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  • When to change fluids ?

    Posted by acoliajja on April 4, 2016 at 5:04 pm

      Many vehicles no longer have any mileage intervals listed in the factory manual or Alldata for fluid changes or flushes . What is your opinion on this issue ?   Regardless of mileage do not change it usless it is dark in color ?  Just looking for opinions of what shops out there are doing .  

    pbrennan replied 8 years, 2 months ago 13 Members · 15 Replies
  • 15 Replies
  • elderauto

    April 6, 2016 at 10:33 am

    I disagree, Almost all manufactures do have fluid intervals listed. If there is no information on fluid exchanges, I keep old school practices, 3k to 5k on conventional oil changes. 50k on almost all transmission fluid exchanges. 50k to 75k on newer vehicles cooling systems. almost all the newer cars and trucks the fluids can last longer, not to say they should be extended, I think the way to keep cars on the road is to keep fluids current. It will do nothing but keep the life of that vehicle. Yes if fluid looks dirty, exchange, and don’t forget about the needed filters required sometimes.
    Ramon Elder (ELDERAUTO) Denver  

  • jstellema

    April 6, 2016 at 11:40 am

    We have all seen vehicles with a “150,000+- maintenance free miles”.  These are beyond maintenance…it’s time for restoration or a salvage yard.  Fluid maintenance has never been about condition; it has been about mileage.  I many time have said, “If it is a fluid, it has a maintenance interval, except for washer solvent and battery acid” :>). If there are adverse conditions regarding fluids, i.e. burnt, discolored, odor, these become more a mechanical concern than a maintenance interval issue. Maintenance is mileage. Perhaps regarding discolored fluids, service technicians should mandate an SOP of inspection such as drop the pan or have a spectrum analysis done on the fluid, or test for PH acidity is another procedure we could employ to verify and justify the sale of certain fluid exchanges.  With our clients, it is all about education, not dictation.

    Agreed, some will over sell these maintenance items, (as I write this, I am remembering an article a few years ago called, “Flush My Wallet”) but the true professional service company will take things a little more seriously.  

    Jon Stellema
  • Curtis Andrew Massoll

    April 6, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    People have been over complicating this issue for years. Just ask yourself and your customers a few simple questions.

    1. What are you trying to accomplish with your vehicle? Do you want to keep it long term (>100k), short term (<100k)? How can I help you to achieve what it is that you are looking to do?
    2. Why do you have different recommendations the the manufacture, aren’t they the experts? What do they want? Lowest cost of ownership while the vehicle is under factory warranty and to sell you a new car every 2-3 years / 100k miles. Is this your customers goal as well, if not, that is why our recommendations may be different. Trying to accomplish two totally different things.
    3. We recommend services for two reasons. First is based on condition, this usually indicates that the maintenance / usable life of such fluid has deteriorated. Second is to change it preventatively by time and or mileage, this is to keep the fluid / lubricant functioning at it’s peak and service it before reason #1. Consumers and professionals do this more than they realize with engine oil, why would you not with other fluids of your vehicle? What if we only changed engine oil when it visually deteriorated so badly that it changed color, smell, texture, acidity etc.. We don’t, we change it proactively, this leads into the last point.
    4. As expensive as some of today’s synthetic fluids are, they are all cheaper than the metal moving parts they protect. It is more cost effective to change your engine oil, and any other fluid than it is to change your engine. This goes with every other fluid that is in your vehicle.
    We recommend all drive-line fluids to be changed every 30-50k 3/5yrs, coolant first service 50k 5yrs afterwards 30k/3yrs, Brake Fluid every 2-3yrs, Alignment check annually, High speed balance every 3rd rotation / 15k. Fuel injection / De-Carbon service every 30k.
    To sum up my professional opinion, be clear to know what it is that your customer is trying to accomplish and help them achieve that. There is nothing wrong with preventative maintenance. Can it be taken too far? Sure it can, just like getting a monthly colonoscopy. Though it should not be to their detriment of your customers vehicles. Sell your customers preventative maintenance early, often and with confidence every time, if they want to defer or extend the recommended service intervals and deal with the potential side effects and costly repairs, let that be on their terms, not due to your shops lack of giving them the option.
  • Alan Ollie

    April 6, 2016 at 5:41 pm
    We use common sense.  if the manufacturer says lifetime fill  that means if everything works perfect in a perfect world you can chance it and never change the fluid. 
    We never used to change many German engines but in the last few years it we do about 6-8 a month. 
    I can easily say it is because of oil issues we send oil samples to http://www.blackstone-labs.com/ 
    and they confirm my suspicion almost every time
    Coolant can be tested but can you see if the parts per million of foreign material is correct?.
    Did a part waterpump or other part start wearing out and the debris get in the system?Or did some monkeyhead tech use too much rvt and parts are starting to clog up the tiny orifices. 
    A coolant flush will insure your customer a safe car with a lower chance parts failure.
    Don’t get me started with transmission fluid flushes. The proof is in sending sample out to http://www.blackstone-labs.com/ . Fine do not change a DSG transmission lube often ans see if the clutch pack assy is worn premature or not.
    With many BMW’s with  lifetime fills as stated on a big sticker on the pan its fine as long as we live in a perfect world.
    Brake flushes you can buy a low cost meter and measure the moisture content . Not doing a brake flush in Florida, its not if you will have problems it when . 
    Every car is different on direct injection engines fuel injector cleaning seems like a wast on most models but on a few its super important.  
    Not all flushes are upsells. We get paid to take care of fleet with 4500 vehicles IE: our customer base. 
    We recommend fluid changes by our own experience with the make and model.
      Ollie G 
  • Patrick McElroy

    April 7, 2016 at 12:15 am

    I agree with Ollie , we use our experience to recommend certain maintenance on cars with pattern failures. Otherwise, we stick to factory recommendations. Educating our customers as to what is best for their vehicle ( and their wallet, in the long run ) is what we as professionals do.

    Car owners that want to go 10k between oil changes, we stress the importance of level checks frequently. We only sell p/s fluid flushes if there is a repair of a major p/s component or if the p/s is noisy. Tranmission flushes are 100k, or sooner, if trailering is involved or heavy hauling. We also educate customers that gasoline is NOT the same and that using a top tier premium fuel will eliminate the need for a fuel system cleaning on most vehicles. We usually sell fuel system cleanings if the throttle body is dirty more than usual.

    After attending a class on anti-freeze we retired our BG cooling flush machine and bought the Gates Coolant Flush Gun kit. Now we separatly flush the radiator, then the engine, then the heater core. The thermostat has to come out to do a good job and we know we’re getting ALL the old coolant out and WAY more debris than using a flush machine hooked up to a radiator hose. Yes, it takes more time, and yes it’s more expensive, but it’s a thorough job. If you can, attend Dan Risleys coolant class, I highly recommend it.

  • Tom Piippo

    April 7, 2016 at 7:35 am

    If the customer wants his car on our “WALL” (He gets a picture posted on the wall at 200K) we suggest all fluids at 100K along with trans filter, plugs, wires, induction/ injector service. No all of my customers are visionaries and don’t plan beyond tomorrow so we make the following recommendations. 

    We recommend transmission service at 100K unless towing, then every 24 months for RVers (low mileage tow vehicles) or 30 to 50K farm/ commercial. Most OEM’s recommend coolant at 120K or 5 years. We recommend as needed, some cars are good for 100K! Definitely flush at every cooling system component replacement and we test pH with a Milwaukee electronic tester every LOF. When the pH gets skewed (usually low, acidic) we warn of impending doom (leaky radiator, heater core, water pump, head gaskets, etc…). http://www.milwaukeeinstruments.com/site/products/products/standardportable-meters/80-products-g-standard-portable-meters-g-mw101  EG (green) coolants normally test good between 8.5 to 10.5, extended life (OAT, HOAT) is good between 7.5 to 8.5

    All vehicles in this area get the brake fluid replaced every 5 years by attrition, as the salt eats the lines and leaks develop.

    Power steering gets the ‘as needed’ recommendation. If fluid is turbid or the pump is noisy, we find that BG does a good job in cleaning and restoring acceptable level of service. True, more frequent service would keep the fluid clean and pumps quiet, I find P/S service a hard sell because it gets little press time, customers are not as aware of this service as other fluids. (Probably our fault!)

  • Raymond Wittneben IV

    April 7, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Boy, I could host a long class on this topic. Has been talked about since cars have been made. Some call it fluid fleecing of the customer, others an ounce of prevention is a pound of cure. 

    I use one simple principle in my shop.
    HONESTY. Most shop owners & experienced techs have enough knowledge to know whether or not something needs attention on a car or not: from out right broken parts to simple fluid services. You know in your conscious if the service really needs to be performed or not. If you think your ripping the customer off, you just may be. If you think it really needs to be done, it probably does. 
    Continue to do research on what cars need for fluid services, train on the types of fluids out there.
    I know it’s not as simple as this, but I do have work to get done in my shop. 
  • Gary Keyes AMAM

    April 7, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Every car is driven or used differently and the schedule needs to be adjusted accordingly . The manufacturers are stretching the service intervals to show the average cost of maintenance is lower. I have seen dealers that push transmission and differential fluids every 15000 miles but the actual schedule is around 100 k . Check the vehicle see how it is used, check the fluid condition and sell accordingly. 

  • acoliajja

    April 7, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    I had  a 2008 Acura mdx in today with 100k on it . The only fluid listed in the owners manual in the glovebox is changing the differential fluid . Nothing else .  

  • Tom

    April 8, 2016 at 6:56 am

    We put this together for ourselves for Honda / Acura

     Brake fluid   36 mo.
     Brake inspect   12,000
     Coolant   100,000
     Oil change   4,000/6,000
     Spark plugs   100,000
     Trans fluid   30,000
     Wheel alignment    12 mo.
     Cabin filter   24 mo
     Timing belt   90,000
     Diff    30,000
     Transfer case   30,000
  • acoliajja

    April 8, 2016 at 8:47 am

     This site is the best I  have seen . Tom Ham ….. a big ” hats off to you ”  . Your insight has been very valuable to me and I  can’t tell you how much I appreciate it . I  have been running my independent auto repair shop in N.J. for 21 years , and I ran my dads Sunoco station for 9 years prior to going to my own shop . I  never took the ” easy road ” I did not seek assistance from training sources such as ATI  etc . I did it my way , my own thoughts ,theories , and experiences .  It has been a long difficult road but I  would not give it up for anything in the world . There are many knowledgeable people on this site always willing to help and give advice . I  just wanted to say thank you to each and every one of you . We all need to stick together and help one another when we can . We are under siege by , dealerships , chain stores , AAA mid atlantic is now playing some very serious games with independent shops across the U.S.  Sorry about the long winded post but all of you are a very special part of our industry that I am very proud to be a part of . Thank you to all members here !!!!!!! 

  • jerseysure

    April 12, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Almost every sales book, seminar, what-have-you I’ve read and been to in my 20 years doing this has said that you have to truly believe in what you are selling. I am a true believer in changing fluids. I do it on my own vehicles, my family and friend’s vehicles, and enjoy maintaining safe, reliable vehicles that run and drive like new after 10 years on the road. I wouldn’t enjoy driving around in a poorly maintained junker, no matter how little I can brag about spending on it. I just leased my first vehicle, a 2015 Sierra Denali, and even as a lease, I don’t let the oil monitor dictate when I change it. I won’t exceed 5000 locally driven miles, even with full synthetic. I just can’t do it. It looks gross at 5000 miles and I take it pretty easy and use top-tier fuel. We replace — honestly — twice the amount of engines and transmissions than we used to–many at or just below 100k miles. I won’t complain that people aren’t maintaining their vehicles-it has been very lucrative for us. However, i will suggest they do when in for service–nothing set in stone, my suggestions vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and there are some european vehicles I won’t even pretend to know what’s right because it’s just not in my wheelhouse. I honestly feel I am doing the right thing when changing vital fluids-I am helping someone maintain a high-value vehicle. The manufacturer’s recommendation(s) mean little or nothing to me – they can’t change what I see here every day.

    On the subject of AAA–their motivation is very different from mine. Their company owned stores are purely gross-profit driven, fluid-flushing filter-brake-tire changing machines. Every low-buck, free tire rotation car gets a full blown fluid analysis and inspection every time (most often by a poorly trained or inexperienced general service tech). Their playbook is almost word-for-word that of “Mr. Tire”, another chain that focuses on baiting people in with low dollar coupons and beats them over the head when they get there. AAA has a unique advantage as the company has over 100 years of trust with a huge customer base they can access; but I truly believe most people that take the bait quickly regret the decision. Yes, pretty shop, good face value. However, with little or no talent in the shop and people getting crushed with their ridiculous parts mark up matrix and three stooges style process many shops need not worry. Call them for a quote on anything–tires, brakes, whatever. I believe you’ll have your mind put at ease pretty quickly. Go in and watch the shop for a half hour. Listen to the customers waiting for their cars. It will make you proud of what you do. Anyone good they get to run the stores or work in the shop don’t stay too long. (I’m sure there are some exceptions–I only know about what I’ve seen, experienced, and people I know who worked there in my area in NJ)


  • Greg McConiga

    April 14, 2016 at 6:23 am

    This is where life gets complicated, doesn’t it?  I don’t know that there is a fixed interval that we could establish that wouldn’t waste some money for some customers.  Even though we switched over from a “change by interval” to a “change by physical inspection” some years ago, unless you’re going to do the fluid analysis (pretty darned expensive if you do enough to establish a “real” change interval for each and every customer) there’s just not a great way to wring the last dollar out of the cheap fluids that protect the expensive parts, is there?  All working fluids in all systems are subject to oxidation (same as your poor old used up mechanic’s body), shear, contamination, the accumulation of wear materials and thermal degradation.  I think it’s safe to say that we waste 25-50% of the money spent on PM fluid exchanges… and I tell our customers exactly that.  I tell them right up front, we can test it at $50-$100 a pop and plot an exact change interval, or we can err on the side of safety and just keep an eye (and nose) on the fluid and change it at a reasonable interval… and I tell them that we know that in all probability we are wasting a few dollars when we do this.  Without testing we just can’t be certain.  Every working fluid is 80-90% base and 10-20% additives… and additives are sacrificial BY DESIGN.  Why risk turning a working fluid into an abrasive slurry and save $85-$200 in PM money to destroy $500-$5000 in parts?  Part two: you can schedule PM.  It’s a known quantity.  You know when because you can predict it and you know how much because the prices are set by a competitive marketplace.  You know the impact on your budget and how many hours the family chariot will be out of commission.  Preventative Maintenance is a completely knowable thing… but Breakdown Maintenance is a crapshoot.  It will cost what it costs and it will take as long as it takes.  Every customer you see knows how much time and money they have… they know how much is in the bank account or on their credit card and they know how long they can be down without a ride… all of which is a hell of a lot more controllable if they do a preventative program instead of a breakdown program.  Last thing I’ll say about this is you should be telling your customers to use a Top Tier gas.. I recommend only Shell in my area, and I’ve got photographs that can show you why.  We were doing a ton of PM for fleets years ago… in the fuel injected era, but it was early EFI, not as well controlled as modern engines.  We were working on an expeditors fleet of vans, built by a company that back then couldn’t get 100,000 out of a differential or transmission to save their life.  He was trading out every 150,000 or so because of repair costs.  Two years in that interval was 500,000 miles.  Still true today?  I think so.  The intervals might be longer now, but you need to replenish and replace those sacrificial elements in the fluids to keep those parts alive.  I’m a big fan of fluid replacement… and a little skeptical of the chemical additive programs.  Some work, some don’t… so I personally don’t use them, I just change the fluids, but that’s just one man’s opinion.

    Best to all,


  • acoliajja

    April 28, 2016 at 5:06 pm

       Would anyone like to share a mileage based maintenance schedule for EURO vehicles ?

  • pbrennan

    May 3, 2016 at 11:42 am

    This may be a non-car-guy question, but don’t manufacturers publish their recommendations in the owners’ manuals? Maybe a call to the local dealership as a “customer” would give you a good mileage interval?

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