Keep Your Car Prepared

Auto Tune Up Vs. Maintenance Check: Past And Present

Once used as a very specific term, car tune ups are now used to reference any regular maintenance needed by the car to keep up its performance. Below is a short history of the original meaning of "tune up," as well as the modern-day equivalent.

What a Tune Up Meant in the Past

Before ignition and other major car processes were automated by a computer chip, cars would literally become "out of tune," meaning the time it took for the ignition to spark would become longer over time as the ignition's contact points became worn down.

In the historical sense then, a tune up was a way to get your vehicle back into tune – there were many parts involved in the ignition of a vehicle, so it was easy for the process to become out of whack and need an annual (or more) tune up to restore the vehicle to proper working order.

Modern Day Tune Ups

While in the past you could certainly drive into any auto shop and ask for a tune up and be perfectly understood, the term is used much more loosely – and sometimes incorrectly – today.

The term "tune up" is often used interchangeably with maintenance check, but there are many differences between the two which can cause some confusion between drivers and mechanics. Today, the term tune up still refers to the ignition and fuel systems, but because those systems are now automated and dictated by a computer chip, not much actual tuning takes place. The most a tune up check will involve today is replacement of the spark plugs, fuel filter, or other related ignition and fuel accessories.

So, Do You Need a Tune Up or a Maintenance Check?

Many drivers bring their vehicles in for a tune up when their engine begins to act oddly, such as difficulty starting up, knocking while idling, or frequent stalling. While the modern equivalent of a tune up might be done, a maintenance check will probably be performed as well to ensure everything else is running smoothly.

A maintenance check will usually involve tire air pressure checks and rotations, drainage and replacement of old fluids (transmission, antifreeze, engine oil, etc.), brake checks, and an overall safety check. If your car isn't running how it should, a simple maintenance check may be all that's required to get it back into shape without requiring the replacement of spark plugs or fuel filters.

To learn more about your car's maintenance needs, consult with your auto mechanic at a place like Big Mechanic for a basic rundown of maintenance requirements.