Tuesday, January 26, 2021 Detailed Auto Topics
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Vehicle maintenance can be very confusing. Every day, vehicles end up in junk yards because of a lack of it. At the same time, millions of dollars are wasted every year on useless services or worse, things that actually create problems.

There is only one reason to do maintenance,
it is less expensive than not doing it

 True maintenance prevents repair
 Repair addresses a problem that has occurred

Proper maintenance is a service that prevents or lessens the chances of a more expensive repair.  A major part of the problem is a misunderstanding about what proper maintenance is. Charlatans use this misunderstanding to sell all sorts of high-profit snake oil.

For instance, cleaning injectors is NOT maintenance. It is a seldom needed repair to address a specific problem, dirty injectors. Quality gasoline contains detergent and fuel injectors are designed to be self-cleaning.  Routine injector cleaning will not increase fuel mileage, will not prevent problems and may cause damage. Yet it is sold everyday as maintenance.  Right in the same class is induction cleaning which is only an upsell used to increase profit.

The transmission flush is a different twist. It takes an actual maintenance item, proper transmission service and turns it into a high-profit wallet flush. With a flush, clean fluid is circulated through a dirty transmission and called a service.  This does not address the more problem of a restricted filter, and can make it worse.

Proper transmission service includes inspection of the unit, removing the pan on transmissions that have one, and replacing filters that are replaceable. It also provide an opportunity to torque valve body bolts, adjust bands and detect problems that may not have gotten serious yet. The fluid is then replaced with the proper fluid, specified by the manufacturer.
A few of the automatic transmission fluids in current use

When Should I Do Maintenance

Modern vehicles are designed to isolate the driver from symptoms.  The first symptom will often be a breakdown.  Maintenance should be performed based on time, mileage and inspection. An annual general inspection, by a trusted professional will provide over all lowest cost of vehicle ownership.

The High Cost of Run Till Fail

Waiting for symptoms to occur is known as - Run Till Fail - It is the most expensive way to operate the vehicle.

By the time symptoms are noticed, damage has already been done. For instance, when a coolant light comes on, the coolant is low. This means a leak has developed, normally because corrosion has caused extensive damage to the cooling system.

Replacing the coolant based on time and specific testing can prevent thousands of dollars in repair.  Waiting for a symptom is very expensive.

A check engine light, an engine running rough or using more fuel is a sign the engine management system has failed. For example, if spark plugs are not replaced [maintenance,] the secondary ignition can be over-worked.  Exceeding duty-cycle can result in a coil that burns out or a module that fails.  The check engine light signals the failure, after it has occurred.  Replacing the spark plugs can prevent these expensive repairs.

Oil changes are also maintenance. When the oil and filter are replaced, damage causing contaminants are removed from the engine. Waiting for an oil leak, knocking noise or oil warning light, often means a new engine.


Run till

Proper maintenance 

New vehicle



Maintenance cost



Value after failure (120,000 miles)



Replacement cost



Cost for 240,000 miles (excluding finance
charges, additional insurance and sales
tax on new vehicle.)



Below is a short, partial list of true maintenance items

For more information, see our Maintenance Category.

 Proper transmission service, every 30,000 to 60,000 miles

 Coolant replacement, every three to five years, depending on pH

 Oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on driving habits

 Timing belt, 60,000 to 100,000 miles or not longer than seven-years

 Tires, when tread reaches 2/32 inch or not longer than six-years

 Battery, at any sign of leakage, load test failure or around three-years

Things that are NOT maintenance 

 Wheel balance, proper balance last the life of the tire

 Wheel alignment, only needed when there is a problem

 Injector flush, quality fuel allows injectors to clean themselves

 Engine flush, more frequent oil changes or much more effective

 Shocks and struts, only needed when there is a problem

 Intake cleaning, snake oil

AGCO can advise you on proper maintenance and help you avoid wallet flushes.  When someone suggest a wallet flush, just say NO and call AGCO.

For even more information on unnecessary services, please see:

Fuel Injection and Wallet Flushes

Wallet Flushes


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