Time for tuneup?


I have a 1987 Honda Accord 177k, an overall well running car. It hasn’t had a basic tuneup in 80k, but the spark plugs and wires have been changed very recently. Would it still be worth it to take it in for this service? I wasn’t sure if you’re supposed to do it per so many miles or when the car starts to run “bad.” Suggestions? Thanks


Oh and if you’re wondering why the plugs have been changed but the car hasn’t been tuned, a friend was showing me how to install spark plugs and wires but we never actually evaluated the timing, compression, exhaust, belts, hoses, filters, etc etc whatever else is involved with a tuneup.


check your belts and that is it. I sent my honda in for a 100,000 mile service and they did not even change the plugs because that is done at 106,000! I paid for a lot of looking and expensive recomendations.


Congratulations on your new adventure. Your owner’s manual will tell you what needs to be checked. A few thing sthat need doing for sure of they haven’t been done are the timing belt, the water pump, and the fan belt. These are all done in the same operation, as well as checking the idler pulley.

Compression checking is not part of a regular tuneup. It’s done to determine the condition of the cylinders in the diagnosis of a problem. If the engine is running fine, skip the compression check.

Although checking the exhaust system isn’t part of a regular tuneup, on a car this age I think it’s a great idea. An exhaust leak can be dangerous if it’s in a spot that allows CO into the passenger cabin, and finding an area about to fall off is better than waiting until it does. Replacing a rotten hanger is also much ceaper than waiting for the hanger to fail and the system to come apart.


The definition of a tuneup used to be plugs, point, check wires, belts,air filter, adjust carburetor, check rad & antifreeze, change oil & filter. Nowadays most advertised tuneups are just plugs, and maybe an air filter. All easy stuff with a high profit margin. At this mileage, for your own peace of mind, do what the previous posters said. The timing belt and cooling system are becoming the most vulnerable parts of today’s cars. The ignition sytem is quite reliable, especially with platinum/iridium plugs.


If your '87 Accord has electronic fuel injection, a tuneup is performed by simply replacing the spark plugs and spark plug wires. This assumes that other regular maintenance is performed, like replacing the air filter, changing the oil, checking or changing the transmission fluid and coolant, etc. If you haven’t done these things, do them ASAP.


I have to respectfully disagree a bit. A thorough tune-up on this car should mean checking the compression. IMHO, a compression check should always be performed during a tune-up or engine performance problem, as nothing is guaranteed on an automotive engine. I’ve seen major mechanical problems on near new cars with less than 10-20k miles on them. Checking compression would have saved a lot of guessing, parts replacing, time, and money in an attempt to cure what is thought to be a ghostly problem.

Inspecting valve lash should always be part of a major tune-up on vehicles with mechanical lifters as this can affect performance, compression, and also lead to the previously mentioned guessing and replacing.

That’s what should be done on a by the book tune-up, although I realize those steps are often shunted aside. Sometimes with bad results.
(Changing the fuel filter and servicing the PCV valve should also be done.)


Was fuel filter replacement part of "…filters, etc,…?


I agree with everythink OK4450 posted. I perform a compression test on all cars that come into my shop for a tune-up. I will add that an 87 Accord still has a distributor. The cap and rotor need replaced as well as the fuel filter.


True, but you’re alluding to cars that come in with problems.

However, although I’d cosider it beyond the norm for a tuneup on a good running engine I have all the respect in the world for yourself and Dartman and certainly aren’t against it. There’s no question in my mind that you guys are top flight and I happily set aside my comment and support a compression check based on your recommendations.

OP, listen to these guys. They truely are the “bees knees”.


Yup. Absolutely.


It is very possible that the Maintenance Schedule for a recent model of the Accord calls for spark plug replacement at 106k. However, that interval is NOT true of an '87 model! Back then, most manufacturers recommended replacing spark plugs every 20k–25k, IIRC.

And, even if the Maintenance Schedule on your recently-built Accord does call for replacement of the plugs at 106k, this is an example of false economy. By that mileage, most plugs are misfiring at least some of the time, thus cutting your gas mileage. And, getting the spark plugs out at that point is not easy and can lead to damage to the threads in your cylinder heads.

It is both cost-effective and prudent to replace your spark plugs at around 60k.


Thanks for your advice. Fuel filter has been replaced however I don’t have any record of the distributor cap and rotor being changed. So I will have a basic tuneup done as well as distributor cap & rotor and transmission fluid needs to be drained and replaced too. Sounds like a plan to me.


I believe a basic tune up as you call it on that car should be plugs, distributor cap, rotor, gas filter, air filter, and a PCV. Wires maybe at 60K. You need to do the rotor and cap yet. Its always a good idea to inspect the belts and replace them all at one time, and also the hoses and thermostat while you are at it. Timing belt on that one I think is required at about 90K which needs to include the water pump (for $5-700) so might as well do the belts then. And of course the oil and filter while you’re at it and might as well do the trans fluid too.


The reason why the valve lash adjustment should be inspected as part of a tune-up is that because if you wait until a car runs bad due to tight valve lash, then it’s already too late. You probably have a burned valve(s) at this point and now need cylinder head work; or cylinder head replacement in severe enough cases.

I had to replace not one, but BOTH, cylinder heads on a near new Subaru that only had 7500 miles on it. This was caused by failure to inspect the valve lash or improperly adjusting the lash (the owner was real evasive on this) and both heads were scrap aluminum with no repair possible. That’s how bad it was and warranty would not pay one cent on this although the car was only 6 months old.

The same thing carries over to every other area. Do you change the auto transmission fluid on a regular basis or wait until it starts to shift “bad”?
Inspect brakes on a regular basis or wait until they’ve been grinding for 3 months?

That’s all the “prevention” part of the equation.

Since I’m a licensed aircraft mechanic also, an analogy I can make is this.
How would you feel about chartering a Cessna 172 for a cross-country flight and about an hour into the flight the owner/pilot says, "She seems to be runnin’ fine but I skipped the compression test and valve adjustment during the last “tune-up” and I’m only a couple of hundred hours past the TBO (to be overhauled) spec?
Where’s the 'chute, huh? :slight_smile:


It’s never time for more servicing at that age. All they can do is screw it up. Or change the fuel filter.


Interesting you should bring that up because i’m a pilot. The airplane wouldn’t be flying in the first place because a 100 hr inspection is required per FARs. And most likely a competent A&P would be doing this work, not the owner/pilot. And finally, i’d rather take my chances with a forced landing than bail out of an aircraft with a parachute, unless structural failure was a factor.

But anyway…

I’m just reasonably inferring that your reccomendation is that I go ahead and get the tuneup done?



what ?


Cool. I’m not a licensed pilot but have been behind the wheel a few times. Love the small stuff and military equipment; they can scrap the airliners IMHO since a delapidated old bus is a better alternative.

In theory, the inspections should be done and done correctly but you never really know for sure.
Planes go down all the time for one of 3 reasons; pilot error, design flaw, or maintenance failure. The latter is what sent that DC-10 into the cornfields in Iowa years ago. I believe the latter is what caused the propeller to fall off of one of our U.S. Senators airplane a few years ago.
(Landed safely though.)

Anyway. One could look at this as either a minor or major tune-up.
A minor should get spark plugs, PCV service, at least a visual inspection of the dist. cap and rotor, and preferably new plug wires if they’ve been on there a long time.
If your Honda is carbureted (many are this year) then choke operation and idle speed should be checked and adjusted as necessary.

A major tune-up would include the above + compression test, valve lash check, fuel/air replacement etc.

Mountainbike does have a point about compression checks not being done though. I can’t give you the %, but my guess would be that shops who do not perform a compression test, etc. as part of a tune-up make up the vast majority.
I don’t consider it proper at all, but that’s just me. Aircraft training taught me this and when I first started working on “foreign cars” this was also highly stressed by the Volkswagen service schools.

Speaking for myself and dealers I’ve worked for, a compression test has always been part of the tune-up. Generally speaking, nothing extra was charged for this although a little could be tacked on for engines that have very difficult access to spark plug holes.
The first things out are the spark plugs so why not check the compression at that point?

I only mention this because I’ve seen so many vehicles over the years in which the owners have spent a lot of money and time throwing tune-up or electronic parts at a car in a effort to cure a mechanical fault when a simple compression test would have shown the problem to begin with; thereby saving them from the aggravation.
A compression test also gives you a general idea of where you’re at, engine condition wise, in regards to piston rings and valve seating. If a test was run and one got 140 PSI readings across the board for example, then you would know the engine is starting to get a bit weak.

At a 177k miles a compression test would be mandatory IMHO, but a shop is entitled to do it their way whether I agree or not.

Hope that helps anyway.
(Speaking of piloting cool, my brother in law (recently retired MSGT) talked his way into a T-37 Tweet jet ride year before last. Got to take the stick and pull a few loops and barrel rolls without puking. Not being uniformed, I only got a ride in the T-37 flight simulator. Crashed twice! Once on approach during a heavy thunderstorm and the second time while doing a 275 knot barrel roll right by the Key West NAS control tower. Rolled right into the ocean. It appears I need practice - badly.) :slight_smile:


Your forgetting a major item like the distributor cap and rotor if not changed when the wires were changed out. Also your air filter would filthy at this point.

If you don’t know the last timing belt change that is due, especially on such an old Accord.