Of all the routine car engine maintenance services, the tune-up has both evolved and somewhat remained unchanged. Different vehicles like a 2001 Ford Explorer and 2012 Mazda Miata need different maintenance tasks because of how they are engineered, making a “tune-up” not so much a universal task anymore. Let’s look at some of the potential items that your local NAPA Auto Care center might address during routine maintenance.
The Modern Tune-Up
Gone are the days of gapping ignition points, adjusting valves or setting ignition timing. Today’s tune-up still involves spark plugs, but it isn’t a simple checklist like in the past. A typical tune-up on a modern vehicle can include the following items, but might also include additional maintenance tasks not listed that are specific to your vehicle.
If you have a gasoline powered vehicle, you will need new spark plugs at some point. High-tech materials like iridium and platinum have extended spark plug service life in some cases up to 100,000 miles. That was unheard of a few decades ago. Spark plugs need inspected and replaced at the time frame specified in the owner’s manual.
Spark plug wires also need inspected and replaced if it is found that they are cracked or damaged. If you still have a distributor, then the distributor cap and rotor button need replaced too. Ignition coils and coil packs usually cause a “check engine light,” but not always. So, they still need inspected for physical damage. If you happen to have a classic Chevelle, you might still have to set the ignition point gap and maybe check the timing with a timing light.
Changing your various engine filters is also part of a routine tune-up. You already know to change your oil filter and oil on a routine basis, but don’t forget about your engine air filter too. Have your engine air filter inspected when directed to in your owner’s manual or more often if you live in a dusty environment. When in doubt, have it replaced. While you are in a filter changing mood, go ahead and have your cabin air filter changed as well. It is usually overlooked and likely due for a replacement.
Most modern vehicles have a single serpentine belt, which drives all the accessories at the front of the engine. Gone are the days of multiple V-belts strung underneath the hood like a turn-of-the-century industrial mill. The serpentine belt needs inspected at the intervals stated in the owner’s manual, but may need replaced sooner than you think. The reason is that most newer belts are designed with new materials that resist cracking/chunking away, which was an easy way to tell if a belt was done. Now belts wear down much like your tire tread. A belt may look fine, but the belt surface has worn away and no longer grips the pulleys adequately. The ASE-Certified technicians at your local NAPA Auto Care center will evaluate your serpentine belt and let you know if it is replacement time.
Rubber hoses don’t last forever. Sometimes the fluids that run inside them are under extreme pressures or at high temperatures. Just because a hose is still leak-free doesn’t mean it is going to stay that way much longer. Your local NAPA Auto Care experts will inspect your rubber hoses and make sure they are up to the task ahead. They can even run a coolant leak diagnosis to track down any annoying drips. It is a lot easier to deal with changing a mushy radiator hose now, rather than sitting on the side of the road after it fails suddenly. You might as well go for a coolant service too if it is time for radiator hoses.
Every vehicle fluid has an inspection and replacement schedule. The only exceptions are some components that specify they are “lifetime fill,” but even then a leak means topping off with the correct fluid. An oil change is usually the first fluid that comes to mind, but also things like brake fluid and power steering fluid need checked as well.
With time, brake fluid absorbs water and may boil, leading to braking loss. Power steering fluid wears out and becomes less able to lubricate sensitive hydraulics. Don’t forget about coolant, which can last for a very long time, but eventually needs changed with a coolant system service. Your local NAPA Auto Care center has all the necessary information and tools to let you know when your fluids need a change or you need a full power steering service.
If it isn’t already apparent, today’s automotive tune-up service isn’t like it was back when carburetors ruled the roads. Today’s engine fuel and air delivery process includes several components that can get dirty with time. Fuel injectors can become clogged and lose their precise spray pattern. The mass air flow sensor can become dirty and may no longer have the ability to correctly gauge the amount of air entering the engine. A throttle body or idle air control valve can get gummed up causing erratic idling and air/fuel ratio problems. Luckily, there are ways to get your engine purring again with carefully applied specialty cleaners. Knowing how to use these cleaners and where to use them is part of what makes your local NAPA Auto Care experts a trusted source.
So, when do you need a tune-up? Check your owner’s manual and you will likely find a list of items that need addressed roughly every 15,000 miles. Some components need inspected, while others parts need replaced. If you visit your local NAPA Auto Care on a regular basis, they can help keep track of these important service milestones. While every vehicle is different, they all need servicing on a routine basis. Our ASE-certified NAPA Auto Care technicians know your vehicle inside and out, and they are ready and able to handle any engine repair.
Still not running right after a tune-up? Maybe there’s a bigger problem. NAPA Auto Care experts can perform a car engine diagnostic and get to the root of the problem. If your Toyota Tacoma just isn’t feeling as lively as it did at one time, they can even perform an engine compression test to make sure the piston rings and cylinder head valves are doing their job.
With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible, BMW E46 sedan, and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.