Owner’s manual an invaluable book

Hidden away in the glove box of your car or truck is a valuable book that can save your money and keep you abreast of your vehicle’s maintenance needs.

That book is the owner’s manual and some of the most important information it contains is the maintenance schedule.

Following those guidelines helps you avoid breakdowns and unnecessary repairs, while maintaining the value of the vehicle. When the time comes to sell the vehicle or trade it in on a new car or truck, maintenance will make a difference in the value.

Paul Hrynew, service manager at Lakewood Chevrolet in Alberta, said good maintenance helps in getting that extra $500 when the vehicle is sold.

“Your biggest fear when buying something used is, ‘Was it maintained?’ ” he said. “That can make or break the deal.”

Kerry Russell, Lakewood general manager, said well-maintained cars with complete service records sell quickly on the used-car lot.

While maintenance is crucial to a vehicle’s longevity, improvements in materials and vehicle design have considerably reduced service requirements.

Hrynew, who has worked at Lakewood for 25 years, said if you “maintain your vehicle, it will treat you better.” A vehicle that’s treated well will not have to have components taken apart for repairs. That’s true of all vehicles, regardless of make and model.

He points out that a technician at the dealership bought a new Chevrolet Cavalier in 1994 and has maintained the car carefully since. As a result, it looks like new despite having more than 200,000 kilometres on the odometer.

In addition to reduced maintenance requirements, improved quality has made a considerable difference in the amount of repair work performed on modern vehicles.

In the late 1990s, General Motors introduced the 5.3-litre V-8 engine for pickup trucks.

Since then, Hrynew said the Lakewood service department has opened up an average of one of those engines a year for internal repairs. That’s in a dealership that handles about 9,000 service appointments a year.

“They just don’t fail anymore,” Hrynew said.

While a variety of factors come into play including better engine design, tighter manufacturing tolerances and better lubricants, fuel injection plays a significant role in a powerplant’s increased lifespan.

In the days of carburetors, Hrynew said it was common to pump the gas pedal a couple of times to help start the engine. However, that gasoline also washed the lubricant out of the cylinders, meaning that the rings were running dry and accelerating wear.

Fuel-injected vehicles start with a twist of the key without any need to pump the accelerator. Today, most vehicles have only one engine in their lifespan, where it wasn’t unusual 30 to 40 years ago to have the engine replaced.

Regular oil changes are standard part of maintenance and a key component in long engine life. The owner’s manual will specify the grade of oil and the frequency for oil changes. Edmonton’s climate with its wide temperature swings means most vehicle owners should follow the severe service schedule. The oil grade is often marked on the oil filler cap of newer vehicles.

Today’s cars and trucks use grades such as 5W30 or 5W20 year-round. In contrast, 10W30 has not been specified for new vehicles for years -†it is best suited to collector vehicles.

One suggestion Hrynew offers to new vehicle owners is to do the first oil change early since it may clear fine debris out of the engine. That’s his personal suggestion, not from the manufacturer, but one he said might help in making the engine last to 300,000 or 400,000 kilometres

Hrynew said GM vehicles now use long-life Dex-Cool coolant. Unlike older coolants that had to be flushed and replaced every two years, this coolant lasts five years.

But, it must be removed and replaced at five years or 240,000 kilometres, Hrynew said.

Another item that’s on a five-year cycle is the battery, he said. On average, batteries seem to last about five years.

That point was brought home to him by his late father-in-law who asked Hrynew to replace the battery on his five-year-old vehicle although the battery seemed to be OK.

After his father-in-law insisted on replacing the battery, Hrynew took note of the age of batteries being replaced and saw that it worked out to an average of five years.

He points out that a battery can fail suddenly and when it does, Murphy’s law usually comes into play. That is, the battery will die at the worst possible time in the worst possible place.

A number of components now give much better performance than their counterparts in the past, including drive belts and brake pads. Old fan belts needed to be tightened twice a year where today’s serpentine belts have a tensioner to keep them tight and will work fine until they need to be replaced. Brake pads that used to have a life of 30,000 to 40,000 kilometres now last for 100,000.

If your vehicle has a cabin air filter – check your owner’s manual – it will need to be changed regularly. Hrynew points out that a clogged filter can stop the flow of warm air in winter, just when you need it most.

In today’s computer age, Hrynew and his staff offer maintenance tips on the dealership’s website – www.lakewoodchev.com.

The latest batch of tips includes items that need to be checked with the approach of winter.

Photograph by: Chris Schwarz