Auto service intervals are not all the same!

One of the questions that is always going through my mind is,

what is the right amount of vehicle maintenance?

Too much and you’re wasting money; not enough, and your vehicle’s dependability and longevity flies out the window.

The owner’s manual of every car has great information on what services to do and when. But are the manufacturer’s recommendations enough to ensure a long life for the vehicle? The biggest question is how often most fluids and air filters should be changed. My automotive “bible,” Consumer Reports, and I part company on this question as it relates to oil changes. They recommend for the most part following the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals, which often are too infrequent in my opinion. And some service centers recommend oil changes every three months – which I think is far too often.

So what is the answer?

A very strong “depends.” It depends on a variety of factors including the vehicle you drive, your driving style, your risk tolerance and how long you plan to keep your car – and how long you want it to last even if you plan to sell it.

Note my broad recommendations here for different types of automotive service.

Remember, these guidelines are recommended for typical vehicles, operated in normal driving conditions, and driven 10,000 to 12,000 miles per year.• Oil service: 3,000 to 5,000 miles or twice a year using normal oil; 5,000 to 8,000 miles or once a year using synthetic oil.• Coolant flush: 30,000 miles or every three years.• Transmission service: 30,000 to 60,000 miles.• External fuel filter: 60,000 miles.• Power steering fluid: 60,000 miles.• Brake fluid flush: every two years.• Spark plugs: As per manufacturer’s recommendation.• Air and cabin filter: inspect every 15,000 to 20,000 miles and replace as necessary.

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