What is common sense when it comes to vehicle maintenance? We have all experienced the anxiety of realizing it is time to have your vehicle serviced at your favorite lube center or dealership. After all, that little sticker on your windshield says it is time. However, how do you really know it is time other than the recommendation of that same lube center or dealership? Did you read your owner’s manual? Did your lube center or dealership inform you that your vehicle falls under the severe duty schedule in your owner’s manual due to extreme heat, cold, mountainous terrain, etc.? Then the anxiety sets in as you know the same lube center or dealership is going to tell you it is time to change your air and cabin filter, flush your transmission, power steering system, cooling system, brake system, change the differential fluid, replace your brakes, rotate your tires …… whew! The list can get quite extensive and it never ends. Although you are a good “no” person and escape with money in your pocket now you are receiving email and postcard reminders that you need to perform all of the above. Why are you so inundated as a vehicle owner?
The average quick lube or express lube center at a dealership performs 1200 to 1500 services per month. The oil change and lubrication business is a five billion dollar per year industry. Of this five billion dollars 75% is based on strictly oil changes. When driving into your lube center or dealership everyone is hit with the “good, better and best” oil change menu with an addition of the high mileage oil change for those vehicles over 75,000 miles. No one wants the bottom of the line in their $40,000 vehicle. Thus, most owners choose the better or best oil changes not really realizing what it is they are choosing. Most people merely choose based on the graph the Service Adviser displayed when they drove in. This is your first up-sale moment and they haven’t even pulled your vehicle in for service yet. Although this article is not an anti lube center publication it is an invitation to research your vehicle’s maintenance needs.
Is the 3000 mile interval for oil changes a myth? In years past the technology and metals used in vehicles limited their lifetime. Thus, many of our parents and grand parents lived by the 3000 mile interval for oil changes. Technology today, not only for current mechanical components, but also in the advance of oil technology is much more superior in consideration of lubrication and heat dissipation. Within the last two decades most automobile manufacturers have utilized the use of aluminum for their engine blocks and cylinder heads. This produces much greater heat dissipation than the old cast iron assemblies in our parents vehicles. Other technologies such as roller bearings and advanced lubrication porting have also advanced the longevity of current engines. So is the 3000 mile oil change interval still applicable?
Although many manufacturers have published updated service schedules in owner’s manuals many lube centers and dealerships will recommend you abide by the 3000 mile oil change or 5000 miles for synthetic oils. Many vehicle manufacturers have changed their oil change intervals to 7500 to even 10,000 miles. Current Jaguar vehicles now boast a 15,000 mile interval for oil changes. This can be achieved through the use of synthetic oils and better oil filtration. However, every manual has a “severe duty” service schedule which shortens those intervals required. Naturally no matter where you live or your driving habits you will be informed your vehicle falls under the severe duty schedule. Why is this? This new technology is costing the oil lube centers a bundle of money. The flip side, for the consumer, look at how much additional money you are merely tossing out the window doing two to three oil changes more than required, how much oil is being consumed and how much waste oil that is being disposed of. New technology is making more efficient use of natural resources. Unfortunately, this is costing the automobile service industry money in the short term.
Remember in the introduction of the article the mention or the transmission flush, power steering flush, fuel flush, etc.? This is where those losses can be recuperated from the oil lube centers and dealerships. They would not be properly providing service if they did not make vehicle owners aware that there are more mechanical parts to their vehicle that require service other than the engine. I would like to stress something very important in the interest of vehicle maintenance. Does the average vehicle owner believe the engine oil is the only fluid that should be serviced in their vehicle? Let’s look at the flip side to the direction of this article. I used the terms Common Sense and Vehicle Maintenance in the title for good reason. The common sense part is that there are multiple mechanical moving parts of a vehicle that all utilize oil based fluids to operate. If engine oil breaks down and oxidizes over time do you not think your other mechanical moving lubricants do as well? Let’s look at the many places that need attention in the terms of vehicle maintenance.
- Engine oil
- Engine cooling system consisting of the radiator, thermostat, hoses and maintaining the proper mixture and level of the proper antifreeze.
- Transmission fluid – Transmissions are simply the most overlooked mechanical component and generally the first major component failure a vehicle owner will experience.
- Power steering fluid consisting of power steering pumps, hoses, steering racks and associated moving steering joints. Power steering fluid can become contaminated and break down over time causing particulates to build at hose ends and pump inlets.
- Brake fluid, brake pad and rotor maintenance
- Fuel system consisting of possible clogged air filters, injectors, fuel filters and regulators
- Differentials (axle gear lube)
- Suspension lubrication of ball joints, bushings and shock or strut inspection
- Tires should be checked each time for uneven wear patterns that could signal suspension concerns or low tread depth which could cause an accidental collision.
- Auto detailing or simply keeping a clean car. This is often overlooked and a leading cause of premature corrosion (rust), paint oxidation, cracking plastic panels and torn or weathered upholstery.
Although today’s vehicle technology and longevity have vastly improved, the education provided for the average vehicle owner has not. We are wasting many valuable resources and hard earned money based on old technology ideology. Before your next visit to your local oil lube center or dealership break open that owner’s manual that is collecting dust in your glove box and familiarize yourself with your manufacturers schedule of recommended services. It could very well save you money from excessive oil changes and future breakdowns by being aware of components that need your attention. With the knowledge gained you can put the oil change anxiety away with the confidence and common sense that you now know how to love your vehicle.