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5 Signs That Your Car is Ready for a Tune-Up

A technician working on a car engine.

If you drive a car with an internal combustion engine, you already know that the system under the hood is complex. It’s a network of both moving and non-moving parts that must all work in harmony to ensure your vehicle performs properly. Because the engine’s environment undergoes severe temperature fluctuations—and the components within it are subjected to punishing physical force—those parts can only last so long.  

In the past, getting a tune-up on an internal combustion engine meant a maintenance overhaul of the ignition system; from replacing the ignition points and setting the optimal ignition timing to new spark plugs and carburetor tuning. These days, ‘tune-up’ jobs on modern engines are not quite so involved. However, it’s still a crucial part of vehicle maintenance and will keep your engine running better for longer periods of time. 

A good rule for keeping your internal combustion engine running safely and efficiently is that it requires service at least every year or approximately every 11,000 miles. If your car is difficult to start, you’re experiencing decreased fuel mileage or hearing odd noises like thumping, whining or clanging, it’s time for a tune-up. NAPA AUTO PARTS has everything you need for a successful DIY vehicle tune-up or you can take your ride into one of our conveniently located NAPA Auto Care locations and let us do the dirty work for you!

5 Signs That Your Car is Ready for a Tune-Up

It’s never a welcome sight, and most of us have seen it at one time or another: the Check Engine light is lit. Before you decide that you can’t afford to fix the issue and try to ignore it, remember that your car’s computer is alerting you that something is wrong, and putting off repairs will only make them more expensive down the line. 

So, what are the signs that your car needs a tune-up? There are five other unmistakable warnings you should know: 

  1. Decrease in fuel mileage: It’s a good idea to make a note of your optimal fuel mileage soon after you get your car so that you know when there’s an issue. A decrease in fuel mileage usually points to an issue with your engine; it can be buildup on your fuel injectors, a dirty oxygen sensor or a clogged engine air filter. Be sure to check the air pressure in your tires, as well as your wheel alignment as this can also affect your MPG.
  2. Delayed acceleration: If you’ve noticed your engine hesitate when you put your foot down on the gas pedal, your engine isn’t getting what it needs (either fuel, air or both) to generate power. First, check your vehicle manual for the location of the air filter. Check for heavy buildup and replace it if necessary. This could also be an issue with clogged fuel injectors or a dirty/damaged fuel pump.
  3. Braking issues: Because braking is one of the most important safety systems on your car, if you notice an inability to stop quickly or a spongy or unresponsive brake pedal, you should get the issue diagnosed quickly. Failing brake systems are extremely dangerous. 
  4. Unusual vibrations or shaking: If you’re feeling vibrations or shuddering when you start your engine, you may have dirty filters or old/worn-out spark plugs. If there’s a shuddering when you’re steering or when you’re applying the brakes, there could be an issue with your brake line, steering system, wheel balance or your brakes need to be replaced. 
  5. Odd noises: Always follow up with a professional if you start hearing new or unusual noises from your vehicle. Screeching and whining can indicate worn belts or low fluid levels.

DIY or Leave it to the Pros? 

So, you know it’s time for a car tune-up, but is it something you can do yourself or do you need to take your vehicle into a shop? While it helps to have as much knowledge as possible going into any car repair, you usually don’t need to be a trained mechanic to do a basic tune-up on a car with an internal combustion engine. It’s a good idea to start with relatively simple jobs like changing your own oil and checking your fluids

If you’re ready to try a DIY tune-up, the first step is to read through your vehicle owner’s manual. If your car doesn’t have a manual in the glove box, check online for a digital copy using your VIN number. Makes, models and engine types vary, so it’s important to ensure you reference the correct manual. 

Next, make sure you’ve got the space and the tools you need for a successful DIY tune-up. Also, consider getting a quality ODB II Code Reader or scan tool; these straightforward tools plug in to your vehicle’s onboard computer and read the codes provided when warning lights on your instrument panel illuminate. NAPA AUTO PARTS also carries a great selection of specialized engine tune-up kits

Finally, if you’re not sure you’re ready to tackle a car tune-up on your own just yet, you’ve come to the right place! Let the friendly folks at a local NAPA AutoCare Center near you take care of it for you. Remember, if your vehicle is showing signs that a tune-up is required, make sure to address it promptly. Ignoring new or weird sounds, warning lights and lowered MPG will ultimately cost you more money and time in the long run.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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More than 90 years ago, the National Automotive Parts Association ("NAPA") was created to meet America’s growing need for an effective auto parts distribution system. Today, 91% of do-it-yourself customers recognize the NAPA brand name. We have over 6,000 NAPA Auto Parts Stores nationwide serving all 50 states with a unique inventory control system that helps you find the exact part that you need.

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