The 21st Century Tune-Up

As times have changed so have cars. One of the biggest changes in current times is how we think of a “tune-up.” Ask 10 vehicle owners their definition of a tune-up and you will most likely get 10 different answers. Once the heart of the automotive business, the classic “tune-up” has lost a great deal of importance in the minds of car owners today. But contrary to modern belief today’s computer based vehicles still need tune-ups to keep them performing at the most efficient levels.
Historically, the tune-up was associated with the routine checking and replacement of key ignition system parts like spark plugs and ignition points, as well as some basic adjustments to “tune” the engine. Increasing pressure for better fuel economy and lower emissions prompted car manufacturers of the time to adopt electronics, thus doing away with ignition points in the ’70s, along with the carburetor in the middle ’80s. This seemingly eliminated the need for the constant upkeep of ignition and fuel system parts.
As technologies grew, the procedures needed for a traditional tune-up changed dramatically. Sophisticated ignition and fuel systems are now commonplace, utilizing one or more onboard computers to control critical engine and transmission management functions. Through the widespread use of onboard computers, things that were once handled by a mechanic are now controlled electronically.
In light of the dramatic changes over the years, the Car Care Council has introduced a 21st Century Tune-up. This checklist is designed to re-define and educate car owners on the new definition of a tune-up and what it should consist of on today’s modern vehicles.
As part of the 21st Century Tune-up on today’s modern vehicles, the following systems should be inspected:
  • Battery, charging and starting
  • Engine mechanical
  • Powertrain control (including onboard diagnostic checks)
  • Fuel
  • Ignition
  • Emissions
There is a variety of reasons to get a Tune-up: improving performance, maintaining reliability, planning a vacation, preparing for winter/summer or preparation for transfer of vehicular ownership.
In order to ensure good performance, fuel economy and emissions, the Car Care Council also recommends that vehicle owners take the needed time to become familiar with their vehicle in all aspects. Studying the owner’s manual is a great first step to becoming thoroughly acquainted with the operation of all systems as well as paying special attention to the indicator lights and instruments.


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