How often should you do car maintenance?

Keeping your car's maintenance under control can seem complicated and expensive. It’s no secret that regular maintenance of your vehicle will extend the life of your engine and save you from costly repairs down the road. Like most car owners, you want to take good care of your vehicle and may wonder how often it needs maintenance. In this article I will explain how to understand which services you need and learn about the maintenance tasks that all car owners should be aware of.

image Car mechanic working in auto repair service

It’s always best to follow the company-recommended maintenance calendar given in the owner’s manual or service booklet for your car. As a general rule, it is recommended by most car manufacturers that the car should receive a full service every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever is sooner. More general checkups, such as Essential Car Care and Interim Servicing option may also be undertaken to ensure your vehicle is kept in the best possible condition. There are usually two maintenance "schedules": Full Service and Manufacturer's service. The Full Service is for cars used in taxing driving conditions, which need more frequent maintenance. Manufacturer servicing is for all vehicles using official manufacturer servicing schedules, mostly followed by new car-owners.

Service Type Service Interval
Essential Car Care Mostly for oil and filter replacement
Interim Service Every 6,000 miles or 6 months, whichever comes first
Full Service Every 12,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first
Manufacturer Service As per the manufacturer’s schedule

Maintaining the right oil level is critical to keeping your car from becoming a pile of useless metal. Do an oil check whenever you stop for gas — all you need is a paper towel and a warm engine. The more you change your oil, the longer your engine will last, but the debate about exactly how often you should service your vehicle is a bit of a grey area. The optimum time to change your oil might be more closely related to other factors besides time and distance traveled. The number of cold-starts, driving in extreme temperatures, repeated short distance driving and excessive idling are all signs of severe driving conditions and more frequent maintenance should be considered.

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 new engines have recommended oil change intervals of 5,000 to 7,500 miles. If your engine requires full-synthetic motor oil, it might go as far as 15,000 miles between services!

Despite conflicting information from various sources, the answer to the eminent question of how often should you service your car question is actually quite simple. It works differently for everyone. The owner’s manual may tell you every 6,000 – 10,000 kilometers. Your buddy with a classic car may tell you every 3,000 – 5,000 kilometers. Your Grandpa, who drives a 25-year-old truck, might tell you he’s never serviced his vehicle. So it’s best to start with the company guideline and then follow the routine that suits your car best.