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March 24, 2014

Ladies: Do You Know What Your Car Needs? Discussing The Importance Of Following A Regular Maintenance Schedule

ASE_Womens_Consumer_Confidence__woman_With_Technician-077This month, AskPatty spent some time with Tony Molla, the Vice President of Communications for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence to discuss the topic of general car maintenance and helping women drivers to better know what your car needs.

Tony_Molla_7472With more than 40 years experience in the automotive service industry, Tony has held positions at all levels, including technician, service manager, parts store manager, new car sales and automotive technical editor writing service manuals for the Chilton Book Company. He has also authored more than a dozen technical and car care manuals, so you can be assured he really knows his stuff when it comes down to all things automotive!

We spent some time interviewing Tony to create an informative podcast on the subject that you can listen to in its entirety here. Between us, Tony is an awesome car guy with great knowledge to share! It was terrific to spend so much time with him, learning about this important subject.

We’re breaking that interview down into shorter segments (like this one) to help teach women what their car needs for regular maintenance, as well as discussing the importance of having a regular mechanic. We’ll be posting short highlights of this interview with Tony over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for them!

ASE_Consumer_Confidence_Survey_ButtonWhile we’re on the topic of educating women about what their car needs, AskPatty has created a survey in conjunction with ASE to find out what women know of providing regular maintenance for their cars. Please take the survey and share your opinions here at


The Importance Of Following A Regular Maintenance Schedule

According to Tony, for most people, a car is the second biggest investment they’ll make in their lives. “Your car is a machine,” he says, “and like any machine it needs regular maintenance to run properly. Following your owner’s manual is probably the most important thing you can do to keep your car running well over 200,000 miles.”

ASE_Womens_Consumer_Confidence_483Tony recommends regular oil changes, tire rotations, and changing things like air filters on a regular basis just to keep things functioning properly. But you should also take a look at the owner’s manual where you’ll find a wealth of information telling you exactly what to do to keep your car running in top shape. According to Tony, you should “Consider the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual to be the bare minimum of what you should do to keep your car running in top condition.”

A lot of other maintenance that your car needs is dictated by your driving habits. Things like brake pads wear out at different rates on different cars depending on who is driving them, so it’s really important that your car is being inspected on a regular basis by somebody qualified to spot small problems before they become big problems. Of course, Tony recommends that you hire somebody who is ASE-certified and trained to look for these sorts of things and help take care of your vehicle. We will discuss this topic in more detail in our next segment.

There are other services out there that you may or may not need to do, says Tony, such as “flushing” types of services that are frequently advertised. However, unless you have a car with more than 100,000 miles on it, the fluids that came with it when it was new -- like the radiator fluid and brake fluid -- are probably going to be fine. They do need to be replaced periodically, so refer to your owner’s manual to determine intervals for such types of services.

And of course, he recommends that you ask plenty of questions when your technician makes recommendations so that you understand what you’re paying for, and what benefit it is going to have to keep your car running longer.


But What About The 3500-Mile Oil Change Recommendation That We See Advertised Everywhere?

ASE_Womens_Consumer_Confidence_ASE_Technician_482The 3500-mile oil change has been recommended in the industry since the late-1970s. “While you’ll never do any damage by changing your oil more frequently,” Tony explains, “it’s really a question of what’s cost effective and what’s overkill.” Most manufacturers these days recommend you change your oil about every 7500 miles, but it’s important to understand that there are different types of oil. That 7500-mile recommendation is usually for conventional motor oils. However, many luxury cars often have synthetic motor oils, which are designed to operate for much longer intervals. In fact, the oil change interval for a car with synthetic oil may be 10,000 miles or even more.

What’s important, Tony explains, is to make sure you know what kind of oil is in your car, and how often it needs to be changed.

Some new cars these days have oil life monitors that take into consideration the type of driving you’ve been doing, and will recommend vehicle maintenance based on a computerized algorithm. Usually, these types of systems will illuminate a light on your dashboard telling you when service is due. But, Tony warns, “relying on warning light alone is probably the bare minimum of care that you would want to provide for your car.”


What is Severe Use?

Ironically, high-speed driving down the highway at 60 mph is not severe use, explains Tony. Vehicles are designed to work at high speeds and high temperatures. The most severe use miles are short, stop-and-go trips where the engine doesn’t get a chance to warm up properly. Ironically, these short trips with lots of stop-and-go driving are exactly the type of driving that most moms do. Couple this type of driving with extremely cold weather, and you are subjecting your car to the very worst driving conditions.  

“The reason we change oil is not necessarily because the oil itself wears out,” says Tony, “but because the oil additives wear out. These additives help stop sludge buildup and collect moisture so it doesn’t damage the internal components of the engine. These additives have a shelf life, and if you do a lot of short trips or stop-and-go driving, you’re stressing out pretty much everything on the engine, including the fluids.”

It’s important that you have a conversation with your technician when you have your oil changed, so that they know what kind of driving that you do to see what they might recommend for a regular maintenance interval.

“If you just change your oil regularly,” Tony reminds, “you’d be surprised at how much that can increase the life of your vehicle.”





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