Maintenance Made Easy
Minding your car's mileage milestones.
Automakers say that thanks to the march of technology, their creations are much easier to maintain nowadays. But any good shade-tree mechanic will tell you that just isn't true, unless you have a high-tech computer diagnostic system and a bunch of specialized tools. However, it is easier than ever before to know when to have maintenance performed on your car by the dealer or an authorized service center.
All vehicles today use complex computer systems to calculate service intervals, which politely — or not so politely — prompt you when that time has come. To make maintenance even easier, at least on the wallet, many automakers cover general maintenance items under a special warranty. All model-year 2006 and newer Volvos, for instance, are covered under the company's Safe and Secure Plan, which essentially covers everything but tires for five years or 50,000 miles.
Not all automakers offer maintenance plans, however, so knowing what basic services you should have performed at your car's mileage milestones is crucial in keeping your pride and joy in tip-top running condition.
Unfortunately, milestones vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer, so we asked CarMD.com for some insights into mileage milestones. They helped us come up with this basic guide to what services should be performed on your car at what intervals. We also quizzed a local repair shop to gain a wrench-level perspective of what is involved in general maintenance.
At 7,500 Miles ...
Oil and Oil Filter
This is the single most important maintenance procedure you can perform for your car, truck or SUV. Changing the oil and oil filter keeps your engine young and vital. Let this one go and the oil will break down, losing its lubrication ability, which accelerates wear and forms a sticky sludge that will eventually clog oil passages, and that can cause catastrophic engine failure. Oil-change mileage milestones differ greatly by manufacturer and driving conditions, ranging from 3,000 miles in what owners manuals describe as "severe driving conditions" to 15,000 miles for a Cooper. Many of today's cars have onboard computers that calculate the service interval by using fuel consumption, miles driven and some rocket-science algorithm. CarMD suggests consumers should monitor their engine oil and, at a minimum, change it every 7,500 miles. Always use the automaker's recommended grade of oil and a quality oil filter.
Brake Pads and Rotors
Stopping is an important part of the motoring equation, and while no mileage milestone is at work here, automakers insist on a brake inspection at every service interval. The key is to monitor brake-pad wear and to change pads well before they go bare, because metal-to-metal, pad-to-rotor contact will turn a quick pad swap into a full rebuild and a deal serious blow to your wallet. The best time to swap pads is when they have 15 percent of wear remaining, but CarMD stresses, "If consumers are feeling brake judder (brake pedal vibrations) or notice deteriorating braking performance, they should get their vehicle serviced immediately."
At 15,000 Miles ...
Proper tire rotation extends the life of the tire, saving you money in the long run. But Allen Otto, owner of Hansville Auto Repair in Hansville, Wash., is quick to point out that tire manufacturers' suggested rotation intervals are too frequent, some as low as 3,000 miles. He recommends 15,000 miles. He also says that maintaining proper tire pressure is critical to the longevity and performance of the tire and that the manufacturer's inflation levels should be followed. Proper tire pressure has an amazing effect on ride quality, as well as allowing your tires to wear evenly, which could have a significant impact on your bank account; evenly wearing your tires lets them to grip the road more efficiently, leading to better fuel economy and longer-lasting tires.
You want to breathe fresh air, right? Well, so does your engine. The air filter keeps particulates out of the engine's intake track and interior where they can contribute to acute wear. When particulates gather in the filter, flow can become restricted and the engine can lose some of its power and smoothness. According to the CarMD Vehicle Health Index, the fourth most common reason for the activation of check-engine lights is the failure of the mass airflow sensor, which is caused by contaminants that got past a compromised air filter.
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As the other guy said, 7k miles is better for tire rotation for average tires. If you have soft "grippy" tires which only last 20k-30k miles, 5k would be a better interval.