Do I really need the 5k car maintenance service?
October 24, 2019 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Dummy car owner question: If my oil change lasts for 10k miles/1 year, do I need to take my car in for maintenance at the 5k/6 month mark as well?

I get my regular maintenance done at the dealership where I bought the car. I do not, and am not willing to, check fluid levels myself or do anything that involves opening the hood of the car. I'll put air into the tires when the pressure gauge goes off, and that's my limit as far as DIY car maintenance goes. I'm fine spending the money to maintain this hands-off car-owning lifestyle.

But do I *actually* need to schedule, and take the time off work for, a 6-month checkup if my oil apparently now lasts for 1 year? I drive daily but rarely for >30 minutes at a time, and I always hit the time marker before the mileage marker on maintenance schedules.
posted by serelliya to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
How old's the car? With my last car, things went fine with "check-ups" every 9 months or so. But as the car got older, there was benefit to keeping it to every 6 months. The mechanics would find things that I hadn't noticed and kept the car running well. Kept the car 14 years, and aside from the normal wear one would expect, it ran great. I'd recommend keeping up with maintenance, if only for your peace of mind.
posted by SPrintF at 4:29 PM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: FYI, the car is a 2014 Prius (so 5 years old now) with 44k miles on it. I'm the first owner.
posted by serelliya at 4:31 PM on October 24, 2019

I have to take mine in every 6 mos/5k miles just to keep my warranty active, so there's that.
posted by LionIndex at 4:40 PM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have a 2014 Toyota Corolla that I bought new. I have done oil & filter changes and tire rotations only at 10k mile intervals after I was out of my free service period (first 24mos). I have had zero problems through 105k miles. My tires lasted 100k before I replaced them (ok, I pushed it a bit on this one). Of note, per the owners manual, it's every 5k with conventional oil and 10k for synthetic so I use synthetic.

Check your damn oil level every now and then. It's not hard. If there's a sensor, it'll fail eventually. Also, your tire pressure monitoring sensors are gonna fail too, and it's gonna be your ass on the side of the road in a 40-degree rain. I don't know why you're so against doing a 15-second thing that's gonna prevent your future self from having a really shitty day. Cow-person up!
posted by everythings_interrelated at 5:13 PM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What makes you think you need a 5k/6mo service interval? Does the manual suggest a standard service check around the 45k ODO reading? Many cars have specific service periods because there are systems that deserve attention at certain intervals. But not all cars deserve the same attention at the same times.

For oil in particular, the older a car is, the more likely failures "upstream" will show up in the oil, alerting you to performance or catastrophic failures before they happen. Oil can be too viscous, thin, have metal parts in it, rubber parts in it, or too low. All these things indicate bigger problems than an oil change.

If you're unwilling or unable to check oil manually yourself, I'd recommend having it done at a trustworthy full-serve gas station every 6 months. If they pipe up about an issue, then you can decide if you want to schedule a visit to the dealer. (If you ever do want to check your own oil, I personally think it's faster, easier, and less dirty than inflating tires. Neither is hard, but I've been checking oil on my cars since I was about 20yo and it's very easy. You'll also get a sense quickly about what healthy oil looks like, so that can guide you for service visits, too.)
posted by cocoagirl at 5:52 PM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the datapoints. To clarify, I also despise inflating my tires, but I'll do it begrudgingly when the sensor goes off. I'm extremely unlikely to ever check my tires or oil "preventatively" though. I'm wondering now because the car has started yelling at me to go in for maintenance, even though it's below 45k ODO.

At what (car) age does the "I don't ever want to touch my car" approach start becoming risky/dangerous? I will happily replace my car at a more frequent interval -- I was planning to replace at the 10-year mark regardless of mileage -- if it means I can have a hands-off experience. I would rather not own or drive a car at all, but them's the breaks out in the suburbs.

For now, it sounds like I should at least get the dealer to check my oil every 6 months, for safety reasons. Okay, I can do that.
posted by serelliya at 6:22 PM on October 24, 2019

Best answer: So, Toyota has a number of benchmarks at *5 points. If you miss it, they'll usually get it on the next service, but honestly if you have a Prius and want the least-personal-effort approach, take it in every time the light goes off and let them do whatever the manual says to do at that service iteration.

That's what we've done, with the only vaguely personal maintenance interaction being having AAA replace the (starter, not storage) battery every 8 or so years. We have two 2006 Priuses that are dirty and banged up a bit but are in good condition systemically at 120-150K by either having Toyota (up to around 100K) or a reliable Toyota-certified mechanic (because we moved very close to one) do all our routine maintenance.

My husband's storage battery array finally failed earlier this year, and he took it to both Toyota and our mechanic for quotes. Toyota quoted $2600, our mechanic $2300, we had the mechanic do it and that worked out fine, no issues.

You absolutely do not have to do jack shit to your car yourself if you're willing to pay for someone else to do all the things. Get a car wash every now and then so your windows aren't filthy, and you'll need to replace the (more expensive deep-cycle marine) battery every so often, but you don't personally have to perform those tasks. You'll also need to replace the battery in your fob every 3ish years it seems like, and that's probably the hardest task to outsource but I suspect the Toyota dealer service department nearest you would do it for you.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:10 PM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sounds like you've decided to bring the car in every 6mos. Great! Another angle to consider is that presumably you bought a Prius because you have some degree of environmental consciousness-- taking good care of your car will make it last longer. It sounds like you plan to trade it in well before it's used up, but keeping the car properly serviced will mean it will last longer for the next owner, which means that the "embodied energy" used to manufacture the car will go further, which is more efficient / better for the environment.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 7:49 PM on October 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Personally I do not believe or trust 1 year/10k as an oil change interval even when a manufacturer claims it is fine and recommends it and even with top grade synthetic oil. Unless you’re driving almost exclusively highway miles, I’d go 7500 miles between oil changes. Although you probably can’t kill a Prius. Alas.

Second, you do not have to go to a dealer. — the most expensive way to maintain a car by far — for periodic maintenance to sustain your warranty.

Periodic maintenance at .5 intervals is likely rotating the tires and just checking everything else. Your local shop can handle it for much less. Anyway you’re out of warranty now.

Also your attitude is eventually unwise if you plan to own a car for ten years. You should learn to check your oil, and other basic things of that sort. You’rethe person they smile to see come through the door so they can upsell and charge $100 to change a cabin air filter that costs $8 because it’s a little dirty when you could order it off Amazon and do it yourself in 8 minutes. You’re paying for ignorance that could be fixed in half an hour of studying your manual.

Dealers are all dishonest. And their service shops are no exception. I definitely wouldn’t be getting periodic maintenance from one after a warranty expired.

PS what do you do when your window washer fluid runs out? That is surely more than once a year. You check and refill it right? Don’t sell your abilities short. Basic observation and knowledge can keep your car safe and working much longer.
posted by spitbull at 4:24 AM on October 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Also if you really are that hands off with your car, you probably should have it looked at by a good mechanic (not a dealer shop) every 6 months as it ages and adds miles. Things like brakes, suspension, and or other important safety systems can fail over shorter intervals than a year. You won’t always get a light to tell you things like the last pothole you hit messed up your alignment and your tires are wearing unevenly and will soon lose traction as a result as winter approaches. Just to name one scenario.

You bought a super sturdy and reliable car. Odds are good you don’t really have to pay attention to it for a few more years. But waiting 11 months to have some evaluations done — the sort you could mostly make yourself with a little knowledge, like checking treadwear on your tires — could be foolish.
posted by spitbull at 6:14 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

And if you really don't want to even check the oil, ask around, I bet someone you know will do it for you. (I'd do it for you!) If you bring it to the dealer for that (!), I guarantee they will find lots of other things "wrong" with it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:46 AM on October 25, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for all of the great info! (Yes, even the good advice I'm going to ignore.)

I know dealers are overpriced, but I switched to a well-rated local independent shop to get my tires changed last year and my experience was... not great. Still just as expensive, much more than their initial online price, and in fact tried to upcharge me until I pressed them for a reason. Whereas my last dealership service appointment actually resulted in me leaving without paying them any money, because they pointed out that my oil was still good for 6 months (the sticker had fallen off) and didn't sell me very hard on the 6mo other maintenance (hence why I've asked the green).

So if anyone wants to recommend a good independent mechanic in the mid-Peninsula Bay Area, please message me!

P.S. I guess I don't use my window washer fluid enough? Because it's never run out on me before (though for a 6mo interval, not 1 year).
posted by serelliya at 10:08 AM on October 25, 2019

Meh, it’s a 6 year old Prius. It will easily give you 4 more years if you keep to once a year and 10k miles as a service interval. You’re almost out of warranty anyway so there’s nothing to protect.

If I wanted to keep such a car 20 years, however, I’d be doing 9 months/7500 miles for oil changes. Just me. My own Mazda is rated for 7500 miles between full synthetic and between tire rotations. I do it at 5000 anyway because I drive it hard in urban traffic. It’s also a 2014, woth 75k miles and the motor runs like it was brand new.
posted by spitbull at 6:24 AM on October 26, 2019

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