What does a tune-up consist of?

If you already own a car or plan on buying one very soon, you might have heard of a tune-up. Maybe you overheard some people talking about getting their vehicle conditioned because it needs a tune-up. Most people have heard the word before, but several do not know its meaning.


The biggest things a tune-up consists of are replacements of the air filter, a check of plug wires, and installation of condensers. Tune-ups are needed every 30,000-40,000, whereas major tune-ups are needed every 75,000 miles. The biggest signs a tune-up is needed include an engine warning light and an engine that’s no longer starting.

In this article, we’ll also cover the following topics:

  • Signs you need a tune-up
  • The cost

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damaged car

We will be digging deep through its meaning and how it affects your car. Is it significant? Do you need to do it regularly? Can you skip your schedules? These are only some of the questions we know you are eager to find answers to.

The following sections should help you learn about conditioning your car and its step-by-step procedure. It includes its importance. 

Table of Contents

What’s included?

Humans go on regular trips or check-ups with a doctor to help them keep track of their health. Most humans follow a schedule for visiting these healthcare providers. The same principles apply to cars. Regular maintenance work benefits the engine’s performance, extending its life for a few more years.

A mechanic checks all the systems that impact the combustion process. It is a maintenance procedure that you periodically schedule with professional mechanics to keep your vehicle in top shape.

Scheduling regular tune-ups will keep your car in top condition. It will run with minimal to no issues, which will unlikely break down. Your vehicle needs it more than you think. Now, you might be wondering what happens in a tune-up. 

RepairCost (by a mechanic)Difficulty doing it yourself (0-10)
Replacement of Air Filter$50-$1003
Replacement of Spark Plug$100-$4004
Ignition Component Renewal$75-$5006
Fuel Filter replacement$50-$2004

What does a full car tune-up consist of?

Humans regularly go to the doctor to keep their health in check. Vehicles need periodic scheduling of tune-ups to keep their engine’s health in top shape. We define it as a maintenance procedure that mechanics conduct on a vehicle to check the overall health. It focuses on the car’s combustion process effectivity. If you want to avoid random breakdowns, make sure to have it checked regularly. The first step is to talk with a mechanic you can trust and work your schedules with him.

There is no specific way of doing tune-ups because it depends on the automotive shop. The best way to know the processes involved during a tune-up is to call the shop where you will have your car serviced. However, we will go over some processes that are involved.

Checking the vehicle’s engine is important. Mechanics look for faulty or worn parts and replace them with a new one. Modern cars have a system that controls fuel-to-air mixture. We can reset these to remove any bugs lurking around the corner. We also replace spark plug wires, spark plugs, and coil boots. Aside from replacing parts here and there, we also clean the throttle body for more efficient fuel atomization.

Some car models require more steps in the tune-up. Gasoline-Direct-Injection (GDI) vehicles function similarly to diesel engines but use gasoline as fuel. Traditionally, fuel and air mix in the engine’s intake. For GDI, they don’t mix. It results in a gunky build-up. In such a case, the mechanic will remove the build-up from the oiling system and intake to prevent any damage.

These basic tune-up procedures are part of almost every auto shop’s process. However, there may be additional services the shop would provide as part of their package. The following may be maintenance procedures that are added to the standard ones:

  • Crankcase breathing system maintenance and cleaning
  • High-pressure fuel system cleaning on a GDI engine
  • Air filter replacement

For any specific concerns you may have with your vehicle, it is best to discuss them directly with the mechanic before passing your car over to them. 

Everything loses efficiency as you use it over time. The same applies to vehicles even under normal use. A tune-up will improve the efficiency, correcting your fuel economy. It will also prevent minor problems from becoming big ones. After maintenance, your vehicle will be safer and have better fuel economy. It will have better efficiency.

Although regularly taking your vehicle to the automotive shop may seem costly, you are investing in its long-term health. It impacts performance and safety, among others. You should be able to save money and time over time because it adds a few more years to your car’s life.

Replacement of Air Filter

By design, engines take in more air than fuel. Air needs to be clean before it enters the engine’s combustion chamber. You can clean an air filter and install it back. However, replacing a dirty filter with a new one is recommended. The filter should be compatible with your car’s manufacturer and model.

Replacement of Spark Plug

spark plug repair

Each cylinder in the engine has one spark plug. Most manufacturers design their engines to be easily accessible.

Some car owners prefer changing the spark plug themselves. Before everything else, apply some anti-seize substance to the threads of the new spark plugs. The next time it needs replacing, it is easier to pull it out. 

Ignition Component Renewal

The spark plug wires, rotors, and distributor caps are part of the ignition system. The spark plug wires go through the distributor cap, which distributes sparks to the engine’s cylinders. Inside the distributor cap, you will find the ignition rotor. It directs electricity to different points within the distributor cap.

The ignition rotor and distributor cap require more frequent replacements than the spark plug wires

Fuel Filter

Dirt accumulates in the fuel filter, restricting air from flowing through and through. These filters are typically inexpensive, so replace the filter regularly before your engine experiences any issues. A few signs of a clogged or dirty filter are stalling and inefficient engine power.

PVC Valve

The PVC valve is part of the emission system. It wears out over time and needs replacing.

How often should you tune up your car?

If we base it per mile, you will need one every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. It depends on the manufacturer and model. Older models need one at least every 10,000 to 12,000 miles. Some manufacturers recommend an interval of 100,000 miles. You will need to check with your owner’s manual or manufacturer’s support team for more accurate information.

You need to record and keep track of the mileage usage of your car. The automotive shop where you are taking your vehicle should have its own list of things to check per milestone. If you take it to your manufacturer’s service center (not a third-party one), they already have this list on hand that should be identical to the list in the owner’s manual.

You can also monitor the miles per gallon consumption. If the average consumption falls by at least 10%, you may need to schedule a tune-up as soon as possible. An old vehicle that puts on a lot of heavy loads will need frequent tune-ups. If your car’s having difficulty starting up recently, perform diagnostics and testing before a tune-up. 

How long does a tune-up take?

There is no one-size-fits-all on the length of time it takes to maintain your vehicle. In most cases, it takes about two to four hours in total. However, the duration will increase if there are additional steps to take. For example, a vehicle with several engine issues will take more time to tune up than a vehicle that only has one to two problems. A more modern or recently released car will take a shorter time to complete. On the other hand, tuning up an older model will take significant time, especially when it has several issues. 

What does a tune-up do to a car?

Generally speaking, a tune-up keeps your car healthy and in top shape. As part of a tune-up, mechanics will check the engine for any irregularities. They will also clean, fix, and replace parts. Depending on the severity of the damage, the mechanic may require more time. Other common areas to inspect are the following:

  • rotors
  • oxygen sensors
  • hoses
  • distributor caps
  • car fluids
  • filters, belts
  • and spark plugs.

A quick inspection to see the condition will determine if it needs cleaning or replacing.

Tune-ups allow the mechanic to maintain your engine. So it operates smoothly and runs efficiently.

Major and Minor Tune-up

We can divide it into two classifications – major and minor. Mechanics perform a major tune-up in 60,000 or 90,000 miles intervals. There are discrepancies that depend on the engine type, car model, and car brand. On the other hand, mechanics will perform a minor tune-up every 30,000 or 40,000 miles interval.

Minor Tune-up

This type includes electrical, oil, grease, and fluids. For the electrical parts, mechanics typically change the spark plugs to new ones. These spark plugs are the same type specified in the manufacturer’s specifications.

The mechanic should also check the plug wires, rotor, air filter, and cap. Some automotive shops include the installation of condensers and points in a minor tune-up.

Fluid replacement and suspension lubrication are also part of a minor tune-up. If it falls within the same period, it needs an oil change.

Most manufacturers recommend an oil change every 3,000 to 10,000 miles intervals.

Major Tune-up

It includes electrical, fuel systems, oil, grease, and other fluids. As part of the standard process, your vehicle will need a replacement for all the

  • spark plugs
  • distributor caps
  • spark plug wires
  • rotors, points
  • and condensers.

Sometimes, the charging system needs a voltage check. Electrical sensors and vacuum switching valves need a visual inspection.

engine being checked

The main fuel filter in the fuel system needs changing as well. In some cases, the carburetor fuel screen and filter also need changing. Some shops also conduct a fuel system cleaning for eligible engines. 

Lastly, filter and oil change are part of the package. These go with the drive line and suspension grease lubrication. 

Signs you need a tune-up.

The following are signs or symptoms your car needs a tune-up as soon as possible.

SymptomPossible Causes
Decrease in fuel mileageDirty air filter
Low tire pressure
Fuel system issues
Engine misfiring
Excessive idling
Odd car noisesLoose or damaged belt
Exhaust system issues
Suspension problems
Worn brakes
Diminishing loss in braking capacityWorn brake pads/shoes
Contaminated brake fluid
Air in the brake system
Brake caliper issues
Engine warning lightOxygen sensor problems
Mass airflow sensor issues
Engine coolant temperature sensor issues
Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve issues
The engine no longer startingDead battery
Loose or corroded battery cables
Fuel delivery issues

A decrease in fuel mileage

A vehicle’s mileage is difficult to track if you do not have an MPG monitor. However, you will notice a decrease in fuel efficiency if you drive your car for a long time. You can determine the fuel’s economy with several factors, including the emissions system performance and engine operation.

While at the topic of fuel mileage, misaligned wheels will affect it. It may also be an indication of an issue happening in the engine. Regular maintenance helps avoid these issues, saving money in the long run. 

Odd noises

The car or engine makes odd noises, which may be new to you. Not all noises indicate an issue under the hood, but some may be a serious indication of a problem. A thumping noise means there is a loose part. A screeching noise indicates the fluids are running low.

Several interconnecting moving parts work together to run smoothly. You may experience loud noise if these parts become loose or break. The noise will become worse if you do not service your vehicle. 

Diminishing loss in braking capacity

Brakes are important because it allows the car to stop running. It should respond quickly and effectively when you are driving. The brake quality declines gradually over time, making regular maintenance important. It lets the mechanic check the brake’s quality and if it needs servicing. 

Warning lights

Most drivers ignore any warning signs that appear on the dashboard. These signs are typically an indication of a need to service. When left unattended for a long time, it could lead to more severe issues with your vehicle. In effect, it would be more costly to repair.

As soon as you see a warning light appearing on the dashboard, immediately set an appointment with your mechanic. The lights indicate a brewing issue, which you should not take for granted. It could put you and your passengers at risk. 

The engine no longer starts.

If the engine no longer starts or is having difficulty starting, these are indications that a severe issue is already happening. In some cases, it is too late to do any remedy. Misfiring spark plugs prevent the engine from turning over, resulting in the engine taking longer to start. 

This issue is easily preventable if you regularly schedule a tune-up for your vehicle. Most of these are detectable when caught early. You will not have to shell out a lot of money on repairs. 

What do you need for a tune-up?

Aside from having the vehicle physically present, the following is a list of items you need in a tune-up.

  • Air filter
  • Fluids (includes brake, transmission, and antifreeze fluids)
  • Oil and oil filter
  • Belts and hoses
  • Battery
  • Windshield wipers
windshield wipers

If you take your vehicle to an automotive shop, you will unlikely have to worry about these items. They are inclusive of the fees you will be paying for the tune-up.


How do you know if you need a tune-up?

A few signs tell you your vehicle needs a tune-up as soon as possible. However, some of the signs are the following:
– A decrease in fuel mileage, usually at least 10%
– Weird noises coming from the engine
– Degrading braking capacity
– Warning lights that appear on your dashboard
– The engine is having difficulty starting
– The engine no longer starts

How much does a car tune-up cost?

The cost of a car tune-up varies. Factors such as location, shop, and car make/model need consideration to find the price. The price ranges from USD 40 to USD 150 for a tune-up that does not involve a lot of fixing, replacing, or repairing. The cost will increase as more parts need attention.

If there are more complex repairs or replacements, the cost can range from USD 500 to USD 1,000. With this in mind, schedule regular tune-ups for your vehicle to avoid spending a big chunk of money. 

How much is a tune-up at jiffy lube?

There is no standard price for a tune-up at Jiffy Lube because the rate varies from vehicle to vehicle. You should expect to pay at least USD 40. To give you an idea, a change in oil costs about USD 140. 

Where can I get a tune-up?

You can get a tune-up from your manufacturer’s service center or any reliable automotive shop in your area. We suggest you ask around first before deciding where to take your vehicle. Ask the service center about the inclusions for their tune-up package because this varies.

When you find the best shop, establish a good relationship with them. Get their contact numbers, so you can quickly call them if you encounter any problems while on the road.

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