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Tune-Up Truths: What to Know Before Getting a Summer Road Trip ‘Tune-Up’

AutoMD.com expert mechanics help car owners ditch the old notion of the engine tune-up and focus on preventative maintenance and diagnostics

AutoMDCarson, CA – As that midsummer road trip approaches, it is time for the annual summer engine tune-up… or is it? Typically, car owners visit their local repair shop for a tune-up before hitting the road, but the traditional definition of a tune-up has changed.

It may have made sense for our parents and grandparents to tune-up every 15,000 or 30,000 miles, but, today, the demand for fewer emissions and technological advancements have reduced the need. In fact, the ‘tune-up’ is becoming an outdated term with no real definition.

To make sure car owners aren’t spending money where they shouldn’t and are doing what they should to prolong the life of their vehicle, the expert mechanics at AutoMD.com have released three important ‘Tune-Up Truths’ to save car owners time and money – and ensure a smoothly running vehicle.

Tune-Up Truths

The ‘Tune-Up’ Service is Outdated – Focus Instead on Mileage-Based Service

  1. The Truth:The engine tune-up made sense on older cars with a carburetor and distributor because the air/fuel mixture and timing needed to be manually adjusted or ‘tuned’. But, today, carburetors and mechanical distributors have been replaced by fuel injection and electronics, and new engines are controlled by computers, making those adjustments unnecessary. Rather than worrying about ‘tune-ups’, today’s car owners should focus on preventative maintenance, performed at specific mileage intervals, that take into account each vehicle component. For example, replacing the engine air filter and inspecting the drive belts might be scheduled every 15,000 miles, while replacing spark plugs and inspecting the cooling system is generally scheduled every 60,000 miles.Bottom line: A generic tune-up is not always going to be in ‘tune’ with your vehicle’s individual service needs. Always consult your owner’s manual for a list of service checks, and go online to find How-To Guides for performing your own car maintenance.

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  2. Beware of Tune-Up Specials – You Could Waste Time and MoneyThe Truth:Spending money on those much-advertised ‘Tune-up Specials’ can be a waste. Car owners with newer vehicles that do not require manual adjustments or tuning, should ask themselves what are they paying for with a tune-up? And they should ask the repair shop exactly what services will be performed. In more recent years, getting a tune-up meant replacing spark plugs, air filter, fuel filter, PCV valve, distributor cap and rotor (if applicable). While air filters still need to be changed on a regular basis, fuel filters may be non-serviceable. Meanwhile, the use of materials like platinum make today’s spark plugs more durable and, in some cases, they can last for as long as 100,000 miles.Bottom line: New construction and design are making engine parts last longer; and, if you stick to your maintenance schedule, no ‘Tune-up Specials’ should be needed. Always consult your vehicle owner’s manual to find out when to service the various parts of your engine, and go online to find the right local auto repair shop to service your car, as well as to get an estimate on your exact vehicle’s service needs.
  3. Don’t Assume the Check Engine Light means a Tune-Up is Needed!The Truth:Check Engine lights have become the automotive alarm clock, and many car owners just assume that it means time for a tune-up. While it is true that most automakers provide a dashboard maintenance reminder light, this is not the Check Engine light’s function. The Check Engine light can signal any number of system failures, from a fuel vapor leak caused by a loose gas cap to a faulty O2 sensor. If the light comes on and stays on without flashing – yet the car seems to be running smoothly – chances are that the car can be examined by a mechanic when the car owner gets home. On the other hand, if the Check Engine light is blinking while driving, pull over or get to a mechanic right away. A blinking check engine light usually indicates a severe misfire that could damage the expensive catalytic converter.Bottom Line: A tune-up alone won’t necessarily solve a Check Engine light issue because the computer monitors more than emissions related components. The repair shop must use a code reader or scanner to find the system at fault. Take all warning lights very seriously, from “battery” to “brakes” to “temperature” to “check engine;” and don’t think a tune-up is necessarily the answer! Always consult your service manual to understand the implications of each light, and, if you need to quickly find a service shop from the road, there are apps that can help you, such as the AutoMD Mobile App, which pinpoints the location of nearby repair shops, as well as providing mobile repair estimates and step-by-step how-to repair guides.

“At AutoMD.com, we believe that when consumers become more educated about how and when to service their car, this can translate into savings at the repair shop,” said Brian Hafer, VP of Marketing for AutoMD.com. “The auto repair information readily available online and at our website empowers car owners to take better control of their vehicle’s service and repair needs. We hope consumers can save some extra money this summer by not spending on needless repairs and spending instead on fun family outings.”

For more information, visit www.automd.com for your auto repair needs.

About AutoMD.com

AutoMD.com™ (www.automd.com), a wholly-owned subsidiary of US Auto Parts Network, Inc., (Nasdaq:PRTS), is the most comprehensive and unbiased free online automotive repair resource designed to empower car owners with the best way to repair their vehicles. Backed by a team of automotive data specialists and certified auto mechanics who are advocates for the car owner, AutoMD.com allows both car owners and DIYers to 1. Troubleshoot car problems, 2. Know how much auto repairs should cost, 3. Understand the steps needed and the time it should take with How-to Auto Repair guides, 4. Find the right local auto repair shop at the right price for their issue, and 5. Get auto repair questions answered by the AutoMD.com community. AutoMD.com was named Best Automotive Website in the 8th annual American Business Awards, also known as the Stevie® Awards. AutoMD Mobile is available for the iPhone at iTunes.


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