Table of Contents
The foundation of automotive maintenance is staying on top of your manufacturer’s recommended service schedule. These maintenance activities are known as a tune up and can include many different services which are discussed below. This is why the average car tune up cost ranges from $150 to over $1,000 and will depend on which items need to be completed.
The timing and costs of the procedures will vary between different models and years, but every Truck, SUV and car needs to be tuned up to maintain safe and effective operation. A standard tune up can cost $50 to $200, while more complex tasks can range from $500 to $900. This is taking into consideration the price of the parts and labor required to perform the work. If you are able to properly service an automobile, you can save yourself a lot of money.
Engine Tune Up Pricing and Schedule
Many people ask the question, how much does a tune up cost? There is no direct answer to this with the wide range of service items available with vastly different pricing. Your vehicle’s model will also influence the price of the service due to the price of the parts along with the labor fees. Use the table below that provides the most common tune up items, along with the price that you should expect to pay.
Make sure that you shop around and get a second or third opinion to make sure that you are not being taken advantage of. There are many instances where auto service shops will tell customers that they need more repairs than what is necessary, trying to make as much money as they can from the visit. This is especially true if you are not educated on what really is a straightforward topic clearly defined in the manual.
Every 3,000 to 10,000 Miles
|Oil and Oil Filter Change||Every 3,000 miles||$30 – $70|
|Air Filter Change||Every 10,000 miles||$20|
|Cabin Air Filter Change||Every 10,000 miles||$25|
|Wheel Alignment||Every 10,000 miles||$75 – $150|
|Tire Balance and Rotation||Every 7,500 miles||$25-75|
Every 10,000 to 50,000 Miles
|Spark Plug Replacement||Every 50,000 -100,000 miles||$100 – $200|
|Distributor Cap Replacement||Every 50,000 miles||$50 – $150|
|Fuel Filter Replacement||30,000 – 50,000 or 2 years||$50 – $100|
|PCV Valve Replacement||Every 30,000 miles or after 1 year||$25 – $75|
|Transmission Flush||Every 50,000 miles or after 2 years||$150 – $300|
|Rotor Replacement||Every 50,000 miles||$300 – $400|
Every 50,000 to 100,000 Miles
|Power Steering Fluid Flush||Every 100,000 miles||$50 – $100|
|New Spark Plug Wires||Every 60,000 miles||$150 – $250|
|Oxygen and Air Sensor Replacement||Every 100,000 miles||$100 – $300|
|Timing Belt Replacement||Every 100,000 miles||$150 – $1000|
|Mass Air Flow Sensor Replacement||Every 100,000 miles||$150 – $250|
The tables above provide information about suggested vehicle tune up costs. The suggested interval will vary, so please refer to your owner’s manual for exact information. These costs are based on the average costs from national service providers and feedback from users. Some of these repairs and replacements can be completed DIY, which will save a significant amount of money.
What Is A Tune Up?
An automotive tune up is a scheduled set of specific repair items performed throughout the life of your vehicle. They are intended to prevent a variety of major failures from happening and are necessary to maintain the reliability of your car, SUV or truck on the road. The manufacturer provides a recommended checklist of maintenance to be completed each year, your preferred mechanic can help you determine the cost to perform the service.
Signs That You Need A Tune Up
- Check engine light is on.
- Decreased performance and fuel efficiency.
- Running rough while idling or stalling.
- Squeaking from engine compartment
- Unresponsive breaking or turning
How To Do A Tune Up
If you can not afford to take your vehicle to a shop, then you can perform the majority of tune up items by yourself. It is very easy to determine what maintenance tasks need to be completed based on your owner’s manual, and most parts can be purchased at a store such as Advanced Auto Parts. You will notice that the cost of parts is cheap compared to the overall price charged by local service stations. This is because the majority of the total cost for a tune up comes from labor and mark ups.
We recommend that you read about each task below to get a better understanding of the work to be done and parts required. There are many great guides available online that will take you through the process step by step. You will find that changing filters, spark plugs, fluids and most sensors are very quick fixes that can be done yourself.
What Is Done In A Tune Up
There is a long list of items that need to be inspected and worked on to ensure your investment is protected. All professional establishments will utilize a computer based diagnostics system that can read information from your vehicles computer to help diagnose problems with your car. They will also look into your manufacturer’s recommended service schedule to make sure that everything is up to date. You may not be aware of impending failures without using this reference which can lead to major repair costs and dangerous situations. This is why you should make sure each of the tune up described below are properly maintained. The cost of a tune up will vary depending on how many of the below items are required for your automobile.
Changing the Oil and Oil Filter
The oil is the lifeblood of your engine which keeps it lubricated and running smoothly and oil changes are standard routine maintenance. Oil coats all of the metal components, such as the pistons, allowing them to work efficiently without any friction or restriction. The oil filter will make sure that any foreign particles do not enter the pistons. It will begin to break down over time and become dirty. Once this happens, it will begin to cause wear on the parts and clog the filter which restricts the flow.
You can easily complete this tune up task by yourself through draining the oil from your engine through a plug underneath the car along with removing the filter. This may not save you that much money though as standard oil changes are relatively inexpensive. This may cost between $30 to $50 depending on the type and amount of oil that your vehicle requires. Just follow a professional recommendation for which choice is best for your vehicle. Synthetic and high mileage blends may be more expensive, but worth the increased price if that is the recommendation.
Replacing Air Filters
There are two main air filters in most modern cars. One is found in the engine compartment, while the other will be closer to the cabin. They are similar to other air filters that you may be more familiar with and are important to keep dirt and debris from entering your vehicles’s systems.
There are two main air filters that can be easily and quickly replaced on your own. A quick trip to the auto parts store is all that is required for this replacement which will only cost about $10. You don’t even need to do any research beforehand, since a reference book will be located near the air filters at the store. Simply look up your make and model and the correct filter will be found there.
Performing an Alignment
Your wheels are connected to the suspension system which is subject to being knocked out of align through things such as potholes and just normal use. You will notice that your car may pull to either side or be difficult to steer which is a sign that alignment is required. This will help save you money on replacing tires, as properly aligned wheels will create even wear, extending the life of the tire.
A professional technician will be required for this service and should on average cost between $75 to $150. There are a few different alignment options to choose from, so be sure to shop around and find the best deal. An electronic measurement system will be utilized to finely adjust your wheels to the original factory specifications. You should be aware that a suspension inspection will also be performed and more work may be recommended, but this is not often required. If it is suggested by the mechanic, you will want to take the vehicle to another location for a second opinion.
Replacing Spark Plugs
Spark plugs are used to ignite the fuel and air mixture in internal combustion engines. They are found at the head of each cylinder and connected to a an insulated wire which carries the electricity required to create the spark. They have a lifespan which depends on the material they are made of and will begin to fail after a certain number of miles. You will notice that your car will have trouble starting or run poorly when spark plug replacement is required.
A typical car engine has 4 spark plugs, while larger SUVs and trucks can have up to 8. This will influence the cost of the service which can range from $100 – $200 at a shop. It is also a possibility to complete this task yourself and only requires a specialized ratchet head with an extension to reach the spark plugs, which may be difficult to get to. You can reference the specific plug required by consulting an associate at a auto parts store where the plugs can be purchased. This may cost a maximum of $50 which will definitely save you money and time.
Fuel Filter Replacement
Fuel filters sit in line between the gas tank and your engine. They are able to remove any particles and debris suspended in the liquid gas. The gas tank will also rust and deposit ions and moisture which can damage engine components if not removed. A fuel filter can become clogged and block the flow of fuel to the engine resulting in combustion problems and poor performance.
Your fuel filter is either stand alone or located within the fuel pump. The average cost for the part is about $25 if you are able to replace it yourself. If it is complicated, a shop will be able to complete the fuel filter replacement for close to $100.
PCV Valve Replacement
A positive crankcase ventilation valve, also known as a PCV valve, enables an engine to relieve pressure from gases that have entered the crankcase. Blow-by is a common issue with internal combustion engines and is remedied by this device through venting the gas.
You should expect to change this once a year in case it becomes clogged or begins to stick. This $10 part plays a major role in an internal combustion engine and is easy to replace on your own. A shop might charge $50 for the replacement.
Transmission Fluid Flush
Your transmission is full of a low viscosity oil which is generally colored red or green to appear different than motor oil. This transmission fluid is used as a hydraulic fluid which provides the forces necessary for all of the functions of a transmission. It simultaneously lubricates and distributes heat in the gears of an automatic transmission.
A transmission flush is the most over-recommended service, so be very hesitant about breaking out your wallet when your mechanic makes the suggestion. You can check the condition of the fluid along with your service manual to see if it is actually necessary. This service should be performed by professionals to make sure that the levels are appropriate and will cost between $150 and $300.
Brake Pad and Rotor Replacement
Brake rotors are commonly referred to as discs, and are the surface that the brake pad comes in contact with. This applies a force to in order to create friction which stops the wheels from spinning. Brake pads are separate, but closely related, as they sit right on top of the rotor waiting for you to apply the braking mechanism. The surface of the rotor becomes worn down over time and needs to be replaced when the specified minimum thickness is reached. You can extend the life of the rotor by staying on top of brake pad replacement, which will reduce the amount of money you spend. This service should be completed in sets on the front or rear axle to prevent uneven wear.
Having brake pads replaced will cost on average $150 per axle, and requiring new rotors can increase that number by an additional $100 per axle. This puts the combination of both services at $500 on average. This service can be performed by experienced individuals, but it is recommended to allow a professional technician complete the job. This is especially true if you are not sure if new rotors are required.
Power Steering Flush
Power steering fluid acts as a hydraulic liquid which helps turn the wheels. Over time, your fluid level will go down and begin to get dirty, but nowhere near as often as other items. You should consult your user’s guide to see if this service is even recommended by the factory as it is not always required.
Just make sure that the reservoir is always filled up to the appropriate line, which should be easily visible under the hood. A standard $10 bottle of power steering fluid from the auto parts store should be sufficient, but some manufacturers require a specific item so be sure to check this. If you notice any squeaking while turning, or increased resistance, then you might want to consider having the power steering system checked and flushed.
Spark plug wires connect your cars electrical system to the spark plugs and carry the electrical current required to create the spark. This ignites the fuel inside an internal combustion engine. They come with a thick rubber insulation which breaks down over time and starts to bleed off voltage, along with increased resistance inside the wire from usage. If you are having trouble with you car running smoothly, then this is commonly an overlooked culprit.
Replacing your wires is a quick and cheap job which can be purchased locally for about $50 and requires no special tools, so you can do it yourself. Pep Boys always seems to have a good selection of wires and professional advice to help you choose the right set. It is as easy as removing each wire and replacing it one by one to make sure you don’t make the wrong connection. We recommend that you also purchase di-electric gel to coat each end of the wire before connecting it to the spark plug and distributor. A service garage may charge up to $200 for this job, so you can save a good amount of money here.
Changing Oxygen Sensors
Modern automobiles utilize oxygen sensors to report air quality and combustion exhaust oxygen levels to the on-board computer to fine tune the air to fuel mixture and confirm proper engine operation. This is a common cause of the check engine light, and the faulty sensor can be discovered through reading the error codes from your cars computer. Locations such as Auto Zone will actually read your error codes for free and print them out to help you diagnose the issue, so be sure to take advantage of this opportunity.
A new oxygen sensor can cost up to $100, with the labor being an additional $150. If you have multiple sensors that have gone bad, then this can add up quickly to an expensive repair. It is possible for you to complete the replacement on your own, but be weary as most sensors are very difficult to get to as they are tucked into some tight spots underneath your vehicle.
Timing Belt Replacement
The timing belt is a very important rubber band that you can see clearly when looking under the hood. It keeps your crank shaft and cam shafts in synchronization which allows the engine to run well. This is also connected to the pulleys and tensioners, which should also be replaced during this service to ensure equal wear. A failure of any of these parts can cause serious damage to the valves and pistons which is a very expensive repair. When the belt starts to squeak it is a good time to have this checked or just replaced.
The parts required for the complete timing belt service will cost up to $150, but the labor is the majority of the job. On certain automobiles, many parts have to be removed to get to the timing belt which could increase the labor costs up to $800. On average, a timing belt replacement will cost $500 for a car and $750 for a larger truck or SUV. This is the most expensive part of any car tune up cost, but also is also a required automobile service task since it can cause the most damage if it fails. Do not skip this to try and save money, it will only end up costing you more in the long run.
Mass Air Flow Sensor Cleaning
The mass air flow sensor, commonly referred to as the MAF, measures the temperature and volume of air flowing into the engine through the air intake. This is used to adjust the fuel mixture and create efficient combustion in the cylinders. If your MAF goes bad you will most likely notice a loss in engine power and your check engine light will light up. This can be diagnosed by reading the error code with a diagnostic computer.
The mass air flower sensor is found in between the air intake filter and engine. You can remove this piece of inspect it for damage and check if it is dirty. If it appears to be dirty you can use MAF cleaner available in parts stores to try and clean it off. If this doesn’t work you should consider replacing the part which costs about $75 to do it yourself. If you have a shop do it, then this could cost up to $200. Just make sure that you research the specific sensor that has been specified for your make and model vehicle.
Where Can I Get A Tune Up?
- Do it yourself if you want to save money.
- Your local mechanic or dealership.
- Jiffy Lube
- Pep Boys