One thing quite a few people are confused about is regular maintenance intervals for their vehicle. Thing like oil changes, tire rotations, other fluid flushes, air filters, fuel filters, spark plugs, and many more. Just about everything that makes your car or truck run is in need of, and has, a regular schedule for maintenance. The absolute best place to find this information is in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. There will be a list of everything that needs changing, checking, rotating, etc, and when to do it.
Most cars these days have an oil life monitor built in, and usually a reading on the dash tells you the percentage of oil life that is left. This is a decent way to keep track of it, but many factors affect it. One thing people don’t realize, is that just about everyone that drives a car, is driving it in a severe service mode. This mode requires the most frequent of maintenance. Daily driving, to and from work, is about the roughest driving your vehicle will experience in it’s life. This type of driving is hardest on the oil, the transmission, fuel consumption, brakes, and almost every other aspect of the car’s components. Now, relying on an oil life monitor, or someone to tell you that you need an oil change is just going to increase the failure rate of components. Oil itself, while it does break down a little over time, is usually a constant matter. The additives, cleaners, and other lubricants that manufacturers add to the oil is what deteriorates over time the most. This results in sludge and carbon build up inside the engine when left unmaintained. Next to the owner’s manual, asking your technician is probably the next best way to find out how often you change your oil. Although you’ll read otherwise in certain places, I still firmly believe in the 3 months, or 3000 miles motto for oil changes. Just remember this….you can never change your oil too often!
Thing like transmission fluid, coolant, power steering fluid and brake fluid, all have their own schedules as well. These will be quite a bit less often than oil changes, but you should pay attention to it. Coolant these days, is usually good for 100,000 miles. Some does evaporate from the reservoir over time, so as long as you get it topped off as needed, it should last the entire posted lifetime. Coolant flushes are big sellers now at dealers and other shops, but you should only get this if you actually need it. You certainly should not need one at 30,000 miles!
Transmission fluid is very important as well, and today’s blends are very good and long lasting. I’m personally not a big fan of transmission flushes, but rather prefer to drop the pan and change the transmission filter, and then just add enough new fluid to bring the level back to full. Everyone has their preference and that is fine!
Power steering and brake fluid, another two that will need topped off now and again, should really just about last the life of the vehicle. Shops will try to sell flushes on these systems as well, but again, it’s all up to what you prefer or want. If either is contaminated, then absolutely you should flush them!
Other maintenance items like air filters, PCV valves, serpentine belts, and even timing belts should be changed when recommended. All of these will add life to the engine and the car as a whole.
One thing that is overlooked quite a bit is tire rotations. Your tires need to be rotated to keep the wear patterns even on all four tires. As you drive, the front tires turn and get rounded tread edges. The rear tires, while only ever going straight, get more squared off tread edges. To keep these even, regular tire rotations should be performed. I usually recommend 6,000 mile intervals. Lacking in this department will leave you with front tires that are bald on the edges, and rear tires that are feathered and chopped badly.
Tune-ups are a good idea too, but really these days they are almost non-existent since most cars go 100,000 miles between tune-ups. That doesn’t mean to neglect that aspect of maintenance, though!
One last area of thought, is the brakes. This is one area that is completely individual to the way a person drives. Some people need brake pad replacement in as little as 10,000 miles, while other people can go 50,000 miles or more before needing brakes. It all depends on how you drive the car. Some people ride the brake, some people brake harder than others, etc. Rely on your trusted mechanic to tell you when you need brake pads or rotors. Most shops give a free inspection, so take advantage of it!!
Basically, all of the above comes down to you. Only you can keep up the maintenance schedule for your vehicle. And if you do, you’ll get a lot more from it!
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