Our car is a machine and just like other machines, it does need maintenance to make sure that it runs properly whenever you want it. Now, all cars have a fixed interval of periodic maintenance as defined by the manufacturer. This can be typically 5,000 km or one year, 10,000 km or one year, and for certain vehicles, it is 15,000 km or one year, whichever is earlier.
If you are disciplined to maintain your car as per these prescribed intervals then you will have a well-maintained car that will not only serve you for a long time but also need less repair work as it ages. Such well-maintained vehicles also get a good resale value at the time of selling.
Now, let’s see what typical periodic maintenance constitutes.
#1 Engine and its Accessories
A very critical system of your car which needs periodic maintenance or service is the engine. For the engine in terms of servicing, the most important thing that gets done is changing the oil and oil filter. Oil plays a crucial role in making sure that your engine runs well and for a long duration and for many kilometers, and it’s like the blood of your engine, so you have to make sure that the oil is always in good condition. And remember, it is mandatory to change the oil filter when you take your car for an oil change.
There are a few more things that are checked or serviced with respect to the engine when a car goes for periodic maintenance service. One of the other important things that get checked is the quality of the air filter or how badly it is clogged up. Typically, the air filter is cleaned to get rid of the dust and other particles that get caught in it. If it is very badly clogged up then replacing it with a new one is better. A clean air filter means your car engine breathes better and that means it will perform better and you will get the desired pickup and also the desired fuel mileage per liter of fuel consumed. Changing the air filter at every service interval is not mandatory and can be changed after every 30,000 km or every 2 years. The same goes for the fuel filter of the car. Have the service center check the fuel filter if it is clean and usually it would need a change every 40,000 or 45,000 km interval.
At such service, the coolant of your car is also checked and topped up if there is a slight drop in level. But if the drop in coolant level is significant then that means there is some leakage in the system and should be fixed immediately to avoid getting into a situation where the leak increases and causes overheating of the engine. The drive belt which drives all engine accessories like the alternator, AC compressor and power steering pump in case of hydraulic power steering is checked and is replaced if there are cuts and it looks worn out or damaged. All the radiator and the water cooling system rubber hoses are checked since these tend to become hard and cracked over a period of time. Replacements are recommended if need be. If not replaced, the coolant may leak and cause overheating of the engine causing substantial damage to it.
The next system which gets looked into at a periodic maintenance service is the brakes of the car. In the case of disc brakes, the thickness of the brake pads is checked. If they are close to 2mm or less than it is always advisable to replace the pads. The discs are checked if they are warped or if the surface has too many serrations on it. Your service center mechanic can guide you whether the brake discs are good or need replacing or need a fine machine cut on its surface. If the pads and discs look good then they are all cleaned up and installed again. In the case of drum brakes (which are typically on the rear wheels of any small and medium segment car in India), the brake drums are opened up and cleaned and the friction material on the liner is inspected. If it has thinned down to less than 2mm then it is necessary to replace the brake liners, else just cleaning them is sufficient. The handbrake or parking brake is checked and adjusted if needed.
#3 Suspension, Wheels, and Tyres
Next up is your car’s suspension system and wheels and tyres. The service center would look at all the suspension components like the shock absorbers, springs, multiple linkages like the upper arms and lower arms, various ball joints, balance rods and check if those are good or not. In certain cases, those are torqued up again and if need to be replaced then the service center will advise you accordingly. The car’s power steering and steering rack are checked for proper function. Your tyres are checked for the tread wear and overall condition. The wheel bearings are checked if they are getting worn out and are sounding rough. The wheels are checked if they have gotten bent or have any other damage. Tyres are rotated. Wheel alignment is also checked and recommended if need be. As a side note, the typical life of tyres is roughly 40,000 km (+/- a few thousand km) or 4 to 5 years whichever is earlier. Although depending upon road and driving conditions these intervals may vary.
#4 Electrical & Electronic systems
As part of the periodic maintenance service, all electrical and electronic systems are also checked. Car headlights, taillights, and indicator lights are checked and confirmed if working properly. Power windows are checked if functioning properly. The battery is load tested to check if it is in good condition. The functionality of the wipers and horns is checked and confirmed. AC function is checked if the cooling is proper and the flow is proper. Cabin filter which is part of the car’s AC and ventilation system is inspected and cleaned if dirty. If the condition is too bad then it is replaced with a new cabin filter.
#5 Gearbox and Clutch
Another important aspect of the car is its transmission or gearbox. Typically at a periodic maintenance service, it is checked if there is any indication of oil leakage from the gearbox. If there isn’t then nothing further needs to be done. Gearbox oil change interval is much longer than an engine oil change interval and hence gearbox oil change will usually happen at an interval of 50,000 or 60,000 km as prescribed by the car manufacturer. The clutch operation is also given a look into, during the maintenance service, and the report about the clutch condition and whether it needs a replacement is shared with you.
#6 Other Checks
All the door hinges are greased and doors checked for proper closure. Boot, hood, and other external body parts are given a look over and suggestions given accordingly. Finally, the car is scanned with the help of a diagnostic scanner that connects to the car’s OBD system and through it to the onboard computer. The service interval reset is done and if there are any diagnostic fault codes saved in the system, then these are read by the scanner and checked what the fault is about. Accordingly, further diagnosis is done if required.
To recap, the periodic maintenance service of your car consists of:
- Engine oil and oil filter change
- Air filter and fuel filter cleaning and replacement if required
- Inspection of engine cooling system and top up of coolant
- Inspection of the drive belt
- Brake inspection and cleaning and reporting
- Checking and inspection of the suspension system
- Inspection of electrical and electronic systems including the battery
- AC inspection and cleaning or changing of the cabin filter
- Inspection of gearbox and checking of clutch operation
- Checking of Horn, Wipers, Power steering and Doors for proper functioning
Periodic maintenance service is very important for keeping your car in the best shape and should be done routinely as per the prescribed service interval given by the manufacturer. This information about service intervals is written in your owner’s manual.