April is Car Care Month Car Pro Commentary

People who listen to my radio show know that I am a huge believer in doing maintenance to a vehicle. When I talk to listeners who have unusually high mileage cars, there is always one common denominator, and that is they are diligent with their maintenance habits.
Every April, the Car Care Council brings attention to the importance of doing routine maintenance on your vehicle. Last year, they looked at cars all across the country, and an astounding 84% of them needed service or repairs. Some of those were minor like windshield wiper blades, but others were more serious and alarming.
For instance, the most common problems found were lack of or worn fluids. This is the most basic thing a person can do and something that anyone old enough to have a driver’s license can do. Another very common problem they found was air filters that needed replacement. Again, this is something most people can do on most cars, and people just don’t realize how much damage dirt can do to an engine.
Car MaintenanceProper maintenance of your car takes willpower. It is not something people look forward to doing, especially those who have to take their car in for service. In tough economic times, people tend to put their car maintenance on the back burner. In many cases, people don’t realize that it will cost them a lot more down the road in repairs, many of which could have been avoided had they just taken the time to do what they were supposed to do.
Many repairs can be avoided. For instance, most every repair shop and certainly every dealership service department can test your battery to tell you exactly how much life is left. If your battery is almost shot, it is so much cheaper to replace it while it is still working, than to let it completely fail requiring a wrecker. It could also strand you in a very unsafe area. Other things like a visual inspection by a professional technician can prevent breakdowns too, like looking for frayed belts or hoses that are worn.
A new national poll conducted by Kelson Research shows that most Americans think their car should go 200,000 miles, and the truth is most will, but only if proper maintenance practices are followed.
Your fluids are one of the most important things if you want your car to last. Of course oil is essential to long engine life, you should get in the habit of checking it if you don’t already. Worn oil can be a killer and not give your internal engine parts the protection they need, especially in hot weather. Coolant is also extremely important. A lack of coolant can cause your engine to overheat and result in your engine being ruined. Power steering fluid, transmission fluid, and brake fluid are all things you should check. Most cars have yellow letters stamped prominently on the caps of things that you need to pay attention to.
Be sure to find out too if your car has a timing belt or chain. Most that have belts call for replacing them prior to 100,000 miles. Sadly, I hear from people literally every week who don’t think about their timing belt until it breaks, and most of the time they are looking at an entire engine replacement when this happens.
Make a resolution to take better care of your car, it will pay you dividends, I promise you.

  1. John Wright 5 years ago

    Can anybody come up with an oil change interval that is the truth? Manufacturers say 7500 miles, oil change places say 3000. Who is right? And even if that oil lasts 7500 miles (I doubt it) does the filter last that long?

    • Kevin Moody 5 years ago

      You’ll probably not like this answer, but the answer is “it depends”.

      If you have a modern, well-made engine and drive in clean air and mostly highway use, I can see you easily going 7500 miles or more (just be sure to check for low levels!).

      If you have that same vehicle in a city use, high dirt environment (like here in West Texas), then I would aim for 3000 mile intervals (or even less if the dipstick is showing very dark and you’re having to knock dirt off the air filter).

      On another extreme, old VWs from the early ’60s with their loose-tolerance engines and oil-trap air cleaner still need changes every 1000 miles, even with modern oils.

      Again, it just depends.

      What I can say from first-hand expericence for my vehicle ( a 2000 Tundara, 140k miles, original brakes(!)) is that, even changing every 2500 miles or so, I can feel a big difference in how the engine feels right after a change. Much smoother.

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