What maintenance does a relatively modern, low-mileage car need?
September 26, 2019 2:12 AM   Subscribe

OK, so I own a 2012 Scion XB which I bought new in 2013. Since then, I've put a grand total of 17,000 miles on it. I live in the city. I bike to work. I'm basically that grandmother who drives to the supermarket once a week. I change the oil every six months, and I've replaced the front tires once because the tread was low. Rear tires are doing fine. Given my light usage, what kind of maintenance should I be looking out for? Brake pads? Belts? Spark plugs? What am i missing?

I feel like normal maintenance schedules assume an average level of mileage per year, and I'm definitely not in that ballpark. Is there stuff that goes bad because of age, unrelated to mileage? Toyotas are pretty bulletproof, but I don't want to coast too far on that.
posted by flod to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Tires and belts have a limited lifespan even if you don't wear out the tread, since the rubber degrades. It's unlikely you would need brake pads, though brake rotors can corrode. Spark plugs should be OK. I would try to find a reputable local mechanic and just have them check things like tires, belts, brakes, etc. Flushing the cooling system might be advisable after that length of time. But there shouldn't be much to worry about -- for the most part, modern cars are happy with just oil changes.
posted by jkent at 2:30 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Most maintenance schedules will have both miles and elapsed time for intervals. Besides oil, the coolant and other fluids should probably be changed out every five or six years.

Do you have safety inspections in your state? Might be a good idea to, every two years when you get the inspection, pay the mechanic extra to go over everything - explain the situation.
posted by notsnot at 5:08 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


You're probably changing the oil more often than you absolutely need, but that's a good thing. Lots of short trips when the engine is cold do increase engine wear.

A 2012 low mileage Toyota with frequent oil changes will last longer than most people.
posted by Combat Wombat at 5:25 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


You're doing good with your regular oil change schedule. That's probably the single best thing any car owner can do to keep your can running. I try to do mine every 6,000 miles, and hve taken two Nissans to over 300,000 miles without need of any engine work, ever.

Having to replace the front tires after only 17,000 miles is a big red flag to me, though. I think you need to get your alignment checked asap. No car should be eating tires that quickly, especially in such a low-mileage situation.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:28 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yes, getting the wheels and tyres checked for alignment is worthwhile in terms of safety, fuel economy and tyre wear. I make sure I do it once or twice a year.
posted by pipeski at 6:31 AM on September 26, 2019


I can't tell if you're doing the oil changes yourself, but I take my car (a pontiac vibe aka toyota matrix) to a well-regarded/honest mechanic that runs maintenance checks on my car at regular intervals - so some oil changes I get just the oil done, but once or twice a year they run through checks on the brakes and so on at the same time, I swap tires twice a year for winter so when the tires are off already they use that opportunity to check alignment and whatever else makes sense, they also keep track of what the manufacturer suggests and let me know if it's time for any other maintenance and I can opt in or ask to put it off depending on my finances and how critical the work is. I don't put many miles on my car either. I think I pay between $80 and $180 plus whatever work actually needs to happen on it depending on how much they're doing each time (I'm in Ontario, Canada). My car is almost 15 years old and it makes me more confident when I'm driving longer distances that everything is in good working order.
posted by lafemma at 6:56 AM on September 26, 2019


Totally personal opinion/thought here but if I were changing my oil based on time, not mileage necessarily, I'd be using conventional as opposed to the more expensive synthetic type of oil.

Do you park indoors? That's going to help with the exterior elemental wear and tear tremendously. My, bought new, 2007 Toyota Yaris has had, literally, zero non-consumable, mechanical parts fail. However, due to Florida + papermill co-op job parking lot exposure + no covered parking the paint job on the top of the roof and hood is now totally demolished just from age/exposure. The clear coat just flakes off. So, maybe consider keeping it heavily waxed or covered with a car-cover if you're not using it often to prevent the same if you don't have a garage. Otherwise wax and armorall and a sun screen in the windshield at least.

Consider a lifetime, well reputed tint installer to do your windows to keep the sun off the interior. Worth the price in hot climates no matter what.

You may wish to consult the dealership/qualified repair person to get an opinion on how to handle cooling fluids/radiator maintenance in your use case as that might be an issue...
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:17 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


We also have a car like that, a 2007 Honda that gets driven about 6,000 miles a year. We have a good mechanic who keeps an eye on the quality of the fluids, wear, etc. It's a pricey oil change, about twice the cost of a lube joint, but if you're not doing repairs it's extremely inexpensive maintenance.

The front and back tires should not be drastically different in terms of wear. Rotation doesn't prolong the life of tires, it keeps the grip consistent so you don't lose traction unexpectedly. Modern cars have stability control and anti-lock brakes which help, but you don't want to get in a situation where you need them due to uneven tire wear. Replacing the front tires with brand new ones isn't a cure-all because now the rear tires are relatively less grippy and more likely to slide around. Your mechanic should have been letting you know that the wear was uneven, though. That's a red flag that they're not checking all the things they should. It takes less than a minute to assess the tread wear.
posted by wnissen at 9:25 AM on September 26, 2019


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