Servicing your car regularly is a must. While your Uncle Steve likes to tell anyone who will listen that his Honda “only needs oil once every 30,000 miles and everything runs great” the fact of the matter is your car is a finely tuned machine that will run best with regular service.
This means it should go without saying that you should have to service your car every year. That doesn’t mean you need to service it all the time, but to most of you reading these words that means you will be servicing your car every year. In this post, we’re going to go into the particulars about what exactly you should be doing, and how often you should be doing them.
Car Service = Regular, Preventative Maintenance
When we talk about servicing your car, we’re talking about everything you can do to keep your car running safely short of repairing something that is broken.
For example, an oil change would count as a service, whereas fixing your leaky oil pan would not.
Service doesn’t include just fluid changes, it also includes things like changing your spark plugs before they go bad, or spraying your car with an undercoat to keep it from rusting during the winter.
We’ll give you a full list of items in a minute, so just hang tight.
How Often Should You Service Your Car?
Different cars need service at different times. We’ve said it before, but how you maintain a car driving down here in sunny St. Petersberg is going to be different than how you maintain a car in Phoenix.
With that in mind, the table below will list the maintenance intervals assuming you are driving in regular conditions. Regular conditions mean driving no faster than 55mph on the highway and driving in an area with little to no extreme weather, dust, or salt.
The intervals we have listed should serve as a guide, to point you in the right direction. Your car may require more frequent or less frequent service depending on your make, model, mileage, and driving conditions.
|Type Of Service||Purpose||How Often?|
|Oil Change (Regular)||Keep your engine lubricated, reduce heat, and clear debris.||5,000 – 7,000 miles / Every 6 months|
|Oil Change (Synthetic)||Keep your engine lubricated, reduce heat, and clear debris.||7,000 – 12,500 miles / Every 6 months|
|Change Oil Filter||Help keep your engine clear of debris.||10,000 – 25,000 miles / Every 2nd oil change|
|Change Coolant||Helps maintain engine temperature||30,000 – 50,000 miles / Every 2-3 years|
|Change Brake Pads||Allows for proper stopping distance||40,000 – 60,000 miles / Every 2-3 years|
|Change Brake Fluid||Allows for proper stopping distance, and aids long term brake health.||20,000-45,000 miles / Every 2-3 years|
|Change Cabin Air Filter||Keep cabin air free of mold, pollution, pollen and other dirt. Change it more frequently if you live in a dry and dusty environment.||15,000-30,000 miles / Every 1-2 years.|
|Change Engine Air Filter||Keep engine air free of sand, dirt, and other debris. Change it more frequently if you live in a sandy/dusty environment.||12,000-15,000 miles / Every Year|
|Rotate Tires||Allows tires to wear evenly, which extends tire life and helps to prevent early blowouts.||6,000 – 8,000 miles / Every 6 months|
|Change Tires||Keeps your car on the road. Yeah, they are pretty damn important.||30,000 – 50,000 miles / Every 3-5 years|
|Wash Car||Cleans debris from your car and improves highway fuel efficiency by up to 10%. Wash your car more frequently in dry, dusty environments, or if you encounter road debris, bugs, or bird poop. Opt for a hand wash over an automatic car wash.||Every 2-3 weeks.|
|Wax Car||Protects your paint from debris, grime, and corrosion.||Every 2-3 months.|
|Change Car Battery||Provides the energy to start your car.||50,000-70,000 miles / Every 5-7 years|
|Change Windshield Wipers||Keeps your windshield clear of rain/snow/other debris.||Every year|
Driving Conditions That Can Impact These Numbers
As we mentioned earlier, there are certain conditions that can impact how often you need to perform these services. We’ll touch on a few of the major ones below.
If You Have The Need For Speed
The “sweet spot” for driving your car efficiently is anywhere between 40-55 miles per hour (MPH). Depending on the car you drive, Slow, gradual acceleration burns less fuel and subjects your engine to less wear and tear.
But, if driving slow just isn’t your thing, and a 55 mph highway speed limit really means 85 in the slow lane, then you’ll need to adjust your maintaince schedule accordingly.
- More frequent oil changes. Your car burns more oil at higher RPMs.
- More frequent oil filter changes. If your car is using more oil, you’re going to have to change this bad body more frequently.
- More frequent brake changes. Stopping at high speeds leads to more wear and tear on your brakes.
- More frequent tire rotations because your tires are spinning faster.
- More frequent tire changes because the high speeds break down the rubber in your tires due to the increased heat of higher speeds.
The increased RPMs of high speed cause additional wear and tear on your car which leds to it consuming more oil and burning through your tires faster. You may also need to change your brakes more frequently due to additional pressure required to stop your car.
If You Live Somewhere Dry And Dusty
If you like riding through the desert on a horse with no name, please don’t let us keep you from doing it. Just be aware that dry, sandy conditions do mean that your car is going to need some extra help.
This encompasses some of the midwest, and includes western states like Arizona, New Mexico, parts of California, and other similar climates.
For example, you’ll want to:
- Change your oil more frequently. Oil helps clean dirt and dust from your engine.
- Change your oil filter more frequently. In a sandy climate, this can accumulate quickly.
- Wash and wax your car more often. Without rain, grime builds up faster which can damage your paint and reduce fuel economy.
- Change your cabin and engine air filters more frequently. These will both foul up with dirt and dust which can lead to them clogging.
If You Live Somewhere Cold With Sleet And Snow
It’s no secret that cold weather does a number on your car. Snow and sleet can cause premature corrosion in your car’s undercarriage, but the salt that most municipalities use to melt said sleet and snow is even worse.
Salt creates chemical reactions that can damage your car. The exposed metal is especially vulnerable. Unless you take precautions, your brakes and fuel lines can suffer. And that’s no fun for anyone.
If you do live in a cold climate, at least during the winter you can expect to:
- Wash your car more frequently to remove road grime and corrosive salt
- Wax it to seal out said corrosive grime and salt
- Replace your wiper blades more often
- Replace your battery more often
- Change your oil more frequently. Motor oil thickens when cold.
How Often Should You Have Your Car Inspected?
The other side of the service coin is having certain key parts of your car inspected. When your car is frequently inspected, you can catch problems before they occur (and cost you a boatload in car repairs).
|Type Of Check||Purpose||How Often?|
|Check Headlights/Turn Signals||Ensure you’re signalling other motorists correctly (and avoiding any nasty tickets).||Once monthly.|
|Check Belts/Hoses||Check drive belts and hoses for signs of wear and tear. Helps catch issues before they occur.||1-2 times per year.|
|Check Tire Air Pressure||Ensure tires are properly inflated, which reduces the risk of blowouts and increases fuel efficiency.||Once monthly.|
|Check Shocks/Struts||Check suspension components for signs of wear and tear which can damage the entire component group.||Once a year.|
|Check Front/Rear Differential||Check differential components for signs of wear and tear which can damage the entire component group||Once a year.|
|Check Electrical Components||Look for frayed wires, bad connections, and other electrical issues before they cause a major problem.||Once a year.|
You Can Go About 6 Months Without Servicing Your Car – But Don’t Push It
We always get asked “how long can I go without servicing my car?”. We get it – servicing your car can be expensive. But you know what’s even more expensive?
Paying for a $3,000 dollar engine replacement because you decided not to change the oil for 2 years is only one example.
Now will this happen to you if you go an extra 500 miles without changing your oil? Probably not, but you get the idea. The point is, spending a little bit today will save you from spending a lot tomorrow.
The more consistent you are with regular service, the longer your car will last. Getting your car maintained is like brushing your teeth. No one really likes to brush their teeth, but the consequences of not doing are pretty bad.
So please, if you’re on the fence about whether or not to service your car, get it serviced. Heck, we even offer free oil changes, free tire rotations, and other discounted maintenance for free as part of our vehicle service plans.
Here Are Just A Few Of The Bad Things That Can Happen If You Don’t Service Your Car
Below are a few of the worst case scenarios if you choose to ignore your regular service.
Tires: Under-inflation will lead to at least three failures: excess uneven tread wear, sidewall flexing/heating, and increase the likelihood of damage when hitting sharp road defects. Also, it can result in poorer handling, braking, and fuel economy. You don’t want to mess around with your tires.
Oil: Simply topping up the oil and never changing the filter will result in the accumulation of sludge, which will block oil passages, hamper the functioning of the valve train, generally increase internal friction and disrupt the crankcase ventilation, etc. This can eventually lead to complete engine failure if left unchecked for long enough. You can usually tell when you’ve neglected your oil when it begins leaking through to the ground.
Brakes: Depending on driving style and weather exposure, the disc brake calipers pistons can seize unevenly, resulting in diminished pad pressure, poorer braking, and premature disc wear. Your braking performance during an unexpected stop can suffer, even though that’s when you’ll need it most. If your brakes are bad, don’t risk i
Wiper blades: If allowed to deteriorate, crumble, and break off the metal spine, the sharp metal edge will cause severe scratching across the windshield. Not the end of the world by any means, but it can impede your vision, especially at night or during intense percipitation.
Alignment: This would include steering linkage and suspension joint wear. It may be difficult to keep the car on a straight course, and steering response on turns will be less than optimum. Over time this can progress to you having to fight to keep your car traveling in a straight line, which is incredibly dangerous.
Cooling: Most garages will check the radiator and heater hoses, however, overlook the heater control valve and electric block heater insert, probably because they are less visible. Failure of either will result in rapid coolant loss, and unless noticed right away, engine destruction.
Timing belt or chain: Replace at a specified interval. At best, failure will just stop the engine, if it is of the “non-interference” valve setup. If not, then a piston will collide with an open valve, requiring extensive engine work. The timing belt going out is more common than a failing timing chain.
Exposed electrical/ground connections: As the car ages, these can come loose, corroded, or fatigued. The car may just stop dead without any warning, or worse, some electrical circuit becomes overloaded causing burnout of sensitive electronic parts. This is most commonly seen with expensive electrical components including your GPS and radio.
Broken exhaust & body/cabin holes: In commonly occurring conditions, exhaust leaks could emanate to the passenger space and intoxicate/asphyxiate occupants. Most leaks quickly develop into noisy ticket-able offenses, however, prevention is always a good option.
We’re not saying that these are the only things that will happen to you, but they are certainly the most costly. Now obviously you can avoid the worst case here by practicing regular maintaince.
Your Car Can’t Talk To You – But Your Mechanic Can
We always get asked “how do I know when my car needs service?” like there’s some magic answer to that question. The truth is, there is no one giveaway that your car needs service.
You can follow the service schedule in your owners manual, but that does not take into account any adverse driving conditions you may encounter.
That’s why the best way to know when your car needs service is to get it checked regularly. By regularly, we advise you check once every 6 months. Most mechanics offer a multi-point inspection to make sure your car is in great shape.
While it’s easy to think that visiting a mechanic once every 6 months is a waste, you’ll always have a bead on how your car is doing. Which means nothing is going to sneak up on you by surprise.
It’s worth doing. But that raises the question…
Is It Worth Servicing Your Car At The Dealership?
The answer is a solid maybe. Servicing your car at the dealership may give you benefits including expertise on your particular make and model, but it comes with a cost. In this case, literally.
Servicing your car at the dealership does tend to cost more, as dealerships tend to pay higher wages to their mechanics. That cost is then passed on to you.
In our opinion for newer cars or very specialized work, it’s hard to beat the manufacturer training and support that dealerships get. For older cars and more general work, independent shops will be more cost effective.
Again, that is a generalized statement so please adjust accordingly for your area and your car.
What Is The Difference Between Major & Minor Service?
A minor service is generally an oil and oil filter change, while the mechanic will also check your car’s belts, fluids, hoses, filters, and brakes.
This services typically includes a check of all running lights, your windshield wipers and the fluid pumps, brakes and brake fluid, and a visual inspection of your tires. Some mechanics will also rotate the tires for you if needed, especially if it is reccomended by the manufacturer.
The mechanic will also typically ask you about any issues you may be experiencing with the vehicle, in order to check that specific area in order to determine if additional servicing or repairs are required.
You generally should have a minor service appointment twice a year in order to keep your car running in tip top shape.
Unlike a minor service, a major service includes a thorough and comprehensive checklist process, where the technician performs a check from head to tail of the vehicle, which even extends to inspecting it for scratches and dents, and checking the pedals for any squeaks.
This service inspection varies from shop to shop. Generally, for major service it’s worth taking your car to the dealer to leverage their additional expertise on your particular vehicle.
All components of the vehicle will be checked, in addition to the actual bodywork. All hinges and latches will be greased, components lubricated, the engine and vehicle washed, and all parts reported on. Depending on mileage or years as per the manufacturer’s instructions, the mechanic will also check the timing belt.
If anything major is picked up during the service, the technician must provide a quotation for any additional work that needs to be performed, before the work actually starts.
During this inspection, it’s important to mention any problem areas you may be having with your vehicle so your mechanic can give these areas special attention.
By keeping your car up to date with 1 major service appointment per year, not only will you keep it’s resale value up but you’ll make the roads a safer place. Plus, you’ll save a boatload on repairs by catching problems before they happen.
But that invites the question, what happens if your mechanic finds a problem?
What Happens If Your Car Needs Additional Work?
As it sometimes happens, your mechanic will sniff out something bigger than what you initially anticipated. Whether that’s a timing belt issue, or your engine needing new fuel injectors, unpexpected repair expenses can leave you stuck paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
We know that sometimes it feels easier to avoid servicing your car because ignorance is bliss. If you don’t know about a problem, you don’t have to worry about fixing it. Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time until a car problem rears it’s ugly head.
So you can choose to ignore the problem, or you can choose to get a vehicle service contract from Protect My Car, and never have to worry about paying for car repairs.
A vehicle service contract from Protect My Car covers expensive repairs to your engine, transmission, air conditioning, and over 1,000 other parts in your car. Even better, a vehicle service contract from us also pays for routine maintenance, including free oil changes & tire rotations.
Even better, older cars with up to 300,000 miles are covered. So if you want to drive with confidence, and never stress out about taking your car into the mechanic, click the “get quote” button below to see just how easy a vehicle service contract can make your life.