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Are Tuneups Necessary?

I have a 1991 Miata (bought new) and faithfully took it in for regular checkups/tuneups until an upcoming one due at 31,000mi. I missed that one and haven’t had it in since. In it’s entire history my car has only ever had one problem (the emergency brake stuck in the on position). I don’t drive it a lot anymore as I walk to work. Now about 5 years later it has 38,000mi on it. Am I damaging anything by not taking it in? Or should I wait til something goes wrong…

Preventative maintenance is usually cheaper than waiting until something is damaged. It’s your money.

Every car needs some sort of regular maintenance, even if it be nothing more than regular oil changes. You are not damaging anything by letting it sit idle, but some things do deteriorate with time.

It is better to get some preventative maintenance now than to wait until something goes wrong. When stuff happens, it will always occur when you are out of town on a rainy Sunday evening. And you forgot to pack your snack bars.

I’ve always considered filters and certainly sparkplugs, along with a general look-see, as being part of any tuneup. So I would argue that yes, tuneups are necessary, wven though spark plug wires, points, condensors, distributor parts, and ignition timing are no longer necessary.

Tuneups - necessary
definition of the word - changed

some things do deteriorate with time

Rubber parts like hoses and belts come to mind first. Brake fluid and coolant should probably be replaced at some point too in order to prevent much more expensive problems. Oil should be changed occasionally too regardless of mileage. I would think that a year would be a reasonable limit, though others may differ.

Tuneups = replace/check whatever your owner’s manual recommends, plus things like tranny fluid, brake fluid, etc. But if nothing else, follow what’s in the owner’s manual.

Is brushing your teeth neccessary ?

Not if you use Dentu-Clean.
Sorry, couldn;t resist.

Yah, good one.
Maintainence is often relative to the desired long term outcome.

With that low a mileage, an annual oil and filter change, and by now a coolant change would be a good idea.

If the car has automatic you should change the fluid and filter.

As others say, check hoses for deterioration.

By this mileage your Mazda dealer would have given the car 3 major checks at about $170 or so each, just to see how well it was running.

I have all my own teeth, but it takes more than brushing to keep it that way. Once a year I have a throroughh scaling so I can keep having my own teeth.

We just sold a 1994 Nissan Centra, and it still had its original fuel injectors, no engine or transmission problems ever, and still the original struts and shocks. But we went through 3 radiators, 3 sets of spark plugs, 3 sets of brakes, both half shafts and CV joints replaced, as well as alternator, and starter. But it had 130,000 miles on it.

Your car has another 10 years of life left in it if you proactively check things as outlined in the owner’s manual.

Happy motoring!

For your driving habits, spark plugs should be changed probably every 30k miles, annual oil and filter change, coolant changed every three years or so, and timing belt and accessory drive belt(s) changed every 5-7 years. Other filters and fluids changed as necessary according to the owner’s manual, plus trans fluid changed every 30k miles if it’s an automatic (probably not so in a Miata).

You have a 1991 that you bought new and it only has 38K on it? hmm … That means you drive it about 2,000 miles per year. That’s a pretty low usage. What is involved w/a tune-up for your car? New spark plugs and checking the timing, maybe changing the distributor cap? I expect you’d only have to have that done every 30K, so if you’ve had it done already, no worries until you hit 60K. (Go by your owners manual, follow their service intervals.)

I think you are good to go. You should still regularly inspect the fluids, and change them at the recommended intervals. And I think it’s a good idea to change the air filter every two years.

You don’t have to do a tune-up until things start failing, HOWEVER regular tune-ups keeps the vehicle running at its best and most efficiently and could prevent a brake down on the road.

The answer to your exact question (are tuneups necessary) misses the larger point.

Routine maintenance, as specified in the owners manual, is necessary to avoid expensive repairs in the long term. Time is just as significant as miles driven, which in your case is the only factor to consider since you use this car so rarely. Preventative maintenance is cheaper than the repairs that result from the lack of maintenance.

Never changing transmission fluid (in an automatic especially) will severely shorten the life of the transmission. Failing to replace the coolant will lead to serious problems in the engine. Failing to change the oil will allow the build up of sludge in the engine which will eventually block oil flow, leading to engine failure.

Rubber hoses and belts deteriorate and can break at extremely inconvenient times or places. It’s not hard to imagine blowing a radiator hose and overheating the engine to the point of seizing, either because you didn’t notice the warning on your instrument panel, or because you were in heavy freeway traffic and could not pull over.

Maintaining a car involves more than changing the spark plugs, wires, air filter, and distributor components. Let your owners manual be your guide.

I have a '97 Ford Escort with 32K miles that is garage kept and usually when it’s driven it’s driven on trips of 250 or more miles, I change the oil every 3K miles regardless of elapsed time. It’s had 10 oil changes in 15 years and there’s no sign of sludge in the valve cover or on the valve train. Actually it’s nearly as clean as it was when new. If your driving consists of short trips where the engine never reaches full operating temperature where it can burn off moisture, I agree it needs the oil changed every 6 months to a year, but if the car is only driven on longer trips I don’t think 3-5K mile intervals are going to hurt anything. Most cars manufactured in the past 15-20 years come from the factory with platinum plugs (recommended change interval 100K miles), I’ve ran several sets of platinum plugs 100-125K miles without any problems, just changed them then because I felt guilty they had been in the car so long. I’d suggest checking the condition of the belts and hoses and replace them if needed. My '88 Ford Escort has 518K miles, has had all radiator/heater hoses replaced 1 time, the serpentine belt changed 2 times, the timing belt changed 5 times, about 4 sets of plugs and 2 sets of plug wires.