The Real Tune-Up

The term ‘tune-up’ was coined when Henry Ford was working on his first prototype forthe automobile. This first ignition system was very simple: one ignition coil for one spark plug. If there were four spark plugs there would be four ignition coils.

These coils needed to be adjusted to provide the same spark intensity for better idle and acceleration. As these coils worked they made a buzzing sound and as a result when adjusted properly they all buzzed at the same level. Consequently, they were in tune andthat’s how the term tune-up was coined.

This term became associated with the replacement of spark plugs and any performance orrough idling problem that might be related to engine operation. Once the distributor wasdeveloped, the term tune-up had no meaning as to how an engine performed. However, to consumers who were use to hearing this term around a garage, they automatically associated poor running quality with the need to be in tune.

Fact: Today’s automobiles do not require tune-ups.

Automobile manufacturers have set forth in their recommended maintenance schedulesspecific intervals for replacing spark plugs, PCV valves, fuel filters etc. Concurrently,they recommend other items related to engine operation (such as ignition timing, idlespeed and other emission control related devises) be checked for proper operation and oradjustment.

When, and only when, the maintenance has been performed should a performance problem be addressed to correct any given set of problems. If an operating orperformance problem were still present after the maintenance has been performed an engine analysis would then be required. Therefore, the term tune up indicates the need forroutine maintenance and should not be associated with poor performance.

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