Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Maintenance schedule service rip-off

Is scheduled maintenance a rip-off

Every car maker publishes a maintenance schedule and shops LOVE to push maintenance schedule service because they make oodles of money. Many of the items on the check list are for inspections. Inspect the brakes, inspect the belts, inspect the fasteners, etc. You should have all of these maintenance items done. However, 90% of these inspections and services can be performed by a low level technician. You do not need to pay $100/hr for an ASE Certified Master Technician to check the air pressure in your tires or the condition of your CV boots. Dealers make a fortune off these maintenance checks. I don’t deny them a reasonable profit when they assign appropriately trained personnel to the task. But they don’t. They charge your the full shop rate to perform maintenance inspections that can be done by a low level tech. Since you must adhere to these maintenance schedules to maintain your factory or extended warranty, find a shop that will work with you on a much “fairer” price. Contact a local independent shop and have them quote on the same services. In most cases, they will be almost half of what the dealer charges. Save the receipts so you can prove that you’ve performed the services.

Also, refer to your owner’s manual to see exactly what the car manufacturer lists for maintenance at each major mileage guidepost. Dealers love to add in their own “recommended” services like “air induction cleaning service,” “Engine Flush” or “Evaporative emissions service.” None of these services are recommended by the car maker and some are even discouraged or prohibited. (See Engine Flush = Wallet Flush)

However there are a few services not listed by the car maker that are actually worthwhile.

Brake fluid flush—Even though the brake system is technically a sealed system, in the real world, moisture does get into the fluid. The fluid rapidly absorbs the water and it degrades your entire brake system. In addition, brake fluid contains many anti-corrosive additives that wear out over time. When that happens, it pulls copper out of the metal components. That can cause substantial damage to the system. We used to recommend a brake fluid flush every 2 years or 24,000 miles. But that was just a guess. Now they have test strips that actually tell you the condition of your brake fluid. So ask the shop to test your brake fluid with the FASCAR test strip. Based on the test results, you can determine whether it’s time to flush the brake fluid.

Power steering fluid flush. I’m not aware of any car maker that recommends this on a regular basis. But power steering fluid DOES break down. Like brake fluid, it contains additives like anti-foaming, anti-corrosive, and friction agents. If your vehicle uses transmission fluid for the power steering, it should be bright red. If it’s not and has taken on a brownish color, it’s time to flush it. Non-transmission power steering fluids are clear when new and take on a grayish appearance after circulating through the system. Grey is ok, but dark black is not. If the fluid appears very dark, flush it.


© 2012 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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