How Do You Know If Your Car Needs a Tune Up?

July 11,2014

By: Mike Veenstra

What is a tune up, and when does my car need one? These may be questions you’ve asked yourself or perhaps worried about, so we at Veenstra’s will help break it down for you here.

Automobile technology has changed drastically in the past 40 years, but despite significant improvements, car parts are not made, nor are they meant, to last forever. A “tune up” refers to the inspection and replacement of worn components of the ignition and fuel systems, including air and fuel filters, spark plugs and wires. Depending on the mileage, other routine maintenance, such as replacement of transmission fluid or belt and hose replacement, can also be performed at the same time.

Tune UpHalf a century ago, cars had more moving parts and much more needed to be done to tune up a specific system and keep it running. For instance, in addition to an oil change, and the switching out of air, oil, and fuel filters, an older Detroit V8 automobile would also be inspected every 12,000 miles for ignition points and condenser, spark coil output voltage, ignition timing and dwell, engine accessory belts and hoses, carburetor, carburetor accelerator pump function, carburetor float valve level, and vacuum leaks, as well as engine accessory belts and hoses, and, of course, spark plugs and wires. These older engines were complex but they were the kind an enthusiastic and mechanically inclined person could master with practice.

Cars manufactured in the past several decades now contain parts that have been engineered to “tune” themselves, and increasing computerization makes them impossible to fix without the proper diagnostic equipment. The good news is that it’s fairly simple to figure out what’s wrong with your car when there’s a problem, and the whole system needs a lot less periodic adjusting than it once did.

It always pays to familiarize yourself with your car’s owners manual because, in addition to filters, spark plugs, and wires, other systems and parts will also need inspection and replacement as your mileage increases. When some parts on some car models – such as a timing belt on an interference engine – go unreplaced and break, they can cause extremely expensive damage to your car’s engine.

If you are concerned about the performance of your vehicle or have noticed lowered gas mileage, it’s always good to ask your mechanic about it when you come in for your next visit. We at Veenstra’s would be happy to help you set a preventative maintenance schedule for your car and make sure it stays in top driving condition.