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How Often Should You Get Your Car Serviced

How often should you get your car serviced? - Understand vehicle service intervals and service schedules for brake pads, brake fluid, spark plugs, oil and filters.
OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
02 Mar 2022
... there are components where maintenance should be carried out preemptively as a form of preventive maintenance. The reason for this is because the failure of these components are sudden and often without symptoms.

How often should you get your car serviced? - It is common knowledge that keeping to the service schedule and service intervals that your manufacturers recommend can save you money in the long run, and prevent unwanted damage to your beloved car. However, this may be easier said than done. Between all the nitty gritty things like spark plugs, engine oil, air filters, brake fluid, brake pads and rotors, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid, it can sometimes feel overwhelming as to when and how often you should get these components serviced. Read on to learn more about common things in your car that you need to service and how often you should do it.

Regular Servicing (Baseline Maintenance):

How often should you get your car serviced? - Starting with the most common things you’ll have to maintain on your car, changing out your engine oil, the oil filter, and the air filter essentially constitutes what is known as basic or regular servicing. These forms of servicing usually take about half a day, and do not cost a lot - between $180 - $350 depending on the type of oil needed, quality of oil used, and the amount of oil needed. Depending on whether or not you are opting to use original oil and air filters, or aftermarket ones, this would affect the price of your service package as well. As a general rule of thumb, most cars should undergo this service every 10,000km, or at least once a year, whichever comes first. However, some Japanese cars recommend undergoing this process every 7,000km, while certain automakers like BMW, actually prescribe something called Condition-Based Servicing, where the onboard computer lets you know when to change out your engine oil, depending on how you drive. During these types of servicing sessions, it is also where your mechanic will likely inspect the rest of your car, and advise you on the current condition of all the other components on your car, and if you need to change out any other parts.

Condition Based Servicing (Reactive Maintenance):

In a car, there are certain components where you can afford to wait for them to display signs of wear and tear before bringing your car in for maintenance and servicing of those parts. For example, when your brake pads are running thin, and are close to being worn out, the brakes will typically let out a squealing noise when you brake, which lets you know that your brake pads are close to being worn down. At this juncture, it is not dangerous in any way to drive your car, and braking performance is usually not compromised during the early onset. All you have to do is to be alert to certain tell-tale signs of wear and tear, and bring your car in for servicing as soon as you discover it. Here are some common components that fall into this category, and how to tell if it's time to service them.

Brake Rotors - Wear and tear is usually inspected during regular servicing, and changed out accordingly.

Engine Mounting - Wear and tear usually presents in the form of higher-than-usual levels of vibration in your car, as well as engine “knocking” under hard acceleration.

Timing Belt / Chain - When worn down, timing belts tend to emit a loud screeching sound which is most pronounced during the first few minutes of starting up your car and moving off.

Tyres - There are wear markers on every tyre which you can reference. Once the tyre has been worn down to the marker levels, it is time to change your tyres.

Oil Leaks - Different types of oil leaks have different tell-tale signs. During servicing, your mechanic should be able to tell you instantly if there are visible oil leaks. However, not all oil leaks present themselves in the form of dripping oil. Sometimes, engine oil can also leak within the engine, into the combustion chamber, where it is usually burnt off. In such cases, you won’t see physical oil droplets leaking out of the engine. Instead, what you would experience is a mysterious drop in oil levels, or you may notice a burnt smell coming through your engine bay during your drive. When you spot these symptoms, it may be time to undergo an oil gasket seal change.

Interval Based Servicing (Preventive Maintenance):

On the flip side of things, there are components where maintenance should be carried out preemptively as a form of preventive maintenance. The reason for this is because the failure of these components are sudden and often without symptoms. Worse still, the failure of these components can cause accidents, cause permanent damage to your car, or leave you stranded on the side of the road due to a breakdown. As such, these are components that should be changed according to your manufacturer’s recommendations and specifications at specific intervals. Of course, different manufacturers will advocate different intervals, but here are some general guidelines on when to service these components.

Brake Fluid - Generally speaking, if you’re not driving like a madman, or descending any mountain roads with lots of braking, there is a very small chance of you overheating your brake fluid, “contaminating” it in the process. When brake fluid gets contaminated with air due to overheating, brake fade can occur and you essentially lose hydraulic pressure during braking. Other more minor symptoms of brake fluid that has gone bad include irregular and uneven braking pressure, resulting in large amounts of vibration when braking. Most mechanics will inspect your brake fluid during regular servicing, but as a general rule of thumb, one should flush their brake lines and replace the fluid every 5 years or so.

Spark Plugs & Spark Plug Coils - Spark plugs and coils are responsible for igniting the spark that is needed for combustion to happen within an internal combustion engine. If any of your spark plugs or coils are burnt out, your engine misfires. How badly does it misfire? That depends on how many plugs and coils are burnt. When a misfire happens due to a burnt spark plug or coil, it's nearly impossible to resume normal operation of the car. The car will sputter, jerk, and lurch erratically, which can be extremely dangerous. It's possible for you to drag the car to the workshop after experiencing burnt plugs and coils, but spark plugs and coils are generally replaced preemptively to prevent such a scenario from happening. How often? It depends on each manufacturer, but on average, this chance usually happens between 50,000 km to 70,000 km. Keep in mind that this figure assumes the car is driven normally, under casual driving conditions.

Car Battery - This is an easy one to explain. If your car battery dies, you can’t start your car - which also means you’re gonna have to jump start your car or call a tow truck. Most people would not want to be in this position, and as such, most people would change out their batteries when battery performance tests indicate low functionality during a regular servicing check. So essentially, this is something that can actually be checked regularly and replaced without much fuss. As to how often should you be replacing your car battery, it all depends on a few factors. Firstly, a huge factor is whether or not your car battery is located within the engine bay or underneath the boot floor. Higher temperatures in the engine bay tend to deteriorate batteries faster. Also, it depends if you are using original manufacturer batteries or after market batteries. From experience, original manufacturer batteries cost a little bit more, but can last up to 3 years in many cases. In most situations however, aftermarket batteries are the batteries of choice, as they don’t cost as much, and will last for about 1 to 1.5 years. These batteries also usually come with warranties that allow a new battery to be changed out during the warranty period. Essentially then, you’re usually getting a 2-for-1 deal on the batteries.

Transmission Fluid / Oil - This is an interesting one because there are many manufacturers who actually claim that their gearboxes are sealed for life, which is meant to indicate that no transmission servicing is needed. Here’s the deal though - it makes logical sense that a mechanical part, and a highly complex assembly no less, should require a transmission oil change at some point in time. Over time, it would seem logical that the transmission oil, which serves the purpose of lubricating moving parts within a transmission box, would get filled with debris and sediment from the wear and tear of moving gears. If you believe this as well, then you’ll definitely want to ensure that your transmission oil is changed on time and regularly, for by the time you experience any symptoms of gearbox failure, it is likely that damage has already been done to the gearbox. As such, most transmission oil change intervals happen between 60,000 km to 100,000 km, depending on the type of transmission, the manufacturer’s recommendation, and also the driving style of the user.

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