What's Involved In A Vehicle Tuneup?

Dustin Hawley | Sep 07, 2022

A vehicle tuneup involves replacing an internal combustion engine's old or worn-out components with new ones to improve its performance and efficiency. Per the manufacturer’s recommendations, your vehicle needs regular tuneups to run smoothly.

In this article, we break down what a vehicle tuneup involves.

what is involved in a vehicle tuneup

Inspecting the Spark Plugs and Ignition Wires

Your vehicle’s ignition wires transfer electric current from the ignition coil to the spark plug, where it meets an air and fuel mixture, causing combustion. Inspecting your car’s spark plugs and ignition wires is vital to prevent unforeseen damage. 

Let's look at the signs of faulty spark plugs and wires.

Signs of a Faulty Spark Plug and Ignition Wires

When the electrode (metal tip) is in good working condition, it has grey or brownish-tan deposits. The plugs begin to show the following signs after prolonged exposure to high temperatures:

  • Engine misfires
  • Rough idling and acceleration
  • Lack of power
  • Increased fuel consumption

If your car’s spark plugs show the above signs, change them immediately. Here are easy-to-follow steps to guide you:

  • Disconnect the wires from the spark plugs.
  • Unfasten and remove the spark plugs
  • Clean the area around the threads of the cylinder head carefully not to damage them.
  • Inspect the electrode at the end of the spark plug for wear and damage. The gap should be between .035 and .055 inches. 
  • Gap the new spark plug using a feeler gauge or wire if necessary.
  • Install the new spark plug and fasten it using your hands until tight, then tighten another 1/8th turn using a spark plug wrench.

To avoid a rough engine run caused by cross-wired ignition, move each ignition wire from the old cap to the new one—one at a time—when replacing ignition wires. Also, secure your wires by routing them away from exhaust components.

Replace the Air Filter

The air filter is one of your car's most important maintenance items. Most manufacturers recommend that you change it every 15,000 miles. 

A dirty air filter can lead to:

  • Increased gas consumption and poor acceleration
  • Engine overheating due to insufficient airflow through the radiator
  • A shorter engine lifespan

For efficient engine performance, replace your air filter regularly. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Locate the air filter housing unit. The unit is usually a black plastic box with a metal lid near the firewall or front bumper on most cars, trucks, and SUVs.
  • Remove the housing unit lid by loosening the screws or clips holding it shut.
  • The air filter should be visible once you open the lid. Remove it by gently pulling it out of its housing unit. If necessary, consult the manufacturer’s manual for more detailed instructions on removing your particular model's air filter.
  • Compare your old air filter with the new one to ensure they are identical in size, shape, and configuration before removing it from its packaging.
  • Place the new air filter into the housing unit, ensuring it fits snugly but not too tightly.

Ensure the Belts and Hoses Are in Good Condition

Your vehicle’s belts and hoses transfer power from the engine to the transmission unit. Like any other component, they will deteriorate over time. That’s why you need to check them for damage routinely.

Depending on your vehicle’s model, there may be several belts and hoses under the hood. While it may seem like a daunting task, inspecting these components isn't as difficult as you might think.

Here's what to do:

  • Visually inspect them. Look for cracks around the hoses' bulges and bends, fraying, or other signs of wear.
  • Turn on your engine and listen for strange noises. A squeaking sound is an indication that a belt is loose and needs to be tightened.
  • Feel the belts while the engine is running. Belts should feel smooth and tight when the engine is running. If you feel bumps or unevenness in the belt as it rotates, there may be a problem with its alignment.
  • Check for oil or grease in the pulleys of your car's belt system. Oil and grease can weaken belts and hoses, causing them to fall off their pulleys during use. 

Feed Your Car With the Right Fluids

Get the proper fluids in your car to keep it running smoothly. These fluids perform different functions, and you need to change them regularly.

Here's a look at a few of the essential ones:

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid helps brake parts work together more efficiently by reducing friction and corrosion. If you notice that your brakes are sluggish or squealing, it might be time to change your brake fluid.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is a special oil that keeps the transmission cool and running smoothly. It also acts as a clutch to help change gears in automatic vehicles. Check it regularly with a dipstick while the engine is running and top it up as needed with automatic transmission fluid (ATF). 

Manual transmissions use gear oil instead of ATF. Gear oil’s viscosity rating differs from ATF’s, so don’t use the former in an automatic transmission mechanism.

Engine Coolant

Engine coolant prevents your engine from overheating and freezing. The intervals for replacing this fluid vary based on the type of coolant used in your car's cooling system (check the manufacturer’s manual).

Motor Oil

Motor oil lubricates the engine’s moving parts to prevent overheating. Replace it after every 3,000 miles or so (check the manufacturer’s manual) and be sure to check it regularly with a dipstick while the engine is cold. 

The right motor oil for your vehicle depends on its model and the climate, but in general, you want something with a high viscosity rating that won't thin out too much during hot weather. Synthetic oil is the best option if you drive long distances frequently or have an old car.


Hopefully, this breakdown has given you an idea of what a vehicle tuneup is all about. Keep it here for helpful guides and information!

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