What’s a Tune-Up?
Car maintenance 101: Here’s what you need to know!
When it comes to your vehicle’s service, one aspect remains constant — the need for regular, scheduled check-ups if you will! While the definition of “tune ups” has changed through the years, the benefits still run the gamut, from increasing the life of your car to maintaining performance, and there are certain time frames that must be adhered to. When to check is as important as what to check so make sure you are dedicated to having this service done — and done right!
Today’s tune up!
The term tune-up, once considered to be the means to make an engine run better, is considered outdated in today’s world. That is because there is not much that can be “tuned up” under the hood, especially in many late-model vehicles. Instead, a tune-up typically includes the replacement of several important wear-and-tear parts. Many motorists who desire a tune-up tend to be experiencing some drivability problems, whether that means their vehicle is difficult to start, not getting the fuel mileage it once did, hesitating or stalling or just basically lacking the zip it once had.
By simple definition, a tune-up is a type of routine maintenance that keeps your car performing correctly. Tune-ups done regularly can in fact extend the life of your vehicle and also helps to ensure it is operating at its best and fullest performance potential.
For today’s tune up, a battery of performance checks to the base line to confirm the engine’s overall condition must be done. This begins with a battery voltage. That is especially important considering today’s plethora of onboard electronics. Next, a power balance or dynamic compression is performed. This helps to identify any mechanical problems such as leaky valves, worn rings, a bad head gasket, among others, that could adversely affect compression and engine performance.
Tune-ups also involve an engine vacuum that detects air leaks and exhaust restrictions, a scan for fault codes as well as a check of exhaust emissions. Your car’s idle speed and idle mixture should also be verified, as well as your ignition timing checked.
A visual check of hoses and belts as well as all fluids, including oil, coolant, automatic transmission, power steering and brake, should also be inspected closely to ensure they are at the proper level.
Today’s tune-up also involves the “replacement” of various items. Those include spark plugs, a rotor or distributor cap, fuel and air filters, as well as things like spark plug,belts, hoses and fluids, as needed.
When to get a tune-up….
The frequency of tune-ups is dependent on the age of your vehicle, with tune-up intervals varying from one vehicle to another. Most older vehicles equipped with non-electronic ignitions should undergo a tune-up every 10,000-12,000 miles or annually, whichever comes first. For newer cars with electronic ignition and fuel injection systems, their tune-ups are scheduled anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000 miles.
If your car stalls a lot, that may indicate that the spark plugs may be fouled or worn, or the gap between the spark plug electrodes may need adjusting. Another issue is that the electronic sensing device may also need adjusted.
If your engine is running roughly when idling or when you accelerate, this is another sign you may be in need of a tune-up. In addition, if your vehicle becomes more difficult to start, there could be a problem with your starting system, in the fuel system or in the ignition system. Another problem may be that you have a faulty electronic component, such as the electronic control unit.
Other signs you need a tune up!
Decreased gas mileage
“Check engine” light or “service engine soon” light remaining on after the initial start
An annual tune-up provides the opportunity to check your vehicle’s systems, including the car brakes and clutch. The air conditioning system should also be checked if the tune-up is performed in spring or early summer.
What needs replaced!
If your tune-up uncovers no major faults, there are several items that need replaced for preventative maintenance. That includes first and foremost spark plugs, which need changed periodically because the electrodes wear every time a plug fires. In fact, after 45,000 miles of operation, the plug has fired 60-80 million times. What also needs replaced that many motorists may not be aware of is the Oxygen sensor in the engine. Sluggish sensors are the direct use of drivability problems and therefore can be replaced for preventative maintenance during the tune-up.
Also part of a regular tune-up should be a cleaning of the fuel injectors and intake system. Cleaning is recommended for any engine that is suffering a performance complaint or has more than 50,000 files on the odometer.
In addition to tune-ups, regular oil changes are also vital to maintain proper engine lubrication. Experts recommend an oil change and filter change every 3,000 miles or three to six months.
It is important to note that, while many of these items, including belts, hoses and fluids, may not need replaced, it will give you a chance to put a stop to small issues that could result in big problems — and a big price tag! — if left unchecked.
A tune-up consists of the following:
— Replacement of plugs, wires and other parts in the ignition system
— Letting your engine run clean with new filters
— Keeping your auxiliary systems in check with new belts and hoses
— Maintaining your car’s components with the right fluids (topping off or replacing)
Remember, check your owner’s manual if you have any question about when or what to “tune up!” Keep in mind that this is necessary maintenance in many cases which can result in a significant cost savings down the line.
While the cost ranges from $50 to anywhere over $150, depending on the mechanic, it is an investment worth making. At its simplest, it is routine maintenance of your engine performance components, while more modern vehicles have plenty of items that should be cared for on a regular basis. To ensure your vehicle is operating at peak efficiency, make sure you are having this necessary service done — and done right!