Today we’ll be talking with Alan Peterson about myths surrounding automotive maintenance. You can lump these myths into the statement that “modern cars are so reliable, they are virtually maintenance free”.
Any good myth has some elements of truth. No offense to Big Foot fans, but this maintenance-free myth has more evidence than most. If we look at some isolated areas of auto maintenance, we could conclude that maintenance isn’t so important. But other areas would just as easily lead you to believe that maintenance is more important than ever.
Here are some examples. Some cars no longer require chassis lubrication. They’re made with self-lubricating materials and have sealed joints. There’s literally is no way to grease those joints.
—Chalk one up for the myth.
On the other side, some vehicles come with sophisticated variable valve timing. A lot of complicated parts up in the valve train that didn’t even exist not that many years ago. These parts are very vulnerable to oil sludge.
So skipping an oil change here and there could lead to very expensive damage.
—A point to maintenance.
Electronic ignition has eliminated replacing points.
—Myth gets a point.
Fuel injectors on direct injection engines are very expensive to replace so one must be sure to get a fuel system cleaning on schedule.
—Point – maintenance.
I think you get the picture. As automotive technology advances, it eliminates or reduces some maintenance requirements. And maintenance becomes more critical for some items. Most others remain very similar to what they’ve always been.
So the maintenance mindset is still important if we want our vehicles to last a long time. The checklist may change over time, but there’ll always be a check list.
Let me mention a couple of items on modern vehicles that folks need to be aware of. One of the most of the most important is timing belt replacement. Used to be that all engines had timing chains – you know, metal chains. They rarely broke.
It’s cheaper to make engines with timing belts rather than chains, so replacing the timing belt is on most engines’ maintenance list. The money the manufacturer saves by using a belt is more than off-set by what the vehicle owner has to pay to replace the belt. And it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of repairing the damage if the timing belt breaks.
So make sure you know when your timing belt needs to be replaced. You don’t want to miss that. If you have 60,000 miles or more, break out your owner’s manual or ask your service advisor to check on the recommendation right away.
Another is sealed wheel bearing assemblies on some vehicles. As you might have guessed, it’s cheaper to make a sealed unit than one that has access to inspect or service the wheel bearings. The problem is that when the bearings fail, you have to replace the entire unit, not just the bearings. That’ll cost 5 or 6 times as much.
We hope this has underscored the importance of knowing and following your maintenance schedule.