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What is a Maintenance Tune-Up?

One of the biggest changes in today’s automotive industry is the perception of a “tuneup.” Ask 10 motorists their definitions of a tune-up and chances are there will be 10 different answers. Contrary to some beliefs, today’s modern vehicles still need tune-ups to keep them performing at the most efficient levels.

Historically, the tune-up was associated with the routine replacement of key ignition system parts like spark plugs and ignition points, along with basic adjustments to help “tune” the engine. But pressure for increased fuel economy and lower emissions drove car manufacturers to adopt electronic systems and do away with ignition points in the 1970s and the carburetor in the mid1980s. This eliminated the need for replacing and adjusting many ignition and fuel-system parts.

As the pace of technology quickened, the procedures required to perform a traditional tune-up changed. Highly sophisticated ignition and fuel systems are now the norm, with one or more onboard computers controlling engine and transmission management functions. Things that were once handled mechanically are now controlled electronically through the widespread use of onboard computer technology.

Because vehicles have changed over the years, the Car Care Council has introduced the “21st Century Tune-Up” program to help educate motorists about tuning up present-day vehicles.

“There is a misconception that today’s modern vehicles don’t need tune-ups because they never break down, but that simply is not true,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. “If you’re at work and your computer goes down, you can’t get any more work done. It’s the same with your vehicle. If the vehicle isn’t being properly maintained, you’re not going to get where you want to go.”

As part of the “21st Century Tune-Up,” the following systems should be inspected:

  • Battery, charging and starting
  • Engine mechanics • Power-train control, including onboard diagnostic checks
  • Fuel
  • Ignition
  • Emissions

Motorists should become familiar with their vehicles from every aspect. Study the owner’s manual to become acquainted with the operation of all systems. Pay special attention to the indicator lights and instruments.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair. For more information, visit .

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