Keep Going

By Chelle Cordero

August 21, 2009 5 min read

Cars aren't cheap -- it's an understatement, to say the very least. Considering the cost of buying a car, anything to help keep that car on the road a little bit longer is a blessing.

For those who may need it, don't fret: Many dealers are offering deals on maintenance programs for your car. Lauren Fix, nationally recognized TV automotive expert and authority -- also known as "The Car Coach" -- believes that these deals have great benefits, among them being that your work is done according to OEM, or manufacturer, standards by technicians trained to work on that vehicle. Even the simple convenience of having someone else do the work makes it easy not to skip necessary and scheduled maintenance chores.

While most dealers sell maintenance packages at reasonable prices, which are often no more than what normal service would cost you on the outside, a few car companies are offering to service your new car completely free of charge.

Volkswagen is one of those manufacturers offering cost-free service plans. Every 2009 Volkswagen comes with Carefree Maintenance, which includes all of your regularly scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, at no charge. With the exception of the Routan, all VW vehicles use synthetic oil -- allowing you to go farther between oil changes. This plan also offers a courtesy vehicle check during the first 90 days or 6,000 miles -- whichever comes first. In turn, they will walk you through any of your vehicle's features that you need help with and answer any questions.

Tom Wegehaupt, public relations coordinator for Volkswagen North America, freely admits that this program is win-win for both the new car buyer and the dealer. Saving an average of several hundred dollars in the first few years of car ownership, the owner is guaranteed that OEM-trained technicians are working on the car according to manufacturer specifications. The dealer benefits by building a long-lasting relationship with the customer.

"The rationale is appealing piece of mind," said Wegehaupt. "So far it's been very well received."

As for going beyond that time, Fix said, "There's no reason why almost any late-model car or truck can't be counted on to last for 10 or more years and run reliably for well beyond 100,000 miles. The durability and reliability of modern cars is remarkable, provided they're treated properly."

Here are some helpful hints from Fix to help keep your car road-worthy:

1) Pay attention to what the factory says about maintenance. Engine components wear over time, as do any moving component or part. Read your manual. If the factory says it's essential to flush the cooling system every three years at minimum, do it.

Every car should also have the entire brake system professionally "bled," or purged of old fluid, and refilled with new brake fluid at least every two years -- otherwise you risk ruining the very expensive ABS pump, rotting the brake lines from the inside and damaging the entire brake system.

2) Check lubricant levels and have regular changes. It's critical to routinely check the engine oil and transmission fluid to assure they're at the proper level. Have these fluids changed, along with the appropriate filters, at least as often as recommended by the factory under "severe/heavy duty" conditions.

3) Change your oil and fluids to synthetic lubricants. Although they're more expensive per quart than ordinary motor oil and transmission fluid, the benefits of synthetic lubricants far outweigh the small initial cash outlay. Synthetics provide vastly superior performance, especially in extreme temperatures and severe service conditions.

4) Don't abuse your baby. When you first start the vehicle, don't race the engine. Accelerate gradually until the engine (and the rest of the drive train) has completely warmed up. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the outside temperature. Most engine wear occurs during cold starts and during the first few minutes of operation. Revving a cold engine will greatly accelerate this.

5) Be kind in extreme weather. If it's very hot or very cold outside, life is much harder on your car's engine and all its mechanical components. Any excessive demands placed on your engine in such conditions can (and usually will) come back to haunt you.

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