Car Tune-Up Basic Checklist 2023: Everything You Need To Know

A car tune-up is a maintenance procedure that you can easily do at home. You can find the information on your car's tune-up in the regular maintenance section of your car's owner's manuals. It's a series of maintenance tasks that helps extend the life of your car. This is an important measure that ensures your vehicle is operating at its full performance potential. 

There are many benefits to tuning up your car. In fact, these basic maintenance check-ups like changing the oil and replacing fluids and minor part replacements will help maintain your vehicle's original condition. Checking your engine, transmission, fuel system, electrical system, brake system, chassis, and more will help boost your car's engine performance which makes for a better driving experience.

Although tune-ups can be quickly done at home, some car owners need more time to do it and would rather have a trusted mechanic do the job. After all, a professional auto repair shop can help you fix any major mechanical problems if there are any found during the tune-up. Before heading to the complete list of basic car tune-up, get to know the signs that will tell you if your car needs a tune-up.


How do you know if your car needs a tune-up?

As a rule of thumb, a non-electrical vehicle needs to get a tune-up every 10,000 to 12,000 miles or at least once a year, whichever comes first. There are also signs to look out for that will tell you your car needs a tune-up even if it's not yet on its 10k mark. These are the symptoms that indicate your car needs a tune-up service:

1. Airflow issues - If your car's air conditioning is not as cool as you remembered it to be, you've got airflow issues at hand. If neglected, this can lead to a bigger problem like overheating. The symptoms of a bad air flow include black exhaust, check engine light, faulty starts, rough idle, trouble accelerating, and so on. 

2. Engine noises - A car that's in good running condition makes little to no noise. If your car makes a screeching, squealing, or knocking sound, something's not right. Don't neglect these noises and have your car checked right away. This could indicate that your oil needs to be changed or a more complicated problem.

3. Slow acceleration - If your car has a dirty fuel filter, a bad throttle position sensor, or a faulty oxygen sensor, you may experience poor acceleration when you drive. This can also be the result of a worn-out timing belt which prevents the engine from accelerating well.

4. Noticeable electrical issue - You can tell right away if your car has an electrical issue. The engine doesn't usually start properly, the headlights and other slights malfunction, you'll smell burning plastic, and so on due to your vehicle's electrical problem. You'll also experience car battery problems and short circuits as well when this happens.

5. Poor gasoline mileage - Your gas mileage can reduce by 20% due to bad oxygen sensors and air filters. This can also be caused by a bad fuel injector or a dirty fuel filter. You may need to replace these parts in order for your car to perform optimally.

Complete Car Tune-Up Checklist

What does a car tune-up include? Many things! But you can check all of them off your list in just a day. If you don’t have the time to do it all in a day, you can work your way from one part and then move on to the next until you complete inspecting everything. You can always hire a trusted auto repair shop's tune-up car service to help you with this.

Here’s a complete checklist of a car tune-up:

Inspection and filling all fluids - The first thing you do when doing a car tune-up is to check out all the parts and systems of your vehicle to see if they need to be refilled or replaced. Check your car's filters, belts, hoses, and fluids. If the fluids need to be filled, do so. If the fluids look dirty or old, they need to be replaced.

Install new spark plugs and spark plug wires - After inspecting your ignition system, see if your spark plugs, plug wires, coils, and other electrical components are already worn out and need to be replaced. These are the components that ignite the air or fuel mixture in your combustion chamber.

Switch out Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) valve, if plugged - It's vital that your car engine runs on clean, new filters, especially the PCV or Positive Crankcase Ventilation Valve. When this gets clogged up by carbon buildup, it can cause the engine to burn oil at a much faster rate. This can also lead to misfires, blown-out gaskets, and poor fueling conditions.

Replace the air filter - Check your car's air filter and see if it needs to be cleaned or replaced. This can get clogged with dust, dirt, and debris over time which will restrict the airflow in your car. It's best to have this cleaned or replaced whichever seems fit.

Examine distributor cap, rotor, and breaker points - Due to the number of rotations of the rotor inside the distributor, the metal contact point will eventually wear down. And if you don't check and replace a failed distributor carp, it can cause a misfire or worse, a non-start when starting your car.

Replace the gas filters - After checking your gas filter, make sure to change it, especially if it's already contaminated. If left unchecked and unreplaced, this can cause low fuel pressure, rough idling, or hesitation while accelerating.

Check and replace worn-down belts and hoses - These parts are vital to keeping your air-conditioning system, water pump, alternator, and power steering unit working well. The timing belts drive oil and water pumps in cars while the hoses help circulate coolant through the engine and radiator. If you find any swelling, leaking, or bulging on any of the hoses, replace them immediately.

Replace windshield wiper, especially in extreme weather conditions - Clean your windshield wiper blades whenever you're in for an oil change. Your wipers are always exposed to extreme weather conditions and they need to be replaced so as not to damage your windshield.

Test your brake system and replace any worn-down parts - It's always a good idea to check one of the most important systems in your car - the brake. Inspect if your brake pads and rotors need to be replaced so you'll have peace of mind while driving.

Check your tires and rotate them - Your tires can be out of alignment, out of balance, and in need of rotation so it's best to inspect that. This will help ensure that you'll have a smooth, vibration-free ride every time you go out for a drive.

Wheel alignment - Are your tires all going the same way? If not, they need to be properly aligned. This can help ensure that your car won't be pulling to the left or right when you hit the brakes to slow down. Plus, it keeps your driving experience smooth and helps lengthen the life of your tires.


A simple maintenance-type tune-up is essential for every car. It's one of the best ways to ensure that your car is running in a good condition. After all, prevention is better than cure, right? It's best to catch the faults and broken parts rather than having to experience them while on the road.

Now that you know how to tell if your car needs a tune-up and you also have a car tune-up checklist to refer to, it's time to put your knowledge into action. You can also contact Car Geeks Auto Repair if you need a computer diagnostic or tune-up car service. With the right car repair professionals, your vehicle is in safe hands.

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