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Coronavirus Update: Don’t Put Off Car Maintenance

Your car’s health may be the farthest thing from your mind as you shelter at home. But if you put off essential maintenance, you may be setting yourself up for larger repair bills later. It’s not a coincidence that vehicle service and maintenance shops are considered essential businesses.

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As a result, most automotive service locations are open today, regardless of the current pandemic. While many dealers have closed their sales divisions, most service departments continue to work. The same holds for many independent garages. This may be an excellent time for service since many operations are seeing a huge slowdown in business. But before you schedule service, check the restrictions in your area about whether you can venture out for automotive service and repairs at this time.

 

Protect Your Investment 

Today’s vehicles are expensive and more complicated. However, they offer greater efficiency, powered by smaller displacement engines that sip rather than guzzle fuel and offer amazing performance. They boast smoother shifting transmissions using advanced designs. High-tech interior features make your car comfortable, useful and fun to drive. For these reasons and more, it’s far more important today than ever before to keep all systems running in harmony through regular maintenance. 

To do that, you need to follow the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual. When the time comes for service, make an appointment with your dealer or favourite local shop. If you prefer to go to a dealership, you have the alternative to find a local one or one out of your area based on personal experience. Some vehicle owners have found that driving a few extra miles for all their vehicle needs may result in a better service experience. Researching online comments about the dealership can give you some background. Note that prices are set between similar brand dealerships, so if you are looking for a better deal at another dealer, don’t waste your time.

 

Going the Independent Route 

Independent shops are an alternative, but you should vet them through word of mouth recommendations, online comments, and reviews. Look for trending online comments concerning the service experiences of others who have used this shop and note any areas where there are commonalities. One or two bad reviews shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. With so many shops out there, you don’t have to settle for any one place; the ball is in your court concerning the shop you select. 

If you select an independent shop, you should check to make sure they are versed in how to service your specific make of vehicle. Some independent shops specialize in one or a couple of vehicle brands but aren’t equipped to handle others. As well, make sure to keep all of your vehicle’s maintenance records on hand so that you have a complete service history if any warranty issues need to be addressed.  

 

Plan Ahead 

Just like when you go to the doctor for a checkup, with vehicle maintenance, you should always call ahead for an appointment. It is important at the time of scheduling that you explain thoroughly what you would like done and ask whether there are any other services they might suggest based on the year, model and mileage (some will ask for the Vehicle Identification Number, the VIN) for your vehicle. 

You should receive an email with a written estimate of expenses before you head to the dealership. Concerning independent shops, ask for a range of expenses relative to your service request and have them email you a full estimate of expenses. 

Be open to the fact that you may incur additional expenses beyond the estimate if an inspection reveals other items that need immediate attention. For example, during tire rotation, the technician spots worn rotors and under-spec brake pads, a full brake service may be necessary. This is a very good thing, and you should want to know about problems before your vehicle ends up leaving you stranded. 

 

Social Distance 

So, the time has come, and you head to the dealership or independent shop for your appointment. As you roll up to the service desk, make sure, in this era of social distancing, to follow certain protocols. Keep your distance from all personnel, don’t touch your face and wash your hands after meeting your service representative, handling paperwork or paying the cashier. 

Some services only require a few minutes to complete, while others can take hours. Obviously, a quick oil change is something you can wait for. For other dealership operations such as tire rotations and filter changes, waiting may be an option. Ask for an estimate for how long the service will take when you agree to it. If you have time and the wait is under an hour, going for a walk could be a good option, weather permitting. If the work will take longer than you’re willing to wait, drop the vehicle off and find a way home. 

You also may want to think twice about ridesharing or using a dealer’s shuttle, depending on your comfort level. The waiting room at the shop or dealer may or not be available, but to be on the safe side, it’s probably not best to stick around during your vehicle service. 

 

Basics Elements of Vehicle Service 

Here are routine maintenance items that you should not ignore: 

  • Oil and filter change 
  • Tire rotation 
  • Engine and cabin air filter change 
  • Brake pad check 
  • Disc brake rotor wear 
  • Fluid top-off 

Note that some services are specific to each vehicle brand. Follow the services and schedules guide listed in your owner’s manual and mark in your manual when service is completed. If you purchased the vehicle new or as a certified used vehicle, most dealers will send you reminders based on specific service intervals. 

If you drive more miles than average (20,000 kilometres per year), service intervals occur more frequently, while if you drive less, base visits on time. A vehicle that sees only 10,000 kilometres in a year needs oil and filter changes every six months. 

 

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