Regular maintenance is the best way to keep your vehicle reliable and running as it should. Keeping up on services like oil changes, brake service, air filter replacement, and spark plug/ignition services, and timing belt/chain replacement can extend the life of your vehicle and prevent more expensive and serious repairs down the road.
That being said, every person you talk to has a different opinion on how frequently a vehicle should be serviced. To make things more complicated, vehicle manufacturers develop their maintenance schedules instructing you to perform certain service items at specific mileage intervals. In some cases, the recommended intervals from the manufacturer are not frequent enough.
So, what should you believe? There are a lot of variables that impact how often you should get your vehicle serviced. In this article, we are going to clear up the confusion so you know when it’s time to get your car to the shop.
Why is regular maintenance important?
People get sick and go to the doctor when there is something wrong. The doctor may diagnose you with an illness and recommend a treatment to make your symptoms better or go away altogether. They also may recommend lifestyle changes to reduce the damage done to your body.
Your vehicle, like your body, is comprised of many different interconnected systems that can wear out, become run down, or fail if they are not taken care of, abused, or grow older. Preventative maintenance helps slow the progression of issues that come from years of operation and exposure to the elements, keeping your car running as it should for longer. While it may seem expensive and pointless to replace and service things that aren’t broken, the money you spend on maintenance will almost always be less expensive than fixing a component when it fails. Not to mention, the time you spend without your vehicle will be much more if it needs an extensive repair.
What services are considered “regular” or “preventive” maintenance on my car?
Most of the systems within your vehicle are subject to wear and tear that comes from its regular operation. They utilize fluids to lubricate and cool (oil, coolant), and expendable parts that wear out due to friction (brakes, clutches). Any of these changeable components that lose effectiveness over time fall under the preventative maintenance umbrella.
How often should I have my car serviced?
It depends. Each regular service item has a different interval, and the interval will vary depending on the vehicle, engine, age, and mileage. The list below will highlight the more common maintenance items that most cars require, as well as our recommended service intervals. Remember, all vehicles follow slightly different guidelines. These are our recommendations for getting the most out of your car.
The oil keeps the moving components in your engine lubricated and cool. Over time, it becomes less effective and needs to be changed. Most modern vehicles have an oil change interval between 5000 and 12000 miles based on factory recommendations. Synthetic oil used in modern vehicles is much more resistant to breakdown and remains effective significantly longer than conventional oil.
Regardless, the more frequently you perform oil changes the better. Many new cars use downsized, turbocharged engines to squeeze out the most power and fuel economy possible. While highly efficient, these engines produce a lot of heat that can lead to more rapid oil breakdown.
At Becker Service Center, we recommend changing your oil at a minimum twice per year if your car uses synthetic oil. For conventional oil, we suggest an oil change every 90 days.
Brakes and Brake Fluid
Every time you drive, the pads and rotors in your braking system are exposed to extreme heat. There is no set interval for brakes due to the variability in their wear (a pickup truck that tows frequently will wear through brake pads faster than a small commuter car). Brake fluid is responsible for transferring and amplifying the input from your foot into the breaks, stopping the car.
The best way to keep track of when your brakes need service is to have them looked at every time you come in. At Becker Service Center, we will measure the remaining pad material when you bring your car in for any maintenance item and let you know when they need to be replaced. Brake fluid should be replaced every five years to maintain optimal functionality.
Automatic Transmission Fluid
Automatic transmission fluid, or ATF, keeps the moving components in the automatic transmission lubricated and prevents wear and tear. The interval for flushing the transmission and adding new ATF is much larger than motor oil changes.
We recommend an automatic transmission flush every 50,000 miles at Becker Service Center. However, if the fluid looks dark or smells burnt, the ATF should be changed sooner to prevent damage to the transmission.
Differential and Transfer Case Fluid
Differentials and transfer cases route power from the engine to the wheels and use a gear oil to keep the moving components lubricated. Drivers neglect the fluids in these units frequently. Performing transfer case and differential fluid flushes should be on your regular maintenance list.
We recommend changing the differential and transfer case fluid every 30,000 to 50,000 miles to prevent premature failure.
Manual Transmission Fluid
Another frequently overlooked service. Like other fluids, manual transmission gear oil becomes less effective as it gets older. Old fluid can damage gears and synchros, making your gear shifts rough and eventually causing severe damage to the transmission.
At Becker Service Center, we recommend performing a manual transmission oil service every 30,000 – 60,000 miles to keep your transmission working as it should.
Flushing the coolant and replacing it with fresh antifreeze is an important regular maintenance item. Old coolant loses its anti-corrosive properties. Corrosion in the cooling system causes coolant lines and flanges to rust or break down, requiring repairs.
We recommend a coolant flush every 5 years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Power Steering Fluid Flush
Like all the fluids on this list, the power steering fluid loses its functionality over time. It can become abrasive and wear out your power steering pump faster. Some modern cars have moved away from using a hydraulic power steering pump, opting for an electric-assist system that forgoes the use of fluid. We recommend changing your power steering fluid every 30,000 miles.
Fuel Injection Cleaning
Over time, fuel injectors can become clogged. When injectors are not working as they should, you will notice a drop in performance while you drive. and engine with clean injectors will perform best.
At Becker Service Center, we recommend getting your fuel injectors cleaned every 60,000 miles.
Rotating your tires preserves their tread life, prevents uneven wear, and makes your vehicle safer by preserving handling. The type and frequency of tire rotation depend on a vehicle’s drive (front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive).
We recommend a tire rotation every 6 months or as needed, depending on the vehicle.
The timing system keeps the intake and exhaust valves timed correctly with the bottom end of the engine. Timing system issues or failure can result from a variety of issues ranging from rough running up to severe engine damage. Timing intervals are highly vehicle-dependent. Its best to follow factory recommendations, but in some cases, it is advised to perform a timing service even more frequently. Have your mechanic keep an eye on your timing components every time you have work or service done.