How Often Should You Tune-up Your Car?

Getting regular tune-ups on your vehicle was a foregone conclusion for the longest time. Today, however, that thinking seems to have gone by the wayside for many drivers. Is it simply that modern vehicles no longer require tune-ups?

Were the vehicles of yesteryear not as well-made as what we drive today? The answer to both questions is a resounding “No.”

Regardless of your vehicle’s age, it is essential to maintain your ride, including getting your regular tune-ups. But how often should you tune up your car? Understandably, many of today’s drivers don’t know, and that’s OK.

We’re going to catch you up to speed on tune-ups so that you can provide the best care for your car and keep it performing at its very best.

Tune-ups Explained

Getting a tune-up for your vehicle is akin to taking it to the doctor. In some cases, your doctor might prescribe you medication to prevent certain illnesses or diseases. A tune-up is very similar, as it is a preventive step that reduces the risk of something going faulty. 

When you take your car to a trusted mechanic for a tune-up, it will typically undergo a series of tests and automotive care designed to keep your vehicle running longer. Let’s take a moment to explore each component of a tune-up.

Filters

The fuel filter, PCV valves, and oil filters all play a role in keeping your car running smoothly. These filters work to stop contamination from entering your engine, but they don’t stay clean forever, so they need to be replaced regularly. Otherwise, clogs can occur and negate their function.

If they aren’t attended to in a timely fashion, your dirty filters can result in your oil pressure rising or your fuel pump failing, just for starters. Other problems can develop that cause your car to run poorly.

Air filters are essential in providing clean air to your engine. Without it, your vehicle’s engine is likely to experience reduced power. As such, you will soon begin to notice that your car doesn’t perform as well as it used to, causing serious issues for you on the road.

You should have your air filter changed every year for good measure to ensure that your engine receives optimal airflow, thus maintaining your vehicle’s performance.

Inspections

Your mechanic will perform a visual inspection of your engine to ensure that everything is functioning as designed. This includes your car’s fuel system, which means your mechanic will examine the fuel pump, fuel injector, and fuel filter. 

The latter two components should be clean, and the fuel pump should be operating normally. If there are any issues with these units, your mechanic will present you with an action plan to replace or repair them.

But the inspection doesn’t end there. Your mechanic will also perform tests and examinations on the following components:

  • Oxygen sensor
  • Distributor cap
  • Ignition timing
  • Coolant level
  • Spark plugs
  • PCV valve
  • Oil level

If your mechanic determines that any of these components are faulty, they will need to be replaced to prolong your vehicle’s life.

Your car’s operating systems, such as the brakes, air conditioning, and suspension, may or may not be included in your mechanic’s tune-up inspection. However, this is an excellent time to give them a look. So be sure to request an examination if it isn’t already included in the inspection.

When to Get a Tune-Up

The biggest clue that it’s time to get a tune-up is of your car isn’t behaving like it usually does. Poor performance is an immediate indication that something is wrong and therefore needs to be looked at immediately.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to tell if you need to take your vehicle in for servicing. Often, your “Check Engine” light will come on, letting you know that it’s time for an inspection of your engine.

If your engine gradually or suddenly begins stalling when you press on the gas pedal, contact a trusted mechanic right away, as this is likely a sign that there’s something wrong with your car’s fuel system as outlined above.

As part of a tune-up, your mechanic will inspect your fuel system and direct you on what needs to be serviced or replaced.

Although you may overlook this one right away, your vehicle’s fuel economy is another red flag. If your car doesn’t seem to be getting the mileage that it used to get, you’ll need to take it in for a tune-up.

Brake troubles are another issue this perhaps more pressing than the others. Poor brakes can affect you and those around you, so you must have a tune-up conducted to ensure that your brakes are replaced.

If your vehicle doesn’t shift gears smoothly, this is a clear indication that something is faulty or is going faulty. You may just need transmission fluid topped off, but be sure to get it your mechanic for a comprehensive once-over.

Lastly, if you start feeling your car vibrating or shaking when you drive, specifically around the steering wheel, get straight to your mechanic for a tune-up. They should be able to identify any other pressing issues that need to be addressed.

If your car isn’t showing any noticeable signs mentioned above, it’s best to take it in for a tune-up every so many miles to be safe. Older vehicles that don’t have electronic ignitions should be taken in every 10,000 to 20,000 miles, or once a year.

If you are driving a newer vehicle equipped with an electronic ignition system, you can typically go a little while longer between tune-ups. Your best bet is to take newer cars in for tune-ups anywhere between 30,000 and 100,000 miles.

Wrap Up

Now that you know what to look for when your car needs a tune-up, you can actively address any concerns as they arise. This will ensure that you get the most extended life and best performance from your vehicle.