When Do I Need To Have My Car Serviced? The Dealer Keeps Sending Me Maintenance Reminders
It used to be simple. In the past, it was pretty much agreed upon that oil needed to be changed every 3000 miles, your spark plugs needed to be changed at 15,000 miles, the transmission fluid and fuel filter were due at 30,000 miles, and the differential fluid would get changed at 90,000 miles.
Times have changed. Fluids are much better than they used to be. Spark plugs are now made of iridium and other materials that seem to never wear out. Even oil filters are often made of fleece instead of paper. Maintenance on European cars isn’t what it used to be.
If you’re driving a BMW or a Mercedes, your vehicle may be going 15,000 or more miles before the little light on the dash warns you that it’s time to get your car into the shop. But even then, how do you know what actually needs to be done?
Consult Your Owner’s Manual
The first step is to consult your owner’s manual. It will tell you things like:
● What services need to be done
● When they need to be done
● Type of fluids, filters, or other parts to use to meet the manufacturer’s specs and keep your warranty intact
The owner’s manual will tell you what needs to be done in normal conditions. But a car that spends its life in Dallas, TX traffic isn’t “normal” just as a car that spends its life on the highway isn’t “normal”. If you live in the suburbs, are married, have 2.3 kids & a dog, and work a 9am-5pm job that is 16 miles from your home - you might fit into the “normal” category, Chances are, that’s not you.
Partner With an Auto Repair Shop
A great auto repair shop will partner with you in getting the most life out of your vehicle and will look at your unique driving circumstances to help you to determine what maintenance REALLY needs to be done.
Some of the things we’ll need to know are:
What year, make, and model is your car?
Different vehicles have different needs. The various features and components of your car are going to determine what maintenance service needs to be performed. For instance, a vehicle that has a single, small cabin air filter may require replacement of that filter every year or 15,000 miles, whereas a vehicle with dual, large filters may only require replacement every 3 years or 45,000 miles.
How many miles do you have on your car?
Most auto maintenance is based on mileage or time. It stands to reason that the primary thing we need to know to determine your maintenance needs is the mileage. We may know from experience things that should be serviced, or even replaced, due to our experience with a certain make and model of vehicle. For example, we know that once a Mercedes M112 engine is more than 4 years old or has 60,000+ miles on it, we need to check the serpentine belt idler pulley for cracks. It’s a relatively inexpensive part that can cause a breakdown if it fails. When the owner’s manual was written, they didn’t know this would be a problem.
What previous maintenance work has been done?
Because not every shop, or even every dealership, follows the same maintenance schedule - it’s possible that things may have been done out of the typical maintenance schedule. If something has already been done, it may be appear to be due by time or mileage, but actually is not needed. Conversely, if something was skipped, it may need to be made up.
Where do you do most of your driving?
Is most of your driving done on the highway? Or does your car spend most of its life on busy city streets in stop and go traffic? Does most of your driving occur in hotter climates like southern Texas, or is most of your time spent in New York? We find that some of our clients are snowbirds, so we can’t assume that the cars we work on spend all of their time being driven in the Plano area. The climate where a car is driven can have a big impact on its maintenance needs.
Do you “putt” around in your car or do you drive it hard?
Most people think that a car that is driven hard may need more maintenance than one that is babied. In reality, babying a car is terrible for it and could cause a need for maintenance items that a car that’s driven hard wouldn’t need, like an induction system cleaning. Modern technology combined with cleaner fuels will allow a car to tolerate consistently low rpm’s better than before, but it can still affect the way a car needs to be maintained.
Do you intend to drive this car for the next 15 years or will you trade it in 6 months from now?
If you’re going to trade your car in soon, you probably only want to do the manufacturer’s recommended service. It’s good enough in most cases, but when you want to get the absolute most out of a car, the way you maintain it will be different. When you want to keep a car for 10, 15, or 20 + years, you will want to adhere to a strict maintenance schedule that goes beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations.
The answers to these questions will allow us to determine when maintenance is due and what maintenance services should be performed.
If you would like some help in evaluating the maintenance needs of your vehicle, we’re happy to help. We don’t believe in a one size fits all approach to taking care of vehicles, especially European cars. We know that every car is as unique as its owner. Give us a call at (214) 552-4194 or schedule an appointment online.