Ask Andy: Preventative Maintenance by the Numbers – An Easy Guide to Basic Car Care

“Prevention is better than cure.”
— Desiderius Erasmus

check lights cropped and edited

The old adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” may apply in some situations, but following that advice is a decidedly bad idea when it comes to vehicle maintenance. It’s easy to put off spending your valuable time and hard-earned money addressing repairs on a vehiclPreventative Maintenance (11)e that doesn’t appear to need them, but it’s important to think of these repairs not as an expense, but as an investment. An investment in your vehicle, an investment in your fuel economy and an investment in the safety of you and the cargo you hold most dear.

The definitive resource for information on a proper maintenance schedule for your vehicle is your owner’s manual, which is both specific to your make and model and comes to you directly from the people who manufactured your car. However, for those of you who don’t still have your official owner’s manual, we’ve compiled a list of some of the basics to get you started.

Safety First

Automobile manufacturers have made major strides over the past few decades to improve the safety of our vehicles, but they’ve done such a good job that it’s easy to forget how critically important it is to properly maintain our cars and trucks to get the most out of the safety features they’ve developed. Below are some of the most important numbers to be aware of when it comes to servicing some of your vehicle’s most vital components.

Tires: Tires are one of the most important parts of your vehicle to maintain. For more information on the proper care and feeding of automobile tires, please check out our blog titled If My Tire Isn’t Flat, It’s Perfectly Fine…Right?

  • You should check your tire pressure often – approximately every time you fuel up. Under-inflated tires are a significant safety risk and also cost you at the pump. According to the guys from “Mythbusters”, your car guzzles 1.2% more fuel when driving on tires that are 15% below their proper inflation. That’s a small amount that really adds up over time!
  • You should rotate your tires approximately every 6,000 miles (or about every other oil change). This will help to prolong the life of your tires and will save you money in the long run. A tire rotation at Hershey Motors Service Department is $8 and includes a brake inspection.
  • You should have an alignment done approximately every 12,000 miles (or about once a year). Cars get knocked out of alignment hitting bumps and pot holes, and getting your wheels back to their proper position will help to prolong the life of your tires and improve fuel economy.

    tire gauge cropped
    A “tread depth gauge” is used to determine if your tread is too worn for safe travel.
  • The Hershey Motors Service Department recommends purchasing new tires when your tread is at 3/32” or below. Once your tread is down to 2/32”, they are considered unsafe to drive by the state of Pennsylvania and it is in your best interest to purchase new tires immediately.

    Preventative Maintenance (4)
    Don’t let your tires look like this one!
  • With the winter months coming, it’s important to consider swapping out your all-weather tires for winter tires. While it’s a large up-front expense, you’ll be saving wear-and-tear on your regular tires while increasing your traction 25 to 50% – a difference that could be critical on those snowy roads and well worth the investment! Stay tuned for a more in-depth blog entry about the value of winter tires!

Brakes: In Pennsylvania, your brakes will be checked at least once per year during your annual inspection, and at the Hershey Motors Service Department brakes are checked during each tire rotation. If you hear squealing or grinding while engaging your brakes, you should get them checked immediately, but generally getting them checked every 6,000 miles with your tire rotation should be sufficient.

Lights: Your lights serve as your only source of communication between you and other drivers, and it’s important to perform regular checks on your lights to make sure they are working. Any lights that run in pairs should also be changed in pairs. If your left headlight has gone out, it’s a safe bet that the right one – which has received equal use – will be soon to follow. Getting them both replaced at one time will save you the time and aggravation of having to return to the service department.

Protect Your Investment

In Pennsylvania, motorists are required to have their vehicle inspected once a year, but the state is concerned with keeping your vehicle safe, to protect other drivers, not with keeping your vehicle running, to protect your bank account! You can drive a properly-maintained used car that has been paid off for 5 years for the approximate cost of driving a new car for only 1 year. Not only that, it’s great for the environment to extend the life of your vehicle!

Oil Changes: If you own a car, you should already know that changing your oil is the single most cost-effective investment you can make into your vehicle. Your oil protects the engine, which is the most valuable component of your car or truck. When engines are depleted of oil entirely, they can seize up and need to be replaced (not an inexpensive repair!), but allowing old/dirty oil to continue lubricating your engine will also lead to more problems in the future. While many cars now have different recommendations, 3,000 miles (or 3 months – because engine oil breaks down not only with use, but with time) is still a basic guideline.Preventative Maintenance (13)

Transmission Fluid: While most people are aware of the need for regular oil changes, not everyone knows the value of having a transmission service. At Hershey Motors, we check and top off fluids whenever performing an oil change. However, it’s also important to have your transmission serviced approximately every 60,000 miles. This will remove dirt and debris and extend the life of your transmission!

Antifreeze/Coolant: The antifreeze or coolant in your radiator is responsible for keeping your engine cool, which is vitally important to preventing your engine from overheating – which can leave you sitting on the side of the road and/or cause major damage to your engine. The chemical that gives antifreeze its effectiveness is called ethylene glycol, and it breaks down over time, reducing its ability to do its job of protecting your engine. It’s important to have a coolant flush performed approximately every 60,000 miles so that you have clean, fresh coolant to keep your engine operating properly!

Power Steering Fluid: While Hershey Motors will check and top off your power steering fluid at each oil change, it’s a good idea to have a flush performed to extend the life of your power steering system. While vehicles vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, every 80,000 miles is a general guideline.

Air Filter: Replacing your air filter is an inexpensive and easy repair and will help to reduce emissions, increase fuel efficiency, and prolong the life of your engine. It’s a good idea to have it replaced every 15,000 miles or so – or about once a year. Most air filters are easy to check, and Hershey Motors will generally check an air filter with every oil change and recommend it be replaced if it looks too worn.

Fuel Filter: It is generally recommended that fuel filters be changed approximately every 30,000 miles. This will help with your fuel economy and will help prevent a clog in the lines, which could leave you stranded at an inconvenient time.

Spark Plugs: Spark plugs should be changed at least every 100,000 miles, but they are typically changed more often than that. If your car is “missing” or running rough, or if your fuel economy has dropped, this is a simple, easy place to begin.

Timing Belt/Water Pump: Not all vehicles have timing belts. Some have timing chains, which do not need to be serviced unless there’s a problem. If your car or truck does have a timing belt, it’s important to change it at the recommended interval, because a faulty timing belt could cause major damage to your engine. Manufacturer’s recommendations vary, but most cars range from approximately every 60,000 miles to every 105,000 miles. In most vehicles that are driven by the timing belt, it’s important to change the water pump at the same time as the timing belt. Changing a timing belt is a labor-intensive repair, and the same labor is involved in changing the water pump, so it only makes sense to replace your water pump during the same service.

Front and Rear Differential and Transfer Case: If you have a truck, or if you have an AWD or 4WD vehicle, it’s important to change the gear oil approximately every 60,000 miles. Again, this varies depending on your vehicle, but the oil that lubricates the gears of your differentials and transfer case is similar to the oil that lubricates your engine. In order to lengthen the life of those valuable systems, it’s important to keep fresh, clean oil lubricating those spinning parts!


While keeping your vehicle safe and well-maintained are the most important reasons to stick to a proper maintenance schedule, there are plenty of repairs that should be done to maintain a pleasant, comfortable driving experience.

Windshield Washer Fluid and Wiper Blades: While it may not seem critically important, this could easily be included underPreventative Maintenance (7) the “safety” heading. Hershey Motors checks your windshield washer fluid at every oil change, and your wiper blades will be checked during the Pennsylvania State Inspection. And while sometimes this is a minor nuisance, during heavy rains or on salted, snow-covered roads, making sure your washer fluid is full and wiper blades are working correctly can be critical to your safety on the road.

ac serviceAir Conditioning: If you have an older car, there’s a good chance your air conditioning system isn’t working at its full capacity – due to damage created from small stones and debris hitting the underside of your vehicle. Hershey Motors offers a full air conditioning service that can lower the output temperature of your air conditioning system up to 15 degrees or more! That will feel pretty nice during those hot summer months! For more information on what an air conditioning service includes, check out our blog titled What Exactly *IS* an AC Service?

air filter - cropped - before and after
The difference between a clean cabin air filter and a dirty one – pulled from a 2013 with only 20K miles.

Cabin Air Filter: It’s easy to neglect the maintenance of your cabin air filter…until you’ve seen what a dirty one looks like! If the inside of your cabin smells a bit musty, it might be time to have it checked

Wax On, Wax Off: For the average car owner, waxing your car 1 or 2 times per year will be sufficient to keep your paint job at its best!

Lubricate locks, latches and hinges: It’s always a good idea to lubricate metal pieces, and a little WD-40 on your locks, latches and hinges will help keep those parts in working order – especially during the cold winter months!

While some individual vehicles will have additional recommended maintenance, this is a handy easy-to-read guide to some of the most important service you should have performed on your car or truck. If you have any specific questions regarding preventative maintenance, call 610-857-5283 to ask Andy, our service manager, about how to get the most out of your used vehicle!

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