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Tuneup for a VTEC engine

My 99 Accord is due for a full tuneup (plugs, wires, cap & rotor). The prices i’ve been quoted are: $300 (from my usual mom & pop mechanic) and $380 from an independent mechanic up the road. Ouch. Not that I have a problem spending the money but I was just wondering why it is so much to do this simple maintenance? It is a 4 cyl engine. Thanks.

For plugs wires cap & rotor you’d have to try pretty hard to spend more than $100, shouldn’t cost that much. This is pretty simple to do on your own, are you sure you’re not up for it? Besides, your “mom & pop” mechanic probably isn’t planning on using oem parts, which is a good idea for Hondas in particular. Did these shops give you an itemized list that said they were only doing plugs wire cap and rotor?

Doing a tune-up on this engine is a pretty simple affair. You might want to ask friends, co-workers, etc if they know someone who’s piston-head (a person who repairs cars). You could then go out and buy the parts yourself which would save a lot of money, and then have the piston head install them at a reasonable price.


Actually, to perform a proper tune-up (somewhat bad terminology to use anyway) there are a few additional steps that SHOULD be performed although it may be a cold day in Panama before many shops do it.

With plugs out compression should always be tested.
Distributor equipped cars should get a timing check even though in theory the timing should be correct. (One never knows if someone has dinked around with it, made an error during a timing belt change, etc.)
Thirdly, the valve lash should be inspected and adjusted as necessary.

I know the factory manuals may state you can drive until oblivion without ever checking valve lash but that is an idiotic recommendation. It should be checked initially around the 15k miles mark and every 30k miles after that at a maximum.
The only thing more idiotic than recommending 100k miles + valve lash checks is the recommendation that it be done “audibly” by a trained Honda tech.

No tech on earth can tell what valve lash is by listening to it. They could probably tell if one was too loose by excessive clattering but the silent ones are the ones you really have to worry about. Tight valves means decreased engine performance and eventually expensive cylinder head problems.


The Honda Owner’s manual specifies adjusting valves “only if noisy” at the 30k intervals. I will ask my independent mechanic about this.

I would wait to do the valves until your next timing belt replacement if you are not having any problems.

Why do you think you need wires, cap and rotor? Is it called for in the owners manual? I have a 97 Accord with 150k miles on it and it still has the originals, only the plugs and air filter are changed at 30k intervals.

Exactly my point. “Only if noisy” is a ridiculously asisnine recommendation because it’s the “silent ones” that often cause the most damage.

Honda USED to recommend 15k miles valve lash checks, but Honda and many other car makers have been on a crusade since about the mid 80s to make their cars appear to be more maintenance free in the interest of looking good to the car owners.
Kind of a “sure, there’s no need for this procedure” followed by “sorry, but the car went out of warranty before the damage surfaced”.

The owners manual is not always correct on this issue and some other issues also; such as not changing trans fluid on a regular basis, etc.
Honda is not the only one guilty of this.

As I said, there’s not a tech on earth that can determine valve lash with their ears - period - and anyone who says otherwise needs to be in rehab. The purpose of inspection is to make sure the lash is within specs rather than wind up with a very expensive problem.
(Do a net search about these Honda extended valve lash intervals and you’ll find some info on this subject)