Busting car maintenance myths

6. Clean your car's engine with soap and water to make it easier to service.
6. Clean your car's engine with soap and water to make it easier to service. (iStock/Webeye)

HOUSTON – Keeping your car in good shape and running can save you money over time; but you can waste a lot of money if you're listening to the wrong people recommending so-called necessary maintenance. 

How often do I need an oil change?

When you take your vehicle to one of those speedy or quickie oil change businesses for an oil change, they will usually slap a sticker on your windshield reminding you to come back again in 3,000 miles or 3 months. Before you do that, take out your owner's manual. Most vehicles can go 5,000 to 7,000 miles between oil changes. 

Common mistakes

A common mistake many consumers make is hopping from one repair shop to the next. When you do this, the technician has no idea what service you've had on your vehicle in the past. 

"They see 30,000. They go down the list and that's what they try to sell you, you know," explained ASE Certified Master Technician Jim Pedersen.

If you're not paying attention, you'll agree to a service you may have already done 15,000 miles ago. Vehicles made in the last 20 years can go a long time before routine services. Pop open your glove box and crack your owner's manual. 

Does it say you have "long life" or "lifetime" fluid? If you see those words, that means you don't need a transmission or coolant flush until you hit 100,000 miles. 

Do I really need a new air filter?

What about the number one recommendation at speedy oil change shops: replacing your air filter? 

"Air filters got to get pretty bad to actually affect performance," Pederson said.  

The maintenance guide for a 2011 Toyota Sienna says the air filter only needs to be replaced at 30,000 miles or 36 months, whichever comes first. 

Don't think that because you're taking your vehicle to the dealership for maintenance that they won't try to sell you services before the manufacturer recommends them. Often times, dealership service departments have their own supplemental service lists. As long as you do the maintenance on the manufacturer's schedule or what's printed in your manual, that's all you have to do to maintain your warranty. 

Contrary to popular belief, taking your vehicle to independent repair shop and oil lube businesses will not void your warranty. However, you should read what your owner’s manual says about factory-authorized parts. When replacing parts on your vehicle, you may be required to use parts from the manufacturer.   

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.