Are Summer Road Trip Tune-Ups Really Necessary?

By Sam Grossman | July 21, 2011
It has already been one month since the official start of summer, and you might be thinking of heading to the service bays to get a tune-up before your big summer road trip. But modern engine technology has changed the definition of a tune up, and knowing when to do it can be a mystery. Luckily, has come up with three helpful tips to save both time and money.
  1. Focus on Mileage-based Service: Older cars needed engine tune-ups to keep mechanical carburetors and distributors running smoothly, but today's electronic fuel injection and ignition systems make that unnecessary. Rather than focusing on tune-ups, think about those mileage-based service intervals. For example, at 15,000 miles you may need to replace spark plugs, and at 60,000 miles you may need a cooling system inspection. Mileage is a great way to monitor when your car indeed requires service, and will in the end save you money.
  2. Don't Give in to Tune-Up Specials: Tune up specials may sound like a way to save a few bucks on needed service, but most of the time they're a waste of money. If you do decide to take advantage, find out what the tune-up involves. For example, air filters need to be changed regularly, but modern spark plugs can last 100,000 miles.
  3. The Check Engine Light Doesn't Always Mean a Tune-Up is Needed: Check engine lights are a great way of informing you of a system failure, but this doesn't always mean a tune-up is necessary. The light can turn on due to a number of issues, ranging from important engine problems to something as minor as a loose gas cap. As long as the car is running smoothly, it can wait to be examined by a mechanic. On the contrary, if the check engine light is blinking while driving, pull over immediately and contact a mechanic.
Following each of these tips will help you save both time and money that can be used where you most want it: on vacation.