What is a basic car-maintenance schedule?

Mechanic explains vehicle repairs to customer in auto repair shop Mechanic explains vehicle repairs to customer in auto repair shop Image:

In a Nutshell

You can probably name several activities you’d rather do than take your car in for maintenance. But following your automaker’s recommended maintenance schedule may not only help you avoid expensive repairs, but also retain your car’s resale value.

Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors' opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when it’s posted.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

Care for your car properly so your car can take better care of you.

But how do you know how often to service your car? The car’s maintenance schedule — which you can usually find in your owner’s manual or online — tells you. The schedule may be based on time of ownership, miles driven or other factors, like the climate where you live and whether you mostly drive on highways or in the city. Because your manufacturer has already considered many of these important factors, following your automaker’s recommended car-maintenance schedule is essential.


The benefits of sticking to a car-maintenance schedule

Sticking to your car’s maintenance schedule requires some discipline and consistency. But you’ll be happy you did if it means your car’s easier to drive, and should you ever decide to resell it.

Following your carmaker’s service recommendations can help make your car-owning experience easier.

  • Lower the cost of repairs — Prevention can be more cost-effective than repairs. Car parts like the engine can be expensive to replace and repair. You can help car parts like these last longer by being diligent about vehicle maintenance throughout the life of the vehicle.
  • Help to avoid breakdowns — If a car part doesn’t get the care it needs, it could fail while you’re behind the wheel. This could cause a breakdown or a collision. For example, if your car’s tires aren’t properly rotated and checked for air pressure, you could be at higher risk for a blowout — which might cause an accident.
  • Preserve your car’s resale value — Your car’s overall condition, both internal and external, plays a role in determining how much it’s worth. A car that’s been properly maintained could command a higher resale price than one that’s suffered some deterioration over time.
  • Help with the private selling process — Buyers may request a vehicle’s maintenance records when shopping for a used car. This information may also show up on a car’s vehicle history report. If these records indicate that the car has been diligently maintained, it could help to make for a smooth car-selling experience.

What is a typical maintenance schedule?

The timing of the maintenance intervals — and what services are typically performed — may be based on different factors, like car make, model, vehicle mileage or number of months driven.

Typically, cars hitting the 30,000-mile, 60,000-mile and 90,000-mile marks receive more-significant servicing than at other intervals. During these service appointments, technicians usually handle some of the following tasks:

  • Replace engine air filter
  • Rotate tires
  • Change engine oil and replace oil filter
  • Inspect cooling system and hoses
  • Inspect brake pads and rotors, as well as brake lines and hoses
  • Inspect steering gear, linkage and boots
  • Inspect exhaust system

Factors that can affect a car-maintenance schedule

In certain situations, your car may need maintenance more frequently than the standard schedule recommended by the automaker. Let’s take a look at what these factors may include.

  • How you drive — If you typically pump the brakes while on the road, your car may need more-frequent maintenance.
  • Where you drive — If you frequently drive in the city in stop-and-go situations, your car may need more-frequent maintenance. If your drive includes muddy, dusty or sandy roads, it may need more care.
  • What your weather patterns are — Climates that are frequently in the 90s or below freezing can be difficult on a car. Consider the temperatures and other weather conditions, like heavy snow and ice, or sand and drought for example, and check with the manufacturer on your recommended maintenance intervals.

Bottom line

Sticking to your car’s recommended maintenance schedule may put you on the path toward maintaining its resale value while also possibly saving you money down the road by minimizing the chance of steep repair bills.

Use the maintenance information in your owner’s manual as your road map for when, what and how to service your car. And keep good records of your car’s maintenance visits, especially if you have it serviced at different auto shops. This can help you avoid unnecessary maintenance costs and ensure you have the proper records on hand to show potential buyers if you decide to sell your car in the future.