The first place to check your tune-up schedule is in the owners manual of your vehicle. The maintenance schedule should be clearly listed along with the typical tune up items: spark plugs, spark plug wires, ignition components and adjustments. Try to maintain this schedule.
Beyond the Owner's Manual
Sometimes a vehicle needs a tune-up more often than the owner's manual states. This can be true if the vehicle is driven in extreme conditions or if the mileage is getting high. In this case, listen to your car. Difficulty starting, hesitation on acceleration, increased tailpipe emissions (smoke) or poor fuel economy can all be signs that a tune-up is needed. Fuel economy can be easily checked periodically. Simply fill the gas tank all the way up. Then record the mileage or reset your trip odometer to zero. Drive until near empty and refill to full. Record the number of gallons needed to fill the tank and divide by the miles driven since the last fill-up.
Listen to Your Car
Knowing what to listen and look for is the surest sign of when a car needs a tune-up. So learn to listen and look for these signs and you will save money and have a better experience with your mechanic when the time does come to take the car in for a tune-up.