Exactly What is an Everett Tune Up?

August 11, 2011  

Many older cars have simple magneto ignition systems, with one ignition coil for each spark plug. Each coil must be adjusted so each coil sparks at the same intensity, providing optimum acceleration and idle. The coils “buzz” when in operation; when properly adjusted, all the coils buzz “in-tune” – which is the origin of the phrase tune-up.

The “Olden” Days

Used to be, when I was a boy…well, not really, but you get what I mean! Older cars, before electronic ignition, had to be tuned-up every 12,000 to 20,000 miles. The tune-up would include:

  • Replacing Distributor Points
  • Replacing Spark Plugs
  • Inspect/Replace Distributor Cap
  • Inspect/Replace Distributor Rotor
  • Inspect/Replace Fuel & Air filters
Further adjustments included adjustment to; ignition timing, point gap, and idle mixture as:

“General adjustment to insure operation at peak efficiency” (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

Today

With newer cars, an Everett Tune Up can mean a number of things, most of which are preventative maintenance service/repair items. Today, a tune-up often refers to the 30-60-90 K services for a vehicle. Since computers now  operate the fuel/air ratio within the engine, a certified technician must run a computer diagnostic to determine problems beyond spark plug and filter (air & fuel) replacement.

Cars today do not have distributor caps, and in many designs, the On Board Diagnostics (OBD) computers have replaced spark plug wires. The OBD handles the fuel mixture, idle speed and timing, eliminating the need for a tune-up in the traditional sense. On newer cars, the following are considered a tune-up:

  • Spark Plugs
  • Air Filter
  • Fuel Filter
  • Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) Valve
Manufacturers do not even list “tune-up” as part of the routine maintenance schedule. Rather, the individual components are listed with mileage or time duration between inspection/replacement for each. Electronics has extended spark plug life to at a minimum 30,000 miles (some as long as 100,000 miles). For this reason, even though a scheduled 30-60-90 K Service may seem expensive, the fact is, the total cost is actually less than the total cost of the multiple tune-ups for the same mileage/duration for older vehicles.
Now What?

If you are “old-school” and just can’t help yourself, always determine exactly what your mechanic includes in a tune-up. It is best, however, to consult your Owner’s Manual, and ask for the scheduled maintenance rather than a tune-up. Please note: always decrease your service intervals by 10% to 15% if you drive primarily stop-and-go (city) driving.

Be aware that today’s “tune-up” will likely not solve a vehicle’s performance problems. Since all fuel/air ratios are computer controlled, and your OBD must be tested by a certified technician. Often times, a malfunctioning sensor or control unit is the cause for poor performance in a newer vehicle.

Understand that the 30-60-90 K Services are not tune-ups! While the scheduled services do include tune-up items, they also include many other services. Always be certain to ask for the correct service, or you may not get what you intend.