Why Regular Vehicle Service Intervals Matter

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You know your vehicle needs regular oil changes, but beyond that, aren’t quite sure what you should be doing, beyond fixing things when they break. That approach won’t save you any money. The answer lies in your owner’s manual, and online, which tells you exactly when to have your car serviced. To illustrate exactly why regular service intervals matter, we’ve pulled a handful of vehicles below, so you get a sense of how the services can vary, based on the vehicle.

Sure, we’d like to give you a hard-and-fast blueprint of exactly what service your car needs in a simple chart. It would make scheduling and affording that next much-needed service simpler. But there is such variability in the manufacturer’s recommendations that it’s just not possible. So that’s why the maintenance schedule, in back of your owner’s manual is key. Alternatively, you can check your vehicle’s maintenance checklist, based on mileage, here with Openbay.

7,500-mile service interval: Ram pickup truck

Most vehicles only need an oil-and-filter based service at roughly this mileage, but 4×4 vehicles have complex drivetrains and suspensions that require regular maintenance. A regular oil-change procedure should include injecting grease into the driveshaft and suspension grease fittings. Here’s the Ram pickup’s maintenance schedule, which includes additional 4-wheel-drive maintenance items that are not needed on most cars.

10,000-mile service interval: Toyota Camry

Toyota specifies a 10,000-mile oil-and-filter change interval for the Camry as well as many other Toyota vehicles. If your vehicle sees a lot of stop-and-go driving, you may want to get the oil changed more often, as short trips might not let the engine warm up sufficiently to drive off moisture, unburned fuel and contaminants. And the only way to get rid of these, and prevent sludging and engine damage, is to change the oil and filter more often than recommended. If you drive your vehicle on short trips, consider changing your oil at 6,000 or 7,500 miles.

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24,000-mile service interval: Mazda3

While the Mazda 3’s cooling system is rated to go five years or 50,000 miles between flushes, it still should be inspected every 24 months or 24,000 miles. That inspection should include looking for leaks, degraded hoses, a functioning pressure cap and visual inspection of the coolant for sediment or rust. On that same two-year interval, if your car has a cabin-air filter like the Mazda3, have the filter replaced.

50,000-mile service interval: BMW 3-Series

Checking for maintenance items in the 3-series Owner’s manual reveals that BMW uses what they call Condition-Based service intervals, meaning: there is no fixed mileage or interval for most maintenance items. The maintenance you need is dependent upon your driving cycle. (You can also check yourself by going a couple of menus deep into the dashboard display). Some aftermarket repair shops may not be well-equipped to interrogate the BMW system, though, so you might want to consider working with a service center that specializes in European, or German vehicles. Some other manufacturers do use a simpler system to predict when your oil needs to be changed, and make that display easy to access—GM’s on-dash oil-change monitor is a good example.

60,000-mile service interval: Jeep Grand Cherokee

While many car manufacturers don’t recommend ever changing the brake fluid, Jeep requires that the fluid in the brake system be replaced every 60,000 miles. Brake fluid sucks moisture out of the air, in addition to becoming contaminated with dust and wear particles. If you have ABS, it’s vitally important to keep the system filled with fresh, clean fluid.

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75,000-mile service interval: VW Jetta

Like many engines that use a rubber timing belt, the Jetta requires the belt to be replaced regularly, currently around 75,000 miles. (VW had revised its timing-belt recommendations down from 105,000 on some models). A failed timing belt will not only leave you stranded, it will demolish your engine instantly when the still-moving pistons hit the immobile valves. Fortunately, not all cars have “interference” engines like VW’s, so the result may not be as catastrophic as in these vehicles. Regardless, changing the timing belt, which can be expensive, is a procedure that should not be neglected or postponed.

100,000-mile service interval: Toyota Prius

Remember that your hybrid has two cooling systems: one for the engine, and one solely for the hybrid system. Both need regular coolant changes, although the first interval for the hybrid coolant is a leisurely 100,000 miles. Just as important: even though your hybrid may run on electricity, some of the time, the gasoline engine needs to be serviced regularly.

Your shop, familiar with local conditions and your driving cycle may well suggest more frequent maintenance of some items: the manufacturer’s recommendations should be considered a minimum regime.