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Proactive maintenance

Mileage, time or condition? When’s the best time to recommend fluid maintenance?
Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 07:05
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What mileage/time interval do you recommend between oil changes to your customers? “3,000 miles or three months, whichever comes first” was hammered into my skull from the day I first started driving and has been stuck there ever since. Then there’s the infamous “30/60/90” menu board offering you’ll find in many shops that includes both a coolant and transmission fluid service. Unfortunately, both are usually “drain and fills” that provide little benefit to the vehicle or the customer. And what about the other fluids under the hood? When, if at all, should they be serviced?



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Your customers’ mode of transportation, whether it is a passenger car, light truck or SUV, is one of the largest purchases they’ll ever make. And for many, the cost of keeping that conveyance on the road represents another sizable portion of their budget. We can help them get more for their buck while, at the same time, helping them protect that investment by revisiting the way we recommend fluid services.

Engine Oil Changes
Let’s start with that most basic of services: the engine oil change. Today, the average interval recommended by the various OEMs for oil service is approximately 7,800 miles. Some makes are as high as 20,000 miles between changes while others (like my Toyota Corolla) are down on the low end, with 5,000-mile intervals suggested.

But is that under “normal” or “severe” service? If you check the owner’s manual or your service information system, you’ll see two distinct maintenance schedules and it could be argued that nearly every car on the road meets at least one of the conditions listed to classify its uses as severe.

And what about conventional oil versus synthetic? Does switching to a synthetic truly increase the interval required between changes?

Should we ignore the manual and stick to our 3,000-mile/three-month interval?

One factor that made more frequent oil changes necessary was the quality of the oil and filtration used in the past. Oil, in particular, has a hard life protecting the internal workings of an internal combustion engine. But modern oil formulations are more than capable of dealing with the stresses of current engine designs and lasting at least as long as the service interval recommended by the automaker. As a more professional recommendation, stick to the OEM’s scheduled maintenance interval and/or the oil life monitor many newer vehicles are equipped with. Just be sure to reset the light after you’ve completed your service and use the correct oil for the application. 

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