Informational Guide

What Exactly Is A Tune Up?

What is a tune-up? Learn more about this common process performed by mechanics and what it consists of. See what’s included for your own car.

Preventative maintenance to a vehicle is essential if you want it to run correctly. So, what is a tune up? In the general sense, it's the services that are performed to keep the vehicle in good running order and extend its longevity. The simple tune up can improve engine performance without the use of a tuner.

The tune up refers to the routine maintenance done to your vehicle at specified intervals. Typically, these services are performed as per the maintenance schedule found in your owner's manual.

Overall, tuning up the engine can improve performance and decrease emissions, while also extending the life of the car's essential components.

mechanic service

Benefits Of A Tune Up

Anytime you perform a tune up to your vehicle, you take steps to protect it. With each service, you help the vital automotive components function properly and prevent damage.

Additionally, some parts need to be running their best to improve fuel economy, such as the fuel filters and spark plugs. Tune-ups are worth the small expense paid when you consider how much it will cost to replace parts that weren't cared for.

What Is Included In A Car Tune Up?

What is done in a tune up? It depends on what type of tune up you get.

Tune Up Checks/Performance Checks

If you are simply having an inspection of sorts, it will include a thorough check of the battery performance. The technician does load testing to check the voltage.  Other checks are done to the ignition timing, idle speed, engine vacuum, and dynamic compression. The tech can also scan the system for fault codes that might indicate a problem. 

Basic Tune up

This is the typical tune up consumers get. So, what all is included in a tune up? Usually, it involves an oil change and replacement of any other parts that might be required as per the schedule maintenance. Some shops will also include a car wash as part of the tune up service.

Major/Full Tune up

On the higher end of the spectrum, you can get a major tune up. What is a complete tune up for a car? This could include modifications to the springs, shock absorbers, suspension, and driveline grease lubrication. If you have a manual transmission, it might also include adding gear oil.

Common Car Parts Replaced During A Tune Up

What is done during a car tune up? Typically, these are the parts that are replaced.

Ignition System Parts

The car's ignition system contains spark plugs, coils, plug wires, and other components that ignite the fuel/air mixture. Spark plugs cause a misfire when they begin to wear out. Additionally, the car will start to idle rough when the wires get worn out. You may also notice a reduced fuel economy when the ignition coils start to degrade. Letting these parts fail can cause larger mechanical issues down the road, or you could become stranded.


Clogged engine and oil filters will cause a decrease in fuel economy and poor performance. Not only do these need to be changed regularly, but the cabin air filters are also part of a regular tune up. These automotive filters clean the air coming into the cabin of your vehicle to ensure you aren't breathing in allergens, dust, and pollutants.

Auxiliary System Belts & Hoses

The engine runs with a series of belts and hoses. If one of these wears out, it could cause your vehicle to stop working or lead to engine damage. Depending on what type of car you have, you might require replacement of the serpentine belt, timing belt, belt tensioner, and additional hoses.


There are also many fluids running through your vehicle that become contaminated over time. During a tune up, you might have the engine oil, brake fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid changed. In addition, a tune up is a great time to consider implementing an oil additive. In fact, oil additives for older engines can improve longevity.

car engine

How Much Does A Car Tune Up Cost?

The standard tune up will cost between $40 and $150. However, if you are having parts replaced, you will have to incorporate that cost along with additional labor for the installation.

If you can do a car tune up by yourself, you save money on the labor, keeping the price to a minimum.

What Are The Signs That Your Car Needs A Tune Up?

Now that you understand what is included in a tune up, it's time to determine when to do one. Ideally, you want to reference the owner's manual for appropriate tune-up times, but you might also notice these symptoms.

Stalling/Reduction in Power

As the car struggles to get the fuel or air it requires, you will notice trouble with the power. This could also lead to rough idling or stalling.

Diminished Fuel Efficiency

Because the engine is working harder, you are likely going to notice that the car is going through more fuel than normal.

Brake Problems

If the brakes require service, you might notice trouble stopping or start to hear noises when you depress the brake pedal.

Rough Shifting

When it is time to service the transmission, your car might experience rough shifts or slipping between gears.

How Often Does A Car Need A Tune Up?

While you want to reference your owner's manual to find the appropriate schedule for your car, here's an estimate of what some cars require.

  • Every 3,000-7,000 miles: Oil and filter should be replaced. All other fluids should be checked and topped off.
  • Every 15,000-30,000 miles: Replace the air filter. Test the battery and inspect other components for wear.
  • Every 35,000-50,000 miles: Replace the car battery. Change the spark plugs and wires, while also examining the rest of the ignition system.
  • Every 60,000 miles: Replace brake pads, coolant, timing belt, and any worn out hoses.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How much does it cost to replace spark plugs?

The average cost to change spark plugs is $300, but your price will depend on the make and model of your vehicle.

How can I make my car run better?

You can install an engine tuner and perform the regularly scheduled maintenance. It's also wise to add an oil additive if you want the motor to work efficiently.

Is a tune up necessary? What happens if you don't get a tune up?

If you neglect the recommended tune ups, you allow more wear on the vehicle's parts. This causes the engine and other major components to wear out, which can cause failure.

How long does a tune up take?

Most tune ups will take two to four hours, depending on what is done.

What is done in a 100k mile tune up?

For the inspection alone, expect to pay up to $200. Then, you need to factor in the cost of parts and labor, which depends on the make and model of your vehicle.

How can I make my high mileage car run like new?

You can easily extend the life of your high-mileage car by performing regular maintenance. You can also replace some suspension parts to increase the feel of the ride.


So, what is a tune up for your car? It is a service that involves keeping the vehicle running its best. Don't ignore this valuable service and follow the recommended guidelines from the automaker to ensure your car gives you many years of service.