How Often Should You Service Your Vehicle?

It’s no secret that regular maintenance on your vehicle will extend the life of your engine and save you from costly repairs down the road.  If you’re lazy (like me), or lack the basic mechanical skills (also like me), then you probably take your vehicle to an expert when it’s time for service.

We seem to have been conditioned to believe that we need to change our engine oil and filter every 5,000 kilometres, or every three months, whichever comes first.  That’s what the local Mr. Lube service technician recommends when I bring my vehicle in for an oil change.

Of course, the technician also bombards me with up-selling recommendations.  Air filters, engine flushes, transmission fluid changes, coolant services, and fuel system cleanings, to name a few, all come with hefty price tags and stern warnings to take immediate action.

So, how often should you service your vehicle?  This table shows the difference between the owner’s manual recommendations and the guidelines offered by Mr. Lube:

Service Owner’s Manual Mr. Lube Cost
Engine Oil and Filter 6 months or 6,000 KM 3 months or 5,000 KM $54.99
Cabin Air Filter 24 months or 48,000 KM 20,000 – 40,000 KM $54.99
Fuel Tank Air Filter 24 months or 48,000 KM 20,000 – 40,000 KM $64.99
Coolant Fluid Change 24 months or 48,000 KM 40,000 – 60,000 KM $99.99
Transfer Case Service Every 100,000 KM Every 40,000 KM $59.99
Automatic Transmission Fluid 84 months or 168,000 KM 40,000 – 60,000 KM $129.99

I’m only driving approximately 15,000 kilometres each year, and I normally take my vehicle in for an oil change every six months.  I follow the owner’s manual for the other service recommendations, which usually means brushing off repeated requests from the service technician for a few visits.

Following the owner’s manual recommendations for these service intervals has saved me nearly $500 over the last three years.

The more you change your oil, the longer your engine will last, but the debate about exactly how often you should service your vehicle is a bit of a grey area.  The owner’s manual may tell you every 6,000 – 10,000 kilometres. Your buddy with a classic car may tell you every 3,000 – 5,000 kilometres.  Your Grandpa who drives a 25-year-old truck might tell you he’s never changed the oil in his vehicle.

The optimum time to change your oil might be more closely related to other factors besides time and distance travelled.  The number of cold-starts, driving in extreme temperatures, repeated short distance driving, and excessive idling are all signs of severe driving conditions and more frequent maintenance should be considered.

How often do you service your vehicle?

12 Responses to How Often Should You Service Your Vehicle?

  1. I’m usually getting my vehicle serviced about every three months because the normal mileage driven is usually around 5K miles. I’d not really thought about the propensity for mechanics to really really want individuals to come into the place sooner – for a second, I’d forgotten that they, like all businesses, are after the cash.

  2. I have a thing (notice the technical term… lol) that monitors everything for me. I take it in for an oil change when it tells me to. I just got my winter tires put on last month and my reminder had popped up too for the oil. Turns out it had been a year since I had the oil changed (about 10,000 km), but when I asked the service guys (cuz I’d heard the 5,000 km advice too) they said that it tests the oil’s viscosity and so was fine and still warrantied.

    • @SophieW – I’ve seen those “things” on newer vehicles, that would be very handy for someone like me, too. I’ve heard that there was a test conducted with NY cab drivers to see how well the oil’s viscosity holds up in their vehicles, and after 6,000 miles (about 10,000 KM) the oil was still good.

  3. It is kinda weird that back in the days of the imperial system you changed it every 5000 miles, then Canada changed over to the metric system and it changed to 5000 kms. Hmmm that is interesting

    With today’s technology and better oil products (Synthetic) most drivers can probably get away with changing it between 7500kms and 10000kms.

    Driving conditions matter the most but I don’t think that there is a hard an fast rule to live by. Just my opinion.

  4. I drive a lot less than you, but service the car 2-3 times a year. My reasoning is I live in Southern California (hot climate) and oil will detereorate quicker. My cars are old (17 & 15 years old)so I prefer to avoid expensive repairs.

  5. I’m with you – I follow the manual and do the longer options. Saves me time, and even more importantly, saves me time. And for a busy Sandwich Generation granny nanny caring for elderly parents, time can be priceless!

  6. I’m terrible at following the owners manual! I should try and read it though. I’m surprised I’m not a guy 😉

    I take my car for an oil change every 5000 km or so, or at least 2-3 times a year.

    I get my tires rotated and switch my all seasons for winter tires regularly too. Sometimes they try and upsell me all the time and say that my battery is leaking. I usually politely decline their help and buy my own battery to DIY.

  7. I have done my own oil changes for a couple of decades now, saving me a couple of thousand dollars over that time (I buy full synthetic oil when its on sale).

    I also do my own air filter changes (engine and cabin) at a cost of $2-7 each, not $50+ ! Yikes!For cabin filters I cut up a HEPA furnace filter to fit the frame.

    Oil changes should be about 6-7500 km to be safe. Newer engines and oils can go longer, but why? Especially if you do it yourself for $20. Its cheap insurance if you keep your car.

    I recently had my “maintenance minder” pop up to tell me that the coolant needed changing at around 100K km. I googled it, and discovered how easy it is to do on my Civic. $25 later it was done. I plan on doing it around every 75K now – again, cheap insurance.

    I found an oil analysis place recently that will take a sample of your oil and test it for you, telling you exactly how “used up” your oil is. Costs about $30, but I figure it will be interesting knowledge – especially when my winter change is due in late January. If I could stretch that change a few weeks …

    I also have a separate set of winter tires on rims – the cost of the rims is about the same as one change over at a dealer or tire store, but I can do it myself.

    When in doubt, your owners manual RULES. Mr Lube and the like are there to make money off you.

  8. I tend to change oil, shocks, springs, rack and pinion, sway bars, steering columns, wheel bearings, control arms, brakes, and such myself. I take cars to mechanics only when I don’t have time or have gotten to the limit of my skill and/or parts availability (replacing computer modules was the last time)

    This stuff is not hard. 25 years ago, most people could do this stuff. Why is everyone so helpless these days?

  9. Very useful article. Vehicle maintenance scheduling is one of the frustrating tasks we are facing in our life. It is true that maintenance recommendations mentioned in owner’s manual and that by local service centers are entirely different. However I prefer local service centers. This is because they have years of experience in this industry. Some service centers like Apex specialized automotive in Canada often offers free checkups and consultation for regular customers. They approach us with very friendly and will take care of everything just like what they do with their own vehicles.

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