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

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!

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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  1. Benn0
    March 9, 2017 at 11:02 am — Reply

    In most cases the short intervals are mainly for oil and filter. Do these really degrade over a 12 month period? I own a Grand Cherokee diesel, it has 6 month/10k service intervals, but I’m doing about 10k a year. I’ve done the 6 month intervals to maintain warranty, but now that it is out of warranty I’m going to leave it for 12 month services. Would I expect the oil to be any worse than someone who drove 10k in 6 months?

    Interestingly Jeep has just changed the service interval out to 12 months, but the engine is the same and so is the oil and filter (although they are moving to 5w40 instead of 5w30 due to the low end bearing failures that have been seen).

    • Monty
      March 9, 2017 at 12:50 pm — Reply

      It seems to depend on the vehicle. My mechanic told me that it was essential to service regularly a 2003 Outback as the oil channels are fine and clog easily. I drove my 2008 Falcon for thousands of k’s past its due service date and it was fine. My mechanic said that the Ford engine is near unbreakable. I won’t be risking it with my new car.

      • Guest
        March 10, 2017 at 1:37 pm — Reply

        This is true due to the layout of the engine hence they specify the famous (and really good for any engine) upper engine cleaner to further clean out the throttle body.

  2. Alan
    March 9, 2017 at 12:43 pm — Reply

    My question is – why does my TOYOTA need 6 month/10,000km services when overseas it is 12 month/10,000 MILES (16,093km).

    And they advertise it as $140 each for the first 6 services

    BUT on the next line of the website “Maximum Logbook Service Price” $194.03 / $220.43 / $275.41 / $378.61 / $194.03 / $301.81.

    Does that mean that they’re going to hit me up for “extras”. FORD did that too, but it was every 12 months, not 6 months.

    • March 9, 2017 at 2:45 pm — Reply

      That depends on a number of factors. Could be local regulations, a different engine for different markets, different operating environments, different likely use in different countries…and marketing 🙂

      • Guest
        March 9, 2017 at 8:16 pm — Reply

        There’s also protecting profits. The biggest seller in Australia mulled over a motor that’s fitted in Europe that has a12mth/20,000km service interval reduced to 6mth/10,000km voluntarily so that they maintain contact with customers and appease dealer concern over erosion of service revenue.

  3. julian
    March 11, 2017 at 6:19 am — Reply

    do you really think the a new car that been sitting on the lot for a year (2016 plated ) has all ready had it first service I have never seen a logbook all ready stamped with first service .

  4. Maggie Dee
    March 11, 2017 at 3:24 pm — Reply

    Your new car needs servicing because the dealers would run like rats….If they didn’t get their cut of the cash! Most dealers now make bugger all on sale, the ‘rich boy principals’ demand the $120/hour service cost to buy their new Porsche or Zonda.
    Oh…that’s not the current Holden dealers. They are currently charging $7000 delivery fees on a new V8 Commodore. This is the….. “Trying to make money before they go out of business” charge.

  5. Michael Richtman
    March 11, 2017 at 3:26 pm — Reply

    That was my whole point in this letter – why does a diesel Discovery or Range Rover only require servicing every 12 months or 26k klms and the Prado every 6 months or 10k klms ?? Surely both manufacturers use similar quality lubricants and the service intervals should be comparable.

  6. Flauschie
    July 16, 2017 at 1:33 pm — Reply

    The big question is why some manufacturers like Toyota and Subaru are still on 6 month service intervals whereas in Europe the same cars are offered with 12 or even 24 month service intervals. And no, cars aren’ t more stressed locally – think of the German autobahn and the generally much wider temperature range in Europe.

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper