Don't Switch That Filter Yet
- Robert Frank Editor of No-Debt Living Newsletter
- 2000 3 Jul
The most critical element in maintaining your automobile's "health" is a regular oil change. Out of fear, however, many people are changing additional items in the process, throwing away up to $168 per year.
During the past decade, as the neighborhood service station vanished from existence, the fundamental honors for changing oil were taken over by "lubrication technicians."
You know, those highly trained teams of high school students who have attended the Mario Andretti school of oil change. They work for businesses with clever names beginning with words like speedy, jiffy, lightning, quick, or pretty-darn-fast, and end with the word "lube."
These folks can change your oil and filter if you slow down to 20 miles per hour and drive through their building. Even more amazing is the fact that they can also change your air filter, gas filter, transmission fluid and differential oil on the same pass.
It's a wonderful, time-saving service, if you know what to look for and you know when to say `no.'
Several years ago, a great advertising campaign convinced drivers that changing air filters on a regular basis was a good idea. To this day the "you-can-pay-us-now-or-pay-us-later" syndrome still has people replacing filters out of fear.
Granted, oil filters should be replaced with each oil change, but your air filter is another matter.
"Some lube shops try to sell you an air filter whenever you have your oil changed," said Dave Jeffries, an Automotive Service Excellence master technician and owner of Autocraft Inc. "To make matters worse, if your mechanic doesn't know when your air filter was replaced last, he may change it again as part of your regular tune up.
"They don't need to be changed every 2,000 to 3,000 miles," Jeffries said. "Under normal driving conditions, we suggested they be changed every 12,000-24,000 miles or once a year, depending upon the make and model. And we're a little conservative."
Jeffries pointed to air filter maintenance specifications from several manufacturers: General Motors and Toyota suggest changing every 30,000 miles; Chrysler every 15,000, and so on.
"Some studies have shown that cars get better mileage after the air filters have been used a little while," he said.
Air filters cost between $7 and $35 each, when bought direct from a parts dealer. The average American drives 12,000 miles per year and changes oil every 2,500 to 3,000 miles. That means the average driver could be throwing away $28 to $168 per year, if the filter were being changed with every oil change and tune up.
In regards to other fluids:
- Transmission fluid should be changed about every 15,000 miles
- Differential oil about every 30,000 miles
- Gas filters about every 12,000 to 30,000 miles.
(See your owners manual for specifics on your car.)
The solution is simple: Throw a pocket sized notebook and pen in your glove compartment and keep a simple maintenance log, telling you the date and mileage of any maintenance work. Not only will it save you money on maintenance, it may increase the value of your car when you sell it.
Potential buyers love to know the car they are looking at has been cared for and has received regular oil changes. In fact, some people won't buy a car unless the owner has a kept a maintenance record ... and neither should you.
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