Does an engine have to be adjusted when moving to a high altitude locale?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2000

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have accepted a promotion with my company and have agreed to move to Denver. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio. I drive a 1990 Honda Civic LX and was told that I would need my engine adjusted to deal with the high altitude. Is this true, or is it a scam? -- Patrick

TOM: It's a scam.

RAY: Your car is fuel injected, Patrick. And modern fuel-injected cars use computerized engine-management systems that automatically adjust for changing altitudes. So you don't have to do anything except drive there.

TOM: If this were 20 years ago, and your car was carbureted, then you WOULD, in fact, need to have the carburetor adjusted to let in less fuel since the air is thinner up there.

RAY: But the computer does all that now -- using electronic sensors to continuously measure the combustion gasses and then adjusting the gasoline/air mixture as necessary.

TOM: So save the money on the "adjustment," Patrick. But since you're moving to such a high altitude, you might want to invest in those oxygen masks that drop down from the sun visors.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter