Scheduled Maintenance, or preventative maintenance, is the regular schedule of services that vehicles manufacturers prescribe to keep a car running well and safely. Maintenance schedules vary by vehicle, driving style, and driving conditions.
Are You a “Normal” or “Severe” Driver?
When it comes to maintenance advice, consumers are confronted with numerous recommendations and opinions. When the owners manual recommends one type of service, a quick lube franchise recommends a second, and the dealership advises a third, it’s no wonder consumers are afraid they’ll be ripped off by paying for service they don’t really need. Sometimes it’s impossible to know who’s telling the truth and who isn’t.
The truth is in the owners manual. Manufacturers define maintenance schedules for your car, not dealerships—and certainly not quick lube franchises. Most manufacturers divide maintenance schedules into “normal” and “severe” driving conditions.
You might think the conditions you put your car under aren’t considered severe, but if you frequently do any of the following, then your car maintenance should indeed follow the "severe" driving conditions schedule:
- Take short trips of less than 10 miles.
- Drive in heavy traffic with many stops and starts.
- Drive at high rates of speed.
- Tow heavy loads or drive off-road.
- Drive in dusty conditions.
- Drive in extremely cold or extremely hot climates.
Surprised? Many consumers are.
If the above conditions are severe, then what’s normal?
- Trips of 10 miles or more.
- Sustained speeds of 50 to 75 miles an hour.
- Driving in low-traffic situations with few stops and starts.
- Ambient temperatures above freezing and below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Determine what your expectations and priorities are to make the most informed decisions about your car’s maintenance schedule. A mother of small children may make decisions based on safety. A person commuting to work may be concerned about fuel economy. A student might make maintenance decisions based on cash flow—or lack thereof. Each of us has different priorities and circumstances.
As sensible car owners, we all must assume responsibility for doing the basics. Periodically checking tire pressure, engine oil, and coolant levels can dramatically increase the life of your car and potentially save you thousands of dollars in repairs down the road. And not only does a well-maintained car last longer and save money in the long run, but it’s also much safer for both you and your passengers