Monday, July 15, 2024 Detailed Auto Topics
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Advise on 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 each year on useless services or worse, things that actually create problems.


There is only one reason to do maintenance,
that is it is less expensive than not doing it
A few of the automatic transmission fluids in current use
When Should I Do Maintenance
The High Cost of Run Till Fail


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.)




 True maintenance helps prevent repair
 Repair addresses a problem that has occurred

Proper maintenance is a service that prevents or lessens the chances of a more expensive repair.  What may cause problems is a misunderstanding about what proper maintenance is. Charlatans use this misunderstanding to sell all sorts of high-profit snake oil.  These recommendations are for services that are not truly helpful rather only represented as such.

For instance, cleaning injectors is NOT maintenance. It is a seldom needed repair to address a specific problem which is 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.  In the same class is induction cleaning which may only be 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 comon 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 where present and detect problems that may not show symptons yet. The fluid is then replaced with the proper fluid that is specified by the manufacturer.

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, oportating conditions and inspection. An annual general inspection by a trusted professional will provide over all lowest cost of vehicle ownership.

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 being on, an engine running rough or using more fuel than before are signs the engine management system has failed. For example if the spark plugs are not replaced based on the maintenance schedule, the secondary ignition can be over-worked.  Exceeding duty-cycle can result in ignition coils burning up or even a module failing.  The check engine light is not indicating maintenance due, rather it signals a failure after it has occurred.  Replacing the spark plugs on time can prevent these expensive repairs even though no symptom may be present. 


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 an oil warning light often means a new engine.

Below is a short and 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 does not need to be redone unless the tire is disturbed

 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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