Ah, the good ol’ days – back then everyone knew what a “tune up” meant: points and plugs. Fast forward a few decades and cars aren’t so simple. In fact, points have gone the way of the carburetor (that’s right, there’s no carburetor under there anymore either). Which brings about the question; just what is involved in a modern day tune up?
Back before computer controls, tune ups were performed when a car started running poorly. There were a lot of adjustments to make on old cars such as setting the timing, idle speed and fuel mixture. On modern cars, these adjustments are all controlled by the computer, with no need for periodic human interference.
If for whatever reason your engine is running poorly, the computer will set what’s referred to as a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) and turn on the check engine light. Retrieving and diagnosing this code is the place to start when attempting to improve modern engine performance. More times than not, simply throwing tune up parts (plugs, wires, etc) at a vehicle will not remedy the problem. On late model vehicles, there are literally hundreds of problems – mechanical and electrical – that can cause an engine to run poorly. The only way to find the root cause of the problem is to have a professional technician, armed with specialty equipment, diagnose it.
Tune ups should no longer be treated as a go-to fix for engine performance problems, but modern vehicles do require periodic maintenance. In addition to the usual fluid and filter exchanges (engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, gear oil, etc), there are other items like the spark plugs and fuel filter that have regular service intervals. Every vehicle is different (for example, many modern cars don’t have a serviceable fuel filter), so it’s important to consult your owner’s manual to determine what’s required for your car. Performing the manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance will improve the longevity of your vehicle and prevent unforeseen problems, such as the dreaded check engine light.
If you’re uncertain as to what your car needs, say for example, you bought the car used and don’t know what services the previous owner performed, we would be happy to take a look at it and inform you of what maintenance is due. A quick examination by a trained professional can help you stay on top of what’s going on under the hood.
In conclusion, the real answer to the question, “what’s involved in a modern day tune up” is that there is no such a thing. The tune up has been replaced with manufacturers scheduled maintenance procedures, which vary a great deal from car to car. So, the next time your engine starts running rough and the check engine light pops on, don’t go straight to replacing the plugs and wires. Save yourself some money by having the issue properly diagnosed and repaired. We offer free diagnostic scans here.