How often should I get an oil change or brake service?

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Auto Repair in Scottsdale by Rory's Airpark Autotek

It may seem like you constantly need to take your car in for a tune-up, repairs, or replacements, but doing suggested upkeep can save you a significant amount of money in the long run. A few bottles of transmission fluid and the occasional flush costs a lot more than replacing the entire transmission after all. Regular maintenance is important. But how often do you really need to take your car to your mechanic? It depends on your service. Auto repair in Scottsdale includes oil changes and brake service, items that need to be done regularly to your vehicle. But how often do you need them? It depends on your make and model of course, but there are a number of factors such as the age of the car, driving environment, and materials used in your oil and brakes that determine how often you really need to have these services done.

Auto Repair in Scottsdale by Rory's Airpark Autotek

Oil Changes

You’ve probably heard the conventional wisdom, and maybe felt a little guilty that you didn’t follow it; change your oil every three months or 3,000 miles.  Many mechanics have been in the business for so long and performed so many oil changes that they haven’t updated their policies on this, and that little sticker in the corner may be showing an inaccurate estimate.

New Cars

While once sage advice, for newer cars, oil changes actually don’t need to be done every 3000 miles for most makes and models. Upgrades to engines over the last decade or so have made engines more efficient. Just like standard gas mileage has greatly improved, so has oil life.

Not only have vehicle engines been redesigned to be more efficient, but oil composition has changed as well. Synthetic oils are more common these days, and these oils can last longer before they start to break down. New car motors are created with synthetic oil in mind and can better utilize its properties.

Because of this, most new cars only need their oil changed every 5000 miles. Some can go as far as 10,000 miles for each oil change. Of course, this depends on weather and road conditions, but manufacturers tend to err on the side of safety and their recommendation reflects that. No longer does the same advice apply to all cars, and instead of assuming that an oil change needs to be done every three months or 3000 miles, check your owner’s manual to see how often your vehicle should get an oil change.

Used Cars

While these increased estimates are good for new cars, the same doesn’t apply to used cars. If you do a search for how often you need an oil change, you might find information that the old advice is no good. This isn’t necessarily true, as it applies to newer cars, not older used cars. Most cars over 15 years old still need frequent oil changes as they weren’t manufactured with synthetic oil and other updates in mind.

Unless they’ve been parked for several years, most older cars have higher mileage, sometimes several hundred thousand miles on them. Higher mileage vehicles tend to have more wear on engine components and thus need oil changed more often. Using high mileage engine oil can prolong the life of these parts, and synthetic oil still lasts naturally longer than conventional, but the effects won’t be as apparent.

Because of this, changing your oil frequently isn’t a bad idea. Older cars are more likely to develop problems, so getting regular oil changes every 3-6 months can prevent more expensive problems from developing later.

Brake ServiceAuto mechanic Scottsdale

While oil changes vary depending on the year the car was manufactured, brake service depends more on driving habits and environments, and the material the brakes are made out of.

City vs Highway Driving

City drivers use brakes more often. Driving in the city has numerous traffic signals like several stop lights every few blocks, meaning brakes are frequently used. In heavy traffic areas and commutes through cities, stop-and-go traffic means brakes are pressed and depressed often. Even though the speed is lower in city driving, using brakes so often wears them down quickly, and vehicles regularly driven in the city usually need brake pads replaced from 25,000 to 50,000 miles on average.

Rural and highway driving is usually less stressful on brake systems. Vehicles on these kinds of roads have a steady speed for the most part and can coast a good portion of the way to slow down. This means that although brakes are applied at higher speeds, they aren’t used as often and consequently last longer in general than vehicles driven on city streets. Cars mostly driven on rural roads or highways usually need brake service from 40,000 to 75,000 miles.

Brake Pad Material

Along with driving environment, the material of the brake pads can significantly affect how often brake pads need to be changed. Organic brake pads are becoming common in recent years, and have pros and cons. They are quieter and made from natural materials, which makes them a good eco-friendly choice. However, these natural materials are also softer and need to be changed more often. Organic brake pads typically last close to 30,000 miles on average.

Ceramic brake pads are a newer kind of brake pad designed as a top-of-the-line type of pad for most driving styles. For typical drivers, ceramic brake pads are quieter and have a longer lifespan than other types of materials. However, they have a higher upfront cost that deters many owners to go with this option. These brake pads often last from 60,000 miles all the way up to 100,000 miles, meaning they can actually save money over time while delivering higher performance.

Regular inspections are the best checkup

While these figures serve as a guideline, there are too many variables to be specific on when these services need to be done. The best way is to have your oil and brakes checked often to see if the service needs to be done. Just make sure that your local auto shop is honest and upfront instead of trying to get every last penny out of their customers, a policy we proudly stand by.