Informational Guide

How To Tune A Car

Learn how to tune a car easily and correctly with our guide. Beginners and experienced mechanics can quickly check and tune their vehicles.

While you already understand the value of having regular car tune-ups for preventative maintenance, there's another way to get more performance out of your vehicle.

Using the best engine tuners can take the performance to new heights. We look at how to tune a car, so you can enjoy all the power you want.

Learning how to tune up a car and use an engine tuner are two different things altogether. However, both are vital to the proper operation of your engine and to get the most performance from your vehicle.

 We will look at some signs indicating you might want to learn how to give a car a tune-up before you install an engine tuner.

Decreased performance and fuel efficiency

As the engine stops working efficiently, you will notice a decrease in performance. This additional work also requires more fuel, costing you more money at the pump.

Running rough while idling or stalling

The engine requires a delicate balance of fuel and air to run correctly. As parts become worn out or damaged, the mixture is thrown off-balance, thereby leaving the engine struggling.

Squeaking from the engine compartment

Any noise coming from your engine compartment is a sign that something could be wrong and might be hindering the overall car performance.

Unresponsive braking or turning

If you struggle to get control of your vehicle, either while steering or braking, that's a sign that something is wrong beyond what a tune-up or tuning can repair.

Benefits Of A Car Tune Up

You want to know how often to do a car tune up so you can keep the engine running its best. With regular tune-ups, you ensure the engine runs as it should, allowing you to take performance even further with a tuner. Depending on what type of tuning you perform, you could achieve substantial horsepower gains from your work.

How Tuning Works & What Is Included In A Full Tune Up?

Before you learn how to tune a car yourself, you must understand what it is intended for. Tuning creates the perfect balance between three elements the engine uses, acceleration, turning, and deceleration. This process makes changes to the engine performance to get the most out of it.

In comparison, the full tune-up references the maintenance tasks you perform to keep the engine running right. Tuning is an optional step you can take to get more performance, while a tune-up is something that should be done regularly. It's often best to use a tune-up checklist for these services.

How To Perform A Basic Tune Up For Your Car

You understand how to know when you need a car tune up, but what about performing the services? Are you able to do these yourself, or will you need professional guidance? The basic tune-up isn't difficult to do, simply requiring an oil filter change, spark plug replacement, and other simple services.

However, learning how to become a car tuner is much more difficult. You can't consider yourself an expert simply because you know how to tune a car in Forza Horizon 4. This isn't a video game, and making errors in the tuning could cause damage to your vehicle.

Your engine tuning requires several components. First, you must change the intake stroke. This is where the piston is lowered into the cylinder. While it lowers, the intake valve opens, creating a vacuum that allows air to move through the valve.

You must also consider the compression stroke, which forces both intake and exhaust valves closed.

Following this, you have the power or combustion stroke. This occurs when the piston reaches the top dead center, allowing the spark plug to ignite the compressed air and fuel mixture. Finally, you must consider the exhaust stroke. This occurs when the piston reaches near the bottom, allowing the exhaust valve to open.

While you could learn how to tune a car ECU to make adjustments on your own, it's often better to understand how to use a car tuner. Many of the performance tuners make it simple to create adjustments for more power. You can even understand how to tune a car with a laptop for more simplicity.

Tune Up Services You Can Do On Your Own

Changing Oil & Oil Filter

It isn't difficult to change your own oil and filter. Make sure you are using the appropriate oil and filter for your engine.

Replacing Air Filters

Replacing your car air filters requires you to pay attention to both the engine and cabin air filters. Neither of these is difficult or expensive to replace.

Replacing Spark Plugs

Depending on what vehicle you have, replacing spark plugs can be a difficult job, especially if you don't have the right tools. You might prefer to hire a professional if the plugs are difficult to get to.

Fuel Filter Replacement

There's a lot involved with fuel filter replacement, including disabling the fuel pump to relieve the pressure from the fuel lines. This job is often best done by an experienced mechanic.

PCV Valve Replacement

While PCV valve replacement is often listed with a tune-up, it's a service you should consider periodically for the best engine performance.

Car ECU Tuning: How to Remap Your Engine

ECU remapping isn't difficult to do, especially with the best tuners. Have you been wondering – "how to tune my car with a laptop?" You can do this with the right tuners. ECU remapping is a safe and effective way to perform electronic engine tuning.

You can quickly increase the torque and power of the engine while adding more comfort to the drive and optimizing the engine's efficiency. Your vehicle's ECU controls many operations, including the injection angles, fuel flow, turbocharging pressure, and injection pressure.

With an electronic chip, you can easily make adjustments that are safe and effective. These adjustments allow you to fully enjoy what your engine is capable of.

You can learn more about engine remapping with this helpful video.

How to Tune a Turbocharged Vehicle

You can increase the boost of your turbocharged engine with ECU remapping as well. Aftermarket companies create plug-in software that changes the ECU tune, especially to the fuel and boost curves. With a simple upload to the ECU, you can change how the turbo operates.

If your vehicle doesn't have an electronically controlled turbo system, you will need to use a manual boost controller instead. However, if you must go this route, you need to monitor engine parameters over time.

Here's a helpful YouTube video illustrating how to tune your turbocharged engine.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What does it mean to dyno tune a car?

Dyno tuning is used to measure engine output, which includes horsepower, air-fuel mixture, and torque. This advanced tune-up increases the vehicle's efficiency and heightens the performance.

How much does it cost to tune a car? What about dyno tuning?

How much to tune a car? It depends on what equipment you choose and whether you perform the tune yourself. Some people also wonder, how much does it cost to dyno tune a car? You don't need to spend a lot, but you won't be able to achieve the same level of performance as you would with the help of an advanced mechanic.

How do you tune a car with a laptop?

You can, but you will need to purchase the software to make ECU chip changes.

How long does it take to tune a car?

With some chips, you can make the changes in just 15 minutes. However, taking your car to a shop might require up to eight hours of billable time for dyno tuning.

How often should I tune my car?

If you are happy with the performance, there's no reason to re-tune it. You will also adjust the settings if you require more performance or efficiency.

Where is the best place to get my car tuned up?

You have many options. To reduce the tune-up cost and expenses of engine tuning, you can perform the jobs yourself. Your local mechanic is probably equipped to handle both jobs as well. While Walmart Auto Services and local tune-up shops can do basic engine maintenance, you won't want to take your vehicle there for engine tuning.

What happens if you don't do a tune up?

If you neglect to do regular maintenance, you cause the engine to work harder. Not only will this cause the engine to run poorly, but it can also lead to damage down the road.


Understanding the differences between engine tuning and a tune-up is critical to ensuring you keep your vehicle running its best. Tune-ups keep your engine maintained, while tuning allows you to get more out of it. Both are vital for anyone that wants to gain more power from their vehicle.