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The Importance of a Car Tune-up

Your car doesn’t feel quite like it used to. Maybe it feels sluggish or less-responsive. One of the first things you’ll hear from people is “Your car probably needs a tune-up!”. And, while they’re not necessarily wrong, the phrase “tune-up” can mean several different things to different people.

To simplify it, a tune-up nowadays is basically the same as getting a “check-up” at the doctor.

Meaning of Tune-Up

A tune-up is checking the systems of your car to make sure your engine is operating at full power and efficiency. Having your car tuned up regularly will keep it running smooth and will help avoid breakdowns.

So, what is a “modern tune-up”, and what does it do for your car?

Aspects of a Tune-Up

A modern tune-up can be broken down into two parts: Things that need to be checked and things that need to be replaced.

Things to be Checked

Your mechanic will want to check several things to make sure that your car is running properly with no issues.

Some of these are:

  • Scanning for Error Codes
  • Monitoring Battery Voltage
  • Running a Dynamic Compression Test
  • Ensuring Tire Alignment
  • Checking Fluid Levels
  • Inspecting Hoses/Belts

Scanning for Error Codes

Scanning is done using a scanner tool. It hooks up to the vehicle and works with the on-board computer to run diagnostic checks. The scanner tool doesn’t identify problems exactly, but instead feeds out an error code.

The error code will point to a particular area of the vehicle that the mechanic will then take a closer look at. It’s an excellent tool to help mechanics identify potential problems without a full tear-down.

Monitoring Battery Voltage

The battery is one of the most important parts of your vehicle. If it doesn’t work, neither does your car.

This is why routinely checking voltage is important. The mechanic will check the voltage using a voltmeter. This will give them a readout of the voltage your battery is producing. An ideal voltage is somewhere between 12.4 volts and 12.8 volts.

If your battery is outside that range, it is indicative of an issue somewhere in your car. A high voltage, for example, could indicate an issue with the alternator.

Running a Dynamic Compression Test

This test is used to make sure your vehicle’s engine is running as efficiently as it should be.

If you’re unfamiliar, the engine basically works by injecting fuel into cylinders and making the fuel explode. The pressure from the explosion pushes pistons up and down. The force from this is converted into rotational motion and then your moves.

What the dynamic compression test does is check each cylinder and make sure that it’s pulling in and pushing out the correct amount of air. It’s important to make sure the cylinders have the correct pressure and have little variation from cylinder to cylinder.

Bad pressure or high variation can lead to a number of engine-breaking issues.

Ensuring Tire Alignment

While car tires may appear to be straight, they are actually slightly tilted at very particular angles set by the manufacturer.

Having the wheels at certain angles can do things such as increase cornering performance. Because of this, it’s important to make sure your car’s tires are correctly aligned to the manufacturers preference.

The mechanic will check the angles on your tires and compare them to what they should be. If there are any errors, they will fix them.

Checking Fluid Levels & Inspecting Hoses/Belts

In addition to the others, the mechanic will also want to make sure all your fluid levels are correct and that all your belts/hoses are in-tact and functioning properly.

Leaky hoses or improper fluid levels can really turn a simple issue into a big one.

Things to be Replaced

There are only a few things that are typically replaced during a tune-up.

Mechanics will often, after checking the fluid levels, add more fluids to make sure everything is topped off and good to go.

They’ll also want to replace any fuel/air filters in your car. Dirty filters can really affect how your car runs and you really don’t want a dirty air-filter blowing mold into your face.

And while modern spark plugs can last over 100K miles, a bad spark plug will prevent the car from working. So making sure they all work and replacing when required is of utmost importance.

Car tune-ups are just as important as seeing your doctor. It can catch big issues before they become expensive and prevent your car from breaking down.

So be sure to keep up to date on your vehicle’s maintenance.

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