Is this a scam?

I recently took my 2002 Civic, 40,000 miles, to the dealer for a routine oil change. According to the maintenance book, it’s not due for the next major service overhaul until 52,500 miles (oil and filter, rotate tires, inspect ball joints and steering, lube, inspect U-joints and CV joints, check lights, check alignment (visual), check parking brake adjustment, etc., etc.). Total cost: $439.95. Now at the rate I drive, I’ll hit 52,000 miles in about 3-4 years. The service tech, however, said they look at age rather than miles and that I should have the major work done now. Is this true, or are they just trying to get more money out of me?

I didn’t see any “major work” listed in the 52,500 check-up…Just an oil change and check everything. Most decent full-service shops do these checks for free every time they service your car. It takes about 15 minutes, the time required to let the oil drain out…

However, your car is 8 years old and it’s Achilles Heal, the timing belt, is probably over the time limit for replacement. Since you have an “interference” engine (the engine is destroyed if the timing belt breaks) you might want to apply that $439 towards the timing belt even though the mileage on the belt is still within limits…

Most of that stuff has nothing to do with age. The point could be made that inspecting dust boots on suspension components and CV joint boots could be valid as they can fail with age due to rubber dry rot but that’s about it.

And they do a “visual” alignment check? While it is possible to eyeball the suspension and detect something out of whack IF the car has suffered damage or something is very badly worn, the recommendation you were given is not valid unless your car has suffered some substantial damage.

One issue that is critical would be the timing belt. If this car has the original belt I would advise getting this done along with the tensioners and water pump as the belt is now 9 years old. If it breaks the engine can suffer some costly damage.

You do not need to have this done by the dealer either. Price it around at a competent independent shop and compare.

Generally I would say wait on those maintenance items but since your vehicle is 9 years old I would have to side with the dealership on this one. Preventive maintenance with an older, low mileage vehicle has to use time (age) as the guideline for determining a good maintenance schedule. If you have the 1.7 engine then you are overdue for a timing belt change since it has an “interference” engine. A snapped timing belt in this engine will cause internal damage.

I guess that you have never bothered to look at the Honda Maintenance Schedule that came with the car.
It should be in the glove compartment, either inside the Owner’s Manual or in a separate booklet with an appropriate title.

That being said, almost all auto maintenance is done on an odometer mileage OR elapsed time basis, with the proviso, “Whichever comes first”. A perfect example is your timing belt, which–if memory serves me correctly–is supposed to be replaced at 105,000 miles OR 7.5 years, whichever comes first. The upshot of this detail is that, unless you have already had the timing belt replaced, it is now overdue for replacement. When that belt snaps, the resulting internal engine damage will run about $2k, over and above the cost of the timing belt itself.

So–NO, this is not a scam.
However, if you want to save money on maintenance, you should stop going to the dealership and begin visiting a local independent mechanic. The price quote for your 52,500 mile service is overpriced by…at least $200. Take the 52,500 maintenance list to a couple of independent mechanics (NOT Jiffy Lube or any of its clones), and I think that you will be happily surprised at the price quotes that you get from them.

I strongly suggest that you take the time to look at the Honda Maintenance Schedule, simply because it sounds like you may be very tardy with vital maintenance procedures. Timely preventive maintenance is invariably cheaper than the repairs that result from lax maintenance, and if you have been maintaining the car solely on the basis of odometer mileage, then your maintenance is definitely lax.

Thank you, all. I did get the timing belt replaced last year, so that’s not an issue. The Maintenance Guide calls this the “52,500 Mile Service”; says nothing about age. But you’re right - all the things on the list are either included in a routine oil change or just “inspect”. The only other “replace” items are air filter, dust and pollen filter, transmission fluid, brake fluid - and I can probably have those four things done for a lot less than $400!