What Are Your Car’s Recommended Service Intervals and Why?
You’re waiting in traffic and your eyes begin to wander out of boredom. Suddenly, you notice a sticker on the corner of your windshield. It’s time to get your vehicle in for routine maintenance.
After a closer look, you realize it has been three months since it was last serviced, but you’ve only driven it 3,000 miles since its last oil change. Still, the thought of a breakdown or blown engine concerns you enough to call your dealership and get an appointment scheduled.
If this sounds similar to how you would handle maintenance on your vehicle, you may be throwing money away. These little maintenance stickers, placed there by quick-change oil facilities and service departments, may be effective sales tactics, but they are inaccurate service reminders.
Read on to learn how to stop wasting money on unnecessary checkups.
Find the Owner’s Manual and Read It
The most important step is digging the owner’s manual out of your glove compartment, dusting it off, and reading it. There’s no need to read the entire thing, but there is one section in particular you don’t want to miss: your vehicle’s maintenance schedule.
The maintenance chart explains how often your vehicle needs servicing, as well as the particular service it needs. This helpful manual is courtesy of the factory that designed and manufactured your vehicle, not by a dealership hoping to sell you a $120 service “just to be safe”.
If your vehicle has 36,000 miles or less, minimal maintenance is required to keep it functioning at its best. Typically, regular tire rotation and oil changes are most important in terms of service needs. As your car accumulates miles, additional maintenance is required. However, we are referring to scheduled maintenance, not actual repairs.
Immediately after buying a vehicle, most people get the car serviced at the same dealership they purchased it from. Then, as the car gets older, people may start going to different mechanics or chain repair stores. The difference between the service department at the store you bought the vehicle from an independent mechanics is significant.
Want to know a big secret that will save you tons of money? There is often a huge gap between the service your vehicle actually needs and what service advisors (really like a salesman in disguise rather than a mechanic) at dealerships will recommend.
If you compare the services recommended by the service advisor to your vehicle’s owners manual, you will probably realize that the dealer is suggesting unnecessary repairs or services. If you look closely at the service dealer’s suggestions, you’ll likely see things like adjustments, inspections, or fluid replacements.
This is why it’s so important to pay attention to your vehicle’s owner manual and understand its maintenance schedule.
The Smarter Way to Service Your Vehicle
Here are the most important things to know when you set up an appointment for your vehicle to be serviced:
Find the maintenance schedule for your vehicle, either from your car’s owners manual or online through a Google search
Make a copy of the service schedule
When scheduling the service appointment, list exactly what the vehicle needs straight from the owner’s manual
Brace yourself for the upsell
An advisor will likely list their recommendations, to which you can reiterate what the manual suggests
If you are unsure of something, you can always say you’d like to hold off until your next visit
Pay Close Attention to Your Vehicle’s Service Lights
Since car manufacturers are well aware that most individuals do not read the owner’s manual, they notify vehicle owners of service reminders through indicator lights. These lights typically appear on the dashboard near the speedometer.
Generally, these lights are designed to come on before a service is actually needed. This gives you an advanced notice for scheduling an appointment. Yet another reason the owner’s manual so important? It can tell you exactly what the reminder light means.
Vehicles have two types of systems:
1. Set mileage system – In a set mileage system, the indicator light will come on each time you have driven a certain number of miles and need an oil change. Although it varies among manufacturers, the limit is usually 5,000 miles.
2. Oil sensor system – In these systems, an onboard computer determines when an oil change is necessary. Driving short, frequent trips will cause the light to be triggered sooner. Highway driving will let you go more miles in between suggested service.
The most important thing to remember is that over-servicing your vehicle is a waste of time and money. It doesn’t help your car, hurts your wallet, and can be avoided with the right knowledge. Consider heading out to your vehicle now to find that long lost owner’s manual!