SHOP
TALK

Engine

Ballard Automotive is a full-service Auto Repair Shop. We offer a wide variety of services to keep your vehicle running smoothly. We guarantee that our highly trained experts will get you back on the road just as soon as possible. As a service to our customers, please review our handy maintenance tips to keep your vehicle running at its best.

Vehicle Maintenance

Car Maintenance Schedule

By following a car maintenance schedule, you can help prevent major problems before they occur. Not only that, but keeping a detailed record of your car's maintenance history can help improve its resale value, too.

Many manufacturers use a 50-100-160 schedule, meaning certain items need to be inspected, changed, or replaced at 50,000, 100,000, and 160,000 kilometres. But if you’re like most drivers, you may wonder if every suggested maintenance checkpoint in your car manual is essential for the health and well-being of your car.

 

Some items, like rubber gaskets and hoses, windshield wiper blades, and tires, will wear out at irregular intervals. These “consumables” will need to be checked periodically, either by your mechanic or via your own visual inspection. For everything else, this car maintenance guide below explains what you should do and why you should do it.

Regular Maintenance

Oil and Oil Filter

Oil change

Your oil and oil filter need to be changed regularly, because as an engine runs, tiny bits of metal, dirt, and carbon end up in the oil and can cause excessive wear on the engine. The non-synthetic oil that was traditionally used in the past always had a 5,000-kilometre rule of thumb, but most cars today run on synthetic, which can safely last between 8,000 and 16,000 kilometres, depending on the type.

Maintenance Before 50,000 Kilometres

Air and Cabin Filters

There are two key filters that you shouldn’t ignore because they protect the engine and affect the air quality in the cabin. The engine air filter keeps dirt, debris, and other contaminants from getting in. That also includes dust or other particles going from the cabin into the engine as well.

The cabin filter blocks pollutants that could potentially flow through the car’s HVAC system. Dust, smog, pollen, and mold spores, among others, are prevented from contaminating the air inside. To keep that up, you will need to replace the cabin filter as well.

While the cabin filter is usually easy to access, the air filter can vary, depending on the make and model you’re driving. Clogged filters make the engine work harder to push air through, thereby affecting performance and fuel efficiency.

A clogged air filter makes it harder for your engine to breathe, and that can negatively impact performance. 30,000 to 50,000 kilometres is a good rule; if you park or drive in a dusty environment, change the air filter closer to 30,000 kilometres. 

 

Dirty Air Filter
Dirty Cabin Air Filter

Fuel Filter

If your fuel filter gets clogged, the engine will run rough, or not at all. Manufacturer suggestions on fuel filters vary widely, but some recommend replacing your filter as early as 50,000 kilometres. Your best option is to ask your mechanic to perform a pressure test to determine the health of your fuel filter.

Maintenance Before 100,000 Kilometres

Battery

Extreme temperatures, age, and long periods of non-use affect batteries. Keep in mind that batteries are warrantied and pro-rated by time, not mileage, and are designed to wear out. Most batteries will last four or five years, which puts the average driver right around 80,000 to 100,000 kilometres.

Brake Fluid

Your brakes are engaged through a hydraulic system. But when the fluid in that system is contaminated by water, its boiling point is lowered, and it can turn to gas—which is compressible. This leads to a “squishy” brake pedal. To ensure that your brakes work as advertised, bleed your brake system of its fluid and replace with new brake fluid according to your vehicle’s manual. Most manufacturers recommend doing this every 30,000 to 50,000 kilometres.

Brake Pads/Shoes/Rotors

Brake rotor

Brake Pads/Shoes
Brake pads and shoes are designed to wear out, and usually make screeching noises when they need to get replaced. Have them checked on a regular basis. A good set can last up to 80,000 kilometres. If you're paying less than $100 for a brake job then you are most likely getting the cheapest materials available and your stopping distance will be greatly reduced. At Ballard Automotive we will never use cheap brake pads or rotors. Premium or OEM  brake pads and brake rotors use better materials and are made to the exact specifications for your vehicle..

Brake Rotors
Your brakes work by squeezing the pads against metal discs (called rotors) to slow the vehicle. Rotors get subjected to lots of heat due to the friction between them and the brake pads, and they can warp over time. For minimal additional cost, we suggest that you replace your rotors or have their surface ground down so they are smooth again at roughly 90,000 kilometres. Re-surfacing your rotors is the less-expensive option, but can be done only once per set and is not typically the best approach as this process, while minimal, does reduce the amount of material and makes the rotor thinner. With reduced weight rotors, in the event of a panic stop, the resulting heat generated can cause hot spots and will cause a pulsing sensation when braking at which point you would need to replace the rotors.

Coolant

A mix of water and antifreeze flows through your radiator to cool your car. If you lose too much coolant, the engine will overheat, which can cause severe damage. Plan to replace your coolant at 90,000 kilometres, and make sure your mechanic flushes the entire cooling system while they’re at it.

Transmission Fluid

Low transmission-fluid levels will cause shifting problems and can burn up the transmission. It is important to monitor your transmission fluid regularly, rather than adhere to a specific mileage marker. Healthy fluid will be pink and smell sweet, while bad transmission fluid will be darker red, or even brown, and smell burnt. Many cars will keep a transmission-fluid dipstick toward the back of the engine bay (the windshield side). However, some cars don’t have a dipstick for transmission fluid at all, and low or contaminated fluid will instead light a warning light on the dashboard—often the “check engine” light.

Generally, if you have a manual transmission, plan to change the transmission fluid between 50,000 and 100,000 kilometres. That said, a vehicle under heavy strain (like a truck used to tow a boat or trailer) should have its manual transmission fluid changed at more frequent intervals.

Likewise, automatic transmission fluid has a lifespan ranging from 50,000 to well over 160,000 kilometres. Consult your vehicle’s manual before bringing an automatic to your mechanic.

Maintenance Before 160,000 Kilometres

Dirty Spark Plugs

Hoses
The hoses on your car carry coolant and, if you have it, power steering fluid. As the rubber ages, cracks can form, and a busted hose will cause trouble in a hurry, so have them checked and changed as needed, particularly as your car approaches 6-figure mileage.

 

Power Steering Fluid
Low power steering fluid will cause hard steering or excessive noise while turning the wheel. Plan to flush and replace your power steering fluid around 120,000 kilometres, or when problems arise.

Spark Plugs/Ignition System
When components of your ignition system fail, you may get a “check engine” light on the dash, hard starting, or rough running. Your mechanic will be able to plug a laptop into your car to look for a “code” that will tell them what needs to be replaced.

The timing depends largely on the type of spark plugs you have in your car. Most new cars use iridium or titanium spark plugs, which can sometimes last up to 160,000 kilometres. But be careful: Cheaper spark plugs, made of copper, are still in use and typically need to be replaced by 50,000 kilometres.

Timing Belt
Cars that use a timing belt rather than a timing chain need to worry about this bit of maintenance. We recommend changing your belt pre-emptively between 100,000 and 160,000 kilometres, as a belt failure can lead to catastrophic damage (and leave you stranded by the side of the road). If your car uses a timing chain rather than a belt, you should still ask your mechanic to inspect it, as the links in the chain can stretch, but it should last well into 6-figure mileage.

Tire Care

Check, rotate, and change your tires

tire depth check image using toonie

Tires are a huge expense for any vehicle and proper maintenance ensures you’re always driving on the safest set. Tire care is essential for two reasons, but the most important reason is safety. When you’re driving, your tires are the only thing hitting the road, and you need to rely on them regardless of the road conditions.

Tire pressure always requires some inspection, so a simple walkaround can provide clues on whether any of the four tires are lower than they should be. Check the treads and make sure they aren’t too worn.

 

Tire Rotations

The professional recommendation on tire rotation is every 8,000km. Tire rotation ensures that all the tires wear evenly, as front tires wear much more quickly than rear tires. So, not only can the rotations save you money (prolonging the life of your tires) but ensuring that your tires are changed for seasonal changes (e.g. winter tires) can also help improve safety!

 

The “Toonie Test” is a great trick to help you know if new tires are needed.

When the tread depth on your tire wears down, you have a bald tire on your hands, and the balder the tire is, the less grip it will have. It doesn’t take an expert to understand that tires with little-to-no grip is an accident waiting to happen.

The second reason is that caring for your tires regularly will help you save money. Getting regular tire rotations and alignments can extend the life of your tires so they’ll wear evenly. In fact, even something as simple as making sure your tires are inflated properly

The Bottom Line

Some final thoughts.....

Keep in mind that these milestones are just guidelines, and your car’s owner’s manual should be consulted for a more precise maintenance schedule. Also consider how you drive—aggressive driving tends to wear things out faster. City driving tends to be harder on cars than highway driving, and many items on your car are designed to wear out, so you should plan to keep an eye on these consumable parts. Plenty of expensive repairs can be avoided simply by performing regular maintenance. Monitoring fluids is critical—familiarize yourself with your oil and transmission-fluid dipsticks. Be diligent, be observant, and drive safely.