Tune-ups used to be fairly straight-forward repairs until around the mid 70’s. Until then, most cars had basically the same components, spark plug, spark plug wires, only one ignition coil and a distributor cap and its inner workings. The air-fuel mixture was governed by a carburetor and your right foot. Every one of these components was vital to how your car performed and each one could be adjusted, or tuned up, on a regular basis.
In comparison, today’s cars are many worlds apart from their older, more rudimentary cousins. Today’s cars don’t need as many adjustments, if any, compared to the older ones. On an almost yearly basis, older cars would need new ignition components installed as parts would become worn, pitted, burnt or just plain dirty. Gaskets on these older cars were usually made of cork and were prone to leaking oil onto other components such as the spark plug cable causing them to fail. In many cases, a tune-up was needed every 10,000 miles or so.
Most cars manufactured by the 1980’s had one or more computers built in to manage the engine and its systems. This was mainly brought about by the EPA and the need for tail pipe emissions to be controlled. The first system to become computerized was the ignition system. An ignition control module quickly replaced the old points and condenser set-up. This meant that ignition timing would stay properly adjusted for up to 30,000 miles. It wasn’t just computers that changed the way engines performed either. Gaskets that used to be made out of cork were now made of aircraft-grade rubber and would not leak for almost 90,000 miles, thus prolonging the life of spark plug wires.
The carburetor was also being phased out around this time and replaced by electronic fuel injection systems that were computer controlled. The computer could make minor changes to the air-fuel mixture allowing it to perform at optimum levels no matter what the driving conditions were. This change also increased gas mileage and helped to decrease emission levels.
Then came the 90’s and with it platinum-tipped spark plugs and individual ignition coils for each cylinder. These changes eliminated the need for ignition wires on some models and the new spark plugs could go for 60,000 miles before needing replaced. You may have even heard about some cars being able to go for 100,000 miles before needing a tune-up. That was claimed by many manufacturers until it was realized that this would cause the spark plugs to seize to the engine block causing a major repair and a large repair bill to go with it. For that reason, many manufacturers are going back to the 30,000 mile or 60,000 mile spark plug replacement interval.
Tune-ups have come a long way since the introduction of the gasoline engine but know that GIC Car Clinic in San Jose, California will always stay up on the latest and most advanced tune-up procedures in the industry.