How Important Is a Car Tuneup?

The traditional car tuneup is no longer applicable to modern cars, explains. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your car in for a tune-up—it’s still important that you do so—rather that the procedure is quite different these days.

Whether you have a car with an older ignition system or a new one, it’s necessary to have a tune-up done when your vehicle’s owner manual requires it. If you don’t, you run the risk of having your vehicle run poorly. A properly tuned vehicle will run smoothly and perhaps even see better fuel economy. The amount of time between tune-ups varies, so check your owner’s manual for the specific requirements.

What Does a Car Tuneup Entail?

In the old days, a tune-up involved the replacement of the spark plugs and wires, as well as the distributor cap and perhaps the ignition coil or distributor rotor, according to The ignition timing would be fine-tuned to bring it back to factory spec. The air filter would also likely be swapped out for a new one, as well.

Now, most of that’s changed. Modern cars typically no longer use distributors—spark plugs are now often powered by their own coil, and ignition timing and fuel timing are computer controlled, Popular Mechanics explains. Many modern ignition and fuel system components are built to last the lifetime of the vehicle.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a modern version of the tune-up. For example, many automakers still suggest that the spark plugs be replaced at the 100,000 mile mark, and almost all automakers recommend specific replacement intervals for the air filter, notes. These intervals can range from 15,000 miles to 30,000 miles, in most cases.

When a modern car goes in for a tune-up, technicians will, in addition to replacing spark plugs and the air filter, take a look for any problems with the fuel system and the emission system—especially the electronic sensors that control the emission system.

Should You Take Your Car in for a Tune-up?

Of course, the traditional tune-up isn’t totally dead. Plenty of cars still on the road have older ignition systems that require the standard tune-up. No matter what type of car you have—old or new—it’s still not good to skip this procedure. If you do, you risk having a car that runs poorly and paying a hefty price at the fuel pump.

Whether your car is old or new, take it in sooner rather than later if it’s time for a tune-up.