About Car Tune-ups

There’s really is no such thing as a tuneup anymore.  At least in the traditional sense of replacing parts to bring a vehicle’s systems up to factory specs. And there hasn’t been for years. About the only things left from the traditional tuneup are new spark plugs, which the Service team at this Waynesboro, PA car dealer recommends you get done every 100,000 miles, and periodically replacing the fuel and air filters.

Replacing the old tuneup is a list of items that need to be inspected, then replaced if need be. This is referred to as the “factory-recommended maintenance schedule”.  If you’d like to see what the manufacturer of your car recommends for its factory-recommended maintenance schedule, you can check your owner’s manual or go online and look on the manufacturer’s website. However, you may still see the “tuneup-like items. For example, we examined the maintenance guide for the Ford Fiesta, which also applies to other Ford vehicles. The first mention of anything related to a tune-up was to replace the engine air filter every 30,000 miles driven. The only other related item was to replace your spark plugs every 100,000 miles.

EPA and the Department of Energy don’t say what benefit can be derived from new spark plugs, but computers that control modern day engines adjust the air-fuel mixture and spark timing to compensate for wear-and-tear, such as when the electrodes on spark plugs are worn down. Also, they say that replacing a clogged air filter will not improve gas mileage but can improve acceleration 6% to 11%.

Even so, some vehicle owners still take their car in periodically to have it “tuned up.”  When this occurs, service techs will typically test the fuel, ignition and emissions units with a OBD scanner (On-Board Diagnostics) to see if the vehicle’s computer has diagnosed any issues.  After that, they’ll look for issues with parts that can cause problems when worn, such as belts, air filters, vacuum lines, and a handful of other items. The tech may also look for faulty oxygen sensors, vacuum hoses, and other parts that can hinder performance. For example, the U.S government says a bad oxygen sensor can give engine computers false readings and cut down fuel economy as much as 40%.

Final Remarks

Having your car serviced and inspected one in a while is a good way to lengthen its life and keep it operating efficiently. However, driving to a repair facility and asking for a tuneup is a bad idea because it indicates you are still living in the previous century and have extra money you would want to spend. Some people in the auto-repair business will take advantage of opportunities like that. We recommend you save some money in your wallet, and refrain from regular “tune-ups” (but of course bring down your car if you suspect there is something wrong with it!). It’s also a good idea to stay away from tune-up “specials” you see advertised, unless again you feel like your vehicle really needs the maintenance.


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