Alright, so I skipped my last turn writing the blog, but wasn't Stephanie's open house recap more important than my ramblings?! She definitely has a better visual presentation than I do! Thank you again to all who attended and made it a record-breaking event!
This time around I want to discuss the idea that maintaining your car may not be very rewarding…
Wait, what? What do you mean it's not rewarding? It keeps my car safe and reliable!
Yes, it absolutely does, but what I find both at RMW, and talking to shop owners around the country, is that not everyone "gets it." Many people (I should figure out a way to calculate the percentage) believe that extended maintenance, over and above a basic oil service, is a waste of money. They'll fix the car when it breaks, and in some cases pay a healthy sum of money to do so. So why not make a small investment now to save a lot later? I have a theory!
Before I go too far down this road, I need to brag a little on both our clients and our staff. Working on German cars, we deal with a very proactive group of people, and both Nick Howard and Nick Sartor work very hard to consult with clients on the "why's" of car maintenance. The fact is though that we could do an even better job of recommending preventative services. Why is this? Well, the cost of an aggressive preventative maintenance plan starts to add up, and many of these services are "thankless."
Here's my theory. When a car breaks, it's obvious. A light will come on, or it may stop on the side of the road. It may make a terrible noise. Heck, it may even catch fire! (very rarely????). When your car breaks, you are keenly aware of the problem, and it causes you some sort of "pain". You bring the car into a shop; we tell you it will cost $xxxx.xx to repair it, which also hurts. At this point though, the "pain" of writing the check is exceeded by the "pain" of not having your car. Plus, once it is fixed, it drives GREAT again! You get fairly instant gratification for the money you spent.
Auto maintenance, on the other hand, is kind of like buying insurance. Insurance is a piece of paper that tells you that if things go wrong, you'll get money. Auto maintenance is one step lower because there is no promise of a payout…The payout is the fact that you have lowered your chances of a mechanical problem by some undetermined amount. If you don't trust your mechanic, then doing this maintenance is intangible and seems like a waste of money, or possibly even a scam.
When a car is maintained correctly, you rarely feel any improvement when you pick your car up from the shop/dealership. The goal is to keep it like it was when it was new. There are exceptions. Some maintenance items are borderline repairs, like having intake valves cleaned on a Gas Direct Injected engine (AKA Walnut Blasting). More times than not though, services like changing your transmission fluid, or having your brake system flushed, don't make your car run or "feel" any better. When done ahead of time though, they keep the big repair bills at bay. Speaking of transmission fluid changes, I can't tell you how many times we have tried to "fix" an already failing transmission with new fluid…spoiler alert, it NEVER works.
By the way, the lack of satisfaction one might feel while paying to have these types of services performed is also felt by the technician and even the service professionals up front. Like many of today's mechanics, I started working on cars because I enjoy fixing things. It becomes a strange conflict when we spend our time working on cars with no notable "fix" to be proud of. Changing differential fluid is not nearly as rewarding as changing the actual differential, but it is the best scenario for a car owner.
We have been discussing this at RMW behind the scenes. We strive to advise our clients on how to best care for their cars, but where should we draw the line? I mean, at what point do the majority of our clients and potential clients "check out"? I look at it kind of like eating a super healthy diet. Almost everyone can improve their diet or get more exercise, but who wants someone pushing their diet and exercise routine on them? In our world, we can likely make your car run forever with few, if any break-downs, but this level of maintenance can seem very costly. We don't want to be perceived as though we are selling a false product or "nickel and diming" a client to death. We also don't want to do you a disservice by not recommending preventative care.
It is easy for us to recommend the same services and intervals as the factory, and this is what we do most of the time. It seems that this is the "credible" thing to do. There is a conflict here though, as many of the factory recommended service intervals have been influenced by the politics of big business. As an educated "car guy" that likes my cars to run forever, I can't feel right about today's factory recommendations. I can tell you without question that I maintain my personal fleet to a much higher standard. I may be guilty of over-maintaining my cars, but even with today's expensive synthetic fluids, I can tell you that I will come out ahead. A new transmission or transfer case in an X-drive BMW is costly. It may cost several hundred dollars to service the fluids every 30K miles, but it requires several thousand to replace one of these components.
Finally, I should state that no matter how well you maintain your car, things will still wear out. Bushings, brakes, ball joints, shocks, struts, gaskets, seals, etc., will all still find the end of their serviceable life after enough miles or years. What we really want to protect are the big ticket items like the engine, transmission, and driveline. That and we want your German car to keep performing as good (or better!) than new, after all this is why we drive these cars!
So, where do you stand on preventative maintenance? Are you proactive, or reactive? Do you plan to keep your car for 10-15 years, or do you like to get something new every 5-6 years?
Please comment below to keep this conversation going!
Speaking of keeping a car on the road for the long haul, we are headed to the Gilmore Auto Museum near Kalamazoo, MI with Ralph, our 1968 BMW 2002 to check out the 7th Annual Deutsche Marques German Auto Event!