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You & Your Car

The price of high maintenance 'suggestions' Add to ...

Historically I’ve been one to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. Obviously, there is maintenance involved that absolutely needs to be done (oil change, air filters, brake fluids, spark plugs, timing belts, etc.). However, most people I know don’t follow every suggested schedule. I realize service centres do need to make money, but are all these services really needed? Every few oil changes, manufacturers have the mysterious official “Maintenance Service,” which triples the standard cost of a regular oil change.

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Recently, the dealer suggested I have a “brake service” done with my oil change. This was just less than $200 to clean the brakes and check over everything. While I want to follow the service manual to ensure my vehicle is running at its best and lasting mechanically as long as possible, some of these services seem excessive and expensive. I also had an interesting experience on a trip in Calgary while getting an oil change at a dealer. Their schedule seemed a little different than Ontario dealers. The manager explained to me that the manufacturer has a suggested list and the dealer network adds items provincially. – Dan in Toronto

The simple answer is to follow the maintenance scheduler recommended by the manufacturer, not the dealer.

The manufacturers conduct a complex series of reliability and durability tests when developing a vehicle or drivetrain. During these sessions, they determine what type of oil to use, how often it should be changed, how long timing belts or chains can last and a huge variety of other factors. This information combined with dealer input and warranty claims result in a very thorough knowledge about maintenance.

Normally you will find two maintenance schedules, one for regular use and one for extreme or more severe use. Read the definition of the latter carefully, extreme or severe use can also mean short trips and other low mileage events, not necessarily high speeds, etc. The manufacturer takes into account mountainous driving in one of these schedules.

I strongly suggest you follow them – even if it seems excessive partly because that will be necessary to maintain warranty eligibility and also because it will allow you to run the vehicles for hundreds of thousands of kilometres.

Even if you do not intend to keep the vehicle for that long, the record of that maintenance will be valuable at trade-in time.

With tuneups all but a distant memory and scheduled maintenance intervals stretching out so long, many dealers have made it a point to recommend additional service to keep the shop busy. Frankly, most if not all of these non-factory-recommended services are a money grab and unnecessary. Once again, follow the manufacturer recommendations.

Strange noise

I have taken my Dodge Journey back to the dealer twice to have them fix a strange noise. Why can’t they fix it? – Sandy

Probably because they cannot find it.

Be prepared to help the technician who will be working on the vehicle. There is nothing more difficult to diagnose and tackle than something as vague as “I hear a weird noise some time” or something so generic.

If you hear a noise, try to detect which part of the car it is coming from. Try to figure out if it is speed-related or engine-related – does it appear at a certain road speed and, if so, shift the transmission into another gear and see if it is still there. If so, it is vehicle- not drivetrain-related.

Does it occur when the engine is hot or cold – going forward or backward, idling, braking or accelerating, etc. The more you can narrow it down, the less you will pay the shop to narrow it down for you. If you have a cellphone with a recording feature, try to record the noise so you can play it back for the service adviser.

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