Save money on automotive maintenance this year by knowing the difference between regularly scheduled service fact and fiction.
Are you a driver who follows the strict service schedule that your dad imparted on you more than 30 years ago? Have you recently fallen victim to an expensive up sell from your last oil change at a large chain garage that may not have been necessary?
If so, you’re not alone.
Vehicles have changed a lot in the last 30 years. While Dad’s service regime may have been vital back then, today’s computerized ignitions, upgraded oil and air filter technology, and better suspension systems mean that your 2015 Toyota Camry and your father’s 1973 Dodge pickup (that you learned to drive when you were in high school), may have significantly different maintenance needs. It is important to learn what is considered necessary maintenance and service for your car or truck, and what isn’t.
Don’t discount Dad’s advice completely, however. Even though it’s 2016 and not 1976, there are still a few car maintenance commandments that should not be broken.
Myth #1: You can go 10,000 miles between oil changes
Just because your owner’s manual says that you can go 10,000 miles between oil changes doesn’t mean that you should. Even though most car manufacturers have oil life indicators displayed on each vehicle’s dashboard that notify you when the oil needs to be changed, waiting 10,000 miles between oil changes may cause you to miss an opportunity to prevent a potentially catastrophic repair.
It is still a good idea to have your oil changed every 3,000 miles. By having a reputable mechanic change your oil every 3,000 miles, you have the opportunity to catch a damaging coolant leak before it has a chance to do too much damage to your engine. By waiting the full 7,500 or even 10,000 miles between oil changes, the coolant will have already gone through the crank shaft bearings, turning your $50 oil change into a $3,000-$5,000 engine replacement.
Pro Tip: Running expensive synthetic oil in your engine will not stop your high-mileage vehicle from burning oil or your head gaskets from leaking. The best way to prevent major damage to your engine is to have your mechanic change your oil and check your engine every 3,000 miles.
Myth #2: Change your spark plugs every 30,000 miles
Today, many new vehicles can run as many as 100,000 miles on the same set of platinum spark plugs. Of course, each car and truck is different and each driver is too, so be sure to do your research and speak with a trustworthy mechanic before making a decision. Remember, you can only go more than 30,000 miles if you have platinum spark plugs in your vehicle. If you don’t have platinum plugs, or if you aren’t sure, have them changed at 30,000 miles to be safe. Ask your mechanic what kind of plugs he/she is using, and when you will need to have them replaced again.
Myth #3: A mechanic’s scan tool can diagnose what is wrong with your vehicle
This is a very common misconception. An automotive scan tool is a hand-held electronic device that a mechanic uses to interface with your engine’s computer. Many people are under the impression that the scan tool will actually tell the mechanic what is wrong with the car or truck and that no further diagnosis is needed. What a scan tool actually does is give the mechanic a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) that signifies an error message within the computer’s data link connector (DLC). The code basically tells the mechanic where to look first. For example, an O2 sensor (oxygen sensor) code may not mean that the sensor is bad. It may mean that there is an exhaust leak or an intake gasket leak causing the O2 sensor code. The only way to determine this is with a hands-on diagnosis.
Myth #4: Tune-ups that include distributor caps, points and rotors
Traditional tune-ups used to include new spark plugs and ignition parts like points and rotor, and the distributor cap. Don’t fall for this one. New car ignitions don’t even have distributor caps or the points and rotor.
Pro tip: Engine tune-ups are still important. Just be sure to do your homework before letting someone replace parts on your vehicle that don’t exist.
Myth #5: A dealership must perform regular service for vehicles under warranty
This is simply not true. Many car dealers will tell you that you must have them maintain your vehicle to keep the manufacturer warranty valid, or that they are the only ones who can warranty parts on your vehicle. The truth is that you can have any reputable garage perform your maintenance, as long as you keep a detailed service record. If you hang on to your invoices and receipts to show that you kept up with your warranty-required service check ups per your owner’s manual, then there is no reason that you must go to the dealership.
Pro-tip: Avoid high dealership labor rates by having an independent garage perform your routine maintenance.