How do you know when your vehicle needs a tune up? You read the owner’s manual like I told you to and there is no such thing mentioned in the scheduled maintenance section. Your vehicle runs just fine. Starts good. Idles, and when you step on the gas it goes. Everything is perfect?
What is to tune?
Well in this day and age you have to be a little bit more of a detective especially if you are only visiting a quick lube type service centre for oil changes. I know a lot of people lump tune up in with oil change but, believe me, regular oil changes do not a tune up make. And from what I’ve seen nobody has made a vehicle yet that does not require a tune up.
Sure, you may have bought an air filter or two with your oil and filter but a real tune up requires a professional.
Come to think of it you may have never been sold an air filter. Some air filters take time and talent to inspect and replace. Quick lube maybe, quick air filter, not happening. If you bought your vehicle new hopefully you or your service provider is keeping a service record. Regular inspections are helpful in determining your vehicle’s needs. As far as tune up requirements go keeping track of your fuel mileage is probably the best indicator of your vehicle’s state of tune.
Many newer vehicle display average fuel economy. That number is important. Do not reset it all the time. Let the average be an average of a lot of typical driving. If the average changes significantly unless you can attribute it to a change in driving habits something is up and it is time for a tune up.
Remember winter driving will use more fuel than summer driving. City driving will use more fuel than highway driving. When your sixteen year old starts driving your average might change for the worse. For sure, your tank will always be closer to empty.
If you bought your vehicle used and you have no service records, you need a professional inspection to check your vehicle’s state of tune.
You could be missing out on some fuel economy that you do not even know about. Lots of vehicles are sold just prior to requiring some major service thus saving the seller some cash. Something as seemingly simple as a spark plug change on some vehicles is a major costly procedure.
Speaking of spark plugs, are they the only wearing tune up part on today’s vehicles? I should say not. Oxygen sensors and air fuel ratio sensors are battery like devices that will wear out. As they age they can ultimately hurt fuel mileage.
A check engine light on even when your vehicle seemingly runs perfectly is also an indicator of something amiss. Professional analysis of this issue will likely save you some money at the pumps.
Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. He will write every other Thursday. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org