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Expert faceoff: Do I need the services my dealership recommends?

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My 2011 Dodge Journey has about 44,000 km on it. It's been on a number of long trips which take up the majority of the mileage. My dealership says it is time for fuel injection service, front and back brake service and a brake fluid flush. What are these and are they necessary? – David

There's a simple reason service counters tell you it's time for maintenance not mentioned in the owner's manual, says the Automobile Protection Association.

"The person selling it, the guy at the counter, is on commission," says APA president George Iny.

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As a rule, you should skip any extra service offered by the dealer and stick to the maintenance schedule in the owner's manual, Iny says. They're helping the dealer make money more than they're helping your car.

The three your dealer's trying to sell you – fuel injection service, brake service and a brake fluid flush – aren't needed on most vehicles, period, the APA says.

But there are a few exceptions, and your Journey is one. He thinks you should get brake service.

The Journey is one of the few vehicles which needs brake service after about two years, because the brakes are known to corrode quickly, Iny says.

But ask a mechanic like Calvin Feist, and he'll tell you that he recommends all three procedures for every vehicle.

Feist, an instructor at NAIT in Edmonton, says preventive maintenance is, well, preventive.

"How necessary are these things?" Feist says. "The short answer is: pay me a little now or a lot later – the dealer or private garage is trying to help the owner get as long as possible out of their vehicle without having a costly breakdown."

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Iny's not buying it. "Unless your vehicle is known for specific problems, turn down the extras. None of these services is on the maintenance schedule in the Journey's manual. There's not a mechanic out there who's going to go on the record saying that these things are a waste of money," Iny says.

We had Feist and Iny explain each service and why they think you should, or shouldn't, pay extra for it.

Fuel Service

"It's basically running a solution through the fuel system to clean it out, everything from the fuel lines, rail and injectors," Feist says. "It's good because the detergents in the gasoline don't clean the system as well as they should."

Feist says it's a good idea for all vehicles – but the APA's Iny says to skip it.

"It's actually bad for your car to run those kind of solvents through," he says.

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Iny says some cars, such as some GM models from the middle 2000s, are known to have problems with finicky injectors and need to have them taken out and cleaned – but only if you're noticing a problem, like rough idling or misfiring.

Brake Service

The brakes are taken apart, cleaned of any corrosion, lubed and then put back together.

Feist recommends it for all vehicles every two years or 40,000 km, and sooner if you're driving in a lot of stop and go traffic or are often on dusty roads. But Iny says whether you need it depends on the vehicle. Again, a few models, like the 2008-2010 Journey, have known problems with premature corrosion.

"The Journey needs the brake service – the system on the Journey tends to corrode and bend," he says. "It's necessary in this vehicle to address a design weakness and can significantly extend brake life."

Brake Fluid Flush

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The brake fluid needs to be replaced if it's contaminated by brake dust or moisture.

"Brake fluid becomes contaminated with moisture very easily and that causes it to boil at a very low temperature causing major brake problems," Feist says.

Feist thinks replacing it now is a good idea, but Iny doesn't.

Brake fluid contamination is determined by a test, he says – and not by a schedule or whether the mechanic thinks the fluid's colour looks off.

"The fluid gets tested and if it fails, it needs to be replaced," Iny says. "If the fluid shows up as fine in the tests, I wouldn't replace it at two years."

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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