The term TUNE-UP was coined back when Henry Ford was working on his first prototype for the automobile. This first ignition system was very simple; one ignition coil for one spark plug, so if there was 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 so when you adjust them properly they all buzzed the same; therefore they where in tune and that's how the term tune-up was coined. This term stuck and was associated with the replacement of spark plugs and any performance or rough idle problem that could be associated to engine operation. Once the distributor was developed the term tune-up had no meaning as to how and engine performed, but the consumer who was use to hearing this term around a garage, automatically associated poor running quality with the need to be in tune.

Today's automobiles do not require tune-ups. Automobile manufactures have set forth in there recommended maintenance schedules, intervals for replacing spark plugs, PCV valves, fuel filters, etc. while recommending that other items related to engine operation be checked for proper operation and/or adjustment such as ignition timing, idle speed and other emission control related devises. 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 or performance problem is still present after the maintenance has been performed an engine analysis would then be required. Therefore the term tun-up indicates the need for routine maintenance and should not be associated with poor performance. If your vehicle experiences any operating or performance problems between maintenance intervals, that specific problem should be addressed by performing an engine analysis to isolate that particular problem.

Yours, Truly

Ron L. Dively

ASE Certified Master Technician,


Dively’s Garage

back home