It's incredible how far automotive technology has come in what really is a relatively short amount of time. Today's auto repair technicians who service and maintain our vehicles need to know more than ever, and to be a certified automotive technician these days really means committing to a career of ongoing training just to keep abreast of changing technology.
It could be tempting to think the need for routine maintenance has diminished over time, but anyone involved in auto repair will tell you that definitely isn't the case. In fact, as maintenance intervals for things such as spark plugs and cooling systems have been stretched out as far as 161,000 km in some cases, periodic maintenance has never been more important. If you want to get the utmost from what for most of us is the second biggest investment we'll ever make, keeping on top of routine maintenance is vital.
The first and most important thing is to familiarize yourself with your manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle. This can easily be found in your owner's manual and it tells you how often your vehicle needs to be serviced and what type of service is required.
However, it's important to note that these schedules are based on what is termed "normal" driving, but not too many of us actually drive normally. Most roads are dusty and strewn with hazards such as potholes and speed bumps, so look upon your manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule as the starting point for your vehicle's maintenance plan, not as the final word on it. Remember, you certainly won’t do your vehicle any harm by having it serviced more often than the schedule states, especially if you regularly drive in testing environments.
Here are other elements of routine maintenance that will preserve your vehicle and save you money:
Regardless how modern or otherwise your vehicle is, it's hard to overstate the importance of regular oil and filter changes. Oil is like your engine's blood and it collects bits and contaminants over time that need to be removed to avoid needing an auto repair that can easily be avoided. Changing the oil regularly keeps the inside of your engine clean and avoids damaging sludge building up.
Modern cars generally run hotter than older models, and with vehicle components often being downsized now to save space and weight, cooling system components are being asked to do more than ever before. Periodic replacement of coolant ensures corrosion inhibitors are fresh and helps to eliminate the scale and corrosion that inevitably builds up in the system.
Other important fluids also require attention, such as brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and differential fluid. As with oil, these fluids collect detritus over time and can become sludgy, which stops them working as well as they should and that risks damaging vital components.
Air and fuel is changed and replaced as the engine operates, but we still need filters to stop any unwanted contaminants getting into these vital systems. Another often overlooked filter is the carbon canister filter, which is a vital part of the emission control system that filters the incoming air this system uses.
Nothing lasts forever, and there are a number of perishable items on your vehicle you need to keep an eye on. These include the timing belt (or chain) and other belts utilized by your engine, tires, exhausts, brake pads, brake discs and wiper blades. Some of these items will have recommended replacement schedules, but hard driving and other conditions could make more frequent replacement necessary and advisable.