Nobody likes calling a tow truck.
Most people don’t think about their car’s maintenance schedule until a repair light comes on. While it’s easy to push mechanic trips to the back of your mind, it’s generally pretty stressful to discover car problems on the highway. Although it’s not always fun to think about, staying on top of your car’s maintenance needs saves you plenty of time, money, and energy in the long term. In addition to avoiding nasty surprises while driving, sticking to a factory-recommended schedule also extends your car’s life and helps it retain better resell value if you decide to take it in.
We sat down with our friends at Bighorn Automotive to figure out a maintenance schedule that will keep your car running smoothly without having to spend every weekend at the garage!
Before we start, it’s worth talking about the factory-recommended schedule that’s hiding somewhere in the owner’s manual of your car. While these timelines are designed for a car being stored and driven in tested, optimal circumstances, every driver is unique. Some items like rubber gaskets, tires, and windshield wiper blades can wear out at vastly different times depending on their use. These parts—nicknamed consumables by mechanics—should be checked at regular intervals. If you stick to mechanic-suggested timeframes for different services, you should almost always be able to catch and wear on these parts long before it has the chance to escalate into problems.
With that aside, let’s take a look at the recommended schedule for different services.
Oil and Oil Filter: Every 5,000-10,000 Miles
Both your oil and oil filter needs to be changed pretty frequently compared to other parts of your car. It never hurts to be proactive about getting your oil changed, as engines will slowly accumulate loose bits of metal, dirt, and carbon that can end up in your car’s oil, increasing wear on the engine. Don’t slack off on this one: start making plans once that “oil change” alert pops up.
Air Filter: Every 15,000-30,000 Miles
The timing of this maintenance can vary dramatically based on where you park your car and how much you use it. Cars that drive (or park) in dusty places will see a much faster buildup of filter-clogging particulates. Clogged air filters can greatly hamper your car’s performance, like an engine that has trouble “breathing” won’t be able to function as effectively.
Brake Fluid: Every 20,00-45,000 Miles
Normally, your brake fluid is engaged through a self-contained hydraulic system. Over time, however, brake fluid can become contaminated by water, which alters its composition and lowers the point at which it evaporates. Over time, this watered-down brake fluid turns to gas, which compresses and results in a “squishy” brake pedal. Bleeding out the fluid in your brake system and replacing it will keep your brakes working when they’re supposed to.
Fuel Filter: Every 30,000 Miles
Good news: It’s easy to tell when your fuel filter is clogged! Bad news: You usually find out when your engine stops running. These ensure that engines can run smoothly, and gunk accumulating in your fuel filter will run your engine rough before it stops working altogether. Avoid this problem by replacing your fuel filter EVERY 30,000 miles!
Battery: Every Five Years
Plenty of different factors affect your battery, so the exact replacement distance can vary from car to car. Remember, batteries are designed to be worn out, and this will be reflected in your car’s warranty, which covers batteries by time and not mileage. The average lifespan of a battery is between four and five years, which is around 50,000 miles for the average driver.
Brake Pads: Every 50,000 Miles
Just like batteries, brake pads are designed to wear out over time and be replaced. Just remember to get them checked regularly because you generally don’t want to find out about any braking issues when pulling up to an intersection. Brake pads will also make a screeching sound when they start to wear thin. Like any other car-related screeching noise, get it checked ASAP.
Spark Plugs: Every 100,000 Miles
Spark plugs are especially important to replace because they’re a core component of your car’s ignition system. Without a reliable spark plug, your car can have trouble starting. That means that it’s a good idea to listen to any “check engine” lights that appear, as degrading spark plugs are a common reason for this. Most new cars use iridium spark plugs, which have a lifespan of roughly 100,000 miles. Cheaper copper spark plugs, however, generally need to be replaced every 30,000 miles.
How religious are you with your car maintenance?