Mechanic Tips

How Do I Know When My Car Needs a Tune-Up?

Has your faithful motor started sounding a bit rough around the edges recently? Do you find yourself having to crank the ignition more times than usual before the engine coughs to life? Or maybe fuel economy seems to be decreasing even though your driving patterns haven’t changed. These could all be signs that your car is due for a tune-up.

Tuning up your vehicle involves adjusting, repairing or replacing parts and components to keep the engine running in tip-top shape. The specific elements addressed depend on the make and model of car, but some common tasks include replacing the spark plugs, air filter and fuel filter, inspecting the valves, and adjusting ignition timing and idle speed.

While recommendations vary, most mechanics suggest getting a tune-up every 30,000-50,000 km. But you don’t need to simply go by kilometres on the odometer. Paying attention to how your car drives and responds can give you an idea of when it’s time to get a tune-up. Here are some key signs to watch out for.

Difficulty Starting

If you find it’s taking more cranking before the engine turns over and starts, it’s often a sign of issues with the spark plugs or ignition system. Worn or fouled spark plugs prevent proper sparking to ignite the fuel-air mixture. Replacing them restores sharp engine firing. Simple ignition system components like cables or the distributor cap may also cause starting troubles if they are cracked, loose or corroded. A tune-up will identify and correct such ignition problems to get your car starting smoothly again.

Decreased Fuel Economy

Has your fuel gauge needle been dropping more quickly than usual lately? Reduced fuel economy can indicate issues that make the engine work harder and burn more petrol. Clogged air and fuel filters cause restriction to proper airflow and fuel delivery. Replacing them as part of a tune-up helps maintain miles per gallon. Ignition misfiring and incorrect timing also waste fuel. Tune-up adjustments can optimise these systems.

Lack of Acceleration and Power

Sluggish acceleration when you hit the accelerator can happen when engine components are dirty, worn or malfunctioning. Insufficient fuel supply, clogged filters, weak ignition sparks and improper valve clearance all rob your car of its normal pep. A tune-up restores quick response by diagnosing and correcting the specific issues hindering your driving performance. The improvements after a tune-up can sometimes feel like getting a boost in horsepower.

Rough Idling

Pay attention to how the engine runs when idling at stop lights or in park. Rough or uneven idling, where you feel vibrations through the steering wheel and chassis, indicates engine problems. Sticking valves that don’t open and close properly at low rpm cause misfiring. Fouled spark plugs and bad plug wires also make the engine run rough at idle. Having your mechanic adjust valves, replace plugs, and check the ignition system can smooth out idling.

Check Engine Light

Don’t ignore this important warning light. The check engine light switching on is your car’s computer signalling that it has detected an issue with systems like ignition, fuel delivery or emissions. Getting the fault code read at a shop can help narrow down the specific problem. But often a tune-up that replaces components like oxygen sensors, spark plugs, and the PCV valve will take care of the underlying issue and turn the light back off.

Strange Exhaust Smells

Unusual burning smells coming from the exhaust pipe can indicate troubles. A rich fuel smell points to issues like a faulty oxygen sensor or deteriorated spark plugs causing incomplete combustion. An eggy, sulphur-like odour signals a problem with the catalytic converter. Brief puffs of white smoke on acceleration may mean worn valve guides or bad rings. Replacing worn parts during a tune-up can banish strange exhaust scents.

High Mileage

Following the recommended tune-up intervals according to your car’s kilometres is wise. Major components like spark plugs have a limited service life. Fuel and air filters can become restricted over time. Adjustments to valves and other moving parts may be needed to account for normal wear. While 30,000 – 50,000 km is a common guide, check your owner’s manual, as some automakers recommend more frequent tune-ups.

Performing periodic tune-ups based on both driving symptoms and distance intervals will keep your car running smoothly for years to come. The investment is well worth it, as catching maintenance issues early prevents more expensive repairs down the road. When it’s time for a tune-up, SNC Automotive’s skilled mechanics in Brendale have you covered. Our 20+ years of experience allows us to diagnose and fix any engine performance problems. We’ll thoroughly inspect your car, replace worn components, and make adjustments to have you back on the road in top form. Don’t put off a needed tune-up – call SNC Automotive today to schedule service and keep your ride running like new.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a tune-up cost?

A basic tune-up with spark plug, air filter, and fuel filter replacement costs $150-$300. More complex tune-ups addressing issues like valve adjustments or ignition timing run $400-$800.

Should I get a tune-up at a dealership or mechanic?

Dealerships and independent mechanics can both perform high-quality tune-ups. Dealers may charge more but have deep knowledge of your make. Good mechanics often offer greater value. Check reviews and ask for estimates.

How often should you get a tune-up?

Every 30,000-50,000 km is the common recommendation for tune-ups. But also watch for performance issues like rough idling and lack of power, which signal it’s time. Check your owner’s manual for specific intervals.

What’s included in a basic tune-up?

A basic tune-up most commonly involves replacing the spark plugs, air filter, fuel filter, and PCV valve. Checking and adjusting timing and idle speed are also standard. Additional parts may be recommended based on inspection.

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