The most important car service of all

The quality of the oil change you get can be as important as the oil change itself.

The “oil change” is probably regarded as the simplest yet most necessary service performed on all vehicles. As such there are a lot of places offering this service. Lots of places means competitive pricing. Competition can be good for the consumer but as usual the often heard slogans apply. Buyer beware and you get what you pay for.

I can assure you that there is not a vehicle made that only requires an oil change every so often. Check out the maintenance section in your owner’s manual. I guarantee you will be surprised by the list of maintenance, inspection and service items. Is your “oil change” provider taking care of this list for you? If not, you better make sure someone does.

First off there are the routine service items. These are very likely items the owner can easily take care of themselves with a little knowledge. They may be performed every time you fill up with fuel or monthly. They include checking the oil level, windshield washer fluid level, lighting etc. Simple …yes!  Skipped … often.

After routine service comes the proverbial “oil change.” I have written about the importance of choosing the correct oil and filter especially if your vehicle has an oil life monitor system.

Remember, opting for synthetic engine oil does not automatically mean you are meeting the correct specification for your vehicle. All oil filters are not created equal.

Again check out the list of maintenance, inspection, and service items that reside in your owner’s manual. Replacing the oil and filter are not the only two items on the list. Each trip to your service provider has a special list that is cyclical based on mileage and or time. Even the most basic service will likely include some inspections.

Steering, suspension, and exhaust system inspections are important and require special skills and understanding. These inspections may require special tools as well. All vehicle are not the same.

At least once a year your braking system requires inspection. Properly performed this service requires your wheels to come off. It may also require some brake system dis assembly.  Believe it or not your brake system may need lubrication.

There are definitely not as many lubrication points on late model vehicles but that does not mean there are not any. Some steering,  suspension, and drive train components still have fittings to grease. Do you know where they are? Does your service provider?

As the kilometres pile on (typically 25 000 per year) the required maintenance and inspection items list will periodically be a much longer list.

The 100,000-kilometre mark  is almost always one of those. It will likely include fluid changes other than the engine oil. Engine coolant, differential fluid, transfer case fluid, transmission fluid may be up for replacement. It is again more than ever very important that the replacement fluids are chosen correctly.

Service providers have to carry a larger variety of fluid types than they used to.  Some may think red fluid is red fluid but that has never been less true.

A service professional will make sure your vehicle gets the service it needs.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. He will write every other Thursday. E-mail:

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