The Truth About Car Maintenance Costs

The Truth About Car Maintenance Costs

if​ you​ walked into your​ local car dealer and​ requested a​ 30,000-mile maintenance service, is​ it​ safe to​ assume that the dealer will follow manufacturer guidelines when servicing your​ car? Should the dealer “only” follow manufacturer guidelines? Can they bend the guidelines…?

Here’s a​ recent and​ very common​ scenario that occurred at​ a​ local Toyota dealership….

A service customer called the dealer to​ schedule the manufacturer’s recommended 30,000-mile service for​ his 2018 4-Cylinder Camry. However, the dealer added several services NOT included in​ the guidelines.

The additional services included a​ coolant flush (drain​ and​ refill), automatic transmission​ service (drain​ and​ refill), and​ a​ power steering fluid change.

According to​ the manufacturer, the coolant does not need to​ be replaced until 100,000 miles. The automatic transmission​ fluid can last until 120,000 miles. and​ there is​ no specific maintenance interval for​ the power steering fluid.

Now, before we throw the dealer under the bus, which, don’t get me wrong, is​ always a​ blast to​ do, is​ there any legitimacy in​ recommending these extra services? Are there any circumstances where one may want to​ consider performing a​ coolant or​ transmission​ service 70,000 to​ 90,000 miles sooner than recommended by the manufacturer of​ the car? if​ we assume that we’re not driving the vehicle beyond its limits, such as​ racing, off-road, or​ a​ high-speed police chase, the answer is​ no – not in​ this​ case.

There are times, however, when it​ is​ ok to​ venture outside manufacturer guidelines. The conditions include, but are not limited to: maintenance neglect, abuse, vehicle age, poor manufacturer design, and​ poor quality of​ fuel.

While each of​ the exceptions above are fun to​ explore, we should highlight fuel quality concerns. Poor gas quality often leads to​ carbon​ build up, which can be remedied by a​ professional fuel injection​ service. Aside from this​ fuel cleaning service (which no manufacturer recommends during regular maintenance), there is​ no service outside of​ the manufacturer guidelines that offers any real or​ lasting benefit.

So how can a​ dealer recommend services outside of​ the guidelines set by the manufacturer of​ the product that they sell and​ service?

The answer is​ that car dealerships (the majority anyway) are independent of​ the manufacturer. in​ other words, they’re not bound to​ adhere to​ set guidelines. in​ fact, many dealers create there own maintenance schedules. this​ creative practice is​ increasing as​ manufacturers continue to​ extend maintenance services, stripping dealers of​ there usual high and​ comfortable profit margins.

Interestingly, in​ terms of​ service, a​ manufacturer and​ a​ dealer are in​ opposition​ of​ one another. Manufacturer’s set vehicle maintenance schedules to​ keep vehicles maintained according to​ their standards; however, one of​ those standards is​ “low cost.” Low maintenance costs net a​ positive image to​ the manufacturer. The service center in​ a​ dealership on​ the other hand, wants cars to​ be as​ “high cost” as​ possible to​ maintain.

Despite all this, there is​ another possibility worth exploring in​ this​ dealer versus manufacturer scenario. Given that the client called the dealer it’s likely that he spoke with an​ untrained and​ under-qualified customer service representative. The representative may have misled the client, providing outdated maintenance recommendations, as​ the older Toyota’s did in​ fact require the coolant and​ transmission​ services mentioned above.

in​ larger dealerships, telephones are usually answered by Call Centers. this​ is​ a​ group of​ people who know little about cars, but are generally pleasant on​ the phone. Call Center representatives are famous for​ providing misinformation​ and​ miss-reading a​ detailed automotive service menu, such as​ a​ 30,000-mile service on​ a​ 2018 4-Cylinder Camry. in​ other words, one of​ these representatives may have listed services which are NOT actually part of​ the service. this​ happens every day! Few notice…who actually remembers anything after: the service includes and​ oil and​ filter change, check fluids, belts, hoses, replace the air filter, set tire pressures….blah, blah, blah…

The owner of​ the Camry was quoted $450 – which - if​ the dealer was actually going to​ perform all that it​ stated, and​ the car actually needed it​ – would actually be a​ good deal.

The real and​ fair price according to​ manufacturer guidelines for​ a​ 30,000-mile service on​ a​ 2018 4-Cylinder Toyota Camry is​ $272.03 @ $100 per hour. to​ see the break down of​ the FAIR charges, cut and​ paste the following URL into your​ browser:

The service includes the following:

Inspect ball joints and​ dust covers
Inspect brake hoses/lines
Inspect brakes, pads/discs/runout
Inspect and​ test traction​ control
Inspect CV joints and​ boots
Inspect coolant
Inspect automatic transmission​ fluid
Inspect differential fluid (A/T trans)
Inspect radiator/hoses
Inspect steering system
Inspect exhaust
Inspect fuel system/lines/hoses/gas cap/induction​ system

The only items that actually get or​ require replacement:
Engine oil and​ filter
Cabin​ filter
Air filter
Transmission​ fluid (manual transmissions only)

Other services:
Reset maintenance reminder light
Rotate tires
Tighten nuts and​ bolts on​ chassis

The frequency of​ manipulating the guidelines with extra services is​ astounding. and​ it’s only one tactic of​ hundreds. Stretching pre-determined guidelines expands across all makes, models – foreign and​ domestic, and​ occurs at​ dealers, local shops and​ franchises. it​ occurs because the automotive service industry has zero accountability in​ any tangible sense.

Thus the service customer has no true advocate, information, or​ resources in​ which to​ turn, that can provide sound, fair, and​ reasonable prices and​ advice. for​ this​ reason​ alone, rests the foundation​ of​ RepairTrust.

The Truth About Car Maintenance Costs

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