COMPARED to the family trucksters of a generation ago, modern cars require about as much maintenance as a toaster. This is a real liberation from the oil, lube and tune merry-go-round that ruled not so long ago.
Curiously, many people haven't adjusted their thinking to keep pace with new car maintenance schedules. The preoccupied still run their daily drivers without service until the dash warning lights burn out, while over-achievers fret about running synthetic oil more than 2,500 miles without a change.
Although maintenance intervals are now more widely spaced, even the newest cars require scheduled service to live long, productive lives. Whether yours is the latest model or you paid it off years ago, the trick is giving your car the maintenance it was designed to receive.
Proper Tire Inflation and Rotation
Tires leak naturally and need the occasional check. Figuratively speaking, underinflated tires suck up gasoline. Under- or overinflated tires wear out sooner, and deliver the same emergency maneuver handling as marshmallows. You probably aren't going to check tire pressures monthly, but how about twice a year? Furthermore, front and rear tires wear differently and should be rotated to even that wear.
Here's a news flash: It's much easier to avoid hitting things you can see. Simple as it is, that's the concept behind replacing your windshield wipers before they fossilize into noisy uselessness. Fall is the ideal wiper replacement time: after the blade-baking summer and before the fall and winter nastiness. Depending on location, wiper replacement may be an annual affair in the Southwest to a biannual chore in northern climes.
There are no more "tune-ups." Valves no longer need adjusting, ignition timing is computer controlled and there are no carburetors to fiddle with. About all that's left of the old tune-up drill are the spark plugs. These are often good for 100,000 miles, so don't change parts just to change parts. Instead, save up for those big 60,000- and 120,000-mile services when the timing belt, spark plug wires and coolant are due for replacement.
"If some is good, more is better" thinking does not apply to octane. Here the rule is to supply whatever octane the engine is rated for and call it done. Higher-than-required octane does not yield more power or mileage, only oil company profits. Some engines are rated for premium 91 octane fuel but can burn 87 octane regular, thanks to the magic of knock sensors. In that case, run regular gas if puttering around surface streets, and premium fuel if full-throttle driving is part of your daily repertoire.
Oil Change Timing
Oil changes every 3,000 miles used to be required jobs, just like cleaning the accumulated fuzz from record player needles or defrosting freezers. Today, advances in engine design and lubricants make oil changes something to be done when the schedule calls for it, not when granddad says it's time. Some cars call for 5,000-mile change intervals, some up to 15,000-mile stints. Others have a variable timer. Follow the schedule and use the oil called for by the manufacturer.