Tuneups today are obsolete, although the word still may have some marketing legs for automotive shops. The traditional “tune-up,” as we used to know it, was mainly routine maintenance service that improved the performance of the engine and vehicle systems such as brakes and tires.
The typical tuneup used to consist of changing the spark plugs, plug wires, distributor cap and rotor and setting the ignition points (timing). However, some of the components that we changed decades ago are no longer used in today’s engines, so a tuneup isn’t what it used to be.
Today, car owners must follow the recommended maintenance schedules to keep their vehicles in tip-top condition. The owner’s manual lists the timeline of when items such as a belt inspection or adjustment or an oil-and-filter change are necessary. Routine maintenance is based on mileage, and it’s different with each model.
A 2007 FJ Cruiser, for example, doesn’t require the spark plugs to be changed until 120,000 miles or 144 months. At the “major 30,000-mile” service intervals, the manufacturer only recommends inspecting the spark plug wires, which in this case are coil-on-plug. If the COP isn’t functioning, then it will cause the engine to misfire and set off a DTC.
Belts and hoses should be inspected during any routine maintenance but aren’t replaced unless there are signs of wear. Hoses may bulge or have soft spots when they’re starting to rot from the inside. Belts may crack or fray on the edges or have signs of wear/cracking in the grooves of a V-belt.
On a 2016 Chrysler 300 3.6-liter V-6, the owner’s manual recommends a number of routine inspections before a long trip. Chrysler recommends checking the following items once a month or before a long journey: engine-oil level; windshield-washer-fluid level; tire pressure, and unusual wear or damage (rotate at the first sign of irregular wear, even if it occurs before the next scheduled service); fluid levels of the coolant reservoir, brake master cylinder and power steering (fill as needed); and function of all interior and exterior lights.
It’s also necessary to inspect the condition of the battery and charging system before a long trip. If the vehicle is primarily used to run short distances around town, the battery may not have enough running time to be in a full state of charge. Heat also can take a toll on the battery. High temperatures under the hood, combined with hot weather, can shorten battery life significantly.
High temps, whether ambient or underhood, increase the evaporation of water from the cells. A heat shield may reflect engine-compartment heat but may not be enough in a hot climate. Some OEMs have moved the battery to the trunk or under the rear seat to get them away from the heat in the engine compartment. If the battery is weak, be sure your customer replaces with the correct size for their vehicle, with enough cranking amps to start in hot or cold weather.
Other items that may need to be inspected include the air filter, cabin air filter and the positive crankcase ventilation valve (PCV). And finally, before embarking on any summer road trip, be sure your customer has checked their HVAC system. While not all of these are engine-related “tuneup” items, they will help keep your customers on the road and prepared for a long trip in the summer heat.