I have my first new car and I’d like to keep it as long as possible. What’s the minimum regular maintenance I need to do to ensure it stays around for the long haul? – Gino in St. Catharines, Ont.
As tempting as it may be to cut corners, overlooking the necessary maintenance of your vehicle will only end up costing you more in the long run.
So, what exactly is essential maintenance?
“You could write a book in answering that question. The best thing you can do is never let the oil level go low, or get dirty,” says John Broek, a Porsche Goldmeister Technician in Vancouver.
“Don’t skimp on lesser quality oils, that’s the big thing – it makes everything last. Use a better grade oil than what the manufacturer would use. If you’re worried about the engine, transmission and mechanical end of things, you’ve got to follow the manufacturer’s recommended services.”
Have a good look at the service schedule that comes with your vehicle. The websites of most manufacturers enable you to punch in your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), or vehicle year and model, to find out what servicing is required and when.
“Make sure you follow it exactly, including all the stuff that’s supposed to be done every few years; that’s what makes the difference in whether a car lasts or not,” says Broek.
“Porsche has a long-life inspection that’s supposed to be done every two years, after the first four years. There’s a whole list of things they go through, including making sure the drains for the cowl area in the front are clear. It’s important, because if it’s not draining the water level rises and things that shouldn’t be underwater rot or corrode and fail.”
The environment you’re in will also dictate the maintenance required to ensure longevity. “If you live in a cold climate and drive your vehicle year-round, corrosion is your biggest enemy. What they put on the ground takes its toll. Compared to the west coast, cars from the east look terrible underneath. And that’s the stuff that will affect it the most. Every spring, the whole underside of the car should be cleaned to try and lessen the damage,” says Broek.
What qualifies as essential maintenance also depends how you drive your vehicle, so most manufacturers offer both a regular and severe duty maintenance schedule.
If you don’t already have a certified mechanic you trust, it’s essential that you find one who knows your car, the environment you drive in, and the upkeep it needs to maintain a long life.
If you’re not going to the dealership for service, you’ll want to hang on to your maintenance receipts in case there is an issue while you’re still under warranty.
If you do your own oil changes, make sure you hold onto the oil and filter receipts, and keep a log book in the glove box. That way, if required, you can show the dealer that you did maintain proper oil changes.
At the very least, to ensure long-term service from your vehicle, the engine oil and filter should be changed approximately every 5,000 km. If you drive an automatic, don’t forget the transmission oil, which should be flushed every couple of years.
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