Debunking Car Maintenance Myths – What Your Car Really Needs And When

Do you remember the thrill of owning your first car or truck? Maybe you bought it, maybe it was a hand-me-down from a family member; either way it was yours. Do you also remember the carload of advice on how to care for your beloved auto?

Certain car “truths” were probably drilled into your head like changing the oil every 3,000 miles, along with the coolant fluids; replacing all four tires at once, warming up the engine before driving, or rolling down the windows instead of using the AC for better fuel economy. You may have also been told you had better have your car serviced by the dealer or your warranty could be null and void.

Well times have changed and so have cars, and whatever you may have been told in the past, your optimal car maintenance schedule… well, it’s probably not what you’ve long held to be true. So, we’d like to share some practical advice and what a realistic maintenance schedule looks like for today’s cars if you want to get 100,000 miles or more.

 MYTH: All cars need an oil change every 3,000 miles. FALSE!

Tip #1: Depending on your vehicle, the oil and filter should be changed every 3000 - 7500 miles.

Your car’s oil needs to be changed regularly to help prevent excessive wear and tear on the engine from dirty oil, but the old 3,000-mile rule of thumb no longer applies to all vehicles across the board. Today’s synthetic oils can safely last 5,000 to 7,500 miles between changes.

MYTH: You never have to change your oil anymore. Again, FALSE! Hard to believe anyone would think this is true, but some people do. You may not need to change your oil as often, but it still needs changing.

Been a while since your last oil change? Schedule your next oil change now!

Tip #2: Air and fuel filters should be replaced every 15,000 – 30,000 miles.

Go ahead and replace your oil filter when you get your oil changed as you likely have always done, but the air filter doesn’t need to be replaced until 15,000 – 30,000 miles, depending in part on the environment (is it overly dusty where you live and drive?). Most fuel filters only need to be replaced every 30,000, but manufacturer recommendations vary. When in doubt, have your mechanic run a pressure test to determine if it’s time to replace the fuel filter.

At Sherwood Auto Repair we offer a full slate of services to test, diagnose and service all of your vehicle’s fluids and filters so your car is sure to get what it needs when it needs it.

FUN FACT: The birth year of the modern automobile was 1886, but the first gas gauge wasn’t installed until 1922!

MYTH: You can save money by filling up your gas tank in the morning. FALSE! Yes, gas does expand in warmer temperatures, and in theory, gas will be denser in cooler morning temperatures. Today, filling stations store their gas underground where temperatures are fairly constant, so the time of day will be neither more nor less expensive.

Tip #3: Change the coolant and flush the system every 45,000 miles – not with the turn of the seasons.

If you were told to do this with the change of every season, you may be flushing money down the drain. Yes, coolants need to be replaced regularly and you should flush the system periodically for optimal health and performance, but this should be based on the miles driven, not the calendar or seasons. A good rule of thumb is 45,000 miles for today’s cars, but to be safe, we test the antifreeze, aka coolant, at each service interval and recommend service based on the performance of the coolant. We typically see pH and acidity start to change around 50,000 and it's better to change the coolant before it breaks down and causes damage.

Tip #4: Transmission fluid should be changed every 30,000 – 100,000 miles depending on the type of transmission and type of driving.

Like your oil and your coolant, transmission fluid also goes bad and needs to be changed, but how often depends on various factors: Is the transmission an automatic or manual? Does your car or truck haul heavy loads, putting additional strain on the vehicle? The tell-tale sign it’s time for a change is when the fluid is no longer clear and pink, so be sure to check the condition of the fluid when you get your oil changed. Plan on needing to change your transmission fluid every 30,000 – 60,000 miles for a manual transmission and every 30,000 to 100,000 miles for an automatic.

For peace of mind (and cost savings over the life of a vehicle!), we offer a program that provides lifetime protection on all the major systems of your vehicle. Your transmission system is just one of many you need to maintain. The first step of course, is to schedule your next service appointment!

FUN FACT: It only takes half an ounce of gas to start a car.

MYTH: You need to warm up your car before driving. FALSE! This may have been good practice for your grandfather’s car, but not with today’s modern engines. In fact, thirty seconds is about all you need and idling your car with the engine running is a waste of fuel.

Tip #5: Brake fluids, pads and rotors all have different maintenance schedules, but should be checked regularly, not just when you hear squeaking.

To maintain healthy and safely functioning brakes, you need to not only pay attention to the condition of the brake pads, but also brake fluids and rotors; and waiting until your brakes squeak is not the best way to know when to get them checked. Most manufacturers recommend replacing brake fluid every 20,000 – 40,000 miles and the rotors at 60,000 miles; and brake pads at 2mm.

We measure the brake pads during each inspection with a gauge that reads in millimeters. While 2mm is the minimum standard, we advise that brakes pads are nearing the end of their usable life at 3mm. How long your brake pads will last really depends on how you drive, so you should get them checked regularly; but a good set can last up to 50,000 miles.

Not sure if your brakes need to be repaired or replaced? Check out these warning signs and then schedule a check-up!

FUN FACT: The first speeding ticket ever issued was in 1902; given to a driver traveling 45 miles per hour!

 Tip #6: Replace your battery every 4 to 5 years.

No matter how good a battery you put in your vehicle, it will run down over time and certain factors will affect the longevity of the battery like extreme temperatures (hot or cold), or long periods of non-use. Regardless of the number of miles you drive, most batteries will last between four and five years, so if it’s been a number of years since you last replaced your battery you might want to take care of it sooner than later – before you are stranded by the side of the road!

Sherwood Auto Repair can test the life remaining in your battery and install a new one if needed. We can also recycle your old battery. Battery Services

FUN FACT: The average consumer spends $400 a year on diagnostics, scheduled maintenance, and tune-ups. Yet, every year, over $60 billion worth of car maintenance goes unperformed.

MYTH: You can safely wash your car with dishwashing detergent. FALSE! Dishwashing detergent actually strips the wax off your vehicle’s finish and can cause damage to the paint!

Tip #7: Power steering fluid should be flushed and replaced at 75,000 miles.

As with the rest of the fluids in your car or truck, power steering fluid can become low and or simply need to be replaced. If left unattended, problems can arise, and you will begin to notice excessive noise or find it a little harder to turn the wheel. Rather than waiting until this happens, have Sherwood Auto Repair check your power steering fluid at your next service. Schedule Service

FUN FACT: The average car is made up of more than 30,000 unique parts, and faulty oxygen sensors account for 40 percent of all check engine light related issues.

Tip #8: The timing belt should be replaced between 75,000 and 90,000.

If your vehicle has a timing built, as opposed to a timing chain, you will likely need to replace it once you’ve passed 75,000 miles. In some cases, a belt can last up to 90,000, but better to be safe than sorry, so we like to keep an eye on the timing belt before it becomes a problem. If your car or truck has a timing chain, this should be inspected regularly once you hit 90,000+ miles, but should also last well beyond 100K.

FUN FACT: The world record for removing and replacing a car engine is 42 seconds!

MYTH: Premium fuel will help your car run better and your engine last longer. FALSE! Premium gas isn’t cleaner or “better” than regular fuel. It is less combustible, though, and therefore meant for more powerful engines. There’s no benefit to putting premium gas in your car unless your car calls for a higher-octane fuel.

Tip #9: When you approach the 100,000-mile mark, it’s probably time to replace hoses.

Hoses carry the fluids in your car (steering, coolant, transmission) and while hoses tend to last a very long time, the rubber will eventually develop cracks as they age. If not replaced, aging hoses can rupture, causing all sorts of other problems, so this is not something to ignore. Once you’ve crossed over 90K, have Sherwood Auto Repair check all of your hoses during your next service. Schedule Service

Tip #10: Spark plugs typically don’t need to be replaced until after 90,000 miles.

It used to be that replacing spark plugs was standard fare at 30,000 miles, and this still holds true for those made of copper, but modern spark plugs made of iridium or titanium can last up to 100,000 miles. This is another item you can add to your list of things to check once you hit 90,000 miles.

MYTH: Your car warranty will be null and void if you don’t have your car serviced by the dealership. FALSE! The Moss Magnuson Act made this a law in the 1970's, so you can take your vehicle anywhere to be serviced without risk to the warranty. Following the recommended regular maintenance in your auto manual is the best way to maintain your warranty.

Tip #11: Read your car manual!

The best advice we can give you, is to follow the recommendations in your auto manual and do the regular maintenance. You will extend the life of your vehicle and save money in the long run! So read your manual for sure, but how about also partnering with Sherwood Auto Repair to receive a consultative approach to the maintenance and upkeep of your vehicle? We know life can be hectic, so we provide reliable service and the maintenance your car needs to keep running smoothly so you have one less thing to worry about. Request an Appointment

We also service hybrid cars, which have their own recommended maintenance schedules as well as additional service needs.

And just for giggles, here’s our final fun fact…

FUN FACT: The official record for the greatest number of clowns in a clown car is 31, set in 2013 in a 2CV Citroen – the official clown car. Surprise, it’s not a VW Beetle!