Car Tune-Up Checklist to Keep Your Vehicle in Tip-Top Shape

A checklist for your next annual car tune-up to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape. Car Tune-Up Checklist to Keep Your Vehicle in Tip-Top Shape

When someone tells you you should have a tune-up done on your vehicle, what is it you think you should do?  Is it something that you can do on your own, or do you need to take it to the mechanic?  It is frustrating when your car acts up and it is usually in the most inopportune times.  Having a regular car tune-up will help make sure that your investment, which is what a vehicle is, stays more up to par than if you didn’t.  In this blog, we will discuss what and how to tune up a car.

What is a Car Tune-Up

Taking the time to check some standard items on your vehicle every six months or a year will help you save money in the long run.  Having a car tune-up will make sure you are getting the best performance out of your vehicle.  This is usually a basic inspection of some standard simple items in your vehicle to make sure they are running properly and up to standards.

There is a checklist in your manual that will give you the life span of certain items and when you should change some equipment out.  Each mechanic will have a bit of variety in what they offer in a regular tune-up of your vehicle.  Each of these ways will check some more standard items, like your fluid levels, tires, battery, brakes and so forth.   Normally if you hear or experience the following, have a check done;

  • Gas mileage decreases
  • Power loss
  • Check engine light remains on
  • Engine sounds rough or stalls
  • Knocking from inside the hood
  • The ride is bumpier than usual or makes noise when hitting slight bumps

Making sure that this is done, will help you, in the long run, save money and time on expensive fixes.


Having a standard car tune-up checklist is important, you may want to do this on your own or have a mechanic do it for you.  Call around and see what the local mechanics offer in your area for their checklist.  Look in your manual and see what it recommends to be changed at regular intervals.

Also, think to yourself what may be beneficial for your type of vehicle, based on how many miles you put on it on average, the climate you live in, or even just the time spent in your vehicle.

Your make and model of vehicle will determine what you can get at today with all the computer components in vehicles.  Here are some suggestions to have on your checklist:

Oil and Filter Change

One of the more common practices that you are all aware of is getting the oil changed in your car.  This is the lubrication that takes care of reducing the friction and wear of your engine, as well as maintaining the temperature in your engine.  Impurities and contaminants are usually found in the oil and filter, and if you change this out regularly, the rust and corrosion that is usually found in your engine will deteriorate significantly as well.  Not to mention the noise generated by the engine if everything is lubricated properly.

Tire Check and Rotation

Your tires as we have discussed in other blogs, also play a vital role in your vehicle’s performance.

Underinflated tires could cause serious damage to your car if you hit a pothole or something else on the road that could cause it to get to the rims.  It also plays a factor in your miles per gallon that you receive on the road because the car is pushing itself harder to the road.

Overinflated tires will compromise the contact your car has with the ground, which would be very inconvenient during bad weather.  It could cause more slipping, or even the chance for the tires to wear unevenly.  Also being inflated too much can cause the tire to have a blow out easier if the right object is hit on the road.

Rotating the tires regularly also helps avoid wearing on one side versus the other and make the vehicle ride smoother.  Having this checked at this time is ideal because you will also notice if there is anything else wrong with the tires that may require you to get new ones sooner than later.

Brake Inspection

The braking system in your car is a critical component.  Recommendations on your brakes are usually around twice a year for inspection, this will make sure that the hardware and hydraulics are working properly.

Since there are a lot of components that make up the system, having your rotors, drums, pads, and shoes are also something you should have monitored to make sure that the system is working at it’s highest potential.  Replacing these parts separately can save you from having to replace the entire system at one time, to save you some money in the long run, as well as an accident if they fail.

Air Filter Replacement

A clogged air filter will reduce your gas mileage and may cause your engine to stall out.  These can become old, dirty and blocked up with rust, dirt, and other things that could get in there.  Lack of oxygen to your engine can cause engine problems in the future, and if not taking care of on time, it could cause you more money if the engine fails.

Fluids Filled and Changed

Usually, during a tune-up, you will want to make sure that all your fluids are filled.  Don’t think that these fluids will last and never need to be topped off.  Some of these fluids are your antifreeze, power steering, brake, and transmission.  These fluids are essential for your vehicle to run properly and keep the vehicle running at its top performance.

Doing a coolant or transmission flush may be expensive at the moment when you look at that board at the mechanic shop, but in the grand scheme of things, not as expensive as if something goes wrong because the fluid is tainted or not filled.  This is not something you have to do every time but look in your manual for recommendations for your vehicle.


Normally your battery will last for a long time and require not much maintenance, however, having it looked at will not hurt.  The area surrounding the battery can become rusted out, or the battery itself could have some acid that has built up around the parts.  This can cause bad connections which could potentially cause the battery to not start or charge while running.

Belts and Hoses

If you take it into the shop, most mechanics will check and inspect all your vehicle belts and hoses.  This would include making sure all the clamps are secure, there is no cracking or splitting in the belt and making sure that when the vehicle is running there is no noise coming from the belts.

Windshield Wipers

Let’s face it, windshield wipers are a pain and when they go bad. Without fail, it seems it is always in that spot right in your line of sight.  They will also start making noises when wiping across the windshield or in the mechanics itself.  You can accomplish this two ways, taking a cleaner and wiping your wipers down to get the grime off of them, or by replacing them completely.  Checking your fluid level is usually included in this process.


Headlights are an essential part of operating your vehicle. So during your car tune-up you need to make sure that all your lights are working properly.  This will also show that if they are dimmer or not aligned properly that they will be fixed.  You do not want to be headed down the highway and your lights are not working.  Not only will you not be able to see the road properly, but you could get a ticket if pulled over.

Spark Plugs

Something you may want to think about is having your spark plugs looked at as well.  Everyone has had that moment when your lawnmower hasn’t worked and it has been as simple as changing the spark plug out.  Sometimes your vehicle will just be running a tad off, or the gears may not shift properly, and this will be just a simple spark plug being changed.  Having them looked at routinely will help this become a bigger issue.

Benefits of a Car Tune-Up

There are many benefits to keeping your vehicle well maintained.  These are just some of the reasons to have this done regularly.

Improving Performance

The most important benefit to a tune-up would be the overall performance of your vehicle.  Over time a car’s engine will rust or lose power eventually, this will cause more problems in the long run.  The performance of your vehicle is determined by the running parts and how you take care of them.

Less Money on Repairs

Repairs on your vehicle are always pricey, and so think of a car tune-up as a precautionary measure that will ensure your car’s safety and also your wallet.  Performing routine car tune-ups will not cost you as much as a full out breakdown all at once.

Keeping You Safe

When you keep your vehicle maintained, you are not in as much danger when driving down the road or highway.  Having a break down on the highway can be dangerous, others will not always move over and you could be hit if it night and they don’t see you.

Saving Gas Money

Having regular checks of your vehicle will save you money in gas.  Your performance of your vehicle can deteriorate over time if your car is not running up to standards.  If things are not running properly, the mileage you can get from your vehicle can’t be lowered over time if the filters get plugged.  If you travel for work or business and get reimbursed for gas mileage, the less you get means less reimbursement.

Adds Resale Value

If you ever want to sell your vehicle, this can add to the value of your car.  Potential buyers will appreciate that you took the time and effort to have regular tune-ups on your vehicle, as this will mean that you took the time to care for your car to ensure that it runs properly for a long time.

Costs of a Tune-Up

Most people don’t do regular maintenance on their vehicles or get a tune-up due to the cost they think it will be.  Now depending on where you go, or if you can do this on your own will determine how much the car tune-up cost will be in the end.  On average, a tune-up that will include all the items listed above will be between $500-$1000. Remember, this also is dependant on the make and model of your vehicle and how much computer technology is in there.

The nice thing about this is that you can break it up, it does not have to be done all at once.  Go get the oil changed one day, then do the transmission flush another time.  Each of these items cost money at the mechanics’ shop, but if you can do some on your own, it will be less.  Some of those things you can save money on and do on your own would be;

  • Oil and filter change
  • Checking your plugs
  • Changing out your lights
  • Topping off your fluids
  • Cleaning your wipers or changing them

Unfortunately for those things that require lifts, you will end up paying for those, like your breaks, flushes, belts.  Take the time and do your research, remember parts are not always that expensive, but the labor is what will eat away at your wallet.

It’s Worth the Hassle

In the grand scheme of things, it may seem like a lot of trouble and money, but break it up and find someone who can help you with it.  Do some of the things on your own and find a mechanic you trust who will do the proper checks maybe for a discount if doing more than one thing.  Taking care of your investment will help you keep it longer and hopefully keep you safer when you are driving.


  1. Sonoma Auto Tech – Why a regular car tune-up is important
  2. Don’s Auto Repair – Why it’s important to get regular tune-ups for your car
  3. Rolling Auto Service – The importance of a tune-up 
  4. Driving Tests – What’s up doc? 8 key points for routine vehicle tune-up 
  5. AutoTalk – The importance of a car tune-up
  6. CarServiceCosts – Average car tune-up cost 2019
  7. Wheeling Auto Center – Regular car maintenance