Getting your vehicle a tune up on a regular basis is a necessity if you want to avoid costly problems later. But while tune ups have always been a part of the automotive industry, they’ve changed a lot over the years. Today, some of the common parts that are replaced during a tune up didn’t exist when cars were invented. Here are some of these common items and why they need to be replaced regularly during a tune up.
In many cases, a tune up is done more for preventative maintenance rather than to fix an issue. Without this regular checkup, something that is a fairly easy fix could turn into a major disaster later. Sometimes, a tune up will reveal a problem, but often, they don’t. However, even if your vehicle seems to be running perfectly, there are a few things the mechanic should replace anyway.
The spark plugs are the key component in starting your vehicle. That’s why it’s important that they are replaced during a tune up. The electrodes in these plugs will slowly wear down over time. Every time high voltage jumps from an electrode to one of its neighbors, a tiny bit of the metal on both electrodes is worn away. Over time, this is going to increase the distance between the two, plus the once-sharp edges will have become fairly dull. This means that the voltage necessary to jump between two spark plugs must increase. When the ignition system can’t provide that increased voltage, the spark plugs may start to misfire, which means your vehicle may not start. It’s also possible that various deposits from dust and other things can build up on a spark plug, interfering with the voltage. Generally, spark plugs are replaced during a tune up after they’ve been used for around 45,000 miles’ worth of driving.
There are some long-life spark plugs that may be used in vehicles where replacing the spark plugs during a tune up is fairly difficult due to the design or in cases where it’s helpful to get more mileage out of a set of plugs. These spark plugs may last as much as 100,000 miles under standard driving conditions. Of course, they’re more expensive because they’re made from gold-palladium alloy or platinum.
Rotor Cap or Distributor Cap
These caps take the voltage from the ignition coils and pass it over to the cylinders in the engine, which in turn ignites the fuel. When the cap wears down, the voltage is no longer passed correctly, and the engine will fail to start. Due to the fact that the voltage is so high, these caps do wear down fairly quickly and should be replaced at every tune up.
Filters and Valves
As a part of your tune up, the mechanic should look at the various filters in your vehicle (fuel, air, breather, etc.) and replace them. He should also inspect the PCV value, the wires going to the spark plugs, the hoses, the belts, and any other part that can wear down. While these may not need to be replaced at every tune up, they should be inspected for wear.
Many people probably don’t even realize that their car has an oxygen sensor, but many engines actually have several of them. These sensors are the key to the engine’s fuel control feedback loop. The sensor measures how much unburned oxygen is in the vehicle’s exhaust and sends a voltage to the car’s computer that reports this measurement. The computer then fine tunes the fuel mix so that the car creates as few emissions as possible. When an oxygen sensor shorts out, the vehicle will begin producing more emissions than it should. Normally, an oxygen sensor that is failing will trigger the Check Engine light, but that’s not always the case. A mechanic should inspect these sensors during tune up to make sure they’re functioning correctly.
There are many reasons an oxygen sensor can fail. Debris can enter the exhaust and cover the sensor, for example, or the sensor may simply wear down over time. The mechanic should replace those sensors that have failed during each tune up.
Another part of a tune up is cleaning several different systems, including the intake system and the fuel injectors. Basically, any area where buildup can occur should be cleaned. Otherwise, misfiring, a decrease in performance, and other issues may occur. Most manufacturers recommend cleaning the systems at every 50,000 miles.
Keep Up with Tune Ups
Some people put off tune ups for as long as possible because of the cost or the time it takes to go to the mechanic. However, while new spark plugs may last longer, the oil, filters, hoses, and many other parts of the engine continue to need tune ups every 3,000 miles or so. If you put off tune ups, you may end up paying a lot for repairs.
For more information about tune ups, give one of Lorentz Automotive’s experts a call and let us help!