Dealership Maint Schedule – A Must or A Bluff

September 25th, 2013 by

Today’s topic is regarding vehicle maintenance schedules.  There is a lot to talk about, but I will attempt to break it down for clarity.

Broken Down CarYou will find a lot of information, especially on the web, but is it all valid?  The web is a great place to shout your opinion, and outside of politics, vehicle maintenance, is loaded with opinion and conflicting information.  So what’s the deal.

Here is the deal:  There is no one singular answer, but overall the maintenance of your vehicle is important and will save you money over the life of your car.  How?  Fewer major mechanical issues, less stress from unreiable transportation, safety, and fuel efficiency.
I have said it before and I will say it again.  The most common misconception about new generation cars is that they require little maintenance.  Keep oil in it and it will run 200,000 miles.  It is statistically proven that car ownership costs about $100 a month above and beyond your payment and fuel.  The problem is we don’t set aside $100  a month, and then when a big repair or maintenance item comes up we are not prepared.  I always suggest that you keep a “Car Fund”.  Set a little aside each month  to help defer the cost of higher cost maintenance items or major mechanical failure.

Ok, so back to the topic.  Do you really need to follow all of these maintenance schedules that have been given to you by your dealer.  Yes and No.  I sense your sigh of frustration, so let’s break it down.

Generally, dealers set their standard recommended maintenance schedules to the most severe conditions that may occur in your area.  The manufacturer gives a mixed signal, because they give the dealership a set of severe service standards that they recommned, but then their owner’s manual, often gives a different interpretation.  Which do you believe?  – heavy sigh…..both.

The fact is every one drives differently.  Our acceleration and braking rate, long distances or in town driving.  Some use Cruise Control, some never touch it, you may haul horse trailers, but somebody with the exact same vehicle, never takes the truck over 40mph and won’t even let people ride in it.  So it is difficult for Manufacturer and Service department to come up with just one big “this is what you have to do”.

So, the manufacturer analyzes the general “User” of a specific vehicle.  They take these metrics and create a minimum service schedule.  This minimum service schedule is the bare minimum that they believe, under normal operating conditions will keep your vehicle running within normal parameters, and if you follow these guidelines they will continue to warranty the product.

But what if you fall outside of the “average” user as determined by the manufacturer, maybe you drive way less, maybe you drive way more, and push your vehicle to the end of its design limits?  That is when the more severe schedule comes into play. Not every maintenance is based just on miles, it also is by time.  If you will recall in previous articles regarding fluids in your vehicle, even with lack of use, time will break down those fluids and they still need to be changed.

As complicated as cars have become, it has become more and more difficult to handle car maintenance on a DIY basis, so you need a mechanic.  Many small, independant shops will tell you that the dealership is just trying to rip you off, or sell you something you don’t need.  But the truth is, the dealership has the tools, the training and the oversite of the manufacturer to provide you with the best service for your vehicle.  The bigger truth is that there are unethical people and businesses in this world, so it is best to have some basic knowledge so that you are able to participate in the process and not just taken for a ride.

All maintenance times and measurements are guidelines.  Referring back to the previous comment, we all drive differently.  Generally when quoted a 30k service, you can bet that this as an Extreme list and top end of the price scale.  Discuss this with your Service Advisor and find out if you truly, based on your use, need the Extreme.  In the event you don’t, for example, if you just had new tires put on or rotated, you would not need this service, so you should be able to subtract a portion from the fee.  (Average is around 19.95) perhaps your Power Steering Fluid, Brake Fluid are still looking pretty good and don’t need a flush yet, subtract the amount.

EVERY Manufacture, and every model have different needs, so you do need to read your Owner’s Manual.  The following is a generic guideline of standard service schedules compiled from multiple manufactures and for the purpose of providing you with a solid guide and easy reference point.  In addition, the following guidelines are based on standard oil NOT Synthetic.  Synthetic oils often last longer or are for use with specialy cars, transmissions or components.  It does not mean that it does not break down or need replacing, and the fees are often significantly more than standard.

Standard Maintenance Schedule:

Every 3-3700 miles       or 3 months
Change Oil and Filter
All lights
Transmission Fluid
Axle and suspension parts
Battery terminals, Cables, mounting
Brake fluid Level
Tire tread and wear pattern
Clutch / Fluid (if applicable)
Coolant level and hose inspection
Differential oil
Propeller shaft and drive shaft boots
engine air filter
engine Drive Belts
Exhaust System
Front Suspension, linkage, ball joints
Power steering fluid/ color/level/top off
Shoks and struts
transfer case oil
Wiper blades and washer fluid/top off

Price on this type of service for Basic, Standard oil, will run anywhere from $20 – $50.00  Average about $35.00.  Remember, cheaper is not always better.  Oil is expensive, and when you are paying only $12 -$19 you have to wonder what kind of oil and parts they are using.  They are making money somewhere.  If they are using low grade or recycled oil, you will need to change your oil more often, or it can cause damage down the road.  Both routes equal more money out of your pocket.  Sometimes it is cheaper to pay more and get quality manufacture specific parts and recommended fluids.

Every 6-8000 miles  or 6 months

Change engine oil and oil filter
Rotate Tires/perform visual brake isnpection
Road Test Vehicle

Same Point inspection as above.

Price for this service is general 20-30 above the standard oil change price.  Basically, it is recommended that you rotate your tires, and get your brakes checked every other oil change.  This will prolong the life of your tires, and catch brake wear early.

Every 15,000 miles or Annually
– this is where what needs to be done will vary greatly.  Almost every manufacture has a 15k requirement.  What is required will vary slightly, but not much, and if it is your first 15k, on a new car, it is VERY important that you get this service done timely.  Again, actual mileage will vary by MFG, however, 15k, is a fairly standard mileage.

Change engine oil and oil filter
rotate tires and inspect tread and wear pattern
Perform Brake Inspection
Replace Cabin Filter (if equipped) –
replace engine air filter
Replace master cylinder brake fluid
perform batter service, install anti – corrosion pads
Road test vehicle
Vehicle Inspection : See above

This service varies in price from $275 – $400, average price for Standard  is closer $275.  Items that may not be necessary – Cabin Air Filter not all vehicles are equipped, and the cost reduction can vary by MFG from $20 – $60.

EVERY 30,000 miles or 2 years
Time in shop;  4-6 hours

this is one that causes great controversy, among the old DIY types and MFG and the smaller shops.  This is the “Tune Up”.  and what is needed and the cost associated varys greaty by MFG, for example:  a 2009 Forester Tune up – full Severe Service costs avg:  $495-$550 (std oil)  However, a 2013 Forester is:  $925-$1000.  Why?  Because the 2013 Forester requires all Synthetic Oil:  Engine Oil, Differential Oil, transmission fluid  .  The 2009 does not.  Additional variations among MFG and models are things such as V-6 or 4 cyl.  Is it a Turbo or other specialty engine.  Is it AWD, etc.

Change engine oil and filter
Rotate Tires and inspect tread and wear pattern
Perform brake inspection
Replace master cylinder brake fluid
Replace cabin filter (if equipped)
Replace engine coolant – just like any fluid this breaks down and loses effectivenes.    Some may                       recommend a flush, (especially small non-MFG shops) check your owner’s manual first, not all cars can be flushed)
Perform battery service, install anti-corrosioin pads
Replace Spark Plugs (depending on model/type this will vary the cost)
Replace transmission fluid –   Depending on model, driving and many factors, a flush may be recommended at this point:  if the color is only slightly off, a drain and fill will be just fine, especially on the first 30k, however, (read article regarding transmission service) if the fluid is dark, or burned, a flush may be the better route, whether through driving habits or a few isolated incidents, you have caused the fluid to break down quicker, and flushing is generally best at this point.
Perform differential service (This will vary by wether or not it is AWD , type MFG, and may not even be a factor)
Road Test Vehicle
Complete Vehicle Inspection:

Average cost (std oil) $450-$600

Car maintenance is expensive and incovenient, but not near as expensive as blowing an engine, or a transmission, or being stuck on the side of the road on a rainy night with a car full of kids.  Maintaing your car as you go will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the life of your car.

We hope that this has helped clear the muddy waters somewhat.  We will break down additional maintenance items in future postings.

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