Unfortunately, on modern vehicles, a "tune-up" is almost anything you want it
to be. Years ago, a "tune-up" was a fairly well defined procedure. Back in the days
when cars had carburetors and distributors with points and condensers, a tune-up
involved replacing the points, condenser, spark plugs, air filter, and possibly the
distributor cap, rotor and ignition wires. The carburetor had mixture and idle speed
adjustments that needed to be set, and the point dwell and ignition timing had to
be adjusted. Most of today’s vehicles have no carburetors, distributors, distributor
caps, rotors or ignition wires, let alone points or condensers. So, if you go to
a shop and ask for a tune-up, what are you going to get?
Oftentimes, a motorist will take their vehicle to a shop and request a "tune-up"
because the car is exhibiting some kind of symptom. This is a big red flag for a
knowledgeable service advisor. If you ask for a "tune-up," a service advisor who
knows his job is going to ask you why you think you need a "tune-up." (See "What
To Tell The Shop About Your Car’s Problem.) The reason is that if a "modern day tune-up"
is defined as spark plugs and filters, chances are a "tune-up" is not going to fix
A "modern day tune-up" should be though of a maintenance and not as a cure for
some problem. The reason the service advisor wants to know why you want a "tune-up"
is so that he and the technician are aware of any problems that you have that the
requested "tune-up" will not fix. It makes for a bad situation if you request a "tune-up"
and the shop does a "tune-up" and the problem that you thought would be fixed by
a "tune-up" is not fixed. The shop did what you asked, but that didn’t fix the problem.
Who’s responsible? Good communication between you, the motorist, and the shop, is
When do you need a "tune-up?" If you think of a "tune-up" as maintenance, consider
service intervals of 30,000 miles to be average. The best thing to do is just get
the term "tune-up" out of your mind. If you meticulously follow a maintenance schedule
with one professionally run repair shop, you’ll never need to concern yourself with