Most automobile owners cringe at the thought of spending money repairing a vehicle when there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, most people would think it borders on insanity; why would I possibly fix something that’s not broken? Why would I replace parts that have not even come close to reaching the end of their lifecycle?
These feelings are logical if you are a short-term car owner who is planning to trade in when your warranty expires. They are also logical if you are a car owner who doesn’t know how to turn a wrench. But if you are a home mechanic who owns a later-model automobile that you repair and service yourself, preventative maintenance makes sense. As I will show you…performing preventative maintenance and repairs on your car has long-term gains that are worth the short-term pain in your wallet. So have a sip of Kool-Aid and read on.
Scheduled versus preventative maintenance
Before I continue with this discussion, now would be a good time to take a refresher course on the difference between scheduled and preventative maintenance on your automobile.
Preventative maintenance means replacing parts in your car long before they fail, whether they need it or not.
Scheduled maintenance is a list of required services for your vehicle based on mileage, age, or some other type of published timeline. This timeline is predetermined by the manufacturer and is used to help reduce wear and tear on the vehicle, which leads to less warranty work. Most modern vehicles notify you when scheduled maintenance is due either through the driver’s information screen (BMW iDrive) or instrument cluster.
Preventative maintenance is a completely different beast. Preventative maintenance means servicing parts based on criteria other than a predetermined factory timeline or guide. In simple terms, it means replacing parts in your car long before they fail whether they need it or not.
I know this goes against the grain of every automobile owner, but there is a method behind the madness. I have proven preventative maintenance works from years of testing here at the BMW Repair Guide, along with my own personal cars.
The benefits of preventative maintenance
As mentioned above, there are several important benefits to preventative maintenance that will help the home mechanic through the short-term pain of the cost.
1. Long-term money savings – Automobiles are a spiderweb of interconnected systems that must work together in harmony if the car is going to operate smoothly. If one system is faulty, it is possible that other systems can be damaged, or even shut down.
A great example of this (especially in older BMWs like the E46 3 series) are simple engine mounts. Over time, these shock-absorbing brackets that attach the engine to the frame of the vehicle slowly wear out. How long it takes for them to wear out differs among models and driving habits. But when they do, the motor will begin to vibrate, sometimes unnoticeable. As this vibration slowly increases it can cause other engine issues, most notably valve cover gasket and rear engine seal leakage. It can also cause older plastic piping to crack, causing vacuum leaks. Compounding the issue is there are no scheduled maintenance requirements for engine mounts. So now we have a classic case of a known suspension issue causing a potentially expensive engine repair. Engine mounts are usually pretty simple to replace, and can be done in your own garage.
The best time to do preventative maintenance on your car is when you have it disassembled while doing a repair.
One of my favorite preventative maintenance routines is replacing sensors and plastic hoses in the engine compartment when servicing the motor. They are usually “easy pickings” while you are performing a repair procedure since many have to be disconnected or removed during the repair steps. For example, just recently I performed a fuel injector replacement on my 2013 BMW M3 (see my article by clicking here). The vehicle is 10 years old…a ripe age for older BMWs when parts start to fail. While replacing the injectors, I also replaced the air temperature sensor, the air pump suction tube, and the fuel pressure sensor. All three were exposed during the fuel injector replacement and were easy targets for replacement. It cost me an extra $300, but in my opinion, was money well spent.
Doing a little investigation into your vehicle before repairing it can save the home mechanic a ton of money and headaches down the line. The best time to do preventative maintenance on your car is when you have it disassembled while doing a repair.
2. Recover lost performance – As our vehicles age, they lose performance and ride quality. But often this degradation is so slow that we don’t even know it is happening. Preventative maintenance can frequently return the factory-fresh performance we have lost and the results are noticeable.
Replacing the fuel injectors on my 2013 M3 was not scheduled, and in my opinion, the vehicle was running strong at all rpms. The repair was completely preventative – whenever I get a little cash in my pocket I try and spend it on my vehicles before it disappears in our local Target store. I didn’t expect any change in performance in the M3…but I was wrong. In fact, I was shocked. I could not believe how much the performance had degraded with 70,000 miles on the odometer. The car responds quicker, runs smoother, and has that old spunkiness to it that I had forgotten even existed. For under $500 I had a new car, simply because of some preventative maintenance.
3. Piece of mind – One thing you can’t put a price on is piece of mind, especially if you are a home mechanic driving an older car. Replacing parts and servicing systems before they become an issue brings a new-found enjoyment to driving. If you are a home mechanic and car enthusiast, you most likely have an internal clock that is counting down when the next “check engine” light is going to appear in your instrument cluster. Preventative maintenance helps silence this internal dialogue and allows you to focus on the joy of driving your car.
Practice makes perfect
Conducting preventative maintenance on your vehicle can be a bitter pill to swallow at first. No home mechanic likes to spend more than they have to while repairing their vehicle (hence the reason they are doing it themselves). At first, it will seem like wasting money until you experience the true benefits behind it. Once the benefits are achieved, preventative maintenance will become a regular practice that will extend the longevity, as well as the dependability of your vehicle.