Airdrie Alberta car maintenance

We asked 10 technicians: What’s the best way to look after a vehicle?

From My Garage founder & CEO Chris Dekker

Every Thursday at noon, we close our shop for two hours and take the team out for lunch at a local restaurant. Sometimes we use these opportunities to discuss new policies, to get everyone’s opinion on new ideas, to celebrate achievements or to brainstorm solutions to a problem. Last week, we posed an open-ended question to the team: If the goal is to make your vehicle last a long time, avoiding car payments and deprecation expense for as long as possible, then what’s the best way to maintain that vehicle? Here’s what they came up with:

Clean it regularly.

Part of maintaining a vehicle is maintaining its appearance, and that starts with regular car washes – especially in the winter. It might feel fruitless to wash your car knowing it’ll soon be dirty again, but it’s important to remove the salt and brine found on our roads this time of year. Salt and dirt cause rust, so regular car washes will help prevent the formation of rust and keep your ride looking like new longer. Years from now, you’ll find it easier to enjoy and take pride in your vehicle if it’s still looking good.

Did you know that with respect to rust, Alberta vehicles used to be among the “cleanest” in Canada? That was because we didn’t use much road salt, usually sanding instead. That has changed in the last decade and most municipalities now salt their roads. As a result, a year old Alberta vehicle is now a lot rustier underneath today than it was 20 years ago.

Check your oil. (Please!)

This might sound like common sense, but trust us that checking engine oil has become a lost art. Be honest: When’s the last time you checked yours? Monitoring your oil level is much more important today than it used to be, for a couple reasons. Not only are oil change intervals getting longer, but today’s highly-stressed turbocharged and direct injected engines are consuming (burning) more oil than the powerplants of old. This means that many of today’s cars require a top-up between oil changes.

Every day we notice vehicle arriving for service that are low on oil. Almost every week, we witness engine failures that could have been prevented by checking the oil more often.

Checking oil level – from Sinclair College.

Use better quality parts.

It’s sad but true: There are some truly terrible replacement parts available today. It’s very possible to remove an original part that lasted for 10 years and replace it with one that will only last for 2 – and this happens every day in repair shops across Canada. Over the years, we’ve learned to be very picky about the parts we install, and we will only use genuine OEM (original equipment) or premium aftermarket parts in your vehicle.

We also love love educating clients about the difference between different brands/types of parts. For those drivers who think “a filter is a filter”, for example, we have a great article about oil filters here.)

Service your vehicle as a whole.

We wrote a whole article about this, but it’s a real bummer to discover a car that has been “Jiffy Lubed to death”. Those are vehicles whose well-meaning owners have run them through a quick lube every few months, thinking they’re doing everything the car needs – and the cars are falling apart. As we often tell clients, an oil change only maintains 20% of your car and there are lots of other systems that require regular inspection/maintenance.

Airdrie car oil changes

Our regular maintenance clients receive a digital inspection of their whole vehicle at every service. Along with helping them keep up with our maintenance recommendations (more on that next), servicing your vehicle as a whole offers several other benefits:

  • Potential breakdowns are caught early, allowing you to repair the vehicle on your schedule, vs on your vehicle’s schedule. (Which we know is never at a good time.)
  • You have time to budget for repairs. Almost every Friday afternoon, we receive a phone call from a panicked driver whose brakes started grinding and is trying to find a shop to fit them in before the weekend. This doesn’t happen when your car is inspected regularly. Our maintenance clients always know 6-12 months ahead of time when their brakes will have to be replaced.
  • In general, your vehicle will be safer, more reliable and will maintain a higher resale value.

Follow your manufacturer’s maintenance schedule.

Flip to the maintenance section of your owner’s manual and you’ll notice that your car needs a lot more than just an oil change at every oil change. From inspections to filter replacements to fluid changes, there are other items that need attention periodically. Performing these other services on time will keep your car in better condition and prevent expensive repairs later.

You’ll be happy to know that we make all of our maintenance recommendations in accordance with your vehicle manufacturer’s service schedule – this is genuine OEM information, right from the folks who built your vehicle. We haven’t cooked up a pushy or overly aggressive “in-house” maintenance schedule like you’ve probably experienced elsewhere. That’s because while doing your maintenance on time is important, we don’t want to “over sell” this work like so many businesses do.

Best Airdrie mechanic

Don’t follow your manufacturer’s maintenance schedule.

“Wait a second, didn’t you just say…”
Let us explain! There are times when, in making maintenance recommendations to a client, we will deviate from the automaker’s recommended schedule. This only happens about 5% of the time, and it’s when we’ve found that the factory service interval just isn’t enough to prevent failures. A good example would be differential fluid changes on the Ford F-150, which aren’t recommended until 240,000 kilometers. Many of these differentials will fail before that mileage if they’re not serviced. With a fluid change every 100,000 clicks, we have clients who’ve put almost a million kilometers on their F-150 without having to repair a differential. You can trust our caring, non-commission staff to look after your best interests when making maintenance recommendations.

Don’t modify your vehicle.

It’s true: The vehicles that last the longest and experience the least issues (and enjoy the best resale value down the road) are the ones that people just leave alone. We see it every day:

  • Aftermarket remote starters and alarms can cause battery drain issues, starting issues and electrical problems.
  • Aftermarket stereos cause electrical and computer network problems.
  • Lift or lowering kits change the suspension geometry and considerably increase the wear rate of ball joints, tie rod ends, shocks, control arms and other parts.
  • Larger tires cause increased wheel bearing wear, transmission wear and brake wear.

Don’t let your buddies work on it.

Today’s vehicles are complicated. While a friend or family member might mean well in offering to repair your car, they might not be the right person for the job. Sadly, we’ve become accustomed to helping clients navigate the uncomfortable situation where a friend has repaired their vehicle and either hasn’t fixed it right, or more often, caused damage to other parts/systems during the repair; often costing more to correct than than having us perform the original repair would have cost. It’s upsetting how much DIY “butchery” we’ve seen on vehicles over the years, and how much these poor quality repairs affect the reliability of the vehicle years later.

It’s worth remembering that your buddies also don’t offer a workmanship warranty or carry liability insurance for when things go wrong.

Electric vehicles: Maximize your battery life.

Here’s an EV-specific tip from southern Alberta’s hybrid and EV service leader! The battery pack is the most expensive part of an EV, so making it last is important. Keep your battery SOC (state of charge) between 20% and 80% as much as possible. Lithium batteries (except for lithium iron phosphate or LFP batteries) don’t like being fully charged or discharged. Studies have shown that repeated small “top ups” to 70 or 80 percent every day degrade the battery much less than less frequent full charges do.

Thanks for reading! Questions? Comments? Drop us a line below!

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