What Does A Car Tune Up Consist Of?

If you’re wondering “What Does a Car Tune up Consist Of?” then you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about car tune ups, including what’s involved and why they’re essential for maintaining your vehicle’s performance.

Regular tune ups address wear and tear from everyday use, ensuring that your car runs smoothly, no matter how old or new it may be. Read on for an overview of what to expect when taking your vehicle in for a check-up!

What Is a Car Tune-Up?

In short, car tune up is a comprehensive maintenance service that catches potential issues early and ensures your vehicle is up to date on all maintenance needs.

A regular tune-up generally includes replacing important parts that tend to suffer wear and tear over time, such as your air filter, fuel filter, oxygen sensor, PCV valve, and spark-plug wires. Ensuring that spark plugs are inspected and cleaned is also a crucial part of the process.

How to Know Your Car Needs a Tune-Up?

If you have a classic car from the 70s or older, a tune-up every 10,000 miles is suggested. For newer cars, it’s recommended to have a tune-up every 30,000-50,000 miles.

However, if you notice any of the following signs, take action as soon as possible:

  • Dashboard warning lights turning on
  • Unusual noises coming from the engine
  • Stalling out
  • Poor fuel mileage
  • Slow acceleration
  • Unusual vibrations
  • Engine misfiring
  • Car pulling to one side
  • Car is overheating

What a Typical Car Tune-Up Service Includes?

Ignition Parts

Spark Plug replacement

Spark plug replacement is a crucial part of any car tune-up service as they ignite the fuel and air mixture in the engine cylinders.

Over time, spark plugs can wear down due to high heat and constant electrical arc, causing misfires in the engine.

It’s important to use spark plugs that match the original equipment (OE) recommended metal to ensure optimal performance.

Consult your owner’s manual, repair manual, or experts at a reputable auto parts store to ensure you’re using the right spark plugs for your vehicle.

Ignition Wires replacement

Ignition wire replacement is another important aspect of a car tune-up service as these wires transmit electrical current from the ignition coil to the spark plugs.

Over time, worn-out ignition wires can cause symptoms such as rough idle, misfire, performance loss, and even a dead cylinder.

When replacing ignition wires, it is crucial to transfer one wire at a time from the old distributor cap to the new cap to avoid cross-wiring and a rough-running engine.

Using a spark plug boot tool can make the job easier, and applying dielectric grease can prevent arcing and make future boot removal easier.

Don’t forget to secure the new wires and route them away from any hot exhaust components!

Ignition Coils check/replacement

Ignition coil check and replacement is an important part of a car tune-up service, as these coils transform low battery voltage into the thousands of volts needed to ignite the fuel and air mixture in the engine cylinders.

Over time, ignition coils can wear out, leading to engine misfires, weakened acceleration, rough idle, and reduced gas mileage.

Depending on your vehicle’s design, ignition coils may be located in coil packs near the valve covers or in a coil-on-plug design close to the spark plugs.

To protect and prolong the life of coil-on-plug coils, applying dielectric grease to the boot during the tune-up service is a good idea.

Distributor Cap and Rotor check/replacement (if applicable)

The distributor cap and rotor are responsible for distributing high voltage from the ignition coil to the spark plugs and should be checked and replaced (if applicable) during a car tune-up service.

Over time, the constant rotation of the rotor inside the distributor can cause the metal contact point to wear down, leading to misfires and potentially a non-start.

To avoid these issues, it is recommended to replace both the cap and rotor at the same time during a tune-up.

When replacing the distributor cap and rotor, be sure to transfer one ignition wire at a time from the old cap to the new one to avoid cross-wiring issues that could lead to engine trouble.

Filters replacements

What Does a Car Tune up Consist Of (1)
What Does a Car Tune up Consist Of (1)

Engine Air Filter Replacement

A typical car tune-up service includes replacing the engine air filter, which is responsible for removing dirt and debris from the air as it enters the engine.

The filter plays a vital role in ensuring the engine’s performance and efficiency by filtering thousands of gallons of air for every gallon of fuel.

Over time, the engine air filter can become clogged, which can lead to a reduction in the engine’s performance and efficiency.

Regularly replacing the engine air filter as part of a tune-up service is essential to maintain the engine’s smooth and efficient operation.

Cabin Air Filter Replacement

Cabin air filtration systems are not present in all vehicles, but for those that have them, it is crucial to keep the air inside clean.

The cabin air filter plays a significant role in maintaining the cleanliness of the vehicle’s interior and ensuring proper airflow.

A dirty cabin air filter can negatively impact the air quality inside the vehicle and hinder the effectiveness of the air conditioning and heating systems.

It is important to replace the cabin air filter regularly to ensure that the air inside the vehicle remains clean and fresh.

Oil Filter Replacement

Replacing the oil filter is equally important as changing the oil itself as dirty oil can cause significant wear and tear on the engine’s internal components.

The oil filter plays a crucial role in preventing contaminants from circulating with the oil and damaging the engine.

Over time, the oil filter can become clogged with contaminants, leading to high oil pressure and even irreparable engine damage.

Fuel Filter Replacement

Dirty and contaminated fuel can cause clogging of the fuel filter, leading to various issues such as hesitation while accelerating or rough idling.

A clogged fuel filter can even contribute to premature fuel pump failure, which can be an expensive repair.

Replace the fuel filter during a tune-up to ensure optimal engine performance and prevent these issues from occurring.

Regularly replacing the fuel filter helps maintain the proper fuel flow to the engine and prevents contaminants from causing damage to the fuel system.

PCV Valve Check/Replacement

The PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) valve plays a crucial role in regulating the flow of gases in the engine’s crankcase, preventing the buildup of harmful pressure and gases.

Over time, the PCV valve can become clogged with carbon buildup, leading to numerous issues such as increased oil consumption, poor fueling conditions, and misfires.

In severe cases, pressure buildup in the crankcase can even cause blown-out gaskets, which can lead to costly repairs.

Checking and replacing the PCV valve during a tune-up is important if necessary to ensure that the engine runs smoothly and efficiently, preventing these issues from occurring.

Belts and Hoses

What Does a Car Tune up Consist Of (2)
What Does a Car Tune up Consist Of (2)

Serpentine Belt check/replacement

The serpentine belt is a crucial component of the engine, responsible for powering various accessories such as the alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioning compressor.

Over time, the belt can become worn down and damaged due to exposure to heat and stress, which can lead to poor performance of these accessories and even engine damage.

Regularly inspecting the belt for any cracks, fraying, glazing, or fluid contamination is important to catch any issues early and prevent them from worsening.

If any signs of wear or damage are present, it’s crucial to replace the serpentine belt promptly to ensure that the engine and accessories operate smoothly and safely.

Belt Tensioner check/replacement

The belt tensioner is a critical component that maintains the correct tension for the car’s belts, preventing premature belt wear and damage to the water pump and other accessory bearings.

A weak tensioner can cause the belts to slip, while a tight or sticking one can lead to excessive wear and damage to the belt and other components.

During a tune-up service, the technician will inspect the tensioner by rotating it through its arc of travel and checking for any signs of wear or damage.

They’ll also check the idler and tensioner pulleys, as well as accessory pulleys, to ensure that they’re properly aligned and rotating smoothly, preventing any potential issues from occurring.

Timing Belt check/replacement

Experts recommend replacing the timing belt every 80,000 – 100,000 miles to prevent catastrophic damage if it breaks.

Mechanics will also inspect the tensioner and idler components that run the belt to ensure they’re functioning correctly and prevent any issues.

It’s important to inspect the cam and crank seals for leaks during this service to prevent any future damage to the engine.

Some vehicles use a timing chain instead of a timing belt, which has a longer lifespan but still requires attention to the tensioner components for optimal engine performance and longevity.

Hoses check/replacement

During a car tune-up service, one critical component is inspecting the radiator and heater hoses.

These hoses are crucial for circulating coolant through the engine and radiator to prevent overheating and engine damage.

Over time, these hoses can break down, so it’s important to inspect them for signs of wear such as swelling, bulging, and leaks.

Checking the hose clamps for damage or loss of tension is equally important because a failed hose can cause serious damage to the engine.


Motor Oil change

Motor oil change is an essential component of a car tune-up service.

Over time, oil becomes contaminated, which can reduce engine performance and even cause damage.

To prevent this, it’s essential to follow the service schedule in the individual vehicle’s owner’s manual for oil change intervals.

Synthetic motor oils can last up to 10,000 miles or 12 months between changes, while dusty or dry regions may require an oil change every 5,000 miles or six months.

During an oil change, it’s crucial to replace the oil filter, which prevents large particles from recirculating and causing damage to the engine.

Coolant check/flush

The engine’s cooling system is essential in preventing overheating or freezing, which can cause serious damage to the car’s engine.

Over time, coolant can become contaminated and lose its effectiveness, making it important to regularly flush the cooling system with a flush product designed to remove deposits.

It’s also essential to refer to the owner’s manual to determine the recommended coolant for the vehicle, as different manufacturers require different types of coolant.

Always ensure that the coolant is mixed with the correct amount of water or use a pre-mixed product to avoid engine damage.

Brake Fluid check/flush

Checking and flushing the brake fluid is a critical aspect of car tune-up service that should not be overlooked.

Brake fluid is essential in allowing the vehicle to come to a safe stop and protecting passengers on the road.

DOT 3 and DOT 4 brake fluids are both hygroscopic, meaning they absorb moisture from the air, which may reduce their efficacy as a hydraulic fluid and cause internal corrosion in the braking system.

If the brake fluid appears dark or muddy, it’s a clear indication of hygroscopic contamination, which requires a brake fluid change and system bleed.

Experts recommend changing brake fluid every two years to maintain optimal performance and prevent potential brake failure.

Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) check/flush

If your car is equipped with an automatic transmission, you’ll also want to check the fluid for any signs of contamination.

ATF is essential for allowing the transmission to shift smoothly and efficiently, making it important to inspect it regularly.

If the ATF appears dark or burnt, it may need to be replaced to maintain optimal performance of the transmission.

Different manufacturers use different types of ATF, so it’s crucial to adhere to the specifications outlined in the owner’s manual to ensure the correct type of fluid is used.

Power Steering Fluid check/top-up

Over time, contamination can lead to wear on the power steering pump, which can lead to costly repairs.

Ensure that the power steering fluid level remains between the MAX and MIN levels in the reservoir and doesn’t appear muddy or contaminated.

To make sure you’re using the correct fluid type and recommended change intervals, be sure to consult your owner’s manual

Other Checks

Windshield Wiper replacement

During an inspection service, a technician will check the condition of your windshield wipers.

Windshield wipers are regularly exposed to harsh weather conditions and can become dry and cracked over time.

If the wiper blades are dry and cracked, replace them as soon as possible to ensure optimal visibility in inclement weather.

Wheel Alignment check/replacement (if applicable)

If the vehicle is pulling to the left or right when driving, it’s possible that the wheels are out of alignment and require adjustment.

Mechanics will check the wheel alignment during the service and adjust it if necessary to ensure the vehicle drives straight and evenly.

Checking for any worn suspension components is also important as they may require replacement over time.

FAQs about What Does a Car Tune up Consist Of?

How Long Does a Tune-up Take?

The duration of a tune-up varies depending on factors such as the make, model, and age of the vehicle. Typically, it takes anywhere from two to four hours.

How much is a tune up?

The cost of a full tune-up typically ranges between $200 and $800. This cost varies depending on factors such as the cost of parts and labor in your area.

How often do you need a tune up?

How often should I have a tune-up?

The frequency of tune-ups depends on several factors, such as the age of the vehicle and the type of ignition system it has. For older cars with non-electric ignitions, it is recommended to service them every 10,000 to 12,000 miles or once a year. However, newer cars with fuel injection systems and electronic ignitions can go up to 100,000 miles without a serious tune-up.

What does a Car Tune Up involve?

A car tune up involves replacing or inspecting wear-and-tear parts such as spark plugs, air filters, fuel filters, oxygen sensors, positive crankcase ventilation, timing belts/chains, hoses, and fluids like motor oil, coolant, and brake fluid.

What can happen if you don’t get a tune up?

Not getting a regular tune-up can lead to various issues such as loss of power, decreased fuel efficiency, a noisy engine, engine stalling, bad exhaust odors, ignition problems, and rough idling.

How long can a car go without a tune up?

A car can typically go between 25,000 to 100,000 miles without a tune up, depending on the make and model of the vehicle and the driving conditions.

Is it better to clean or replace spark plugs?

It depends on the condition of the spark plugs. If the porcelain is cracked or there is any damage to the electrode or metal, the spark plug should be replaced. If the spark plug looks burned, black, or green, it’s also time for a new plug. However, if the spark plug is in good condition, cleaning it can improve its performance and extend its lifespan.


A car tune-up service keeps your vehicle running smoothly, efficiently, and safely. It includes a comprehensive inspection of various components such as:

  • Spark plugs
  • Air filters
  • Fuel filters
  • Oxygen sensors
  • Positive crankcase ventilation
  • Timing belts/chains
  • Hoses
  • Fluids like motor oil, coolant, and brake fluid.

Thank you for reading! We hope this article was helpful in answering the question What Does a Car Tune up Consist Of.

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