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Is an engine tune-up a thing of the past? After all, modern engines have no points and condenser to replace, no carburetor to adjust, and spark timing is controlled by the car’s computer. Most cars now even have direct ignition that replaces the distributor.

Is a tune-up necessary anymore? Yes, but today’s procedure is different. Your car should be taken to a service facility for an “engine inspection” and “computer scan” about every 30,000 miles. An “engine inspection” allows the service technician to check all the engine functions by connecting your vehicle to a diagnostic analyzer. This computerized piece of equipment reveals problems in the ignition as well as the fuel and emissions systems. It also allows the technician to return the engine to factory specifications.

Spark plugs or other faulty parts will be replaced during the inspection. The technician may find only one or two components from a set to be faulty (such as spark plugs or ignition wires), and therefore will only replace the bad ones. However, since they are all the same age and have the same amount of wear, you can save yourself a future headache if you have the components replaced as a set.

Also have the electronic sensors in your engine and exhaust system checked as they too can deteriorate. By “scanning” your car’s computer, in addition to a “tune-up,” you can spot faulty sensors and other miss-adjustments that can reduce gas mileage, cause running or idling problems, and increase emissions.

Not all cars with on-board computers are capable of being “scanned.” Many models in the mid-to late-1980s were not programmed to reveal this type of information during a scan. Therefore, the electronic sensors need to be checked manually. A properly trained technician will know how to determine the condition of your car’s computer and sensors.

Don’t be fooled by big fancy shops with elaborate machines, because a repair facility is only as good as its technicians. While certain equipment is a must, trained and certified technicians are the key when you are looking for a repair facility to perform this type of service. The technicians use the diagnostic machines as tools and they will be of little use if the technician doesn’t know what to do with them.