If your vehicle doesn’t have an oil life monitor, it’s likely the owner’s manual includes two maintenance service schedules: one for “normal” driving and one for “severe”.
And, if you’re like most drivers, you probably consider yourself to be “normal”. That’s where you could be making a big mistake in how you maintain your vehicle.
American Automobile Association (AAA) research has shown that more than half of all motorists follow the wrong maintenance schedule for their vehicles.
“When polled by AAA,” the study states, “only six percent of motorists felt they did most of their driving under severe service conditions. But when asked about the actual driving behaviors that create severe operating conditions, 62 percent of motorists admitted they drive their vehicle that way all or most of the time.”
Findings from a February, 2011, poll of drivers in six Western states revealed even more startling numbers. More than 90% of respondents consider themselves “normal” drivers, yet 89% of those people have driving habits that define them as “severe”.
“Manufacturers provide differing sets of recommendations for severe driving conditions because of the increased wear they put on vehicle components and fluids,” said John Nielsen, director of AAA Approved Auto Repair and Auto Buying Services. “With increased traffic congestion and longer commutes becoming more common, many motorists do not realize what they think of as normal driving is actually severe when it comes to wear and tear on their vehicle.”
“Maintenance schedules for severe driving conditions,” AAA explains, “typically recommend having the vehicle’s fluids and filters changed on a more frequent basis, and more frequent inspections of some components.”
So, which maintenance schedule is best for you?
We recommend that you follow the “severe” maintenance schedule for your vehicle if:
• The majority of your driving consists of short trips (five miles or less);
• The majority of your driving consists of longer trips but includes a fair amount of idling (such as the stop-and-go traffic common in many people’s morning and evening commute);
• You often tow a trailer or haul heavy materials
• Frequently drive in extreme heat (more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit)
• Frequently drive in extreme cold (less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit); or
• Frequently drive in humid conditions. If none of the above apply, congratulations! You’re a “normal” driver.