Most people in the Atlanta area are aware that automotive manufacturers have recommended service intervals. Following recommended service intervals is very important. The engineers that design our vehicles have tested the various systems and components to meet durability and safety standards. Some of these standards are self-imposed and others, like those for emissions components, are government mandated for the areas around Atlanta, Marietta and Vinings in GA.
The maintenance schedules are designed to achieve the standards. Think of the benefits of following recommended intervals as falling into three general categories: Protection, Efficiency and Safety.
Protection. Let’s start with motor oil. First of all, the engineers recommend a particular weight and type of motor oil for your sedan. All of their oil change recommendations assume using the proper motor oil. Motor oil contains detergents and other additives that clean the engine and provide corrosion resistance. Over time, the additives are depleted. The oil also becomes contaminated by water, dirt and combustion gases.
Extending your interval beyond the recommendation means that your sedan engine will be operating without the full protection of fresh motor oil. It also means that sludge can form in contaminated oil and clog up passages in the engine, starving parts from needed lubrication.
Efficiency. Some services are designed to keep automotive systems operating efficiently. For example, the fuel system gets clogged up with gum and varnish from the fuel. Fuel doesn’t flow efficiently which reduces fuel economy. A fuel system cleaning restores the fuel system’s efficiency and increases your gas mileage.
Safety. Your brakes are obviously one of the most important safety systems on your sedan. The manufacturer has scheduled brake pad replacement as well as power brake fluid drain and replacement intervals. Because brakes are so important, a brake inspection is also on the schedule to head off problems before they result in an accident.
Check your owner’s manual for recommended service schedules or talk with your Smyrna service advisor at Cooper Lake Automotive by calling 770-431-1936. You’ll find our shop located at 4739 South Cobb DR. SE in Smyrna, GA 30082.
You may be surprised to learn that various inspections may be on your list of factory recommendations for your sedan. These inspections are usually at major intervals like fifteen or thirty thousand miles. They’re designed to uncover important parts that may be close to failing.
Your sedan owner’s manual can tell you when to change your oil, but it can’t tell you that you have a radiator hose that’s bulging and about to burst. For that you need a trained auto technician. These scheduled inspections are in addition to the multi-point inspections done with a full-service oil change.
People near Smyrna GA often ask Cooper Lake Automotive how often they should have a particular service done. It’s a great thing to ask. You can look at your owner’s manual, or have your Smyrna GA service advisor at Cooper Lake Automotive look up your vehicle in a service database. What you find is often a surprise to people – there are actually two service schedules.
One is the regular schedule and the other is the severe service schedule. Service intervals are shorter on the severe service schedule. When asked, most folks in Smyrna GA will say that their driving is normal and that the ‘regular’ schedule probably applies to them. ‘Severe service’ sounds pretty extreme – ‘I don’t drive like that’.
Well, here is what the manufacturers say constitutes severe driving conditions; you can draw your own conclusions.
Most of your trips are less than four miles.
Most of your trips are less than ten miles and outside temperatures are below freezing.
The engine is at low speed most of the time – not on the highway. You operate your vehicle in dusty areas.
You regularly tow a trailer or carry heavy loads.
Drive with a car-top carrier.
Stop and go driving.
Driving in very hot or very cold weather.
If that’s severe driving, what constitutes regular driving? Well, it would look something like this: I live somewhere with moderate temperatures all year round – I’m thinking San Diego here. And I live close to a freeway on-ramp. Everywhere I need to go is right off the freeway, at least four miles from my home. I can drive at a steady 60 miles per hour when I’m on the freeway.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like my normal driving. It sounds more like ideal conditions. I live where it gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter. I run short errands around Smyrna. Occasionally we load up for family trips.
For me, normal driving includes elements of severe service driving. So here’s what I tell people: think about how you drive, where you live, where you go and what you are expecting to with your vehicle in the near future.
Picture a line with ‘regular’ on one end and ‘severe’ on the other, and make a judgment on where you fall. If your regular oil change recommendation is 5,000 miles and the severe service recommendation is 3,000 – when should you change your oil? For me, it’s closer to 3,000 miles. For my wife, it’s closer to 5,000 miles. Your Smyrna GA auto service advisor at Cooper Lake Automotive will be happy to have this discussion with you and help you sort it out.
Just a quick word on why severe service intervals are shorter. One has to do with heat. That can either be external heat from the weather or engine and transmission heat from stop and go driving or working extra hard moving heavy loads or towing. The heat causes the fluids like oil and transmission fluid to break down more quickly and then they aren’t as effective.
Another factor is water. Moisture naturally collects in fluids as they cool. In your motor oil, for example, if you don’t drive long enough for the oil to fully heat up, the water won’t evaporate. Water in the oil can lead to the buildup of damaging sludge.
If you live where the air is dusty or polluted, fluids will become contaminated and filters will get dirtier more quickly.
So make an honest evaluation of your driving conditions. You’ve made the commitment to take care of your vehicles, so it only makes sense to follow the right schedule.
Everyone in Smyrna knows we’re supposed to go to the dentist twice a year. We get our teeth cleaned and have a thorough dental inspection. Once a year, we get x-rays to look for problems that can’t be seen with the naked eye. When the dentist is done, he tells us what he’s found – “Everything’s fine, see you in six months.” Or “You’ve got a small cavity starting, let’s schedule an appointment to take care of it.” By the time you leave, you have a plan for addressing any necessary repairs.
This system works so much better than waiting for a painful problem before going into the dentist. Small problems are fixed before they turn into big problems. And you avoid those huge bills.
If we buy into this way of handling our dental care, why do we resist so much when facing the same system for our car care?
Following the manufacturer’s recommended intervals can be confusing. First there are recommendations for so many things: oil changes, transmission, coolant, air conditioning, power steering, brakes, fuel system, filters, belts, hoses, alignment, rotation, balancing …you get the point.
Every item has a recommended interval and it’s hard to keep it all straight – even if you’re part of the one percent of the population that reads your owners’ manual.
And if you have more than one sedan, the complexity is multiplied. You’d need a computer to keep track of everything. We’ll, that’s how Cooper Lake Automotive does it. We subscribe to automotive databases that have your vehicle’s recommended intervals. You may have wondered how we know what else to recommend when you bring your car in for an oil change at our Smyrna location – it’s all in the computer.
Well, it’s not all in the computer. There are other variables that can’t be accounted for in the schedule. Things like the weather conditions, altitude, and driving conditions in the Smyrna area to be taken into account. Talk about these things with your Smyrna service advisor at Cooper Lake Automotive and you may decide that the severe service schedule in your owner’s manual is more appropriate.
Since anything that’s not highway driving in moderate weather is considered severe, most of us in Smyrna do at least some of that and it should be taken into consideration.
Let’s take your basic oil change as an example – what issues are involved? The oil you put in your car is a blend of base oil and special additives. There are detergents to clean the inside of your engine and corrosion inhibitors. A good quality motor oil will not only lubricate your engine, it will help it stay clean inside and run cooler.
Now, these additives deplete with use and time. That’s why most maintenance recommendations include both a time and mileage element – like three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first.
It’s easy to think, “Gee, I’ve only driven 2,000 miles in the last three months. I can wait on that oil change.” But you need to remember that the inside of your engine is a harsh environment. The oil is contaminated with combustion by-products that start degrading its effectiveness even when it’s just sitting there.
A lot of people in Smyrna don’t realize the harm that can be done by just skipping a single oil change. There are a lot of metal parts moving around in your engine. Small bits of metal wear off and are floating around in your oil. They can be carried to more delicate areas of the engine where they cause damage. Your oil filter is designed to trap metal particles and other dirt, but if it’s clogged up because you haven’t changed it, it can’t trap any more.
Oil sludge is another problem. Sludge is oil that has turned to a gunky jelly – think Vaseline. Obviously, sludge doesn’t lubricate. It can also clog small oil passages so that all the parts don’t get properly protected by the oil. That’ll lead to premature wear.
If you’ve missed some oil changes, don’t despair. Just talk with your Cooper Lake Automotive service advisor. Fess up – you’ll feel better. And he can help you get back on track. Following recommended intervals is the key to keeping your car on the road and avoiding major repairs.
Nowadays, everyone in Smyrna, GA is paying more at the gas pump. For some families in the greater Atlanta area, it adds up to several hundred dollars every month. That’s got to come out of the budget somewhere. Throughout North America, people are putting off buying a new car. They plan on keeping their old vehicle for a year or two longer than before.
Even now, 2/3 of the personal vehicles on our local Smyrna, GA roads have over 75,000 miles on them. The average age of vehicles is over nine years. And most people in Atlanta can’t afford to be stranded or inconvenienced by a break down. So following a regular maintenance schedule, like our personal diet and exercise plans, is actually critical to preserving your investment.
Knowing what to do for a higher-mileage vehicle can be challenging because many owners’ manuals don’t publish service intervals after 60,000 miles. It just means that you need to be better at keeping records and planning your preventive maintenance.
You can start by figuring that services with a recommended interval should still be performed on that interval, even after you’re past the tables in your service manual. For example, a service might be recommended every 15,000 miles. Well, just keep doing it every 15,000 miles for as long as you have your car.
Now higher mileage engines operate under more stress. Some experts suggest that the severe service schedule is more appropriate and that routine service should be performed at shorter intervals. Check with your owners’ manual or service advisor at Cooper Lake Automotive to see if the severe service schedule is right for your vehicle.
And keeping up with your full-service oil change schedule is important for a couple of reasons. First, older engines have had more time to build up oil sludge. Skipping an oil change here and there can really compound the problem for your sedan.
The second benefit is that your other fluids are routinely checked and topped off. Power steering fluid, brake fluid, coolant and transmission fluid can be kept at optimal levels even though the older seals and gaskets are leaking more than when they were new.
And speaking of older seals and gaskets: they start to dry-out and become more brittle with age. You may want to consider using high mileage formulation oil and fluids. These products contain special additives to condition seals and gaskets to keep them from leaking. The high mileage formulations cost more than standard products, but they are well worth it in terms of preventing serious repair bills down the road.
Older vehicles in the Smyrna, GA area need repairs and replacements that newer ones don’t. Things like timing belts, radiator hoses, suspension work, anti-lock brakes, air bags, water pumps, alternators and batteries. That may seem like a lot of stuff to have done, but it works out to be cheaper than new car payments.
With a high-mileage vehicle, a couple of relationships will become pretty important. The first is with your service advisor at Cooper Lake Automotive. You need someone you trust to take care of your car and be mindful of your needs. Ask for help to develop a plan to keep your vehicle road-worthy that works within your budget, and for the Smyrna, GA area driving conditions.
The next relationship is with your vehicle itself. We’re not talking about naming your car or tucking it in at night. We just mean – pay attention and get to know your vehicle. Notice unusual sounds, smells, vibrations, etc. Then you can describe the changes to your service advisor at Cooper Lake Automotive and head off problems. We can’t do anything about the price of gas, but we can properly maintain Old Faithful to keep it safely and economically on the local Smyrna, GA roads.
Take a look at the attached automotive tips video from AutoNetTV
The government mandates a lot of equipment on cars: emission devices and control computers; safety equipment like airbags; and crash worthiness requirements. All of this is great for the motoring public, but it does add quite a bit to the price of a new car.
Because new cars are more expensive, GA drivers are using their old cars longer. The average car is now over nine years old. 68% of vehicles on the road have more than 75,000 miles/120,000 kilometers. As cars age, their performance drops, they have difficulty idling for long periods and are more sensitive to weather extremes. Fortunately today’s cars are up to the challenge – but they need a little help to keep on going.
Some owner’s manuals don’t specify service requirements at higher mileage. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be done. In fact, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of routine maintenance for cars with more than 120,000 miles/190,000 kilometers. Just extend regular service intervals out: for instance a service that’s recommended every 24,000 miles/38,000 kilometers should be performed at 24,000 mi/38,000 km; 48,000 mi/77,000 km; 72,000mi/116,000 km, 96,000 mi/154,000 km; and on and on.
Because of the additional stress older engines experience, the severe service maintenance schedule may be more appropriate than the regular schedule. Watch for leaks – seals and gaskets dry out over time and do not hold the fluids as well as they used to. It is also time to make sure you have a good technician like the pros at Cooper Lake Automotive in Smyrna. There are some services and replacements that are scheduled after you put some clicks on the odometer, like timing belts, valve train adjustments, suspension, anti-lock brake service, air bags, etc. And unexpected repairs down the road are just par for the course.
Check for unusual sounds, smells or the way your car feels. These could be hints that trouble is brewing. Better to catch it early before it turns into a costly repair. Regular wash and wax will help maintain your car’s appearance. One of the things you can do to really help your high mileage vehicle is to begin using high mileage formulation fluids. There are special engine oils, coolants, and transmission and power steering fluids that are formulated for cars that have a higher mileage.
High mileage oil is designed to condition seals and gaskets, reduce wear and avoid premature burn off. Older engines are dirtier inside – and dirty engines contaminate their oil faster. High mileage oil has special additives that clean the engine, removing sludge deposits over time. The result is less stress on the engine, better fuel economy and excellent wear protection.
Studies have even shown that using high mileage fluids early will actually prevent some of the problems of high kilometer vehicles. So once you hit around 50,000 mi/80,000 km, consider stepping up to high mileage formulations. The fluids cost a bit more than standard fluids because of the additional additives, but they can be worth their weight in gold in terms of preventing repair costs down the road.
It does cost more to properly maintain a higher mileage vehicle – but it’s much cheaper than a new car payment!