Ken Gamble Discusses the Relevance of a Tune-up in Today's Vehicles
"Why do you think you need a 'tune-up'?"
We hear the comment, “I need a tune-up”, quite often. I have a couple of questions, though. Why do you think you need a tune-up and do you know what a tune-up in the 21st century is?
Let’s start with the last question first. What is a 21st-century tune-up? Before I answer that, let's back up a little. Since the early 1970’s, technology has been evolving fairly rapidly which, in turn, has changed the meaning of the phrase tune-up. If you owned a car before 1973 then every year a tune-up would have meant new spark plugs, ignition points and condenser, engine timing reset and carburetor adjustment. You would also have likely replaced the fuel filter, air filter, PCV valve and crankcase vent filter – every 12,000 miles!
Let’s see…that was over 40 years ago…a lot has changed since then!
Today a typical tune-up includes spark plug replacement every 100k miles and…that’s about it. However, there are other components that are normally required, either as preventive maintenance or to solve a performance issue. Enter Gasoline Direct Injection or GDI (2008 and 2011), a host of sensors, Variable Valve Timing actuators and many other electronically controlled devices all monitored and operated by dozens of computers and modules and requiring miles of CAN network wiring and signals. I know... That all sound very complicated. (Hint: that's because it is.)
So back to the first question, "Why do you think you need a 'tune-up'?"
If it's just time (based on mileage) that's fine. But if it's because the car is not running properly or because that orange "Check Engine" light is on, you would be much better served to state the symptoms and leave the diagnosis to the experts — after all, you don't want to pay for a "tune-up" if that's not going to fix the problem. BTW, I mentioned GDI… well, we'll leave that to a future "Knowledge Is Power" article, OK?