You probably already know that preventive maintenance on your car, truck, van, or SUV is important. It’s basically a matter of taking care of certain items based on the number of miles you’ve driven (or how many months it’s been since the last service) rather than waiting for specific symptoms to appear. Here we’ll begin with the most frequent items that most people have heard about, but may have wondered about.
For most drivers there are three important maintenance items needed one or more times a year.
- Oil Change For many decades now motor oil has done a lot more than lubricate to reduce friction. Numerous additives work to protect the engine as well as to improve lubrication and cooling. But with heat and time those additives break down. And with oil temperatures typically reaching 200 degrees (or more) the organic oil itself breaks down, loosing its friction-reducing capabilities. Depending on the vehicle and driving conditions oil should be changed every 3,000 to 7,000 miles. That’s typically every 3 to 6 months. An oil change should also replace the oil filter. Why? It holds about a quart of old oil, plus all the gunk it’s filtered. And that gunk reduces the all-important flow of oil through the engine.
- “Brake Job” Actually, what you need is brake inspection and servicing once or twice a year. Once every oil change is a good idea. Depending on the mechanic’s findings you may need adjustment, replacing brake pads or shoes, or flushing the brake fluid. As a safety-critical part of your vehicle, if there’s any other concerns then replacing other worn and aging parts may be needed to restore the brake system to like-new condition (a brake job).
- Tune Up You may have heard some contradictions between frequent versus “hardly ever” tune ups. That’s because for old vehicles without electronic ignition ignition carburetor and distributor adjustments together with spark-plug servicing were needed around every 10,000 miles in order to maintain proper engine operation. That was like every-other oil change. But with today’s electronic ignition, fuel injection, and computer controls there’s far fewer adjustments. So a tune up is more of a long-term scheduled maintenance item, every 25,000 miles to as infrequently as 100,000 miles on some vehicles.
Why these ranges in the number of miles? The appropriate time varies with the particular vehicle as well as traffic conditions and even your driving habits. Be sure and check your owner’s manual for when servicing should be done. Those schedules are based on actual data from millions upon millions of vehicle miles.
TIP: Skip an oil change or two? You might get by with it. Or you might experience serious engine damage. If the dashboard oil light turns on your car is low on oil. When that happens, driving more than a few miles risks overheating and severe damage.
TIP: Synthetic motor oil? Synthetic oils resist the breakdown that organic oils experience at high temperatures. That can mean better lubrication and protection plus improved fuel economy. And they need changing less often. They’re recommend for high performance, turbocharged, and supercharged engines. Also if your vehicle is used for towing or operated in extremely hot or extremely cold weather. But otherwise they’re probably not worth the added cost.
There’s actually many more items that need attention, but typically less often than once a year — fuel filters, coolant flushing, transmission service, and so on. We’ll go over these in the future.
In the mean time just don’t forget that frequent maintenance, and sticking to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, delivers a host of benefits beyond maintaining a warranty. You’ll have a longer-lasting, more dependable vehicle with improved performance. Not to mention increased safety against “accidents due to mechanical failure.”
With us you’ll benefit from expert diagnosis and complete maintenance that’s always up to date with factory information. That includes steering and suspensions, wheelchair lifts, lift gates, and automatic doors. Plus a 2 year / 24,000 mile nationwide warranty. Our experience and expertise covers sedans, light trucks, vans, and shuttle buses, including Ford Transit and Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and Nissan NV vehicles.
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