Anyone in the automotive repair industry can tell you, one of the most common requests we hear daily is "My car needs a tune-up." So, what is a tune-up? Should you even ask for one? In short, no. What does a 'tune-up' actually mean? By definition, a 'tune-up' is: "an adjustment, as of a motor or engine, made to improve working order or efficiency.” The phrase 'tune-up' originated when Henry Ford was working on his first automobile prototype. As the ignition coils sparked they made a buzzing sound. If they were adjusted correctly, they would buzz in unison - they were ‘in tune’. The phrase has stuck around for a long time, but the phrase is outdated and easily misunderstood. The need to periodically adjust certain components under the hood is what the term used to refer to. Vehicles did in fact require regular adjustments, or 'tune ups'. The technician was able to adjust the timing by rotating the distributor. In those days, the fuel delivery systems were not electronic. A carburetor was used to provide the correct amount of air and fuel. Adjusting the air fuel mixture and idle speed insures a smoothly running vehicle. So, unless you are holding on to your grandparents classic, a ‘tune up’ is not necessary.
Times have changed and modern cars are all computer controlled and do not require manual tuning. Throughout the car are several computers called electronic control units, or ECU’s. Distributors have been replaced with ignition coils, engine timing is determined by cam position, is variable and it adjusts electronically for fuel economy. The fuel mixture is adjusted by the computer, based on variables detected by numerous sensors that read temperature, pressure, voltage, as well as many other signals. Nowadays, if one or more of these computer controlled components fail, a check engine light will come on, indicating the ECU has detected a problem. In this case, a ‘tune-up’ will not help. We would need to communicate with your cars computer and diagnose the problem. Instead of requesting a ‘tune up’, we need to know what symptoms you have noticed. We ask that you be aware of things that might feel or sound different once the light has alerted you of a problem. These details become important as many electronic failures can be sporadic or random. We also need to be able to duplicate failures in order to properly diagnose.
If you own a newer vehicle it is important to know and follow the specific manufacturers recommendations and service intervals. These usually require action at different mileage intervals ranging from 30,000-100,000 miles depending on your specific vehicle. This includes replacing the spark plugs, replacing air and or fuel filters, cleaning the fuel system, and the different fluid replacements. Make sure you follow a routine of having your engine oil changed every 3,000-5,000 miles. And if at any time you experience any warning indicator on your dash or a change in your vehicles performance, take it in to be diagnosed right away.