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Why Tune-Ups Are Important

Spark Plug
Photo: iStockphoto

Around this time of year, my friend Brian conducts what he calls his "Spring Trunk Clearance".

I remember being excited when he told me about it, because I assumed it had to do with a fun shopping trip. But he was actually talking about the one time per year that he cleans out his trunk.

"I found a bottle of wine in there last year," he told me, "so it was totally worth it."

When spring comes around, cleaning out your trunk is a good start - but taking your car in for a tune-up may be the best way to welcome spring. Booking an appointment for a tune-up may seem like a hassle and an expense, but keeping your car tuned up will save you money on fuel and repairs in the long run.

How often should I get a tune-up?

That depends on your vehicle. Older cars require more frequent tune-ups, as this article How to Care for an Aging Car points out. Newer vehicles don't need parts replaced as often and can go for longer without service. Your owner's manual should tell you how often your vehicle requires maintenance and what specific parts need to be checked or replaced.

What's involved in a tune-up?

Again, it depends on your vehicle, but a typical tune-up will involve the inspection, cleaning and/or replacement of:

  • Air filters
  • Fuel filters
  • Spark plugs and wires
  • Distributor cap and distribution ignition rotor (if your car has them - some newer models have distributorless ignition)
  • PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve and gaskets
  • Sensors and belts
  • Lubricants and coolants
  • Ignition timing
  • Tire alignment and tire pressure
  • Car battery
  • Windshield wipers

It's a pretty extensive list! If you're comfortable under the hood of your car, you can perform some of these maintenance items yourself - but even the most experienced DIY'ers know when it's time to let a professional check out their vehicle.

What are the benefits of a tune-up?

As we've discussed in several PumpTalk posts, each of the systems above, from tire alignment to spark plugs can impact your fuel efficiency and carbon emissions. Regular tune-ups can help you save on fuel - and having a professional perform a thorough cleaning and diagnostic of your vehicle can help avoid costly future repairs by catching potential problems early.

When was the last time you took your car in for maintenance? Is it time for a little springtime tune-up?

- Rose R.


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