On average, you probably expect to hop in your car, turn it on, and enjoy optimal performance every single time. Well, that’s usually what happens, but cars aren’t “set it and forget it” tools. They require a lot of maintenance to keep getting you from point A to point B reliably, and if you fail to provide that maintenance, you’ll eventually get in your car and realize you aren’t going to be going anywhere.
The most common form of maintenance, outside of keeping it clean, changing the oil, and handling the basics, is getting a tune-up. When do you know it’s time to get one, though? How do you know you need to get one or risk far more costly maintenance and repairs?
Today, we’re going to go over 7 warning signs that indicate it’s time for a car tune-up.
1: Inaccurate Steering
This is usually one of the more common signs that your car needs a tune-up, but it’s not quite as bad as it could be. Your car is supposed to drive exactly according to the orientation of the steering wheel. It should not lean to one side or the other while holding the wheel straight, and you shouldn’t have to overcompensate by turning the wheel one way or the other.
When your car does pull to one side, it can be a sign that your tires are improperly inflated, misaligned, or worn in an unequal way. There can also be bigger problems regarding your steering system, but it’s usually something minor that can be fixed with a simple tune-up; especially if you get your car into the shop as soon as possible.
This is one that many people ignore, but it can save you a lot of money in the long run if you don’t.
To reduce the risk of accidents and ensure a comfortable driving experience, it is important that the wheel alignment is proper, as misaligned wheels can cause the car to pull to one side or the other and overcompensation by the driver, resulting in uneven tire wear and decreased fuel efficiency.
2: Warning Light
This is the most obvious sign that you need to go in for a tune-up, and ironically, it’s the one that people stereotypically ignore the most. Leaving a warning light on for prolonged periods is a common joke, but there’s a reason it’s on. You need to fix it, or you risk serious problems occurring.
If your vehicle has a warning light turned on, take your car into the shop. A basic tune-up might be all your car needs to turn that light off and avoid much bigger problems.
Of course, a warning light can also mean that much more serious problems are occurring. Check your user manual, because most modern cars have codes that distinguish various warnings from one another, or you can take it to a mechanic, and they’ll be able to tell if you just need a tune-up or repairs are necessary.
3: Brakes Aren’t Working as They Should
This is huge. Luckily, the average person understands that this is a sign that something needs to be taken care of because having reliable brakes is obviously crucial to driving safely.
If you notice that your brakes are squealing a lot, are taking longer to stop your vehicle, or are making strange grinding noises, you need to get to a shop ASAP and get your brakes re-tuned. It’s likely that the pads or rotors have worn down through daily use, and they need to be replaced.
Not getting this done is a good way to end up in a devastating wreck or otherwise experience a scary situation.
4: Fuel Mileage Isn’t as Expected
It’s normal for a car to start seeing reduced fuel mileage as it ages. Especially if you’re not rebuilding every core part of the car, which is not financially possible for the average person. However, that typically takes a long time, and it shouldn’t be a noticeable reduction in fuel mileage.
If you notice that your car is seeing a dramatic reduction in mileage, and you’re having to get to the gas station far more often than usual, you likely need a tune-up.
Something in your vehicle is not operating optimally, and it needs to be corrected. Not only will you spend more money on fuel the longer you put it off, but you risk the wear and tear accumulating to the point that something far more costly happens.
If your car is stalling when you stop at red lights or otherwise stop driving briefly, it requires your immediate attention. This typically happens when you’ve had several other warning signs to tip you off and trigger a tune-up visit, but you ignored those signs, anyway.
Luckily, this is not always a horrible situation, and a simple tune-up can usually resolve the problem in a cost-effective manner. It’s important that you take immediate action once you notice stalling, though.
6: Strange Noises are Audible
It’s normal for the average car to make some sort of noise while it’s in operation. A perfectly silent car isn’t very common. However, you don’t want to hear unexpected noises suddenly start up.
Weird slaps, grinding, and squealing can all be preludes to serious car problems. A timing belt can snap, you might lose a brake pad, or any number of things can happen depending on what the noise is, and unless you’re experienced with cars, you probably won’t know exactly what is causing the noise.
If you’re hearing unexpected noises, it is a warning sign that your car needs a tune-up. The problem is usually something minor, but if you let it continue, it can turn into a major repair.
7: The Engine Won’t Start or Struggles to Start
Finally, your engine not turning over like it’s supposed to be a clear sign that it’s time to get things looked at. Your engine should turn over as soon as you crank the ignition. It shouldn’t take several tries, the engine shouldn’t stutter as you try to turn it over, and it shouldn’t make any strange noises.
If you are experiencing any of those problems, your car needs a tune-up before the problem becomes much worse.