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Reader Help: Why does my car need servicing so often when I’m not driving far?

Practical Motoring logo Practical Motoring 09-03-2017 Robert Pepper

Why do cars need to be serviced so often if the owner isn't hitting the service interval mileage?

QUESTION: I recently purchased a Toyota Prado GXL 2.8L diesel. The specified servicing intervals are every six months or 10,000km. I had the car serviced at 1000km and since then have only driven an additional 2000km, which have been a mixture of city and country driving. Leaving the question of the Toyota warranty aside, does the car really require servicing so frequently given its low mileage?

I know people who dont clock up 10,000km and who have followed the six-months service intervals and end up having their cars serviced for a 75,000km service when they have only driven 30 - 40,000km. Isn't this over-servicing?

ANSWER: Cars require servicing mostly because consumable components wear out, are used up or otherwise degrade over time. There's two ways that happens; use and age.

Components that wear only through use include brake discs, brake pads, bearings and most mechanical parts - but we're assuming, however, that the car isn't left unused in a paddock for a decade!

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Components that wear through age as well as use are mostly fluids such as oils or brake fluid, as well as batteries, and rubber-based components such as tyres, wiper blades and suspension bushings. It's not commonly known, but tyres should be replaced on an age basis as well as wear.

What you should find is that your servicing costs are lower than for high-mileage cars as you'll mostly be replacing the age-related components, not the wear-related ones. However, low-mileage cars used for short trips often do a lot of work when the engine is below the ideal operating temperature, and therefore wear some, mostly engine-related components out of proportion to the low mileage. Not sure if this applies to you, but it's a general point.

You are correct about the warranty concern, and regular servicing also helps with resale values.

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