Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Truth about Factory Maintenances

Would you fly on an airplane that had not been maintained?
Most vehicles on the road today are poorly maintained. Many people will do just the "basics", which usually means just doing an oil change. Many vehicles I see come in for service are typically over due for this basic service. You would think that if you spent $15,000 to $40,000 on a vehicle that you would do your best to maintain your vehicle. Why would you not keep up on the maintenance of your vehicle? Why would you not prepare for it?? Do you not depend on your vehicle to get to work or the store to buy food?? You plan for other expenses in your life, don't you??

I always ask people who do not take care of their vehicles this question. "Imagine that you were going to take a trip on a plane to visit your relatives. If the stewardess told you when you were getting on the plane that the plane had not been maintained properly for the past year, would you still get on it???” If you answered yes then I guess you probably do not care about the maintenance on your vehicle or your safety. If you answered no then why would you not maintain your vehicle properly?" I believe most people have false sense of security about the dependability of their vehicles.
It’s not a scam
If you look in your owner’s manual there is a section on maintenance. These are things that the manufacturer has determined need to be done in order to get the best service life and dependability out of your vehicle. They have this down to a science. It is not a scam like most people think (keep reading for the real scam). It is in the best interest of both the vehicle and you. I know there are skeptics and people that will disagree. That's fine, be skeptical. I have seen it first hand; remember I have seen approximately 105,000 customers vehicles over the years, give are take a few thousand but who is counting??

“Dealer Recommended Services”
If you have ever brought your vehicle in to the dealer for a scheduled maintenance a lot of you may think their prices are out of line. This is because dealerships typically do NOT do factory maintenances per the owner’s manual. Look at their maintenance package and compare it with your owner’s manual, you will see what I am talking about.

The majority of car dealerships do what they call "Dealer Recommended Services". These services will typically consist of things you do not need according to the manufacturer. Most of these things are over kill and are not needed. The problem I have with most dealerships is that they do not just offer a Factory Scheduled Service plan per the owners manual. They almost always have some extra stuff included that jacks up the price. If there is anyone from a dealership or from the factory reading this; THIS is one of the biggest reasons you are losing customers!! In all these years I still cannot believe they have not figured it out!

Manufacturers make vehicles that require less service
Let me explain why the dealerships do this. It's all about $$$. Over the years the manufacturers have made vehicles require less maintenance. Many vehicles have oil change intervals of 5,000 miles or more. Transmission services that are not due until 100,000 or even 150,000 miles, coolant that will last 5 years or 100,000 miles, sparkplugs that do not need to be changed until 100,000 miles. All these services 15 years ago were done at 30,000 miles, not anymore!

People do not want to do services on their vehicles and the manufacturers know this. So now the dealerships have had to come up with new ways to make money. In their mind the only way to make up for it is jack up prices and sell unneeded services!  They have been getting away with it for years because most people do not have a clue as to what service work their vehicle truly needs.

What does the manufacturer say about using additives?
The other issue with the dealer recommended services is that a lot of them use different types of chemical additives. Things like conditioners that they use when they flush your transmission or coolant, additives for the engine oil or fuel cleaners (fuel injection services and induction services fall in this category). 

Most manufacturers do not recommend using additives or fluids that do not comply with what was designed for your vehicle. Using these additives or using the wrong fluids may not only affect warranty coverage for any components affected by the service but could even cause your vehicle to have issues.

All of these additives are just more dealer profit. Chances are the service consultant and even the technician will get some type of spiff money (incentive to sell the product). These spiffs can add up to $100's in extra income, easy money as we would call it. So if you think they are looking out for your best interest, think again!

The manufacturer does not recommend flushes??
Many of these dealer recommended services will include things such as transmission flushes, fuel injection or induction services and throttle body cleans. These are just some of the things they may suggest. Is it in the owner’s manual?? If not then it probably does not need to be done and could even be detrimental to your vehicle. If the manufacturer wanted you to “flush” your transmission they would have recommended it in the owner’s manual.

The dealership knows your vehicle best, or do they?
The Dealership is supposed to represent the manufacturer and their product. The manufacturer even tells you to go to your local dealership for all your maintenance needs; they know your vehicle best. If so, why is there such a discrepancy between the two? When people would question us as to why we were doing more than the manufacturer recommended  we would always respond that "The manufacturers recommendations are bare minimum if you want your vehicle to last I would suggest considering following our recommendations to get the most out of your vehicle, we know your vehicle best". Most people never even question it!

Why are inspections so important?
When you eliminate all of the dealer add on services you will eliminate a lot of the cost of these services. Most services now become mostly inspections. Once again you ask why are inspections important?? Let's go back to my story about the airplane and its lack of maintenance. Most of the maintenances that are done on an airplane are inspections. They are trying to catch problems before they occur and become a major issue. Why is a car so much different? You drive your vehicle probably every day. You may even carry special cargo, like your kids. You depend on it to get to work so you can get a paycheck to pay your bills. You probably drive at speeds in excess of 55 mph on a daily basis. For most people, a car is one of the most important things in their lives. Why take the chance of having issues that could be taken care of before they become major issues?

Not everything can be caught during an inspection
You need to realize this also. Unfortunately there is no crystal ball but there are many things on a vehicle that can be looked at to determine if you will have an issue or maybe you already having an issue and don’t even know it yet.

Things like the condition of your brake pads, tread life of your tires, loose suspension components. The start of a oil or coolant leak that could get worse without your knowledge. Obviously there are a number of different issue’s that could cause you issues down the road at a inconvenient time.

If you are paying for an inspection, get a copy of the inspection sheet
One thing I recommend whenever you have a service done on a vehicle is to make sure that they fill out some type of vehicle inspection sheet. Many dealerships and other shops will have one that they use. Just in case I would bring a copy of one yourself. GM has a good
multi point inspection sheet that you can download and make copies of (if I find others I will put links in the resource area and I am working on one myself).

If you are paying for a scheduled maintenance they better fill out an inspection sheet and it should include all the inspections that are noted in your owner’s manual. This is what you are paying for and it is your only proof that things where checked as promised. Make sure also that the technician that filled the sheet out signed it. This shows accountability. If he checks that your brakes are good and they start grinding the next day because they are metal to metal, he should be held accountable, you did pay good money to have that service done (Please do remember once again that not everything can be detected during an inspection, so if the air bag light comes on two days later chances are the technician would not have known that would happen).

Even if you are just getting an oil change, especially when you go to the dealership, have them fill out an inspection sheet. All dealerships should do at least a 20+ point inspection and should fill out an inspection sheet to show that the inspections where completed. Be aware that typically an oil change will only get basic visual inspections. So if you wanted the brakes checked closer than peeking throw the wheels, you better ask and there may be an extra charge (if they pull ALL the wheels to inspect them properly you should pay the tech for his time).

My quick rant about quick lube shops
A side note about quick lube places. I myself am not sure why anyone would go to one of these places. To start with it the majority of these guys are not technicians, if they were they would be working somewhere else.  They use cheap and inferior parts and unless you pay extra cheap oil. Most people probably only service their vehicle  2 to 4 times a year (probably just oil changes for most people) which means that these are the guys you are counting on to check your vehicle over?? Oh yeah and they do 15 minute oil changes to boot. It may be convenient at the time but is it worth your safety?? Do you really think you are saving money?? Did you realize that most quick lube places cost may actually cost more than bringing it to the dealership?? Doesn't your $15,000+ vehicle deserve a little bit more??? 

Should you use the Standard or Severe maintenance schedule?
As usual I am going to advise you to open up your owner’s manual and go to the back of the book and take a look at your maintenance schedule (some manufacturers put their maintenance schedules in a separate book). You will notice that most manufactures will have a standard and a severe schedule. Read through both of them so you understand what needs to be done to maintain your vehicle properly.

The majority of vehicles on the road should follow the severe schedule (if you have an extended warranty this is almost always a must, check with the extended warranty company!!). Even if you do not fall in at least one of the sever categories I highly suggest using the severe schedule. The standard schedule is bare minimum maintenance. You will extend the life of the vehicle by following the severe schedule; you should trust me on this one. Also if you have warranty issues down the road that could be affected by how you maintain your vehicle, you are less likely to have issues with coverage. If it is a matter of you not being able to afford the maintenance, then maybe you should take the bus...

The only time I do suggest using the standard schedule is if you do not plan on keeping your vehicle more than three or four years and none of the severe conditions apply to you. The only vehicles I have typically seen that can go by the standard schedule or people that put 20,000 miles or more on their vehicle ever year.

Ever wonder if the dealership personnel have read your owner’s manual?

So think about what I have said. Some of you may not agree and that is fine. Let me know what you think! I would love to hear. Unfortunately as we have discussed, some things need to change on the dealership level. If you just want them to do what’s in the book then let them know and have them quote you a price. If they are out of line (feel free to contact me with your estimates and I will give you some advice) go somewhere else. It is up to you. Explain to them your concerns and let them know what you know now. Remember knowledge is power. Let them know the jig is up and that you did actually read your owner’s manual, ask them if they have read it!! (Probably not….)

The Automotive Wise Guy