How much do you drive each day?
Lots of people create a lifestyle where they don’t spend a lot of time in their vehicles. They live close to work. They walk. They work from home.
Driving means taking the car to the grocery store … just a few miles away. Or maybe to pick up the kids from school … a few miles away.
According to the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, the average person drives around 13,500 miles per year, which equates to just over 1,000 miles per month.
Yet you know in your heart even that’s high. You just don’t drive.
What does that do to your vehicle? Should you still follow maintenance guidelines according to mileage, even if it’ll take you many years to reach what manufacturers suggest?
Let’s start with your warranty
If you have a newer car that’s still under warranty, you’re stuck with following the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure your car maintains the suggested servicing schedule. You’ll void the warranty if you don’t. Pay attention to that as you purchase a vehicle, as some spell out maintenance schedules using different guidelines.
If you aren’t sure, now is the time to pull out your owner’s manual and read all about it.
Once your vehicle is out of warranty, then you can start to develop your own service routine depending on the type of driving you do. Keep in mind that it’s still important to bring your car in for service periodically. A vehicle left sitting unused can wear out parts in different ways. Rubber can harden. Oil can go bad. Parts can deteriorate simply by not being put into use.
Instead of waiting for something to happen, it’s better to find a trusted resource who can help you monitor your vehicle and help you decide the right maintenance routine for you. Going with an independent mechanic can provide you with a trusted resource whose goal is to help you maintain your vehicle. Dealers are notorious for pushing you into service you don’t need, upgrading to new vehicles every chance they get. A reputable independent mechanic wants to increase the lifespan of your current vehicle, and to help ensure it does so without causing problems while you’re on the road.
Short distance driving damages engine oil
If you were to pop the hood on your vehicle and take a look underneath, you would find the engine is made from a variety of metal parts. Metal expands every time the temperature increases. An engine is created by piecing together a crankshaft, valves, pistons, con-rods, rings, cams – parts put together carefully to meet certain guidelines that are adhered to in a variety of conditions. They’re calibrated to ensure they work together to keep your vehicle operating smoothly, no matter what conditions it faces.
Motor oil is a thick, slow-moving flow designed for lubrication. It flows throughout the system every time your vehicle is put into operation. As the engine heats, this oil becomes less dense, which allows it to flow freely throughout and lubricate the internal components to keep them operating efficiently.
When these engine parts are cold, they don’t operate right. There isn’t enough lubrication to give each part the clearance necessary to work to the best of its ability. It takes time for the motor oil to warm, flow freely throughout the system, properly lubricate the entire system, and allow the engine to work to the best of its ability.
Additionally, motor oil also uses this generated heat to rid itself of moisture and other byproducts. If your vehicle rarely reaches the desired temperatures, these contaminants aren’t removed, meaning the motor oil increasingly has the potential to compromise the integrity of your vehicle as well as overall performance.
Short distance driving damages battery life
The biggest boost of energy comes from starting up your vehicle. When you turn the key (or press the button), it creates high demand from your battery.
As you drive, the alternator recharges the battery, so it’s ready for action the next time you start up your car. When you take short trips, the alternator doesn’t have a chance to fully recharge the battery, weakening the overall effectiveness with every trip.
Much like your engine needs time to warm up and reach its optimal operating temperature, so does the alternator. If the battery isn’t recharged properly, it pushes rapid depletion into motion, meaning your battery life decreases with every short trip.
Weak batteries can impact how well your vehicle starts up each time you turn the key. But it impacts other items on your car as well. The battery also operates your vehicle’s accessory, which means your headlamps might not be as bright, or your heated seats might be impacted.
Manufacturers list wear dates because many drivers use that as a gauge for maintenance and repair. And if you drive average distances or more each year, these guidelines are a good indication of things to watch for as you drive.
Yet if you’re a short distance driver, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because your car rarely leaves its parking spot. Parts wear down whether they are constantly in use or not. They just wear down differently.
No matter how much you drive each year, it’s important to create a maintenance schedule and stick with it.
Work with a trusted mechanic to ensure your vehicle is well maintained, has fresh oil on a rotating basis, and parts are well cared for no matter how much action they see during a year.
We can help you keep your car in good working condition, no matter how much you drive.