4 Important Auto Maintenance Items Your Vehicle Can Do Without

by Alex Smith

To begin, ongoing maintenance of your engine, transmission, and other major assemblies will help to extend the life of your vehicle. If you neglect to check simple items, such as the various fluids that circulate through your car, you'll expose major parts and systems to gradual - and sometimes abrupt - malfunction. The problem is, a lot of repair shops, including the service bays at dealerships, attempt to persuade consumers to pay for unnecessary maintenance items. These services are usually positioned as being essential to the long-term health of your vehicle. In most cases, they are not.

This article will describe four maintenance services that are often advertised as critical to unsuspecting drivers. If your mechanic attempts to convince you that your car needs any of the following items, seek a second opinion.

#1 - Frequent Replacement Of The Fuel Filter

Between the gas tank and the fuel injectors lies the fuel filter. It is responsible for ensuring the fuel that reaches your engine is devoid of contaminants (e.g. dirt, rust, etc.). Debris accumulates in the filter over time, eventually causing it to become partly clogged. This can prevent fuel from reaching your engine, causing a decline in performance. For this reason, the fuel filter should be replaced periodically.

Some mechanics recommend replacing the filter every year. They argue that doing so ensures the fuel that reaches your engine will be clean. In truth, annual replacements are unnecessary. Vehicles are designed much better today than they were a generation ago. Very little dirt and rust reach the fuel filter. Changing it once every 40,000 miles should suffice.

#2 - Annual Fuel Injection Maintenance

If you drive short distances, your car's fuel injectors can slowly develop deposits in the nozzles. This can disrupt the injectors' carefully-designed spray pattern, and reduce the amount of fuel that reaches the combustion chambers. If substantial clogs form in the nozzles, your engine may stumble or misfire.

Depending on your driving habits (i.e. short trips versus longer trips), it may be a good idea to have your fuel injectors cleaned periodically. But there is no need to do so every year, as some mechanics recommend. Instead, wait until you notice problems involving your engine's performance before having the injectors cleaned.

#3 - Routine Engine Flushes

A flush is a good idea if you rarely replace the oil in your engine. Motor oil breaks down over thousands of miles, losing viscosity and turning into sludge. Some of this sludge may be left behind in the assembly, causing damage to various components, such as the valve guides and piston rings. A mechanic can use a special machine to push a cleaning solution through the engine, removing sludge and other debris.

Some repair shops recommend flushes as a service that should be done on a regular basis to protect your engine. But it is completely unnecessary if you are diligent about changing your oil.

#4 - Annual Tune-Up

Decades ago, periodic tune-ups were a normal part of owning and driving a car. The moving parts would slowly move out of calibration, and would need to be "tuned up" in order to improve the engine's performance.

Many mechanics continue to recommend routine tune-ups, often as frequently as once a year. There are two problems with this recommendation. First, most vehicles on the road today have components that are controlled by a computer. They do not move out of calibration like parts in cars from the 1970s. Hence, they do not need to be tuned up.

The second problem is that most consumers are unfamiliar with a modern "tune-up," and the maintenance items it entails. In most cases, it involves services that are actually a part of preventative maintenance - things you should do at home. For example, the mechanic will check the battery, fluid levels, hoses, and belts. He may also check the filters (air, fuel, etc.) and spark plugs.

Unless you are driving a very old vehicle, you do not need annual tune-ups.

To summarize, your car should be serviced whenever problems surface. But if you're applying preventative maintenance at home, the four services above are unnecessary.

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