As I’m sure you have heard many times before, regular servicing and maintenance is key to your vehicle being kept at its most efficient, reliable and safe condition, but why? Well in a way the answer is very simple yet the reasons, the systems, the parts and fluids, equipment, training and experience to do it properly is much more complex. As an example a 20 year old VW diesel, I know what your thinking “sure that’s ages ago” but a 20 year old car is a 2001 registered vehicle, looking at it that way, considering how many of them are still about, it really doesn’t seem that old. If we take this vehicle, keep it topped up with decent oil and fuel it will probably give you pretty good service, bar the usual wear items like tyres, brakes etc. Obviously given regular oil and filter changes this thing will comfortably drive away up into many hundreds of thousand of miles without any major heartache. However the common failings on a very light maintenance attitude both on modern and older vehicles are those of safety eg. tyres, brakes, steering and suspension. The only way to keep on top of these items before they become a problem is by regular servicing/ checking of all these items. The best way to discover your tyres or brakes are gone is not in a ditch after the failure has occurred. This I am sure is common sense/ common knowledge and needs no more explanation, however the huge failing in lack of service and difference between modern and older vehicles really comes on the service of the items such as the engine, emissions systems, transmission etc. The old 20 year old VW wasn’t overly fussy about the oil used, wasn’t worried about a skipped filter change or two, didn’t have a DPF, had no SCR or AdBlue system, didn’t have a dual clutch gearbox, ran on a different type of fuel, didn’t have start-stop systems, didn’t have ADAS, didn’t have online digital service record…..the list goes on. Now we could have a week long discussion about the often stated ‘facts’ that “there’s too much crap bolted onto modern cars” or “there’s too many electrics in a modern car” but the cars are the way they are now and ain’t going back. The reason they are this way, well, there are several reasons: environmental, efficiency, cost, convenience, legislation….the list goes on.
So what has all this got to do with maintenance, well, these modern cars are quite different cars. Yes, cars of all ages and eras should always have been maintained properly for obvious reasons but the modern cars have a lot more requirements. ‘Why should I bother?’ Our priority surely must be safety, then you must consider you invested in your vehicle and you need to see a return on that investment, the biggest return will be gotten from that vehicle running at its optimal so a number of things are required from you to do this.
As previously stated, regular maintenance is key, but you must carry out the maintenance correctly with the correct fluids, parts and intervals whether that be by mileage or time and should be carried out by suitably qualified people. The reason this is so important is because the modern engine works on much finer tolerances than older types, this allows for more efficiency and a massive reduction in emissions. Due to this vehicles now use much more specific fluids whether they are engine oils, transmission fluids etc to make sure the engine or transmission runs at its very best. The engine oil used also has an effect on the emissions systems on a vehicle and using the wrong type can have an adverse affect on their operation. Have a look at the huge variety of oils out there, you may have a few cans of 5w-30 oil sitting on the shelf but if you look at the fine print you will see a massive difference in specification in the same viscosity oils, this is carefully thought out and not just done for the craic. At our own garage for example we have 9 different oils that we stock for regular use and we still special order some less common oil specs in on quite a regular basis. On top of engine oils there are also different specs of coolant, transmission fluids and even different types of additive systems fluids on cars.
On top of maintenance modern vehicles are also manufactured for more specific uses. Unfortunately a hell of a lot of people have “the wrong car for the job”, in fairness usually through no fault of their own but through misconception of what they need and sometimes even from either a lack of knowledge or an unwillingness to give good advice from the sales folk in the trade (this is not a blanket statement, there are certainly some great sales folk willing and able to advise properly, so make sure that’s who you talk to!). It’s a shame more attention is not given on the sales/ purchase end of cars as this would alleviate a lot of problems down the line with repairs and breakdowns. If for example the only driving you do is a mile up the road to the shop, drop the kids to and from school 2 mile away, drive 10 mins to work etc. a modern diesel engine really is not for you. You will not reap the rewards of the diesel engine efficiency as you won’t be doing the mileage to justify its extra cost as regards purchase, maintenance etc and you will inevitably have breakdowns/ running issues due to the fact the vehicles emissions systems and powertrain are not getting the driving they need to maintain themselves. At the same time if you are a sales rep who is never off the road I think you will find some serious failings in a pure electric vehicle for your needs.
So if you do decide to purchase a vehicle check out all the info available to you to enable you to make a good decision on the type, make and model of vehicle you require. Have a true understanding of the driving you will be doing and the demands you have for the vehicle. Then use a combination of independent online resources, manufacturers info, sales advise, your garage/ mechanics opinion and make a truly informed decision. Don’t be afraid to ask for a schedule of maintenance so you can see what costs may lie ahead for you based on your vehicle selection and type of driving.
Finally, if you do buy electric or hybrid, yes, they also do need maintenance, they do contain fluids and wear items that need to be changed and maintained. They aren’t magic, they suit a purpose, they have a role and they have needs just like all other vehicles.