Vehicle Maintenance By The Book (Owner's Manual)

By: The Auto Guy Email
By: The Auto Guy Email

Keeping your vehicle running well means maintenance, either at home or in the shop. How often should you change the oil or check the fluids?

A maintenance schedule tells you when you should do things like changing fluids or spark plugs and it is usually based on mileage or time. You might save yourself some money by learning to read the maintenance schedule in your owner's manual and here's why.

Years ago, mechanics used a "one size fits all" type of maintenance schedule, no matter what the vehicle was. All the vehicles usually got the same parts and fluids changed at the same mileage, but newer vehicles are much different.

You don't want to use a "one size fits all" mentality these days because every vehicle has its own recommendations and they are all different. Your owner's manual has the maintenance schedule in it and that's what you should use as your guide.

There are usually two different schedules in the owner's manual, one for ideal driving conditions and one for severe driving conditions, such as stop and go traffic and towing. Believe it or not, if you drive mostly city miles, you probably fall into the severe category.

Let's look at some examples of how different types of vehicles have different types of maintenance needs. Newer spark plugs don't have to be changed nearly as often as they used to, which was about 12,000 miles. But the recommended mileage to replace them can vary from between 30,000 and over 100,000 miles these days, so don't pay to replace them any sooner than you need to.

In ideal conditions, many types of antifreeze are designed to last for years and years. Check the owner's manual to find out specifically when your antifreeze should be replaced to keep your cooling system in good shape.

There are fluids in the drive line of your vehicle, from transmission fluid in the front to fluids that lubricate things such as the transfer case or rear end on four-wheel drive vehicles. These fluids can vary from regular transmission fluid to high tech synthetics with special additives. Remember that every type of vehicle is going to recommend different mileage intervals to replace these fluids.

There are many other items such as brake fluid, power steering fluid and fuel filters and they have specific recommendations as well. There also are a lot of things that the mechanic needs to inspect for wear and tear.

If you don't want to dig through the owner's manual for the maintenance schedules, your mechanic should have a database with the same information for every type of vehicle out on the road.

It's very important to note that there are times when fluids and other maintenance items get contaminated or damaged long before they are scheduled to be replaced. In that case, you will need to spend the money to have them changed ahead of schedule. Hopefully, you don't have that problem and can go by the book.

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