How long has it been since you've taken your car in for service? Three months? Six? A whole year?
Don't be ashamed: lots of people put off regularly scheduled car maintenance, especially during the winter months. Between the pressure (and cost) of holiday celebrations and the often nasty weather, schlepping to the shop for an oil change and tune-up can fall pretty low on the list of priorities.
Now that spring has sprung, though, you've got no excuse. And if you need a little more encouragement, the folks at the Car Care Council suggest that your ride probably needs more TLC than you think.
Before going any further, we should point out that the Car Care Council is "a non-proﬁt organization, dedicated to educating motorists about the beneﬁts of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair". More to the point, it's funded by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, a network of over 23,000 parts suppliers and 100,000 independent service centers. In other words, the Car Care Council and its backer, the AAIA, have a vested interest in keeping car owners like you coming in for repairs and maintenance.
That said, the group does have some interesting statistics to share. Every April and October, the Car Care Council puts together a series of events dedicated to auto maintenance. During the organization's 2012 events, the Council found that a whopping number of vehicles -- 77% to be exact -- required some kind of service:
- 22% had low or dirty motor oil
- 20% had low, dirty, or leaking engine coolant
- 19% needed a new air filter
- 18% were in need of brake work or brake fluid
- 14% needed at least one belt replaced
- 14% needed new windshield wipers
- 14% required new power steering or transmission fluid
- 13% needed at least one lamp replaced
- 11% of vehicles needed maintenance on battery clamps, cables, or terminals
- 10% had tires so worn down that they were in need of replacement
- 9% were riding on improperly inflated tires
- 8% of vehicles had their "check engine" lights on
Those are just a few things to look out for the next time you take your own car in for service. Other items on your checklist might include rotating your tires and checking out your a/c system, because even though it's still chilly in many parts of the country, the weather won't stay that way for long.
On the whole, today's cars are built better than their predecessors, so we tend to ignore many of the rules handed down from our parents -- rules like servicing our cars every 3,000 miles, like clockwork. But with spring and summer road trips just around the bend, we strongly suggest getting your car checked out sooner rather than later.