How much does a car tune-up cost: what does it do?

After the dentist, a car mechanic might be the most dreaded person to visit. The fear of a dental cleanup may reduce over time. But if you own a vehicle, you’ll try everything you might to avoid the car mechanic. What about visiting a mechanic makes a grown man tremble with fear?

Some argue it’s the passage of time that feels infinite. It’s like all the clocks decided to shut down, and you lose all sense of space and time. While others argue it does not know what’s wrong with your vehicle. And even after the mechanic explains the problem for the tenth time, it remains a blur. 

Both of the reasons make plenty of sense. However, we think there’s a bigger factor at play. We want to present our top contender for the argument – the repair cost. For most of us, money tends to be a sensitive topic. And a visit to the mechanic adds to the growing stress of sticking to the budget. 

You may go into the repair shop for a tire change, but the mechanic might suggest a car tune-up instead. At the expense of not sounding dumb, you immediately agree. But multiple questions circle your head. For instance, what exactly is a car tune-up? What services does it include? Is it necessary? And most importantly, how much is it going to cost?

Before your head spins with worry, we’ve gathered the answers to all these questions. The next time you visit a mechanic, you will know immediately if you’re being overcharged. Keep reading to cut down on unnecessary repair costs.  

What is a tune-up?

Before we can determine the charges for the car repair service, it’s important to understand what a tune-up is. It’s a vague term often thrown around to mean different things. It might mean changing the car fluids and the spark plugs for a certain mechanic. While for another, it might include a visual inspection only.  

A tune-up is a set of services typically carried out yearly to ensure reliable performance. Essentially, it’s an annual ritual conducted to determine any flaws that might later compromise the vehicle’s health. 

Certain manufacturers provide an expansive list of maintenance services required for continual performance. But your mechanic can better guide you in this regard. A tune-up might not always translate to a hefty bill, but it’s a requirement you shouldn’t take lightly. A regular tune-up prevents any immediate breakdowns and maintains resale value

What are the signs that I need a tune-up for my car?

Unlike a birthday, it isn’t a ritual that’s religiously followed yearly. If your car is in good shape, you can skip a year. But if your car is overused, you might have to get it tuned twice a year. The duration between two tune-ups is a mere suggestion you can take with a pinch of salt.   

However, there are certain signs that you can’t miss. Such as:

Terrible fuel mileage

Investing in a good vehicle isn’t all there is to owning one. You have to spend resources on its maintenance and care. Otherwise, it will no longer provide the value it once did. Your fuel economy is the first to take a hit when your car remains unattended for too long. 

Without regular repairs, the engine tends to overwork. Not only does that reduce the useful life of an engine, but it also increases the requirement for fuel per km. The fuel efficiency drops significantly, and your mistake costs a lot more.    

Unusual sounds and vibrations

As soon as your car starts making unusual noises or moving peculiarly, you know something is wrong. Most of us ignore the sounds and the movements until the problem is too noticeable. But you may be surprised that fixing your car in the earlier stages significantly reduces the bill. Additionally, there’s a lower risk of permanent damage. 

So don’t wait for your car’s dying breath to get it fixed. Please take it to a mechanic sooner.   

Grinding brakes

Whether you’re racing your car at 180 mph or slugging at 40 mph, you eventually need to come to a stop. And there’s nothing worse than when your car refuses to listen to you. It’s no secret that brakes form an integral part of a vehicle. But you should know that any malfunction in this department could cost you your life. 

Avoid taking any risks when the braking system is concerned. As soon as you sense a slight pushback, park your car to the side and contact a mechanic right away. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  

Skids to a side

Vehicles are a tricky invention. They might have significantly improved the quality of transport, but there’s always a concern for personal safety. Your car must stay on track if you’re driving on a busy road. However, that’s not always the case. 

Inconsistent tire pressure, faulty suspension components, or a loose steering wheel can result in a misaligned vehicle. As a result, your car might pull to one side even when you’re driving straight. Not only is it distracting for the driver, but also life-threatening for the vehicles on the road. 

The dashboard light is on.

If you’re a new car owner, you’re probably quick to notice changes on the dashboard. But if you’ve been using the same car for a while, you grow unfazed. Your engine light might have been on for days. But as long as you get to work on time, it isn’t a bother. 

However, you’ve to remember that the dashboard lights only switch when there’s a serious concern. Therefore, it’s recommended to get the car looked at immediately. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic at the first instance.      

What is included in a tune-up?

You can think of a tune-up as a seasonal fruit mix. Each time you make it, there’s a new blend on the table. However, certain fruits will always find their way to your plate. Similarly, certain services are central to a tune-up. In comparison, others may be judged important or irrelevant by your mechanic.

But to give you a general idea, here are all the services that typically form part of a tune-up:

Changing engine oil

A car tune-up remains incomplete without an engine oil change; it’s central to the practice. A vehicle requires an engine oil change every 3,000 to 10,000 miles. Depending on the quality of the oil, you may drag it out for as long as a year. 

Another way to reduce oil change costs is by learning to do it yourself. Compared to professional servicing, you’ll save about $40 this way.   

Replacing spark plug

Even with a tank full of gas, you might find yourself abandoned on the side of a road. While fuel is essential for moving your car, a spark plug is just as important. The plug might weigh 50 grams, but it ignites the spark that kickstarts the engine. 

With time, the plug deteriorates and requires a replacement. Every 30,000 to 100,000 miles, you’re in for an average expense of $150.   

Changing fuel filters

No matter how much you pay for gas, it’s never free of dirt and debris. Certain contaminants are central to the fuel. So you have no choice but to work alongside. However, by installing a fuel filter, you ensure only the clean supply reaches the engine. 

Therefore, you’re required to replace the filters every 20,000 to 30,000 miles. Failing to take action right away adds stress to your engine to overwork. Ultimately, the engine adds stress to your wallet by demanding more fuel. But if you get it replaced in time, your engine health isn’t compromised. And if you learn to do it yourself, it will only cost you about $25. 

Replacing air filters

Similar to the fuel, the air breathed in by the engine is just as impure. As ironic as it may be, an engine doesn’t welcome unpolluted air. Therefore, ensuring clean engine air filters are installed every 15,000 to 30,000 miles guarantees a smooth ride. While you’re at it, replace the cabin air filters as well.  

Replacing oxygen sensor

Bosch oxygen sensor

There are complex mechanisms involved in the operations of your car. Multiple processes are carried out from the ignition unit to the braking system. Similarly, the air-fuel mixture is another complex equation your vehicle must deal with. An oxygen sensor measures the levels in the air-fuel mix. It reports the information to the ECU, determining whether any value needs to be tweaked.  

oxygen sensor for toyota

A faulty oxygen sensor compromises the engine’s timings and combustion intervals. As a result, your car may not accelerate as effectively. To ensure your vehicle remains unaffected by any such damage, replace the detector every 60,000 to 90,000 miles for not a penny more than $125. 

Flushing the cooling system

With the fuel running amok and the engine working overtime, your vehicle is bound to heat up. Therefore, the cooling system is tasked with the important job of keeping the temperature under control. It passes the coolant through the cylinder head and valve so the excess heat can be carried away. 

Every 30,000 miles, you must complete the system flush to replace the contaminated coolant. Depending on the coolant and your vehicle, it may cost anywhere from $50 to $250.  

Installing a new brake pad

You push the brake pads every time you need your vehicle to come to a halt. With use, the braking system wears out and doesn’t work either. The key players include the brake pads and the rotors. 

Before they stop functioning altogether, you should get them replaced. Once you’ve driven about 20,000 miles, you should seek a brake pad replacement. And once you’re near the 50,000 to 70,000-mile mark, you need to check in for a rotor replacement. Collectively, the replacement will cost you about $500. 

But the longer you delay it, the higher the bills stack.  

Flushing the power steering

It might seem like magic that the wheels swayed right and left with a slight twist of your hand. However, it’s the work of the power steering fluid that creates the link between the two. So if the fluid is contaminated, you might struggle to turn your car

Therefore, changing the fluid every 50,000 to 75,000 miles is recommended. Get it done on time, and it won’t cost you more than $150.  

Flushing transmission fluid

The transmission fluid ensures you have a safe ride back home. It lubricates the moving bits and provides friction to make it all work together. The vehicle’s motion may be seriously affected if the fluid is contaminated. So before the vehicle’s performance is threatened, replace it with a fresher batch. 

It will cost you anywhere from $150 to $300, but you’re only required to change it every 30,000 miles. 

Replacing the PCV valve

Air pressure plays a significant role in the vehicle’s performance. You need to ensure that the pressure in the combustion system is at the right level. The PCV valve takes care of any excess emissions during combustion. 

If this component falters, the entire combustion system falls apart. So, replace it every 30,000 at only $10 to $20.     

How much does a tune-up cost?

By now, you’ve probably read through the different services a tune-up offers. The cost may be highly affordable or completely out of your budget, depending on when you last got your car services. 

Either way, the cost of a tune-up ultimately depends on the miles your vehicle has driven. If your car is fresh out of the box, it may cost you as little as $40. But if you’ve spent an entire lifetime with your vehicle, the charges might drive closer to $1000.  

How often should you tune up your car: Pricing and Schedule

Every 3,000 to 10,000 Miles

ServicePriceSuggested Interval
Air Filter Change$20Every 10,000 miles
Cabin Air Filter Change$25Every 10,000 miles
Oil and Oil Filter Change$30 – $70Every 3,000 miles
Tire Balance and Rotation$25-75Every 7,500 miles
Wheel Alignment$75 – $150Every 10,000 miles

Every 10,000 to 50,000 Miles

ServicePriceSuggested Interval
Distributor Cap Replacement$50 – $150Every 50,000 miles
Fuel Filter Replacement$50 – $10030,000 – 50,000 or 2 years
PCV Valve Replacement$25 – $75Every 30,000 miles or after 1 year
Rotor Replacement$300 – $400Every 50,000 miles
Spark Plug Replacement$100 – $200Every 50,000 -100,000 miles
Transmission Flush$150 – $300Every 50,000 miles or after 2 years

Every 50,000 to 100,000 Miles

ServicePriceSuggested Interval
Mass Air Flow Sensor Replacement$150 – $250Every 100,000 miles
New Spark Plug Wires$150 – $250Every 60,000 miles
Oxygen and Air Sensor Replacement$100 – $300Every 100,000 miles
Power Steering Fluid Flush$50 – $100Every 100,000 miles
Timing Belt Replacement$150 – $1000Every 100,000 miles

How long does a tune-up take?

When you seek a professional’s help, you pay for their skill and expertise. It takes years of practice before a person qualifies as an expert. But once you’ve gained that title, you continue to prove yourself. A tune-up isn’t a job for a rookie. Mostly, it’s performed by or under the supervision of experienced mechanics. Therefore, it doesn’t take as long as you might’ve thought to get the job done.

A tune-up for a standard vehicle is completed in about 2 to 4 hours. Depending on the services you’ve availed, you’ll fall closer to either end of the time spectrum. And if you have an automatic car with a modern system, it will take even less time.          

Does it improve the performance of my car?

The intent behind signing up for a tune-up is to maintain the car’s performance as if you purchased it yesterday. The plethora of services doesn’t amp up your vehicle beyond its capacity. Instead, it ensures the car’s performance remains on par with its intended useful life. 

While a tune-up may seem complete, it can’t replace other routine checkups. Consider a tune-up as an additional service to ensure your vehicle’s good health.    

check engine light

What are the benefits of regular tune-ups?

The wear and tear that comes with time can’t be challenged. It’s inevitable. However, you can plan accordingly. A tune-up essentially takes care of the damage over time and with use. 

All systems malfunctioning due to being worn out seem to breathe a new life. From the spark plug to the rotors, the vehicle starts afresh. Similarly, fuel efficiency significantly improves. Since the engine and other components no longer run tirelessly, the fuel is better rationed. 

Ultimately, any problem your vehicle developed over time will reduce to a manageable extent.     

Who does tune-ups on cars?

While cars have been remarkable inventions, they have only improved with time. Until a few decades ago, experts who understood every aspect of the vehicle required a tune-up more frequently. 

However, tune-up became rather simple as vehicles adopted more modern systems. The present-day car can be tuned up by any mechanic that has a basic understanding of the model. It’s gotten so much easier that you can even tune up your car and save the cost entirely.    

Can I do my own tune-up?

A car tune-up may be something other than rocket science. But it’s no elementary math, either. There are certain services that you can effortlessly perform. Such as, an oil change or a filter change are no big deal. Even if you’re a beginner, you’ll be able to complete them. 

However, there are a few services that only a professional can perform. For instance, you must entrust the mechanic to conduct a cooling system flush or install brake pads. 

Before you take up a task, it’s recommended to go through the owner’s manual. If the instructions seem doable, you can go ahead and give it a try. But even if there’s a shred of doubt, it’s better to call a professional.   

If you’re still confused about whether you can tune up your car, watch the video below to get a better idea:

What parts do I need for a tune-up?

Before you hand over your vehicle to the mechanic for a tune-up, it’s wise to prepare a car tune-up checklist. Unless you’re taking the vehicle to a well-established repair shop, the chances are you’ll have to purchase your parts. 

Considering all the services typically included in a full tune-up package, here are all the parts you may require:

Spark plugs and spark plug wires

Every time you fire up your car, an ignition kick is needed. Purchasing a spark pug and a wire ensures the kick is always strong enough to start your vehicle.

Engine air filter and cabin air filter

Just as you have taken measures to not pollute the air with smoke released from your vehicle’s exhaust pipe, you must ensure your engine remains safe from pollution. 

Fuel filter

Since you’re already paying big bucks for a fuel refill, you might as well spend some money on a fuel filter. It ensures a quality product is delivered to the engine, improving fuel efficiency. 

Oil filter

To ensure your engine’s oil remains free of contaminants and performs efficiently, purchase a high-quality oil filter. 

Oxygen sensor

If the data isn’t monitored accurately, the vehicle won’t be able to perform effectively. Therefore, your oxygen sensor must always be up to the mark. 

PCV valve

Maintaining normal pressure is a lot harder than it seems. But a PCV valve performs this job effortlessly. However, you might face serious consequences if it isn’t replaced in time.   

FAQs:

What does a full tune-up consist of?

A tune-up doesn’t contain a fixed set of services. Instead, it aims at improving the performance of the vehicle. Whether that requires an engine oil change or a spark plug replacement completely depends on the vehicle’s health.  

However, a few essential parts are replaced, and the oil is changed in addition to any other services that a mechanic might deem necessary. 

How often should you get a tune-up?

The modern car doesn’t require a checkup as frequently as its predecessors. But every time your vehicle crosses the 10,000-mile mark, it’s recommended to get it checked for a tune-up.  

How long does a tune uptake?

 Depending on the number of services required by your vehicle, it may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours. It depends on the parts needed to be replaced and the mechanic’s expertise.

What fluids are changed in a tune-up?

Since every tune-up varies, there’s no set list of fluids to be changed. However, an engine oil change defies that rule. It’s always at the top of the list. Furthermore, the mechanic will perform the services depending on the vehicle diagnosis.  

How much does a performance tune cost?

In addition to the vehicle’s model, the miles driven also determine the cost of the tune-up service. If your car is in an exceptionally terrible condition, it may cost you as high as $1500. But if your vehicle only needs a slight refurbishment, the bill may be as low as $250.  

When should you get a tune-up?

There’s no set date or time after which you’re required to get a tune-up. But once the car has crossed 10,000 miles, you owe it a visit to the mechanic.

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