The routine maintenance schedule created by car makers might seem like a lot to keep up with. If you’re feeling too busy to take your car into the shop, or think you can save a little money by forgoing something like a routine break inspection, it can be tempting to skip a service or two.
But these maintenance schedules are not a good place to try to cut corners. Not least among the reasons: They help keep your car safe. If that’s not enough, keeping up with recommended services can save time and money by helping you avoid more expensive repairs later—and possibly delay the need for a new car.
The basics of a car maintenance schedule
A car manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule identifies specific services that should be done at regular intervals, such as every 15,000 miles. The work ranges from the routine, such as oil changes, to larger undertakings like replacing the engine timing belt.
Many of these services are fairly simple, if not without cost, like rotating tires and replacing various fluids. Some merely involve inspection of systems and parts. But the overall approach to regular maintenance is to keep your car in good working condition.
Regular maintenance can save time and money
Despite the cost of services, following your car’s routine maintenance schedule makes good financial sense. Why? Because neglect of your vehicle’s systems and parts could lead to repairs that cost much more than the maintenance would have. For example, failure to replace your car’s timing belt on the recommended schedule could result in that belt failing, and causing much more expensive damage to your engine.
If costs alone don’t motivate you, consider your time and personal safety. A breakdown can leave you stranded—and possibly without your car for an extended period of time— compared to scheduling a short, simple visit to the service station for a routine procedure. And while mechanical problems aren’t a leading cause of traffic accidents, there’s a chance that a problem with your car’s parts or systems could cause you to lose control at the worst possible time.
Make sure you have your owner’s manual
Some repair shops promote their own maintenance schedules that call for more frequent service than the manufacturer’s recommendations—but those schedules might be more about generating business for the shop than protecting your car. What’s more, each car’s maintenance needs are different. That’s why you should always refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the correct maintenance schedule. If you don’t have it, you can look for it the manufacturer’s Web site. If you’re having trouble, try third parties like Edmunds or Just Give Me The Damn Manual.
Keeping receipts for all routine service work can help you keep track of what’s been done on your car. So if you sell the vehicle, you can demonstrate to prospective buyers how well it’s been maintained. Manuals often contain a service log you can fill out that can serve the same purposes, or you could create your own.
Following the guidelines established by your car maker will help prevent you from going overboard and paying more than needed for preventative services, while keeping your car in shape for the long haul.