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Like most motorists, you want to take good care of your vehicle and may wonder how often it needs car maintenance. Despite conflicting information from various sources, the answer to this question is actually quite simple. Follow the factory recommended maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual or service booklet for your car.

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Maintenance Reminder Systems

If you drive a newer car, it probably has an in-vehicle maintenance reminder system that makes mileage-based schedules obsolete. In-vehicle maintenance reminder systems take a number of vehicle operating conditions into account and provide an alert on the dash when it is time for an engine oil change, fluid level checks, component inspections and other car maintenance services. If your vehicle has one of these systems, trust it to guide your maintenance visits. However, if you don’t put many miles on your car, most automakers recommend an oil change service every 12 months, even if the maintenance reminder hasn’t come on.


Mileage-Based Service

Older cars have service intervals based on mileage. There are usually two different maintenance schedules, one for cars driven in “normal” service and another for those used in “severe” operating conditions. The exact definition of severe service varies with the automaker, but it usually involves operating your car under one or more of the following conditions:

  • Primarily short trips (5 miles or less)
  • Extremely hot, cold, or dusty climates
  • Sustained stop-and-go driving
  • Carrying heavy loads or towing a trailer.

If your vehicle use falls under the severe service definition in your owner’s manual, follow the more rigorous car maintenance schedule. However, if you drive your car under normal conditions, be wary of spending hard-earned money on services your car may not need or benefit from.

A common example of unnecessary car maintenance is changing the engine oil too often. It used to be normal to recommend an oil change every 3,000 miles. However, with modern lubricants, most newer engines have recommended oil change intervals of 5,000 to 7,500 miles. If your engines requires full-synthetic motor oil, it might go as far as 15,000 miles between services! You can’t judge engine oil condition by color, so follow the factory maintenance schedule for oil changes … and all your other car service needs.


Finding Quality Auto Repair

AAA recommends that you plan ahead for vehicle service by finding an auto repair shop and technician you can trust before you need them. AAA.com/AutoRepair provides information on nearly 7,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities that have met AAA’s high standards for appearance, technician training and certification, insurance coverage and customer satisfaction. AAA regularly inspects every Approved Auto Repair facility and surveys their customers to ensure ongoing performance. In addition, AAA members receive special benefits that include auto repair discounts, an extended 24-month/24,000-mile parts and labor warranty, and AAA assistance in resolving repair-related issues.
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