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May 02, 2013

Does Your Vehicle Need a Tune-Up?

AskPatty-do-you-need-a-tuneup-thinkstock-87608146Without proper maintenance, your car won’t perform properly, and there’s the distinct chance it will leave you stranded somewhere. While oil changes and tire rotations are part of basic maintenance, there’s also the need for tune-ups. However, things have changed from what they once were. Do you need a tune-up? What’s included in that type of service? When do you need to schedule them? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions.


Do I Need a Tune-Up?

The answer to the question above is a rather ambiguous “maybe”. Once, tune-ups were necessary on a rather frequent basis (usually annually). Cars have been improved dramatically since those days, though. Today’s cars don’t really need what was once covered under a tune-up, largely because some of those components are no longer used in modern cars – there are no points to change, and most cars no longer have distributor caps.
In fact, tune-ups have been transformed into something else entirely. You’ll find these called “major services” in your owner’s manual and at dealership service centers. Depending on your make and model, you’ll have major services at regular intervals, including 30,000 miles, 60,000 miles and 90,000 miles (as an example). During each major service, a variety of things are checked and changed, with some mileage-specific items in there as well. For instance, the service you get between 90,000 and 110,000 should include a timing belt and new water pump, while your 30,000-mile service should include a transmission fluid change and possibly a fuel filter as well.
How do you know what you need? Honestly, the differences between makes and models are so vast that there’s really no good yardstick by which to judge. Typically, the best option is to follow the schedule set in your owner’s manual or contact a brand-specific dealership to discuss your needs.
Why are “tune-ups” in the traditional sense of the word no longer needed? This is largely due to the fact that most cars today no longer have mechanical ignition systems. Everything has moved to an electronic basis, with plugs, points, and condensers becoming outmoded and unused. Because those were the primary items replaced during tune-ups, most cars no longer need that type of annual service.

Don’t Rely on Schedules

Given the complexity of automobiles today and the handy provided service schedules offered by automakers and dealerships, it can be tempting to only take your car in when you’re due for a service. However, that shouldn’t be your rule of thumb. If your car is doing strange things, take it in for service. Things can happen between services, and those can be devastating.
For instance, if you notice that your car is stalling out, it’s important to take it to a mechanic for service. The most obvious culprit here is the sparkplug system – the electrodes could be corroded, or the gap could be incorrect. However, there are other considerations as well – it could be something as simple as bad fuel.
If your car is hard to start, chances are good it’s something to do with the starter, battery or alternator. Rather than going through the process of trial and error, you should take it to a mechanic, explain the symptoms and have them conduct a charging system test (one that includes the starter) to determine what needs to be replaced.
Tune-ups might be a thing of the past in the traditional sense, but there is still no replacement for regular maintenance and service. By keeping your car on a regular service schedule, you’ll be able to catch potential problems before they become real issues that could sideline you on the road.

Don Elfrink is the owner and operator of AutoMatStore. Based out of Columbia, MO, AutoMatStore specializes in customized car floor mats. Before AutoMatStore, Elfrink was the operator of an automotive production site. AutoMatStore focuses on all-weather, logo, carpeted and molded car mats.


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