Maintenance Recommendations

Maintenance Recommendations

Unlike the vehicles of even a decade ago, today's high-tech automobiles require the services of specially trained technicians and mechanics. Whether you choose to go to a franchised dealer or an independent garage, remember that your mechanic is your automobile's physician. Take your mechanic's advice and treat him or her with the same respect you would any professional. The mechanics I know respond very favorably to pastries, pizza, and the occasional six-pack of beer or bottle of wine.

Maintenance Log - Review the scheduled maintenance section of your owner's manual and be sure to complete the recommended maintenance as outlined. A small accordion file, kept in the glove box, will be useful for receipts, printouts, radio and alarm codes, and warranty information. Keep a careful record of all maintenance and warranty work done on the vehicle. Your receipts and notations will come in handy if problems occur down the road, and will be especially valuable when you want to sell the car. A calculator comes in handy for figuring out gas mileage.

Read Your Warranty - Whether you have an original manufacturer's warranty or an extended warranty, make sure you read them carefully. Make note of all time and mileage limitations and, on extended warranties, look for information on deductibles. Typically, the warranties depend on you following the manufacturer's maintenance schedules; more rarely on schedules contained in the warranty itself. Receipts must be kept for all scheduled maintenance, or your warranty coverage may be denied. Some provide a loaner car during both scheduled and emergency service procedures.

Getting Service at the Dealer - Warranty service for new cars must be done by a dealer. Vehicles purchased and serviced at the same dealer have a service priority when problems arise. Free loaners may be offered to good customers.

Franchised Dealer Service Problems - Direct any unresolved service problems to the service writer. If the problem remains unsolved after a second visit, ask to speak to the service manager. If the problem remains, you'll need to meet with the dealership's general manager or owner. If their response is less than enthusiastic, a letter or phone call to the manufacturer's district manager should garner some type of response. Under Lemon Law legislation, most states allow new vehicle purchasers to choose either a replacement or a refund if the vehicle can't be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts.

Maintenance for Used Vehicles - I hope you already have a reliable mechanic and aren't playing chain store roulette with your vehicle's maintenance. Don't wait until you need one to find one.

Finding A Mechanic - If you already have a reliable mechanic, I hope you brought lunch to the shop early in your search, to ask the mechanic's opinions. If you don't have one yet, don't wait until the last minute to find one. Your neighborhood garage is not necessarily the best place to go. Find a dealer or independent garage specializing in the model you have; someone working exclusively on that product is ideal. Ask friends and people at work who they recommend. A referral from an existing customer is a good testimonial, but evaluate the source as well as the shop. Visit several shops to see how they treat you, and the kind of vehicle they specialize in. Once you find your mechanic, treat him or her well. This is the person who will be working on your precious car.

Your Initial Visit - When you bring your car in for its first visit, establish how healthy your vehicle is. Review the maintenance schedules in the owner's manual and make sure your mechanic is aware of all that needs to be done. In addition, ask the mechanic to do a compression test, a battery and charging test, a frame inspection, a fluid leakage inspection, an alignment and suspension check, a brake inspection, and a test drive for engine and transmission performance. If emissions inspections are mandatory, make sure the mechanic checks that as well. (These are the tests I recommend you have done before you buy the car, so you may already have this baseline information.) Ask your mechanic to offer an opinion about future problems, not only those specific to the selected car, but the model in general. Make sure the shop provides you with a work order or report that contains the outcome of all checks and tests that were completed. Keep this report in your vehicle file; you and your mechanic will refer to it many times in the future.

Chain Store Roulette - This is the increasingly common practice of taking a car to one store for tires, a second store for shocks, a third store for exhaust, etc. I recommend going to one place, either your dealer or an independent garage or mechanic, for all your automotive needs. It's difficult to keep track adequately of your vehicle's maintenance when you divide it up among six different shops. The $69.95 brake specials advertised by national chains stores invariably cost you more than you bargained for. Their service writers are trained to sell more profitable add-ons when customers come in for the advertised specials. If you refuse, they may not allow you to leave because your vehicle "is not safe to drive." If you'd had the scheduled maintenance from your regular mechanic, you wouldn't be in that position. It's not impossible to maintain a vehicle by using the chain stores, but it's unlikely that you'll save any money, and even more unlikely that serious problems will be detected ahead of time.

Independent repairs shops offer competitive rates and parts prices compared to chain stores. Most have expensive diagnostic computer systems enabling them to duplicate the work done at franchised dealerships as well. They'll be aware of less expensive aftermarket parts that perform as well as OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts. They have access to technical service bulletins (TSBs) that are furnished to franchised dealers, notifying them of model-specific problems encountered by other dealers. The only downside to independent garages is that appointments are necessary. The backlog at busy specialist shops may be a week or longer. However, emergencies are usually given priority over scheduled appointments.

OLF (Oil, Lube and Filter) - Having your oil changed every 3,000 miles ensures that your mechanic takes a periodic look at your car. An engine will perform better and last noticeably longer with punctual oil and filter changes. Whenever you go to your mechanic to get an oil and filter change, they automatically inspect the rest of the undercarriage. Small fluid leaks and worn parts can be detected long before major problems develop. Your automobile "doctor" will also inspect the condition of your brakes, tires, suspension, and exhaust.

Tires - The most important safety item on a car are the tires. They're all that connects your vehicle to the road. A good set of tires makes a huge difference in how a car responds to emergency maneuvers. Tire quality also makes a big difference in the way a car handles. Sport touring tires have noticeably more grip than regular tires, although their softer compounds don't last as long. Your independent mechanic will offer opinions as to which tires hold up best, and should be able to obtain them for a discount as well.

Brakes - Brakes are the second most important safety feature. The incidence of warped front brake rotors has risen dramatically since the introduction of front wheel drive. These vehicles need more frequent inspection, as their front pads and rotors perform the bulk (75% or more) of day to day braking duties.

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I’ll take some of your suggestions and try to apply them.

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