Automotive technology has advanced at warp speed in recent years. But no matter how complex our cars have become, they still need regular service to keep them running safely and efficiently, and at full power. That means carefully maintaining motor oil and other fluids, items such as hoses and filters and tires.
Is your car maintenance schedule manual or automatic?
When it comes to scheduling car maintenance service appointments, the first and most important rule is to reference your owner’s manual. Stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations for which services to perform and when, and follow the car maintenance schedule for the kind of driving you do. For example, let’s say that under “normal” driving conditions, your manual specifies that at every 6 months or 6,000 miles (whichever comes first), you must change the engine oil and oil filter, and rotate the tires.
Many new vehicles can automatically alert you via the car’s various displays – or even through your smartphone – when it’s time for your next service. Less advanced systems are based on mileage milestones, while more complex versions rely on numerous sensors that monitor what’s going on throughout your car.
Regardless of whether you’re following the manual or waiting for your car to say something, it’s especially important to abide by the manufacturer’s guidelines if your vehicle is under a new-car warranty.
Changing old myths about when to change your oil
Motor oils have come a long way. Full synthetics share the auto parts store shelves with conventional oils, and there are more viscosity ratings than you can shake a dipstick at. And even though the overriding principles remain the same, the technology behind engine performance and management has come a long way as well.
As lubricants and vehicles have evolved, so too has the wisdom around oil change intervals. Long gone is the recommendation to change your oil every 3,000 miles. In looking at 2014 models, most automakers specify oil changes at 7,500 or 10,000 miles. The shortest oil change interval is 5,000 miles, and the longest is 15,000 miles.
When it comes to scheduling your oil changes, the first and most important rule is to reference your owner’s manual. Stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations for which oil viscosity to use and make sure the oil meets other manufacturer’s requirements, such as whether your car requires synthetic oils, and then change it according to the recommended maintenance schedule.
General services can avoid major repairs
Was your father or grandfather one of those vigilant motorists who had far too many opinions about auto service? He probably checked the engine oil every time he filled up the gas tank. And he might have championed the bygone wisdom of changing the oil every 3,000 miles – no exceptions!
Well, cars and their maintenance requirements are a lot different now, but there are still some basic assessments you can make that are universal to just about every car, and that could help you prevent costly and time-consuming repairs down the road. As a suggestion, your regular oil change interval is a good time to give your car some additional attention:
- Check all fluid levels (engine oil, transmission, coolant, brakes, differential, windshield washer) and top off as needed with the correct fluids – and look for evidence of leaks
- Check tire condition and air pressures – uneven wear could indicate wheel misalignment
- Check the battery for corrosion and loose cables
- Check all lights for proper operation
- Check wiper condition and operation
- Check the condition of belts and hoses
- Check the engine air filter
- Check the fuel lines and filter (if visible/accessible)
- Check the cabin air filter
- Inspect the brakes (pads and rotors, shoes and drums, brake lines)
- Inspect suspension and steering components
- Inspect the chassis and lubricate as needed
- Inspect ignition components (wires, plugs, coil packs, etc.)
- Check the exhaust for holes and leaks, and loose hangers