

  • check Keep all of the necessary parts replaced or maintained at the recommended intervals to keep the engine running properly.

Warnings

  • close Never smoke when replacing a fuel filter or when cleaning a battery.
  • close Wear safety glasses and protective gloves when cleaning the battery and replacing the fuel filter.

Items you will need

References

About the Author

Kevin Mclain has more than 20 years of automotive, home improvement and landscaping experience. He has been writing for various online publications since 2002. Mclain has U.S. Army certification in automotive maintenance and repair, among more than 15 additional certifications related to the automotive field.