The word car “tune-up” means different things to different auto repairers. It can mean just checking a few components, while to others, it means carrying out a thorough inspection and replacement service. This is why the cost of a car tune-up varies so much.
There are eight primary checks that a standard car tune-up service should include. Some, you may feel confident to do it yourself to keep the costs down.
1. CLEAN OR REPLACE FILTERS
Most tune-ups include a check, clean, or replacement of your filters. The two primary filters that keep your car running smoothly are the air and oil filter.
Filters prevent contaminants from reaching engine components and other systems. Clean filters improve engine performance and efficiency and give a smoother ride.
Dirty filters make it harder for your vehicle to get the fuel, oil, and air it needs. This can lead to poor performance and lower miles to the gallon.
Most tune-ups will replace your oil filter as standard, and they’ll also check and clean your air filter and replace it if it can’t be cleaned well enough.
2. CHECK AND REPLACE NEW HOSES AND BELTS
Even though cars are becoming more reliant on computers, they still need belts to turn pulleys and hoses to transport air and fluid through your vehicle.
A tune-up will inspect all your belts for two things. Firstly make sure that it’s not frayed or brittle. If a belt snaps, it can cause severe damage to expensive parts of your car engine.
Secondly, they’ll check the tension of the belts. If a belt is loose, it won’t turn the part it’s attached to effectively. There’s a chance it may fail while you are driving and leave you stranded.
Serpentine belts are cheap to replace but will be added to the tune-up cost if you need new ones.
The mechanic will also check hoses for signs of leaking and replace them if needed.
3. CHECK AND/OR REPLACE SPARK PLUGS
Dirty or damaged spark plugs can make your car run poorly and even prevent it from starting at all. They should be checked as part of a standard tune-up to ensure they’re not sooted or corroded.
Modern cars no longer require spark plugs to be changed at a specific mileage. They generally will work fine until 80,000 before you notice a problem.
4. CHECK THE FLUIDS IN YOUR CAR
During a tune-up, the mechanic will check oil, antifreeze, power steering, brake, and transmission fluids, which are essential to your car’s performance and longevity. Each fluid plays an integral part in keeping your vehicle on the road.
Generally, an oil change will be included in the cost of a tune-up.
Other top fluid top-ups will be added to the final cost.
Your mechanic should check the car manufacturer’s site to see if your car needs other fluids replaced. This is often dependent on the mileage your vehicle has done.
5. BLINKER AND LIGHTS CHECK
Although a blown blinker or light bulb won’t cause your car to break down, it can still be dangerous. A mechanic will quickly check to see if you need replacement bulbs and usually replace them if necessary.
This is very cheap in both parts and labor costs.
6. WINDSHIELD WIPER CHECK
Windshield wipers are made from rubber and have a short life span. Heating and freezing cycles throughout the seasons will make them crack and harden.
When this happens, they can leave smears on your windshield. This can cause oncoming cars’ headlights to blind you at night.
A replacement set of wipers cost around $20 and won’t be included as standard in a tune-up service.
7. BRAKE PADS AND ROTORS
Most mechanics will take the wheels off and check that the brake pads and rotors have plenty of life. It pays dividends to have this check, as if your brakes are close to needing to being replaced, you can save on the extra time needed to book your car in the future.
It will also save you from taking time out of another day.
Brake pads are cheap. Expect to pay $35 to $80 depending on what sort of brake pads you decide to have fitted.
8. CHECK TIRES
Your tires keep your car on the road and out of the bushes. All tune-ups will include a check of the tires. They’ll look for bulges in the tire wall and uneven tread and ensure the lug nuts are tightly on. If your tires are getting close to the 2/32 inch limit, it may be better to replace them now.
It’ll give you better stopping in the wet, and depending on how many miles you drive each month; you could be back with your car sooner than you think anyway.
Read our latest article: How Long Does A Car Shop Need Your Car For For A Tune-Up?
WHEN IS IT A GOOD IDEA TO GET A TUNE-UP?
If your car has done over 12,000 miles since its last check-up or noticed poor performance, it’s probably time to get it booked in. A tune-up can bring you great benefits.
Routine tune-ups are essential to maintain your engine’s longevity and performance.
They’ll also identify problems that can be rectified when convenient for you rather than when the car stops running.
WHAT IS THE COST OF A TUNE-UP?
A very basic tune-up will cost you between $50-$180, depending on your make of car and where you are located.
Your overall tune-up cost will vary depending on how much time it takes to get your vehicle fixed and the price of the parts needed to be replaced.
A tune-up at a regular shop is usually cheaper than going to a dealer. If your car is relatively new, make sure using a regular shop tune-up doesn’t affect your warranty.
You will pay more for a tune-up if your vehicle is older or classic. You may pay $400 to $1250 for a tune-up if your car has done more than 100,000 miles.
Before you take your car in for a tune-up, it is a smart idea to compare prices.
When you call a mechanic to get a quote, make sure you clarify exactly what you will be paying for.
Ask about discounts as some shops offer coupons, especially for new customers.
Are higher mileage cars worth buying? Discover the answer in our High Mileage Car Buying Guide