Mechanically Speaking

Mechanically Speaking: Have a maintenance plan

A routine step of the most basic automotive service is now resetting the maintenance reminder indicator.

A routine step of the most basic automotive service is now resetting the maintenance reminder indicator.

Forget this step and the customer will be questioning your service practices. Some vehicles are a piece of cake. “Push the gas pedal to the floor three times quickly with the key on.” Voilà! Some vehicles, not so simple. “Key on, scroll with this button, hold that button, wait ten seconds, turn key off, turn on emergency flasher, hold your tongue against the roof of your mouth, say a prayer.” You get the picture.

We had a late model Mercedes in not long ago for a service and it was time to reset the maintenance reminder. The process was not intuitive (Mercedes… intuitive… not likely) so I went looking for the owner’s manual.

Yes, most reset procedures are still in the owner’s manual just in case you might want to service your own vehicle. In this case the owner’s manual is on the hard drive built into the vehicle so I had to know how to work the central information display in order to find the information I needed. Fortunately fumbling with the big knob and three buttons got me on track.

In the process of reading the maintenance section of the manual I came across a section that even Mercedes includes in their manual. In a nutshell it says Mercedes recommends that to maintain your new vehicle warranty have your vehicle serviced and certain procedures performed when the display on your vehicle indicates service is required but ultimately your mechanic should be the judge. Severe driving conditions require different maintenance practices. This impressed me. Even the Mercedes engineers think your mechanic will know better what kind of service your vehicle requires.

In fact I have yet to find an owner’s manual that does not suggest the final word on your vehicle’s maintenance needs should come from your mechanic.

I am aware that many new vehicles are now being sold with free maintenance for a certain time or distance.

Many other vehicle sales include a purchased maintenance plan. These free or purchased plans typically will only offer the minimal maintenance. Does your vehicle only need the minimal amount of maintenance? Should you not ask your mechanic? The manufacturer thinks so. It says so in the owner’s manual.

The service department that performs the free or purchased maintenance will likely give you only what exactly was paid for; minimal maintenance.

In the trenches we (your mechanics) are seeing the results of these maintenance plans. Neglected maintenance.

Our Kootenay geography represents severe driving conditions. How many of our customers drive ten kilometres from Rossland to Trail each morning.

The vehicle does not even reach normal operating temperature. Then at the end of the day the return trip up. Operating temperature is reached quickly but under heavy load. That is some severe service conditions.

Minimal maintenance will likely get your vehicle through the original manufacturer warranty without major problems. The people who make the cars know that. It is after that warranty period when minimal maintenance practices may haunt you.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail:

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