MECHANICALLY SPEAKING: Records provide maintenance history

"Under that hood is a tighter trickier place than it ever has been."

In my last article I talked about present day vehicle owners new found reluctance to look under the hood. I also stated that it was easy to understand their reluctance. Under that hood is a tighter trickier place than it ever has been.

Maintenance intervals have increased to the extent that some vehicles require service maybe only once per year if you are following a normal service interval (not a severe service one).  Most vehicles still need service at least twice a year.

What has changed the most in the service industry is the frequency of some service items.  Take for example spark plug replacement. Many vehicles only require this service every 160 000 kilometres. As a typical Canadian only drives 20 000 kilometres per year spark plugs will only be replaced every 8 years. That is if someone remembers to have that job done.

Those spark plugs are specially made to last for that interval. They are usually fairly expensive spark plugs and may require a good deal of labour to replace. Many vehicles are now traded in before spark plugs have ever even been replaced.

Because services such as spark plug replacement, timing belt replacement, and engine coolant replacement are few and far between many times they are forgotten. In order to look after a vehicle properly keeping records is a must.

Many of you may assume that a mechanic can just lift the hood and realize exactly what services your vehicle is due for. Unfortunately that is just not possible. What we can clearly see in many instances is complete neglect which is generally not something that is easily recoverable. A cooling system that was not serviced can end up with a corroded engine block that won’t transfer heat and coolant passages that won’t flow. There is no magic elixir that will restore your cooling system short of engine overhaul and component replacement. That would include radiator, heater core, water pump, etc., etc.

As you can see, in order for your mechanic to determine optimally when to perform a specific service he/she requires a history of what has been done in order to determine what needs doing.

Fortunately the computer age makes record keeping easier than ever. If you are using one service provider for all your maintenance and repairs make sure they keep a record of what has been done. If not make sure you yourself are keeping a record.

If your maintenance methods include various service providers you need to know what services your vehicle is due for. The lube, oil, multipoint inspection is not always going to completely cover what your vehicle needs. This approach can cost you more in two ways. Sometimes extra work is sold. “When was your fuel filter last changed?” “I don’t know go ahead and change it” or “I don’t know but leave it for now, the vehicle is running fine.

The first case may be a complete waste of money. The second may lead to a breakdown on the highway, a tow, and a new fuel pump because the old one was working double duty pushing the fuel through a clogged filter.


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