Services--How often, and what to do?

gusgus Member Posts: 254
edited April 2014 in Toyota
A topic to discuss services, service schedules and
service procedures.


  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    I work on Toyotas and Volvos, primarily. Where I work, Toyotas are on a 7500 mile service schedule and Volvos after 1985 are on a 5000 mile service schedule pre-85 cars are on a 7500 mile schedule. For cars on a 7500 mile service interval, we recommend what's called a "mini-service", which means oil-change and fluid inspection (on Volvos, we also inspect the brakes). There are also specified intervals for changing such things as fuel filters, transmission fluid, differential fluid, coolant, thermostat, timing belt, engine seals, air filter, spark plugs, etc.

    I will post more on this later. I'd be interested to hear what people think about intervals, or hear their questions concerning service intervals.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I think one of the hidden benefits of more frequent service intervals, which is rarely mentioned, is that it forces a pair of human eyes and hands to look in on your car more often than every 7,500 miles. Whether or not the car needs service more than each 7,500 miles is not the only need under the hood and under the chassis inspections more than that, I think, to nip problems in the bud.
  • windowphobe6windowphobe6 Member Posts: 765
    Then there's that "severe service" business, which, for the model I drive, recommends the usual checkups at 5000 miles instead of 7500. Of course, using the guidelines provided, out of every twenty cars, nineteen are being used in "severe service".

    Then again, I tend to schedule my services at 4000 miles.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 848
    Good place to vent a pet peeve: I would like Acura to not only change my radiator fluid, but flush out the system with clean water. However, they will not do that. I suspect this is because they have to dispose of all of the fluid properly. What good is simply changing the fluid, if acid or other contaminants are left in the system?

    Would radiators last a lot longer with yearly fluid changes? And is flushing no longer necessary? (Note: Any toilet jokes will result in a "boot to the head.") What do you guys know?
  • weslwesl Member Posts: 53
    It is always a good idea to have your cooling system flushed and filled. My mechanic has no problem flushing the system. Maybe you should try an independent instead of Acura next time. I flush mine every 30K which happens to occur every 13 or 14 months. As for radiators lasting longer, flushing does help. Unfortunately, modern radiators with plastic tanks do not last as long as they used to. When the plastic tank surrounding the radiator separates, the only choice you have is to replace. Good luck, Wes.
  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    Ugh. Another mistake in my entry post. The business about the "mini-service" should've indicated that a mini service is done at 3,750 miles, midway between ever service that occurs at the 7500 mile service interval. These smaller services usually help catch small problems that, if left for a full 7500 miles, could turn into big problems. For example, if the coolant level is low, then we look for leaks in the cooling system. If the brakes are at 10%, then we do the brakes. You get the picture. It has to do with the pair of eyes thing that Mr. Shiftright is talking about.

    I received an email about fuel filters recently, and I wanted to address that issue. This is a good topic. Fuel filters on modern cars can last quite a while. The recommendation on fuel-injected Volvos and Toyotas has traditionally been to replace them at 60K intervals. I understand that some newer cars recommend replacement at 100K intervals. From what I've heard, the fuel filters that you replace at 60K are not really any different, in terms of materials and design, from the ones you replace at 100K. The 60K interval, I've been told, is an interval that insures that the filter will always be clean (as long as you use relatively clean gas). The 100K interval is an interval that is still safe, but one that auto manufacturers have started recommending because it reduces the cost/mile of maintaining the vehicle--it is a selling point!

    I'm curious to know what opinions or ideas others have on the subject.
  • edwardh1edwardh1 Member Posts: 88
    Toyota on its web page in its owners forum says they specify no change frequency, and defer to local dealers "who know the gas condition in your town". So much for people who travel. 2 Toyota dealers in my town say go 100K or more. Motor Service magazine about one year ago said Toyota filters were prone to leak at the connections if a factory filter was not used. Has anyone had any experience with any of this on Camrys? Lots of Camrys out there - how often are you changing filters.
  • joecarojoecaro Member Posts: 44
    Thanks for sharing your expertise. I just bought a 1999 sr5, 4wd automatic. What is the thinking on changing the transmission and differential fluids early on, say the 7500 service, to remove any metal and/or contaminants that accumulate during the break-in?
  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    I'll try to check on oil changes, but I think that your car should be okay without changing the oil immediately. If you're on the 7500 mile service schedule, the trans. oil ought to be changed at 15K. Most transmissions have magnets in the pan to pick up pieces of metal, etc. and no matter how old or how new the car is, the magnets are always coated with a thin layer of metal. The magnets are cleaned at 30K, when the transmission is serviced. A transmission service includes replacement of the gasket, and a cleansing of the screen inside of the transmission.
  • magnusmmagnusm Member Posts: 3
    Usually there is a magnet in the transmission to collect these metal shavings, but I found in my Jeep that there was none in the differential (the transmission did have one). Therefore an early replacement of the plug with a magnetic one was called for. However my girlfriend's '91 Camry did have a magnetic plug in the differential already (however this was a front wheel drive car, not a four wheel drive truck). You may want to check what the situation is in your case. If there is no magnet already then I think an early fluid replacement and new magnetic plug would be a good idea.
  • joecarojoecaro Member Posts: 44
    Thanks for the info gus and magnusm.
  • altairaltair Member Posts: 3
    I am taking delivery of a new Toyota Solara SE with a manual transmission next week. With a manual transmission, the oil does not get as hot and lasts much longer than the oil for an automatic transmission.

    Does anyone have a recommendation concerning using a synthetic oil in the manual transmission. I would think it would be good idea. Specifically, the cold weather use of the manual gearbox might be much improved and not feel like moving a stick which is in a bucket of molasses!

    Comments or advice?
  • magnusmmagnusm Member Posts: 3
    I've had good results using Red Line synthetics in manual transmissions, differentials etc. The cost of using good synthetic oil is fairly minor for manual transmissions as it probably doesn't take more than ~2 qts and you don't change it too often (every 2 years or so depending on mileage, driving conditions etc). I think Red Line has a web site at It runs ~$7 a quart and is available at parts stores (but often not the large chain stores). I can't testify much to its improved shiftability at very cold temperatures as it rarely gets below freezing here. But it did seem to improve the notchy shifting in my Jeep somewhat.
  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    Change your transmission fluid at the service interval that requires it, probably 30,000 miles. Toyota doesn't specify synthetic oil for the transmission, but some of the newer models seem to have hard-shift problems if they're refilled with standard 90wt. oil. (The hard-shift disappears after the transmission oil is changed from regular oil to a synthetic, so do not fear transmission melt-down if your shop puts in the standard oil and a shift problem occurs.)
  • buddhaseedbuddhaseed Member Posts: 26
    Just got a brand new car. My friend strongly recommended me to follow a strict break-in rule as well as maintenance schedule. His schedule goes like this:

    Change oil and filter at the first 500 mile.
    At 1500 mile, does the same.
    At 3000 mile, oil change and tune up.
    Then follow 3750mi intervals afterwards.

    His recommendation was based on the higher amount of metal contaminants (mostly shavings) that accumulate during the break-in. He added that if I can follow this with a gentle driving habit during the period, my car will go very superb and last for a long time. What are your opinions? Is his recipe doing only good if I have enough money? Or will it harm something invisibly by too much care on it?

  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    Well, you car certainly needs a break-in period. There ought to be an owner's manual that indicates what the proper break-in period is. The whole 3750 mile oil-change thing depends upon your car's service schedule. Is your car on a 5000 mile schedule, or a 7500 mile schedule. If it's on a 7500 mile schedule, you'll want to do the 3750 mile thing. Basically, this works out to an oil change between every "big" service.
  • buddhaseedbuddhaseed Member Posts: 26
    In the owner's manual there are two sets of maintenance schedules: one for normal condition and the other for severe condition. The normal one has a big internal of 7500 miles, while the severe one has only a half of it.

    Just called the dealer service department and they told me that my car does not need to do the severe one here at San Diego. But I asked him about the "break-in" maintenance because what all is said in the manual is only "not to floor down or accelerate rapidly for the first 600 miles." It never talks about the interval for the break-in period. This guy said no need for short interval maintenance, although my friend suggested to do it every 500 miles.

    If they'll refuse to service frequent oil changes, I think I might as well do it myself. However, I have no experience with that. What things should I keep in mind, and what else check besides oil change should I do?
  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    Check the coolant level only when the car is cold. If you take the cap off of the radiator, coolant should be at or near the top. You shouldn't see exposed cooling channels--they should be covered by coolant. If you take the cap off of the radiator when the car is hot, you'll unleash a torrent of burning coolant upon yourself.

    Check the transmission fluid (if automatic) with the car running. There are two sets of marks on the transmission dipstick. One set of marks is for checking at cooler temperatures (like after you've just started the car), and the other is for hotter temperatures (after heavy driving).

    Your car should also have a power steering fluid reservoir. Some cars you can check cold, and some you need to do while the engine is running. Check your owner's manual.

    If your battery is not a sealed battery, check your battery fluid levels from time to time. None of your battery's cells should be so empty that its plates are exposed to air. In fact, they should be filled well above the plates. Some sealed batterys have an indicator window that'll tell you whether the battery is charged or not.
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    It seems to me that we are really cannot distinguish between the 60,000 and 100,000 mile suggested fuel filter change intervals. I feel sure many fuel filters still have good porosity at 100K. On the other hand, five gallons of gasoline from the "bottom sludge" of a service station's storage tank, with no filter on the station's pump line, can badly foul a new filter.

    In practice, if there are symptoms of low fuel pressure, the fuel filter must be a suspect even if it's almost new.
  • TuNTuN Member Posts: 2
    Why don't car maker provide the magnetic plug for the engine(same as tranmission) to collect metal shavings, since engine is most critical part in the car. Your sugesstions are very appreciated.

  • markbuckmarkbuck Member Posts: 1,021
    Some do, but it only attracts ferromagnetic material. That's only a portion (albeit large)of engine makeup.
  • TuNTuN Member Posts: 2
    Thanks for you info.

  • KCRamKCRam Mt. Arlington NJMember Posts: 3,516
    buddha (#17)

    Despite what your dealer says, read the qualifications for following the severe service schedule again. I'll bet you meet one of them. My Dodge dealer here in NJ actually prints their own service booklet that basically matches the severe service schedule. If you meet every service they outline, you get a few hundred bucks when you trade the car in.

    In almost any metropolitan area, you will meet the "stop-and-go traffic" or the "frequent short trips" criteria of the severe service schedule.
  • casper2casper2 Member Posts: 2
    I have a 90 Mitsubishi Galant GS with 125K. The fuel filter has never been changed and works fine. As to radiator flushes. I have never done it. I changed the anti-freeze once. Most of the dealer recommendations are just good merchandising, the same as Exxon, Mobil. Take bucks from the gullible public. I do change the oil & filter every 5K, using any brand oil & filter that's on sale. The oil on the dipstick is as clean as a whistle.
  • arigbyarigby Member Posts: 1
    I am looking at a 92 Geo Metro with 76k on it. What should I look for as replacements or weak spots on this car?
  • clintonjohnclintonjohn Member Posts: 99
    arigby, perhaps look at consumer reports annual buying guide. library should have a copy. they list cars over the last several years and grade the relative problems with components such as exhaust, electrical, rust, etc.
    looking at my copy, the areas consumer reports graded as poor for the '92 metro were:exhaust, integrity, and hardware. they describe integrity as:seals, weather stripping, air and water leaks, wind noise, rattles and squeaks. Hardware is window, door & seat mechanisms, safety belts, sunroof, glass & wipers.
    they graded as good:cooling, fuel, auto & man trans, clutch,a/c, suspension, body rust and paint and trim. should note, though, that nothing got an 'excellent' rating. later models of the metro did get excellent ratings in a few categories.
    one thing that's well worth the money is take the car to amechanic you trust and have him give it the once over. should be about $50 and well worth it. he'll point out things that you might overlook, esp if he puts the car on the lift, which he should do. if the seller balks at you taking the car to a mechanic, i'd walk away from the sale-fast! seller probably doesn't want you finding out something.
  • uncrayuncray Member Posts: 1
    when routinely changing tranny fluid is 100%of. the fluid replaced using special equipment. ive heard this recommended by an experienced mechanic.
  • mjnakmjnak Member Posts: 7
    I've had my Dodge Dakota for about three months now. I have just under 1,200 miles on it. Is it really necessary to have it serviced? Just about everything you read says "3,000 miles or three months." Any advice?
  • clintonjohnclintonjohn Member Posts: 99
    mjnak-I think that these early services are just money makers for the dealers. For $100 they look at the car, 'Yep, everything looks good!' and your wallet is that much lighter. Follow the owners manual.
  • clintonjohnclintonjohn Member Posts: 99
    Also, I tend to go by mileage, especially for oil changes because I'll rack a lot of miles in a short time. You seem to be the opposite, however, I'd still base maintenance on mileage. I think the 3 month rule is more geared for people who drive 10 miles a week. That short distance is actually very hard on the car-cold starts and never fully warmed, and thus it would be years before they'd hit the 3000 mile point and by that time the engine would be sludged or devoid of oil, so thus the 3 month application.
  • nairb2nairb2 Member Posts: 9
    I have an Audi A6 which covers oil changes every 7500 miles under its free scheduled maintenance program. The dealer says it's not necessary to change the oil more frequently but I'm skeptical. I've always heard that you should change your oil every 3-4K miles. Any thoughts?
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    You and the dealer are both correct!

    Actually, Audi is surely correct that the car will provide good service with the 7500-mi oil changes.

    I concur with the many people (see the engine oil topic) who have found that very long engine life is better assured with more frequent changes; i.e. ~3000 miles.

    While there are surely many good 7500-mile-change engines with 150,000 miles of service, I believe the more frequent oil changes are cost-justified on the basis that the 3000-mile-change engines are even less likely to need internal repairs. If the car is frequently used for trips of less than 10 miles, the shorter change interval becomes much more important.
  • futuresinfuturesin Member Posts: 1
    VW recommends oil changes at 5000 miles and every 10K there after.Is this a ploy to destroy the 99 GTI I am about to purchase?I am a big fan of 3K 90 Metro with 226K is proof positive
    (at least I like to think so)
  • frankisfrankis Member Posts: 1
    I bought a new Camry back in January and just received a letter from the dealership saying that i was due for my first scheduled maintenance. The maintenance plan states that I should get an oil change after 6months or 6000 km, which ever comes first. 6 months have passed, but there's only 2100 km on the odometer. I'm interested in knowing if it's really necessary to follow the time based schedule since I will likely never come close to matching the distance based schedule. I asked the dealership but they recommend that I follow the schedule. I think it just a ploy to get me to come in every 6 months. ANyways I was wondering if not following their strict time based schedule will void my warantee.
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    I understand your reluctance, frankis, but I woould change the oil as suggested even though your 2100 km is very little. I speak as a cost-conscious car owner; I don't sell oil or maintenance services.

    The reason for this has to do with the accumulation of combustion by-products in the crankcase oil. This occurs with each start of a cold engine. If the car is used for very short trips, the undesirable material is not driven off by engine heat so the accumulation per-cold-start is even higher than for the normal usage situation.

    Please note that you don't need to go to the dealer for your oil changes. You can do it yourself or go to a shop you trust. The Camry is an outstanding car but, even so, I would keep the oil change receipts during the warranty period.
  • markbuckmarkbuck Member Posts: 1,021
    "Whichever comes first" is the critical term you should abide by.
  • lindynlindyn Member Posts: 1
    I am intending to replace the spark plugs on my '95 Saturn SC1. Does anyone have specific brands or types that I should be looking for?
  • ranger12ranger12 Member Posts: 2
    I can't believe that people would travel 7500 miles between oil changes. An oil change is relatively cheap in comparison to a $25,000 to $30,000 investment in many of today's autos.
    Most mechanics recommend a 3,000 mile interval for an oil change. I have driven my cars to 8 to 10 years on the average and have put at least 100,000 to 150,000 miles on each car. By changing the oil every 3,000 miles, I have never experienced oil leaks or excessive oil consumption
  • piawpiaw Member Posts: 4
    I don't understand why they bother with 2 mainteneance schedules. As far as I can tell, nobody drives their car in such a way that fits in the "normal mainteneance" schedule. The "severe" schedule fits everyone I know.

    Maybe it's car manufacturers promoting rapid failure of engines?
  • centerpunchcenterpunch Member Posts: 1
    If you check your oil right after you have it changed,you will see that it is clear and clean.after 2 or 3 hundred miles check it again,you will see that it has gotten darker use this as your guide.Every time you start and stop your engine ( short runs ) you manufactor water and acid in your crankcase ( this is what kills your oil)remember oil does not wear out it only gets dirty and holds water & acids.dont be afarid to change your oil more often,it's the cheapest insurance you can buy
  • benlexbenlex Member Posts: 1
    I have an interesting story regarding the servicing of my 88 300ZX. I now have 250,000 miles(this week). I change the oil and filter every 5000 miles. I have never changed the water(antifreeze), spark plugs, front brakes, hoses, or had a lub job. Front end never been aligned. Clutch went out at 200K. Replaced belts at 240K. Alternator and battery gone out twice. Also had an 87 Sentra with 165K when I gave it to one of my kids. Same water, belts, hoses, never lubed, never aligned. Am I fortunate or is there a message here about leaving sealed stuff alone(mechanic told me that years ago)? I see a number of postings about religious oil changing. To that I say Amen.
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    You are indeed very fortunate, benlex. The lack of need for hose replacement, wheel alignment, clutch, and even brakes is not too surprising if you are a conservative driver.

    Your cooling system, however, surely deserves new coolant. The old coolant is not providing any significant corrosion protection and the rate of deterioration of such components as the radiator and heater core is escalating.

    Spark plugs are a surprise to me, that's surely the longest use I've heard about. Have you looked at them? How much is left of the electrodes? While performance may be OK, new plugs would surely improve performance and/or fuel economy. The plug threads are likely to gall on some types of engines after very long use; I hope you don't encounter that problem.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 848
    Benlex, you have been quite fortunate, I agree! I'd say there isn't any more you can ask from a car, no? I'm really surprised the original water pump has survived!

    A good buddy who is an enthusiast, he may race his BMW, not sure, but also is a motorcycle enthusiast, just told me that it was recommended to him not to rotate tires. The force on the car is too much from a rotation, so the tires should simply be worn all the way down. He said alignments are not necessary until the tires are replaced, usually. I do agree that there are many cars that are so well balanced, alignments simply don't do much. I had my Integra aligned religiously at 6-month intervals, but thought about it, and never noticed any difference in driveability! I have another acquaintance, who was the manager of a tire/brake/suspension shop. He used to tell me that alignments should be done religiously. He said you want to balance the front end, because the different forces that build up when a car ages will take their toll on suspension parts otherwise. I see his point, but am thinking only yesterday's technology was so sensitive to age. I guess we all take our chances with our specific vehicles, and specific maintenance habits. Your habits seemed to have paid off well. The quality of your particular vehicle speaks for itself too, wouldn't you say?

    Community Leader/Vans Conference
  • gjs1gjs1 Member Posts: 1
    Why is it necessary to adjust the drive belt on my 300m every 15000 miles?
  • rosebud6rosebud6 Member Posts: 1
    I had my dakota 8 cyl 4x4 in for its 23000 mile check.Because I had not brought it in for the previous check I was quoted $ 400.When I picked the vechicle up it was $762.Does this seem a bit unreasonable for a warranty check.I would like to persue this further,
  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    I don't know what the service/check should've cost, but generally estimates are supposed to have an error margin of about +/- 10%. If they charged you as much over the estimate as you say they did, they really should've called you before they did any of the excess work.
  • pitachicpitachic Member Posts: 1
    I'm in the market for a new car and have looked at the Volkswagon Golf and Jetta, along with several other cars. While I like the ride of the VW (but have yet to find a dealership I feel comfortable with) I have heard that the maintenance costs are right up there with BMWs, etc. Does anyone have any information on the recommended maintenance schedules & prices?
  • rettaretta Member Posts: 2
    I recently purchased a 1999 Oldsmobile Alero and am pleased with the car. However, I'm suspicious of dealer service departments. My dealer provided me with a coupon-book-style maintenance calendar. I'm on the 3,000 mile oil-change schedule. Every 6000 miles, they recommend tire rotation with wheel alignment. This is the first car I'm driving that recommends a wheel alignment every 6Kmiles. (That's $120+ service approx. twice a year.) Any comments?
  • bowmanjh1bowmanjh1 Member Posts: 10
    Every six months for a wheel alignment does seem a little excessive. I suggest you rotate your tires every six months and have your car aligned once a year. Its a good schedule to get on. And don't pay $120 for an alignment job. Thats way to much.
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    I agree with Bowmanjh that a 6-mo routine wheel alignment should not be necessary.

    If the steering, handling, and center-position of the steering wheel are OK, suggest that you make one further check to see if alignment is needed. Every few months, move your fingertips along the outermost periphery of the tire tread to feel for a "cupping" or "scalloping" wear condition. Repeat this check at the inner edge of each tire. Such wear can be caused by imbalance but is more often associated with alignment. If not corrected, the scallops will increase in depth to the extent that they are readily visible and are causing an audible roar ...and the useful life of the tire(s) has been shortened considerably. I find the "fingertip check" to be an effective early warning of wheel misalignment.

    While some cars and driving circumstances do require frequent re-alignment, there are many cars that retain good alignment for 60,000 miles or more.
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