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Essential Car Tune-Up Checklist for Peak Performance

Mechanic checks off items on a car tune-up checklist - cheap car insurance

Most people who buy a vehicle want it to last a long time. Just like anything else, the more you take care of your vehicle, the longer it will last and the better it will run. Regular preventative maintenance, including oil changes and tune-ups, is necessary to keep your car in peak shape.

Just as purchasing the best and most affordable car insurance will keep you protected on the road, taking the proper steps to maintain your car is a good idea to protect it and help it to last longer. Read on for a car tune-up checklist.

Car Tune Up Basics

Except for older, more classic-type vehicles, tune-ups have changed over the years. Back in the day, a tune-up meant an overhaul of sorts to the car’s ignition system, including breaker points, condenser, distributor cap, rotor and spark plugs were all adjusted or replaced. The carburetor was tuned and ignition timing was set.

Modern cars come with computer-based systems designed to perform much of this work on a constant schedule. Engine timing, plugs and the lubing of joints, bearings and other parts of the suspension system are done by the manufacturer and sealed for life. If something goes wrong, you will most likely get a dashboard alert. Tune-ups today are more about simple, basic maintenance.

What Is a Tune Up?

What is a tune-up exactly and can you do it yourself? A tune-up typically includes an oil change (with an oil filter inspection), and a check on other components, such as spark plugs, belts, hoses and various fluids. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, make an appointment with your friendly mechanic.

How Much Should It Cost?

If you are car savvy, you can probably do most of it yourself. That’s helpful, since the national average for a tune-up can run anywhere between $40 and $150 for a regular tune-up and between $200 and $800 for a specialized checkup, depending on the extent of what’s replaced.

How Often Should You Do It?

Your owner’s manual comes with very specific intervals of when your car should have maintenance. Most routine service intervals are six months or 5,000 miles. Your warranty may depend on your vehicle receiving its scheduled service, so don’t disregard it.

If you bought your vehicle used and the owner’s manual is nowhere in sight, you can probably find it online.

What Are Signs You Need It?

If you aren’t performing service based on your manufacturer’s schedule, there are certain signs you may notice. In a worst case scenario, the dreaded check engine light may illuminate your dash. Other signs to watch for include:

  • Knocking noises
  • Poor engine performance, such as slow starts
  • Stalls
  • Less than normal fuel economy and mileage
  • Smoke coming from the tailpipe

All of these signs may be your vehicle trying to signal you there is a problem and it is time for a checkup.

What Happens If I Don’t Regularly Tune-Up My Car?

For one thing, if your car is new and under warranty, you may void that warranty if you cannot prove you have followed the recommendations with a documented maintenance history.  Routine service intervals are based on the industry standard warranty of 3-year/36,000-mile, although you may find them as high as a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty.

Aside from voiding your warranty, however, is the possibly even worse outcome of suddenly being reduced to walking or taking public transportation, since a vehicle that is not taken care of will eventually quit running or develop major issues. This can happen whether you drive new or older cars.

Essential Car Tune Up Checklist

Most service and maintenance checks include a standard list of vehicle components. You should probably get an oil change every 3,000 to 7,500 miles, depending on your manufacturer’s recommendation and the type of oil you use, but other mechanisms need servicing, too, just not as often.

Engine Oil and Filter

Depending on the environmental conditions where you operate your vehicle, choosing a good synthetic motor oil may last up to 10,000 miles between changes. The oil filter should be checked and replaced, if necessary, when the oil is changed.

Air Filter and Other Filters

All filters have important parts to play in keeping dust and debris out of sensitive engines and systems. Air filters keep the engine dust free, while fuel filters help maintain a smooth flow of fuel.

Engine Belts and Hoses

You’ll find belts and hoses throughout your vehicle’s systems. Since they are in constant use, they will eventually wear out somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 miles. Checking them on a regular basis will help you avoid costly repairs down the road.

Places where belts and hoses play a part include your air-conditioning system, water pump, alternator, power steering in some older vehicles, and in the timing system, which drive your oil and water pumps.

Man under his car performing a DIY car tune-up - cheap car insurance

Brake System

Most manufacturers want an annual inspection. And, lets’ face it: your brakes have a pretty important job! Most of the service for this important component involves checking for leaks, wear and damaged parts, including brake fluid, brake pads, calipers, drums, and rotors.

Cooling System

You’ve seen the images – an unfortunate person standing next to a car on a lonely stretch, hood up and steam pouring out. That’s kind of what it looks like when you don’t take care of the cooling system on a vehicle. When you have your cooling system serviced, technicians will examine the radiator cap, top off the coolant, possibly flush the system, and inspect and repair or replace the components of the system, including the water pump, the radiator, the thermostat and fan.

Spark Plugs

Conventional spark plugs are sparky until about 30,000 to 40,000 miles. These components are responsible for igniting the fuel mixture in the engine, which is what makes your car go. When the time comes, replacing them, as well as the oxygen sensor, spark plug wires, PCV valve and fuel filter is important to keep your car running.

Windshield Wiper

In states that still require an inspection, your car may get a failing grade if your windshield wipers are not up to snuff. But that’s not the worst: imagine having a truck pass you and kick up a bunch of muddy water on your windshield. You’ll be effectively driving blind if the wiper blades aren’t in good shape. When you get an oil change is a great time to change these out.

Additional Items to Watch Out for on Your Car’s Maintenance

Now, whether you refer to your car as “Baby” or “Lovebug” or “Pebble” or nothing at all, it’s still an investment. Your trusty steed needs to be dependable so you can rely on it to get you where you need to go while having a long life. And just like any other investment you depend on, it only makes sense to take care of it.

Before we leave you, there are a few other systems to put on your checklist for your regular maintenance schedule.

  • Tire Balancing and Rotation: Like the brakes,your tires are an important safety feature. They need to be in good shape to handle all the rigors of the road. Have them rotated every 5,000 to 7,500 miles and make sure to replace them when the tread depth shows signs of excessive wear. Check your tire pressure on a regular basis.
  • Exhaust System: Exhaust systems normally last anywhere from two to three years, but they should be inspected on a regular basis. Look for any signs of rust or loud or smoky emissions.
  • Transmission Fluid: Your regular service check should be looking at your transmission fluid, but it needs to be replaced every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. Today’s automatic transmissions can last up to 100,000 miles before needing a change.
  • Steering and Suspension System: Your regular service shop is most likely checking these important components during routine intervals, but if not, they should be inspected at 50,000 miles.
  • Fuel System: Your fuel system needs a good cleaning at least one a year. Keeping those lines clean can add years to your engine life, not to mention improving your gas mileage.

Keeping Your Car Protected with Regular Maintenance and Affordable Insurance

Your friends at Freeway Insurance have some great ideas on how you can stay protected on the road in your well-maintained car while spending less money on your auto insurance. Give us a call at (800) 777-5620, get a fast and free online car insurance quote or stop in one of our convenient locations.

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