Don't Tell the Mechanic Your Car Needs a Tune-Up, Shop Owner Says

Mechanic Working on a V6-powered Car 6 photos
Photo: DokaRyan on Pixabay / autoevolution edit
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Traditionally, asking for a tune-up meant you wanted some critical car parts replaced and recalibrating some systems. Back in the day, such an operation included changing parts that today do not require to be renewed as often. However, the term stuck, and people still ask mechanics to perform it. An experienced repair specialist who is also a shop owner says drivers should renounce the habit of asking for a tune-up. It might save them a lot of money.
If you are part of Generation Z, it's unlikely that a tune-up has any meaning to you. Older car owners used to ask for such a service operation to ensure their vehicles would still run like day one.
But that didn't mean the routine maintenance that we know today. It wasn't about changing oil and filters, looking at the brake system, verifying the tire tread depth, and doing a fluid check. It also has nothing to do with tuning or increasing the powertrain output, as some may believe.

A tune-up used to mean an in-depth verification of the mechanical beating heart, its internals, and accessories. If the mechanic noticed something was off and couldn't be repaired, they would have told the customer to pay for their replacement. That included spark plugs, distributor caps, condensers, contact breakers, rotors, points, and many others.

At the same time, this intricate procedure meant the carburetor had to be carefully adjusted to perform optimally. That's how the term "tune" got involved with this "health" check for cars of the pre-1980 era. It was quite a meticulous procedure.

Nowadays, computers ensure ignition and fueling systems always work right. Cars just need some of their parts replaced from time to time. Repairs are rarer and rarer. Automobiles resemble smartphone technology too much for some us. That's not a sustainable practice.

But if the term "tune-up" got passed down to you or if it's something that you still use when visiting the shop… Don't. It's not us saying it, but a well-known mechanic who turned to YouTube to share some of his knowledge with gearheads and curious car owners.

Mechanic Doing Work
Photo: suvajit on Pixabay
He argues that an honest technician will tell anyone asking for such an operation that there is no "such thing as a tune-up in modern" vehicles. At the same, the man is aware that some shops may prey on unsuspecting customers and charge them for things they wouldn't have needed in the first place.

Known for his impressive expertise about Toyota and Lexus vehicles, the Car Care Nut thinks asking for a tune-up is like inviting that mechanic or sales advisor to upsell you whatever they might want or believe you would accept without asking questions.

The shop owner advises car owners to do proper research before going to a service center for possible repairs. Given that we live in a very connected world, it's also a good idea to ask online about what you want to do. Someone surely must have gone through a similar experience at one point. In most cases, a Google search might suffice to find a suitable platform.

Having even the slightest knowledge about your vehicle could go a long way when a person might try to charge more than necessary. You could figure their playbook out immediately.

This type of information is available in the owner's manual. If a hard copy isn't available, online forums and the manufacturer's website are good places to start the research. If you can't find any of the needed documents, it's always good to ask about them at the local dealership or contact the OEM directly via email or social media. There's not one document that has not been digitized when it comes to manuals of the vehicles made after the year 2000.

Lastly, learning more about some of your car's parts' longevity would also be a good idea. Preventive maintenance could go a long way in saving money at the shop. Similarly, there's no shame in asking about advice.

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About the author: Florin Amariei
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Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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