When you hear the term “tune-up,” what first comes to mind? Is it a group of hot rods fixing up custom cars prior to a race? Maybe you also think it’s the same as a car maintenance check-up.
Actually, performance tune-ups are a bit of both. Although all vehicles need tune-ups, these don’t necessarily have to be for a race. Rather, a tune-up entails keeping the parts under the hood in good shape more than other vehicle components, like the suspension or tires.
Here, we’ll explain why this is the case and the signs you need to determine if it’s the right time for a tune-up.
What is a Tune-Up and Why Your Car Needs It
As mentioned earlier, an engine tune-up covers cleaning, repairs, and replacing parts under the hood. This includes the spark plugs, caps, rotors, wires, and fuel injection systems.
In some cases, tune-ups may also involve inspections of the valves, pumps, and filter systems. The only rule of thumb is that the exact details depend on the specific type of car you have, particularly its make, model, age, and level of wear.
Sometimes, you might also need to find performance car parts for your vehicle for the tune-up to be successful. Whatever the case, this particular service can provide countless benefits like:
- Extending the lifespan of your car;
- Helping improve your fuel economy;
- Lowering the cost of vehicular repairs;
- Reducing the possibility of breakdowns on the road, and more importantly
- Ensuring the optimum performance of your car.
When Does a Car Need a Tune-Up? 7 Signs to Watch Out for
Tune-up schedules are different for each car, but as a general guide, having it done once a year should be good enough. Still, if you want more advice, you can ask a pro for help.
Of course, there are telltale signs that could help you determine whether it’s the right time to bring your car to a maintenance shop, including:
Difficulty starting the car
When the vehicle has trouble starting, it may be a sign of issues with the fuel pump or the battery. However, it can also be because of an ignition problem a simple tune-up can fix.
To be sure, have it diagnosed by a certified mechanic, as it’s best to never ignore this symptom.
Warning lights turn on
Those icons on a vehicle’s dashboard light up when something is wrong, but people often think it probably isn’t serious. While that may be true at times, it’s bound to get serious pretty quickly if you choose to ignore these warnings.
When the lights turn on, bring your car for a tune-up. After all, they only light up when something is wrong with the vehicle engine.
If you see an icon flash on your dashboard and you’re unfamiliar with it, check the owner’s manual to see what it means.
With time, drivers become accustomed to the “natural” sounds their vehicles make. However, the ease offered by the soothing sounds of the engine can turn to panic pretty quickly if a strange new sound disrupts the harmony. These weird noises could be another sign that your car needs a tune-up.
Unless you are a trained mechanic yourself, it can be difficult to determine the cause and meaning of any unusual noise. Even professional auto mechanics may find it challenging to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong right away, so it is best to have your vehicle tuned up to be safe.
Besides sounds, drivers also get accustomed to certain vibrations in the steering wheel. Although it’s not a pleasant sensation, the vibrations while you drive on a rocky path or unpaved road are quite normal as it is the car reacting to the surface you’re driving on.
What’s not normal is the vehicle or the steering wheel to begin vibrating while you’re on a smooth and paved highway or when you reach a certain speed. This often means that there’s an internal issue that needs fixing.
Stalling is another clear sign that something is wrong. In most cases, it would be because of faulty spark plugs or dirty connectors that prevent the fuel from igniting as it should.
To see what the problem is, you can observe the answers to the following questions:
- Does it stall when it’s hot or cold?
- Was the air conditioner running when it happened?
This information can help the mechanic determine the root cause of the problem and perform the necessary tune-up to get your vehicle back up and running.
Bad fuel efficiency
You will also get accustomed to your vehicle’s fuel consumption after driving it for a while. However, if you notice a lower mileage for a full tank of gas than you normally do, it would be best to bring your car for a tune-up as problems under the hood could be what’s causing the decrease in fuel efficiency.
Again, this probably involves fuel not burning the way it should, which means it could be the spark plugs or fuel injection that needs fixing.
To keep track of your mileage, you can record it at every tank fill-up. The mileage should appear on your dashboard. Take note of it on a piece of paper or small notebook, and write down how far you’ve come for each trip before resetting the counter.
This should show you just how much mileage a full tank of gas can get you and monitor any decrease in fuel efficiency over time.
Engine misfires are also clear signs of an internal problem in a car. It occurs when at least one of the engine cylinders fails to send power to the vehicle. When that happens, you’ll experience loss of power and vibration.
The more cylinders that misfire, the more power you end up losing. If worse comes to worst, you may not be able to move your car at all, and the shaking could get worse, so be sure to have your vehicle tuned up.
The Bottom Line
Performance tune-up is crucial in keeping your car up and running as it should. When you notice one or more of the signs listed in this article, don’t stall and bring your car to a mechanic immediately.
Ahmad Ramadan is a Managing Partner at Deutsche Technik Service Center, Dubai’s first and largest VW, Audi, Mercedes, Bentley, Porsche, & Lamborghini vehicle specialist and performance tuner. DT has also built an illustrious portfolio in classic car repair, maintenance, and restoration, as well as body work (accident repair, painting, and denting). DT Service Centre offers a full range of services: mechanical repairs, maintenance, servicing, etc.