How to Know When It's Time for a Tune-Up

How do you know when it’s time for a tune-up? Believe it or not, your car will usually tell you. There are common signs and signals that it’s time to service your vehicle — you just have to know what to look (and listen) for.

Sometimes, the signs are obvious. You might fail your emissions test, for example, or your car might be increasingly hard to start. Other times, the symptoms might be subtler, such as a change in your gas mileage.

If your car is giving you signals that it might be under the weather, it’s time to seek a professional’s help to get it healthy again. But before you take your car to the mechanic, be prepared to describe the issue, so your auto mechanic can more easily diagnose what’s wrong.

Here are five of the most common signs that it might be time for a car tune-up.

#1: You notice a decrease in gas mileage.

If your gas mileage is getting noticeably worse, it could be time for a tune-up. During colder months, it is normal for your fuel economy to suffer to some extent because all your car’s systems are working harder. But if you’re getting fewer miles per gallon — and you have been changing your oil regularly and keeping all your systems well maintained — it could be an issue with your tires, brakes or another critical system. Check out our oil change coupons to save a little spending money!

#2: Your check engine light is on.

When your check engine light is on, your car is sending you a clear message that something might be wrong. This light can indicate a wide range of issues including a problem with the emissions control system, a faulty oxygen sensor, low oil pressure, a loose gas cap, failing catalytic converter or spark plugs, or a number of other more serious problems.

#3: You have trouble accelerating.

If your car is struggling to accelerate or is sputtering and stalling out as you press the gas pedal, it could be a clogged engine air filter or some other component of your emissions system. Filters and other components get dirty over time, and they need to be checked and replaced regularly to keep your car performing at its best.

#4: You car struggles to start.

A common problem and sign that something needs to be checked out, if a car is hard to start, it usually requires service or maintenance. If your car struggles but the engine does eventually start, it could be an issue with the starter itself. If the engine doesn’t crank at all, it could be a symptom of a much more serious problem such as a computer or electronic component issue. It could also be your spark plugs. If your spark plugs have more than 100,000 miles on them, they probably need replaced.

#5: There is a lot of noise coming from the engine.

Is your engine making a lot of noise? Pinging, coughing and knocking sounds coming from the engine — or an engine that runs rough while idling or driving — are all signs that your car needs servicing. It could be as simple as a contaminated tank of gas or as serious as a bad fuel injector or a problem with the ignition system or engine itself.

Seeking Service

All these symptoms are sure signs that it’s time to take your car in for a tune-up. Ignoring the signs that your car needs servicing can lead to bigger and more expensive problems down the road. Don’t wait! Your best bet is to have your mechanic take a look. Describe what you're experiencing, so they can accurately diagnose the problem and get your car back on the mend as quickly as possible.

Also, when you take your car in, ask for a complete inspection of your vehicle and a printed maintenance report. This report not only shows you what is important to maintain over time — it could also reveal potential repairs that can save you money down the road. Compare the shop’s maintenance schedule with what your manufacturer recommends. Reputable shops will always be able to explain what repairs you need and why.

Having a long-term, established relationship with a repair shop you trust is critically important. You don’t want to be left scrambling to find the cheapest option when disaster strikes. Having a primary mechanic who knows your car’s full history makes it easier to diagnose problems and recommend repairs.

Rainbow Muffler & Brake provides complete auto repair and maintenance services in Cleveland, Ohio for cars and light trucks of all makes and models, as well as exhaust work and custom pipe bending. Is your car showing symptoms that it’s time for a tune-up? Have one of our mechanics take a look. Stop by one of our six auto repair shops in Cleveland, OH  for a free estimate today!

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