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How to Tell When Your Car Needs a Tune Up

Updated September 28, 2013

Cars are highly complex machines that are made of independent systems. Many of us own cars and we depend on them each day to help us get around efficiently and conveniently. Therefore, cars require routine maintenance or tune-ups to allow them to perform at their best efficiency to meet our needs. Today, tune-ups are essential as fuel emissions and economy problems have reached its peak. Scheduling tune-ups vary for each car being driven, based on the age of the car and type of driving being done regularly. When you are aware of the needs of your car, you save yourself both time and money in the long run.


Check The Manual

The first place every car owner must check for the tune-up schedule of their car, is their owner’s manual. Do not forget to browse through the manual of your newly bought car and make notes. You can find the maintenance schedule of your car listed along with the typical car parts such as ignition components and spark plugs that require tune-ups. It is necessary that you try to stick to the given schedule to avoid problems while on the road. However, there are also situations when you car will need a tune-up more often that what has been stated in the owner’s manual. Such situations involve cars being driven in harsh conditions and when the car mileage slowly increases. This is why; you must learn to listen to the sounds your car can make. If you experience problems with acceleration, starting the car and tailpipe emissions, then you must consider consulting with a car repair professional.

When Do You Need To Tune-Up Your Car?

Old Model Cars

If you own a new car, then your car will probably have fuel injection and electronic ignition that are mandated by federal government standards. However, remember that these standards can only be maintained with the application of continuous computer control.

If you own an older car model, then you will have to deal with the car’s mechanical ignition and carburetors systems. Unfortunately, these systems require frequent tune-ups compared to modern car systems. As such, people with older car models must take care of their cars better and must watch out for any signs of car problems. If you are able to identify a problem earlier, you will save up on expenses.


Carburetors must be continually adjusted, especially when you begin experiencing the automatic choke, idle and mixture with your car. Never ignore these problems and immediately visit a car maintenance shop. Carburetors will need adjustment of the choke, when you have trouble in starting the car or idling when cold. If you have difficulty in idling when hot, then you may be dealing with a mal-adjusted idle screw. On the other hand, rich mixture is indicated when blue smoke is emitted from the tailpipe.

Mechanical Ignition

Cars that are made before the mid 1980’s will have ignition systems with points and condensers. As such, the points are known to wear out quickly and erode spark plugs fast. You can identify worn points when you experience hard starting and any hesitation when accelerating. You must have the point gaps checked every few thousands miles, including the vacuum and mechanical spark advance.

Valerie Allaine is a freelance writer specializing in car maintenance and repairs. She regularly contributes articles to auto maintenance and repair websites such as AWS.



Calvin Escobar
About Calvin Escobar

The Car scene is so diverse Where I come from, most enthusiasts recognize the amazing engineering (particularly the engines). The bulk of the ridicule originates from the manner in which many of the vehicles are modded/maintained. Thus, the jokes and or hate tends to be aimed more at the owner rather than the machine. All of which makes seeing properly sorted old Toyota's and Hondas at car meets, auto shows, and track days all the more refreshing.

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