When was the last time you had your car tuned up? If it’s been a little while now, you should think about changing that immediately. Generally speaking, you’re supposed to have older cars tuned about once every 10,000 to 12,000 miles and newer cars tuned up every 25,000 miles or so. Before you schedule a tune-up, though, you should learn the answer to the question, “How much is a tune-up?”
This question can be a little bit difficult to answer. That’s because all tune-ups are slightly different. If you’re having a newer car tuned up, it might not need to have very much done to it. But if you’re having an older car tuned up, that could potentially be a much different story, as it could need to have a whole host of things done to it. Either way, it’s going to have an impact on the price that you’ll pay for a tune-up.
Continue reading to learn more about what a tune-up is, what signs will let you know that you need to have one done, and how you can answer the question, “How much is a tune-up?”
What Is a Tune-Up?
Ideally, you should not be asking this question right now! If you don’t know what a tune-up is, that means that you probably haven’t ever done one on your car. And your car could very well be worse for wear because of it.
But just in case you’re not up on what a tune-up is for one reason or another, let’s start there. A tune-up is a series of preventative maintenance steps that are taken to stop certain parts in a car from breaking down on you. Your average tune-up is going to involve a mechanic working on everything from your spark plugs to your fuel filter.
You should think of a tune-up for your car almost like you would think of a physical examination for yourself. A tune-up is designed to help you be proactive when it comes to spotting any potential problems with your car and fixing them before they turn into real issues. Performing tune-ups is very important and could extend the lifespan of your car by leaps and bounds.
What Are the Signs That You Need a Tune-Up?
In a perfect world, you shouldn’t wait to see the signs that show that you need to have a tune-up done to schedule one. Instead, you should get yourself into the habit of reading through the owner’s manual for your car and seeing when you need to tune-up different parts of your car.
For instance, there are some tune-ups, like air filter changes and wheel alignments, that you should do every 10,000 miles or so. There are other tune-ups, like power steering flushes and oxygen sensor replacements, that you should do every 100,000 miles.
But there will also be some signs that may indicate that you need to arrange to have a tune-up done on your car sooner than what your owner’s manual says. Here are some of the signs that you show you need to ask yourself, “How much is a tune-up?”, and then schedule one.
1. Your Check Engine Light Is On
As long as you do tune-ups on a pretty regular basis, you should decrease the chances of your car’s check engine light coming on. But even if you do tune your car up early and often, you might still be left with a check engine light that turns on and stays on. It’ll be reason enough to ask yourself, “How much is a tune-up?”
You shouldn’t ever ignore your car’s check engine light if you see it light up on your dashboard. It could indicate a very minor problem under your hood, but it could also be a sign of something more serious that’s going on. A mechanic will be able to pull the codes from your car’s computer to let you know. They’ll also be able to tell you whether or not a tune-up might be enough to get it to turn off.
2. Your Engine’s Performance Has Decreased
Does it feel like your car’s engine is struggling to keep up with your demands as of late? This is going to be yet another sign that you might need to have a tune-up done. It’s going to be able to bring your engine’s performance back into the normal range.
It’s going to be especially challenging answering the question, “How much is a tune-up?”, when you’re experiencing some kind of engine troubles. There could be any number of things wrong with your engine or the parts surrounding it that are leading to a lack of performance.
You shouldn’t hesitate to get a mechanic on the job! They can check out your engine to see what the problem seems to be and tell you what parts may need to be tuned up to remedy the situation.
3. Your Engine Is Running Rough or Stalling Out Altogether
Is your engine running rough when you idle almost all the time? Or worse, is it starting to stall out on you at the worst possible times? These are some of the other signs that you might need to have a tune-up done. You could be experiencing issues with your spark plugs or some other components that are causing fits for you and your car.
Once an engine starts running rough or stalling out, the problem is only going to get worse and worse from there on out. It’ll only be a matter of time before your engine is stalling out on you every day and putting you into some precarious positions. You’ll need to call a local mechanic and ask, “How much is a tune-up?”, right away!
4. You’re Not Getting Good Fuel Economy
Does it feel like you’re filling up your gas tank a whole lot more often than you used to? You might not just be imagining things! Your car could actually be burning through more fuel than it used to because you haven’t tuned it up enough.
There are all kinds of problems that can cause your car to burn through more fuel than it should. But something as simple as a bad sensor in your car could be behind your car’s sudden dip in the fuel economy department. You could bring your car back up to speed and cut your fuel costs dramatically by finding out the answer to the question, “How much is a tune-up?”, and have a tune-up done.
5. Your Car Isn’t Braking or Turning Like It Should
Most people don’t associate tune-ups with brake and alignments jobs. But technically, these kinds of jobs would fall into the tune-up category. You can be proactive with your car’s braking system and alignment and avoid problems with both of them in the process.
If you notice that your car doesn’t always brake like it should or if you’re having trouble taking control of your car while turning it, a tune-up should probably be in your near future. Don’t be afraid to call on your local auto repair shop to ask, “How much is a tune-up?”
What Is Done During a Tune-Up?
Now that you know all the signs that’ll show that you need a tune-up, you might be wondering what exactly is going to be done during a tune-up when you schedule one. The answer is that, well, it all depends! There are any number of things that might be done to your car when a mechanic tunes it up.
A mechanic will usually go over your car with a fine-toothed comb to see what aspects of it need to be tuned up. They’ll perform a tune-up based on the information you provide for them, what they find when checking out your car, and how many miles are on your car. Here are some of the things that they might then do during a tune-up.
1. Replacing Spark Plugs
The spark plugs in your car play an integral role in the operation of your engine. They’re in charge of igniting the air-fuel mixture that is sent to your engine so that combustion can occur. The good news is that most spark plugs will last for 50,000 miles or more, but after that, they’ll begin to give out on you.
During a tune-up, a mechanic might be able to breathe some new life into spark plugs by cleaning them for you. But if they’re on the older side, they may also recommend replacing them altogether with brand-new spark plugs. The approach that they take will affect the answer to the question, “How much is a tune-up?”
2. Replacing Spark Plug Wires
Outside of inspecting your spark plugs for any signs that show they need to be replaced, a mechanic will also take a peek at your spark plug wires. These wires are responsible for connecting your spark plugs to your car’s electrical system and creating the necessary spark. They should usually last slightly longer than spark plugs by sticking around for 60,000 miles, but they will also eventually need to be replaced.
While a mechanic is doing a tune-up and checking out your spark plugs, they’ll also see whether or not your spark plug wires are working in the way they should. If they’re not, they’ll often recommend that you have them replaced. It’ll affect the answer to the question, “How much is a tune-up?”
3. Replacing Fuel Filter
There is a fuel filter in your car that sits in between your gas tank and your engine. Its job is to filter out any debris that might land in your fuel so that it doesn’t make its way to your engine. It can, however, get clogged up over time and stop filtering your fuel like it should. This can lead to poor engine performance.
Your mechanic should give your fuel filter a once-over while doing a tune-up on your car and tell you if it’s causing any complications with your engine. If it is, they’ll then replace it as part of your tune-up. It’s not a terribly expensive part to replace, but it is going to change the answer to the question, “How much is a tune-up?”
4. Replacing Air Filters
If you have a car that’s not too terribly old, it likely has two air filters in it. There is one positioned in the engine compartment and another that is situated a little bit closer to the cabin. They’re both responsible for filtering the air that comes into your car.
A decent air filter should last you somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 miles or so. After that, it’s going to stop filtering the air coming into your car like it’s supposed to, which can result in debris getting into both your engine and your cabin.
When you’re having a tune-up done on your car, your mechanic is definitely going to see what kind of condition your air filter is in. If it’s old or just dirty, they’ll usually recommend that you replace it. It’s not a very expensive part, but it is one that should be replaced to prevent problems down the line.
5. Replacing PCV Valve
You might not be super familiar with what a positive crankcase ventilation valve, better known as a PCV valve, is. But it has an important job within your engine. It’s designed to relieve the pressure that can sometimes build up in your engine when gases get into your crankcase.
Your PCV valve should be replaced about once every 30,000 miles or every year or two. It’ll often be replaced during a tune-up, which is another reason why having regular tune-ups is so essential. You might not spend much time thinking about your PCV valve under normal circumstances, but since it’s so important, you’ll want to pay the price to have it replaced when necessary.
How Much Is a Tune-Up?
As you’ve seen here, there are so many things that a mechanic might have to do during a tune-up. The answer to the question, “How much is a tune-up?”, is going to change based on how many of these things they have to do.
With that being said, the average tune-up comes in at right around $250 or so. At that price point, you should be able to get your spark plugs replaced, put new air filters into place, and do a few of the other things that we’ve talked about.
But you might have to plan to pay a little more—or in some cases, a lot more—than that depending on the situation. If a tune-up uncovers problems with your brakes, your alignment, or something like an oxygen sensor, the price of it could go up. Your mechanic should be able to give you a much better idea of what a tune-up will cost you after checking out your car.