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L.Srikumar Pai
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CAR & Car Maintenance

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Regular maintenance is health insurance for your car. It needs regular maintenance to retain its safety, dependability, performance, fuel economy, and emission control capabilities.

Regular maintenance makes economic sense, too. Low-cost maintenance can prevent high-cost repairs. Maintenance also helps to prolong the life of tires, brakes, and other vehicle parts. Regular maintenance is also called "preventive maintenance" - or PM - because it helps to prevent costly and dangerous breakdowns and repairs. Moreover, the maintenance recommendations for a new car are the basis of the manufacturer's warranty. The carmaker agrees to warrant the vehicle against defects for a specified time or mileage if the new-car buyer has the scheduled maintenance performed.

What Maintenance Is Required And When?

The best source of maintenance information for your car is your vehicle owner's manual. A list of maintenance services and the time or mileage intervals at which they should be performed is part of every owner's manual. The manufacturer wants to help you keep your car in good working condition, but no carmaker can know exactly how every vehicle it sells will be used. That's why every owner's manual has different maintenance schedules for different driving conditions.


You may live in a part of the country where the weather gets very cold in the winter or very hot in the summer, or both. You may drive only short distances a few times a week, or you may drive regularly for long periods of time at highway speed limits. Perhaps you drive in prolonged stop-and-go traffic. Maybe you live and drive in a very dusty climate. Perhaps you regularly tow a trailer or carry heavy loads. All of these driving conditions and requirements affect the maintenance needs for your car.

What Is The Right Maintenance Schedule For Your Car?

For many years, carmakers identified their maintenance schedules as "regular service" and "severe service" schedules. These labels are not as widely used today as they were in the past, but the concepts still apply. Your car's maintenance requirements are determined by how you use the vehicle.

"Regular service" as defined in owners' manuals usually turns out to be very mild service. "Severe service" means just what it says, but for most motorists, it turns out to be more normal or regular than "regular service." Here is a typical explanation of severe service from a vehicle owner's manual:

Are any of these true for your vehicle?
  Most trips are less than 4 miles (6 kilometers)
  Most trips are less than 10 miles (16 kilometers) and outside temperatures are below freezing
  The engine is at low-speed most of the time (as in door-to-door delivery or stop-and-go traffic).
  You operate your vehicle in dusty areas.
  You tow a trailer or regularly carry the maximum vehicle load
If any one (or more) of these is true for your driving, follow Schedule 1.

The manufacturer does not explicitly label Schedule 1 as severe service, but looking at it reveals that it calls for oil and filter changes every 3000 miles. The regular service, Schedule 2, calls for oil and filter changes less than half as often: every 7500 miles.

Get Started With Basic Maintenance

To help you get started developing a maintenance schedule for your car, here are some general guidelines developed by AAA and other industry sources:

 Maintenance Item Mileage or Time
Inspect lights and check tire pressure At least monthly
Oil & filter change and chassis lubrication 3,000 to 5,000 miles or 3 to 4 months
Underhood belt and hose inspection 3,000 to 5,000 miles or 3 to 4 months (every oil change)
Tire rotation and wheel balancing 6,000 miles or every other oil change
Brake inspection 6,000 miles or every other oil change
Replace air filter 12,000 to 24,000 miles or as indicated by inspection
Replace fuel filter 24,000 to 100,000 miles
Automatic transmission service 24,000 to 100,000 miles
Wheel alignment check 12,000 to 24,000 miles or as indicated by tire wear
Cooling system flush and refill 40,000 to 100,000 miles
Belt and hose replacement 60,000 to 100,000 miles or 5 to 8 years
Engine timing belt replacement 60,000 to 100,000 miles (when equipped) or 5 to 8 years
Air conditioning performance check Annually, usually in the spring

What Else Does Your Car Need?

The services listed above are only the general services that apply to most vehicles. You may need more frequent checks and replacements than the intervals listed above. Additionally, your car may have some unique maintenance requirements specified by the manufacturer. Many overhead cam engines have engine timing belts that require scheduled replacement. If such a belt breaks for lack of replacement, expensive engine damage may result. Some carmakers also call for periodic flushing and refilling of the brake hydraulic system. - Durable and affordable car parts, auto parts, and truck parts

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