You know your vehicle needs regular oil changes, but beyond that, aren’t quite sure what you should be doing, beyond fixing things when they break. That approach won’t save you any money.
What Basic Car Maintenance Are You Missing?
The answer lies in your owner’s manual, and online, which tells you exactly when to have your car serviced. Here’s an example of what you may find:
Sure, we’d like to give you an exact list of what basic car maintenance every car needs. It would make scheduling and affording that next much-needed service simpler. But there is such variability in the manufacturer’s recommendations that it’s just not possible. So that’s why the maintenance schedule, in back of your owner’s manual is key. Alternatively, you can check your vehicle’s maintenance checklist, based on mileage, here with Openbay.
Basic Car Maintenance Examples
Most vehicles only need an oil-and-filter based service at roughly this mileage, but 4×4 vehicles have complex drivetrains and suspensions that require regular maintenance. A regular oil-change procedure should include injecting grease into the driveshaft and suspension grease fittings.
The Ram pickup’s maintenance schedule includes additional 4-wheel-drive maintenance items that are not needed on most cars.
Toyota specifies a 10,000-mile oil-and-filter change interval for the Camry, as well as many other Toyota vehicles. If your vehicle sees a lot of stop-and-go driving, you may want to get the oil changed more often, as short trips might not let the engine warm up sufficiently. That heat is needed to burn off moisture, unburned fuel, and contaminants.
The only way to get rid of the contaminants, and prevent engine damage, is to change the oil and filter more often than recommended. If you drive your vehicle on short trips, consider changing your oil at 6,000 or 7,500 miles.
The Mazda 3’s cooling system is rated to go five years or 50,000 miles between flushes. Although it may not need service, it still should be inspected every 24 months or 24,000 miles.
That inspection should include looking for leaks, degraded hoses, a functioning pressure cap and visual inspection of the coolant for sediment or rust. On that same two-year interval, if your car has a cabin-air filter like the Mazda3, have the filter replaced.
Checking for maintenance items in the 3-series Owner’s manual reveals that BMW uses what they call “Condition-Based” service intervals. So, there’s no fixed mileage interval for most maintenance items. The maintenance you need is dependent upon your driving cycle.
Some aftermarket repair shops may not be well-equipped to interrogate the BMW system, so you might want to consider working with a service center that specializes in European, or German vehicles.
Other manufacturers use a simpler system to predict when your oil needs to be changed, and make that display easy to access.
While many car manufacturers don’t recommend ever changing the brake fluid, Jeep requires that the fluid in the brake system be replaced every 60,000 miles.
Brake fluid sucks moisture out of the air, and in the process becomes contaminated with dust and other particles. If you have ABS, it’s vitally important to keep the system filled with fresh, clean fluid.
The Jetta requires the timing belt to be replaced regularly, currently around 75,000 miles. VW revised its timing-belt recommendations down from 105,000 on some models.
A failed timing belt will not only leave you stranded, it will demolish your engine instantly when the still-moving pistons hit the immobile valves. Fortunately, not all cars have “interference” engines like VW’s, so the result may not be as catastrophic as in these vehicles.
Either way, changing the timing belt, which can be expensive, is a procedure that should not be neglected or postponed.
Remember that your hybrid has two cooling systems: one for the engine, and one solely for the hybrid system. Both need regular coolant changes, although the first interval for the hybrid coolant is a leisurely 100,000 miles.
Even though your hybrid may run on electricity some of the time, the gasoline engine needs to be serviced regularly.
What Have We Learned?
Every car has different requirements! In addition, your shop, familiar with local conditions and your driving cycle may well suggest more frequent maintenance of some items.
The manufacturer’s recommendations should be considered a minimum regime.
Are you ready to get your car in for its basic maintenance?