Should Repair Schedules be based on time or Mileage?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Car Engine MaintenanceCars today tend to perform better than they once did, illustrated by the fact that the average lifespan of a vehicle is now in excess of 11 years, according to a recent study conducted by Polk. Yet despite this, car experts say that there are a few general rules to live by when it comes to automotive maintenance. For example, after traveling about 9,500 kilometers, it's a good idea to have the tires rotated so that the car drives balanced and doesn't list to one side or another. Similarly, for the engine, the rule of thumb is to replace the car's oil every 8,000 to 11,000 kilometers.

These are just two of the fallbacks auto mechanics point to as a smart way in which to avoid a car insurance claim, which may result after a breakdown leads to an accident.

There are also some customs that seem to conflict with one another. For example some mechanics and owners manuals say that a car should be have certain components replaced after 72 months. Meanwhile, there are others that say it should be done every 140,000 kilometers traveled.

Which one is it? This is a question that automotive guru Jason Tchir attempted to answer in a special for The Globe and Mail.

Calvin Feist, an automotive instructor at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, told Tchir that this answer depends on the part of the car being talked about. For instance, if it's the timing belt, go by what the manufacturer recommends.

"On an interference fit engine, if the belt breaks or jumps a tooth, it will allow the valves to hit the top of the pistons and cause major engine damage," said Feist.
As for which rule to go by - replacing items once every six years or after 140,000 kilometers, it's best to go by whichever is reached first, according to Chad Heard, a spokesman for the foreign automaker Hyundai. In other words, if it's been 72 months since the car was purchased but the car hasn't traveled that far yet, it's best to have the timing belt replaced.

Another reason why time is important is because of what timing belts are typically made of. Heard told Tchir that because they're made from rubber, which wears away over time, a car that's remained in storage and hasn't been driven still needs to have its timing belt replaced after six years.

The following tips can serve as a guideline for when other maintenance tasks should be performed, only these are mainly after traveling so many kilometers

  • Battery. The typical life of a car battery is between three and five years. So three years after it's been installed, it's a good idea to purchase one so it's ready to go when the battery dies.

  • Coolant. Antifreeze should be flushed and replaced once every two years or 48,000 kilometers, whichever comes first.

  • Transmission and fuel filter. For both, these should be replaced once a year or every 24,000 kilometers.

  • Windshield wipers. The blades for the windshield should be changed for new ones as soon as significant streaks are left when they're in use. But as a general rule, new ones should be installed every six months or so.

"Neglected vehicle care almost always means much higher costs down the line in the form of more extensive repairs or lost resale value," said Rich White, executive director for the Car Care Council. "Following a routine maintenance program … can help you drive smart, save money and make informed decisions."