Car Care – Maintenance 101
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Vehicle maintenance is one of the more bothersome aspects of automobile ownership. Taking your ride into the dealer is often like having a tooth pulled–painful, but necessary. Maintenance also can be confusing: Which service interval should you follow, the “normal-duty” or “severe-duty” schedule?Severe-duty applies to vehicles that operate under a variety of conditions. Frequent starting and stopping, excessive idling, or trips of less than five miles can lead to carbon buildup. Driving in the desert or off-road can cause the engine to ingest more airborne contaminants. Other intense scenarios include towing, operating in cold climates, and sustained high speed.

Because of the stresses involved, severe-duty schedules recommend a larger number of maintenance operations at shorter intervals. Maintenance schedules vary between manufacturers, so it’s best to consult the owner’s manual. Some carmakers now employ the onboard computer to calculate the maintenance interval based on the specific driver’s modus operandi. Generally, the newer the vehicle, the simpler the service schedule. This is due to technological advances having reduced the number of mechanical parts that actually require maintenance.
If you own or lease a vehicle still covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, you must perform the minimum recommended maintenance listed in the owner’s manual or risk liability if a warrantable part fails. The manufacturer warrants the vehicle, or vehicle part, as long as it’s properly serviced. Neglect the service, and you’re responsible for any related failures. This can be a legal and legitimate reason for denying a warranty claim.
Review the recommended service intervals listed in the owner’s manual. While those schedules may appear complicated, you’ll likely see that just a few important services are repeated at various intervals.
In the future, we’ll discuss what happens when you pull into a dealership for service, and the dealer’s recommended maintenance is different from what’s listed in the owner’s manual. This is more common than you think–you could be overservicing or, more important, overpaying for maintenance.