One of the big changes in car manufacturing over the last generation has been longer recommended service intervals and longer warranties, enticing buyers with allure of maintenance and trouble-free driving. Is this just a sales tactic? Car service centres of all sizes – including dealership shops – often recommend more frequent service than your owner’s manual will lead you to expect. The oil change sticker indicates 3 months or 5,000 km but the manual touts 10,000 km intervals or even longer. So, Manual vs. Mechanic: how does a consumer know?

The Car Maker’s Perspective

Trouble-free driving is a powerful draw, particularly for a car owner who is enduring the last legs of an aging vehicle, where each week seems to present a new and expensive problem. Manufacturers push every aspect of their products that reduces the cost of ownership, from gas mileage to extended warranties to longer service intervals. This creates the impression with consumers that their vehicles won’t have problems, but if they do, these won’t cost the owner. Many even throw in roadside assistance coverage to further ease the mind of the nervous buyer.

The Garage Perspective

repair shop

The shop, on the other hand, is in the business of servicing and repairing cars. In a marketplace where cars are more dependable and require less service, a mechanic needs more customers to stay busy all day, every day. It’s in the best interests of the service centre to change oil at shorter intervals, for example, or to change brake pads well before the end of their life. With the experts at odds, making the best decision for you and your car may be tricky. Service managers will tell you that the recommendations of the auto maker are simply to get through the warranty period with the vehicle intact. If you want to extend the life of your vehicle to nine or ten years, about the Canadian average, you’ll need to go above and beyond the owner’s manual.

Manual vs. Mechanic — The Service Balance

Probably there is truth to both sides of the argument. Cars are better engineered with trouble-free longevity in mind, though of course that time-frame, for the manufacturer, is based on the warranty. That car will get you from here to there with minimal trouble. Since most people want their vehicles to last longer than the payments, they do listen when a service advisor gives advice, even while being wary of upselling and over-service.

The place to start on the quest for balance is the owner’s manual. Some car manuals will list both regular and heavy-use service schedules. As a Canadian driver, go immediately to the heavy-use suggestions. Why? One word: winter. This ain’t the sunny south.

Next, consider how your car is driven. Low-speed stop-and-go city driving creates more wear-and tear than consistent speed highway driving. Do you live outside the city, with a lot of dirt roads along your route? Is your car garage-parked or exposed?

All of these elements add up and they are things that an owner’s manual can’t predict. On the other side of the coin, your mechanic does make a decent profit each time he sells and replaces your air filter, so trust is vital. With a shop that’s earned the trust, more weight should be given to the guys who see your car’s dark underbelly. When it comes down the manual vs. the mechanic, the truth is probably somewhere between the two.