From Headlights to Taillights: Vehicle Maintenance – Recommended or Required?

By Mark Kozemko, Johnson College’s Automotive Technology Program Director. Originally published in the September 24, 2021 edition of the Valley Advantage.

https://www.thevalleyadvantage.com/community-columns/from-headlights-to-taillights-vehicle-maintenance-recommended-or-required/article_4e0ed64d-ba35-5431-93f8-0808466020ca.html

As another summer goes in the record books and everyone starts to plan their winter travels, questions about vehicle maintenance continue to be on everyone’s minds. This month, we’re fielding questions from concerned vehicle owners about the infamous maintenance schedule they find in their owner’s manuals.

Our first question is, “I often wonder, do I really have to do the maintenance at every single interval on the schedule?”

If you’re scratching your head about the question, let me explain it. A typical maintenance schedule found in your vehicle’s owner’s manual will be in table form, listing mileage intervals across the top and maintenance items down the left side. The manufacturer determines the mileage intervals.

For instance, my 2017 Ram 1500 pickup mileage intervals are every 10,000 miles beginning at 20,000 miles. There is also a row with years that appears under the mileage. Some of us don’t drive as much, so maintenance is completed yearly instead of according to miles traveled.

Maintenance items that need attention range from a simple inspection of that item to total replacement. Many things don’t need to be replaced for 50,000 to 100,000 miles. Items that require regular replacing include the engine oil and filter, fuel and air filters.

Okay, now to answer the question asked: Yes, you really have to do the maintenance listed at every mileage interval. Why? Well, replacement or inspections are done at specific intervals to prevent significant repairs in the future, thus, the term, “preventative maintenance.” When preventative maintenance is performed correctly, the owner will get as much out of their vehicle as they possibly can.

If you’ve been following this column every month, you may remember me stating that engine oil changes are the cheapest maintenance you can do to prolong the life of your engine. A clean engine is a happy engine and will perform flawlessly for quite a long time. That’s just one example of preventative maintenance.

“Are all the services the same at each interval?” is our second question.

There may be certain things, such as changing the engine oil and filter that you will have to do at each interval. Other things, not so much. For example, the spark plugs in my 5.7-liter Hemi engine require replacement at 100,000 miles, so if you remember from above, the service intervals on my vehicle are every 10,000 miles. My truck will have already received somewhere around 10 maintenance services by the time I replace my spark plugs.

I want to add that this spark plug replacement requirement is different from a few decades ago, when replacements were required every year. Back then, this was called a tune-up.

Some items are inspected at each interval but do not need to be replaced until they reach the end of their useful life. For instance, an air filter may last through four service intervals if the vehicle is only driven in a clean, dust-free environment. If you drive your car or truck in very dirty or dusty situations, the filter will have to be replaced every interval due to severe usage.

Our third question is, “Can I get away with skipping any of the services?”

I guess you can, but you may hear someone tell you, “I told you so,” because something simple that needed attention at the service interval you skipped turned into a high-dollar repair later on down the road.

“Is there a more cost-effective way to maintain my vehicle so I don’t have to incur the cost of the maintenance packages?” is our fourth and final question this month.

The bottom line is that the most cost-effective way to maintain your vehicle is to follow the maintenance schedule to the letter. In the long run, the money you spend on the maintenance packages per the schedule will be significantly less than the expensive repairs that will come because you skipped one or more of your scheduled maintenances.

Keep in mind that a vehicle under warranty will always require you to follow the maintenance schedule. If a catastrophic failure should happen to your car or truck, the first thing the manufacturer will ask for is maintenance records. If maintenance hasn’t been completed per their recommended schedule, your repair will most likely come out of your pocket. Those costs can add up very quickly.

As you think about preparing your vehicle for your winter travels, make sure you know what is really recommended and required on your vehicle’s maintenance schedule. It could mean saving money and, more importantly, getting you safely to your winter destination.

From Headlights To Taillights: Springing Ahead With Vehicle Maintenance

By Mark Kozemko, Johnson College’s Automotive Technology Program Director. Originally published in the February 26, 2021 edition of the Valley Advantage. https://bit.ly/30cbvdk

It’s been a snowy February, but per Punxsutawney Phil, spring is on its way. It’s just going to take a little while longer to get here. As we’re preparing to say goodbye to snow and hello to warmer weather, we’re receiving questions about car maintenance that may be required after the long, cold winter. Let’s get to them so you can plan ahead.

Our first question is, “Should my car battery be replaced after the long winter we’re experiencing this year?”

Before you go and replace your battery, I recommend having it inspected and tested first. As I said in a previous column, your vehicle battery is one of — if not the most — important component to get your vehicle through a rough winter. If you had your battery inspected and tested in the fall, you should have it re-tested. Even though it had enough life to get you through the winter, that doesn’t mean its power is stable enough to keep you going throughout the spring and into summer. Extended periods of below-freezing temperatures, which we’ve experienced this year, weaken and take a lot out of a battery. Take the time now to get a new inspection and test to determine if your battery requires replacement.

“Does my engine oil need to be changed after the cold winter months?” is our second question.

When we discussed oil change intervals in a previous column, I recommended that you keep your maintenance schedule on track throughout the year and I’m sticking with that recommendation. Oil changes are the most economical maintenance you can do to drastically extend the life of your vehicle’s engine. Don’t go beyond the recommended time or mileage between oil changes, but you can change your vehicle’s oil sooner or more often than recommended. As the vehicle owner, it’s your call on whether you think the mileage or time is close enough to put fresh oil in your engine.

“Is there such a thing as summer and winter air that I should put in my tires?” is our third question.

There is no such thing as summer or winter air. It’s just compressed air.

You can, however, have your tires inflated with nitrogen, which helps eliminate oxidation and corrosion. Nitrogen pressure in a tire will bleed off or dissipate much slower than compressed air and you’ll see slightly higher fuel mileage with it. If you’re thinking about using nitrogen, it is considered a green alternative, which means it’s better for the environment. One thing to keep in mind, with compressed air, you can check and adjust your own tire pressure. If you use nitrogen, you’ll have to find a repair shop equipped with it to adjust your pressure. It will cost you to have your tires inflated with nitrogen more than you pay for compressed air.

Our final question is actually two questions, “How do I clean the buildup of salt and chemicals that accumulated under my car over the winter?” and “Can I do it myself?”

The best way to clean the underbody of your vehicle is by using a pressure washer. Most repair shops have pressure washers that are used for a variety of jobs, including cleaning customer vehicle undercarriages. These pressure washers come in many different pressures and gallons per minute. They also have several different spray tips, from wide-angle to a pencil spray, and include attachments that connect to the hose and slide under the vehicle, making it easier for technicians to get the undercarriage clean. Prices range for this service at repair shops or body shops.

Can you do it yourself? Yes, but you’ll have to purchase a pressure washer and attachments. The consumer versions come in a variety of pressures and usually two power options, gasoline or electric. The good news is, you have choices for your individual needs and situations. Keep in mind, to make any of these pressure washers work as designed, you will need a water supply. Lastly, you have to be ready to get wet!

With these steps and, of course, guidance from your automotive technician, your vehicle will be back in shape after enduring a cold and snowy northeastern Pennsylvania winter. I’m not sure about you, but I’m hoping next year Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow and we’ll get an early spring.