A tuneup — in layman’s terms — means giving your car a performance upgrade. This term was thrown around almost endlessly since hot-rods and muscle cars started hitting the market. Somewhere along the way, however, people started mixing the terms “tuneup” and “routine maintenance.” Nowadays, tuneups are a thing of the past — sadly. Used almost exclusively for the same hot-rods and muscle cars as in the past, you would easily confuse a mechanic if you requested a tuneup for your Prius.
Allow me to clarify by explaining that, in the traditional sense, tuneups are a thing of the past.
The Traditional Tuneup
Maximizing engine performance and power is the purpose of a tuneup. Back in the day, this was done by replacing parts in order to bring the ignition and fuel systems up to specs for maximum performance and efficiency. Following this logic, there hasn’t been a traditional tuneup in years.
The only thing left from a traditional tuneup in 2016 (maybe) is the simple process of replacing the spark plugs, which is done every 100,000 miles or so, and considered simply part of routine maintenance. But, even spark plugs aren’t what they used to be. They have much less of an impact on a new car’s performance, simply because the computers that control today’s engine adjust the air-fuel mixture and spark timing to compensate for wear. Like when spark plugs are worn down. Therefore, spark plugs are no longer the reason why an engine might experience ignition problems or lackluster performance, because today’s computers act as a failsafe.
Ask to have your car tuned-up in today’s world, and you’ll be surprised to find out that all a service technician will do is inspect (and maybe test) the fuel ignition, and emissions systems to look for any faulty vacuum hoses, O2 sensors, and other parts that might hurt performance. With that in mind, doesn’t a tuneup just sound like routine maintenance? After all, those parts are checked at some point in your vehicle’s life during a scheduled service visit. Which means asking for a tune up is completely inaccurate, and quite frankly, an antiquated request.
Routine maintenance is the best way to not only get a “tuneup,” but also ensure that everything is ship-shape when it comes to your car. The mechanics will check things like fuel ignition and emissions systems, as well as your oil, air filter, transmission fluid, tires, brakes, lights, and anything else that is considered essential to preserving the health of your vehicle. Essentially, routine maintenance is best considered and respected as a preventive way to check for the any issues that might lead to major problems. That way, your trusted mechanics can nip any issues before they have the chance to fester into something worse.
While it might not sound as cool as the term “tuneup,” routine maintenance is still the best thing you can do for your car’s health. Make sure you follow a set service schedule provided by your dealership or the one found in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. If not, you’ll be very sorry later down the road.