Asking for a tune-up is one of the most ambiguous requests that car care professionals hear every day. When a customer asks for a tune-up, what we have discovered they really mean is they want to know that everything on their vehicle is in good shape. In other words, they would like a car tune-up checklist to go through and get a professional’s sign-off that everything’s a-okay.
You are a savvy consumer and you want to keep your vehicle running as long as possible. A car tune up checklist that tells you what you can do to care for your vehicle as well as talk to a mechanic about – well, wouldn’t that just make life easy!
That’s essentially what we’ve done for you here in this post, Consumer’s Car Tune Up Checklist for Arizona.
Living in the East Valley, our car repair shop is in Mesa, we expose our vehicles to conditions that are much more unique than our friends in places like California or Colorado. As a matter of fact, our entire Preventative Maintenance Care Packages revolve around the needs of desert dwelling vehicles. Most of the ‘car tune up items’ we include are already performed as a part of our standard vehicle inspections.
As mentioned above, this car tune up checklist is meant to provide you, the consumer, with a list of items you can monitor and maintain, as well as questions you can ask your mechanic at each service and repair visit.
Here is our car tune up checklist, point by point. If you’d like to continue to learn about why each item is on our list, continue reading below for further explanation.
In Between Service and Repair Checklist
- Use fuel injector cleaner every 15,000 miles
- Replace burnt out bulbs in your headlights, rear lights and brake lights
- Regularly check the tire pressure on your vehicle
- Keep spare fuses available in your glove box or fuse box
- Top off vehicle fluids
- Engine oil
- Power steering fluid
- Brake fluid
- Windshield wiper fluid
- Replace windshield wipers
Regular Service and Repair Checklist
- Inspect All Electrical and Ignition Components
- Replace Your Engine and Cabin Air Filters
- Check Belts and Hoses for Cracking or Unsafe Wear
Use This Checklist Keep Your Car Running Like New Between Services
A car tune up checklist could really include a whole laundry list of to-dos that may or may not be necessary. In order to prevent you from needlessly buying all sorts of potions, gizmos and gadgets that deliver a promise to maintain or improve your vehicle’s performance, we want to give you a few items that are ideal for every vehicle.
Use Fuel Injector Cleaner Every 15,000 Miles
We wanted to start our car tune up checklist with fuel injector cleaner because this is one of the items car owners are sold by many auto supply stores. At Highline, we believe in the right service at the right time and the right time for fuel injector is every 15,000 miles (we recommend 30,000 miles for our 3 part fuel injection service, but it’s a good idea to use the in-tank additive in between).
If you’ve never used a fuel injector cleaner and your auto mechanic has never used it on your behalf, it’s a good idea to go ahead and buy some cleaner, then keep track from that point on so you can service in again in 15,000 miles.
Generally speaking, you won’t need to do this more often than 15,000 miles and if you do, a qualified mechanic will let you know.
So no need to walk out of that auto store every time with fuel injector cleaner – once a year will be good for nearly every vehicle owner.
Replace Burnt out Bulbs In Your Headlights, Rear Lights and Brake Lights
Nothing can derail your evening quicker than being pulled over for having a headlight out. What’s worse is being pulled over trying to get out of town on vacation and getting a ticket for your brake lights being out.
It’s easy to tell when you have a headlight out – every time you turn on your lights against your garage wall you see one bright light instead of two. Checking for your rear lights and brake lights is a little tougher unless you have two people. However, a little trick of the trade, back your car into your drive or garage at night and using your mirrors, you can see if any lights are out.
You can often purchase lamps for your make and model at a auto supply store. We check all your lights during our standard safety inspection and give our clients the option to have us replace them, just to keep things easy.
Regularly Check the Tire Pressure On Your Vehicle
Tire pressure impacts three major factors on your vehicle – longevity of the tire’s life (treadwear), your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and the safety of your car. As simple as it is to fill up your tires with air, keeping each one at optimum PSI, (usually printed on sticker in door jamb) this is a car tune up checklist item that often gets neglected.
For the recommended PSI for your vehicle’s tires, consult the vehicle manual or you can look at the inside of the door frame – it’s listed there as well.
Keep Spare Fuses Available In Your Glove Box or Fuse Box
As infrequently as fuses blow on today’s vehicles, they are kinda like water – you don’t think about them when they’re available, but when you need it, it’s all you want.
If you want to check off every item on our car tune up checklist, you will want to make sure you have one or two extra fuses for every amperage your vehicle uses. Fuses aren’t expensive and when they go bad, you’ll be very happy that you have a few spares so you can get impacted components running.
Top Off Vehicle Fluids Including Engine Oil
Many car owners get a little nervous when they start putting fluid into their vehicle. “Will I buy the right fluid? Will I put it in the right tank?” We get it – when you’ve never done something there is bound to be a bit of self-consciousness (just think of how a mechanic would feel taking ballet lessons the first time).
If you want to top off your vehicle’s fluids as part of your car tune up checklist, there are five fluids you want to be sure to look at:
- Engine Oil
- Power Steering Fluid
- Brake Fluid
- Windshield Wiper Fluid (and while you’re filling up the wiper fluid, go ahead and replace your wiper blades as well – the Arizona sun is brutal on these rubber components)
Knowing what fluids to monitor can minimize the guesswork, and if there is any anxiety over what fluid goes in which tank, ask your mechanic – we’d be happy to show you exactly what you need to do.
Of course, topping off these fluids is something we take care of for clients during any 5,000 Mile Service.
Car Tune Up Checklist for Car Care Professionals
As brave, determined or interested you may be in doing what it takes to keep your car all tuned up, there are certain car tune up checklist items that need to be left to car care professionals. Not because it’s incredibly hard but because there are signs of issues that only a seasoned professional will be able to spot.
This is a good point to mention that we advocate you use the same auto repair shop for all work, including all oil changes and regular service. We appreciate when our customers stick with Highline for all service and repairs because it gives our team repeated opportunity to monitor a car over the long haul and see any repair or maintenance trends before they become expensive problems.
This portion of the checklist is meant to give you an idea of which parts of your vehicle to ask your mechanic about during each service or repair visit (and if you don’t have a mechanic you regularly visit, we invite you to schedule your first appointment with us).
Inspect All Electrical and Ignition Components
There are several vital parts in this category, including engine parts. The most common electrical and ignition components that we find need replacing are spark plugs. Spark plugs provide the explosion an engine needs to produce power to the rest of the vehicle. When spark plugs wear out, they greatly reduce engine performance. To learn more about spark plugs, you can read the article we’ve posted titled How Spark Plugs Work.
Another electrical and ignition component includes inspecting and servicing the electronic fuel injection system. This system is a very sophisticated computer controlled system delivering fuel at a very high pressure to your engine for optimum power and fuel efficiency. No matter if you’re traveling out of town or doing everyday driving, keeping an eye on this segment of what lies under the hood definitely falls in the context of a tune up.
Keeping an eye on all the various wires connected throughout the vehicle is another item you want your mechanic keeping tabs on.
Replace Your Engine and Cabin Air Filters
Air filters represent one of the components that raises the largest amount of skepticism amongst consumers. We spend a great deal of time educating new clients on what air filters do, for both the cabin and the engine, and why they need to be replaced.
According to the Preventative Automotive Care Schedule we’ve created for Arizona vehicles, we will recommend replacing your engine air filter at approximately every 15,000 miles. We monitor the engine air filter’s condition every visit but at 15,000 miles we typically want it replaced.
The engine air filter catches particles, impurities and particles that could damage your engine components. If you question whether or not your filter needs to be replaced, ask to see it and look at how discolored the filter is. If you drop it and dust shoots out at you, it’s way past time to replace it.
For the cabin air filter our Preventative Automotive Schedule recommends replacement every 30,000 miles. Just like the engine air filter, we will monitor the condition every visit but you can count on hearing us say, “we would like to replace your cabin air filter” at around 30,000 miles – depending on where you typically drive or park your vehicle.
We have noticed our outdoorsy clients go through them a lot quicker and have recommended replacements as early as 15,000 miles.
Check Belts and Hoses for Cracking or Unsafe Wear
Belts synchronize many parts and components in your engine. Over time age, wear and weather begin to breakdown even the most durable of belts available on the market. Unlike brakes or power steering, car owners do not realize a belt is about to fail until it fails. Without the periodic surveillance by a mechanical professional, you have no way of knowing the condition of any given belt.
Bringing your vehicle to the same location for all service and repair gives a mechanic multiple touch points to identify signs of belt failure long before you are left stranded on US 60 in the middle of July.
Belts show signs of wear long before they go bad. Our approach to making recommendations for changing a belt, like the one you see here which is moderately cracked, is to inspect regularly and as soon as we notice signs of failure, to inform the customer so they can begin to plan for the finances and time needed to replace the belt before it fails.
Likewise, hoses serve as the aqueducts of a vehicle, delivering fluid, lubrication and service to the engine, its components and throughout the entire vehicle. Often, the first time a car owner will recognize something is wrong is by either losing power in one area of a vehicle or by seeing a leak underneath the car. Much like belts, car owners don’t spend time under the hood or looking at their vehicle from under a lift and can’t spot a potential failure before it happens.
A car tune up checklist performed by a technician will include a routine inspection of belts, hoses in general and more specifically those connected to the water pump, alternator and transfers. Not everything can be spotted ahead of time – stuff happens – but what can be prevented should be prevented and that’s why we include a belt and hose inspection on every vehicle that enters our garage.
Car Tune Up Checklist Plus Standard Vehicle Inspection
If we wanted, our car tune up checklist could include every item in our 19/34 point inspection that we perform on every vehicle. Our inspection is a green/yellow/red inspection that allows an owner to see what looks good, what is of concern and what needs to be addressed immediately. A few items from the 19 point inspection that we didn’t include in our car tune up checklist include:
- Engine fluid leaks
- Condition of radiator
- Condition of battery
- Condition of battery terminals and cables
- Condition of transmission case and fluid
- Condition of tires
Customers of Highline Car Care have come to appreciate that our inspection in conjunction with our recommended maintenance schedule leads to lower overall vehicle car costs, fewer automotive repair surprises and extended life of a vehicle.
How We Handle Inspections, Tune Ups and Service
During our time as an East Valley automotive repair shop, we have learned that many owners will call various shops for quotes on anything from an oil change or tune up to a brake pad replacement to a major engine repair. As much as we understand why a car owner would want a quote before having their vehicle seen, we have made the decision to not provide quotes over the phone in order to establish a better level of trust and relationship with our customers.
Providing quotes over the phone, not having seen the vehicle, begins the relationship on speculation and money. We want to begin a relationship on the facts of a repair with a clear expectations for a solution, timeline and cost.
Car owners do not want to become car experts – they simply want to be able to make expert decisions about their car. A car tune up checklist like we have outlined here puts you in the driver’s seat and gives you an idea of what you can care for and what you should expect a car care professional to care for on your behalf.
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