What the hell is a ‘tune-up’?

Okay, so truth be told, the term tune-up is a little redundant these days. 

It only really applies if you’re talking about a pre-2000s car, although I still hear it bandied about today, so it seems like it’s loosely interchangeable with service or routine maintenance.

The way modern cars are built has changed and so has the way we need to take care of them, but clearly some things don’t change, and we humans just like the word tune-up.  It feels right. 

Back in the day, on an older vehicle, a tune-up used to mean replacing stuff like spark plugs and cables, changing the points, replacing the distributor cap and rotor, and giving the carburetor a good clean, along with a few adjustments to keep it in good working order.

Nowadays, that tune-up or scheduled maintenance generally involves making things don’t require a tune-up, rather than the more reactive approach of days gone by.

Older engines, to be fair, were only expected to last up to 100,000km on the odometer before they often needed a complete overhaul.  This was all at a time before fuel injection systems were standard practice.  

In addition, piston rings and seals also needed to be replaced, along with internal bearings.  In fact, if you needed a tune-up in the traditional sense of the word, you’d be looking at a few days wait, mechanics had engine rebuilding down to a fine art!

So, what’s scheduled maintenance, then?

These days, engines are built to last, far more so than could ever be hoped for with older cars.  From the top down, it’s hard to see the mechanical benefit of older models, although they do provide a lot of fun when it comes to rebuilds and refurbs.

In terms of car servicing or modern tune-ups, we often find a lot of My Auto Shop customers require less and less with regards to specific work required.  It really is quite routine in it’s nature.  

With spark plugs being manufactured at higher standards, we don’t see the wear-out that we used to.  And newer, computer-controlled ignition systems mean that a lot of the parts that needed attention as part of a tune-up are no longer required – parts like the previously mentioned cap, rotor or points just don’t need replacing!

It could be a mass airflow or oxygen sensor, or variable valve timing sensor, or a more routine maintenance issue like dirty fuel injectors or the low quality fuel.  Sometimes we see more complex issues like stretched timing chain, or to be completely honest, any number of things, it’s not until you get under the bonnet that it’s possible to really see what’s going on.

So, hopefully this gives you a bird’s-eye-view of whether your car needs a tune-up in the true sense of the word(s).  If you sense something isn’t quite right, or your warning lights are on the blink, it’s time to talk to a professional.

My Auto Shop can put you in touch with an qualified mechanic to help you with routine or scheduled maintenance, so just hop on over to our service area and we can get you started with quotes for this ‘tune-up’ that’s on the cards.