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Low mileage maintenance

HI. First post here. My brother is retired, doesn’t drive much. Just 20,000 miles on a 2005 Honda Civic. The folks at the local dealership gave me a list of the things Honda recommends at 7 years or 100,000 miles.
Timing Belt. Spark Plugs. Transmission service. Brake Fluid Flush. What’s the community position on maintenance on such a seldom driven car?

I would actually add an oil change, and radiator fluid flush to that list. And tire rotation. Possibly more.
The fluids don’t degrade just from driving; time is a big factor, and often overlooked.
The timing belt (rubber) is also getting quite old, and prone to breaking without any notice, costing much much more when it does.


My position is that Honda wouldn’t give a time interval in addition to a mileage interval if they didn’t mean it.

You should be using the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual. Some less-reputable dealers recommend service that isn’t needed in order to make more money.

I suspect the timing belt is four years overdue. If it snaps, your brother will probably be buying a new engine, so I wouldn’t put that off any longer.

How old are the tires? They might be reaching the point where they need to be replaced due to age regardless of the tread remaining. Tire Rack has some good information on this topic on their web site.


Of course, you are correct, but for reasons that I cannot figure out, most people seem to be unable to unravel the…complexity :wink:…of statements such as, “Every xx,xxx miles or xx months, whichever comes first”.

Why this either/or, whichever comes first proviso is so impenetrable for so many people, I do not know.

Wow, thanks for the very quick replies. All very useful and confirm my thoughts. Thanks.

As long as that maintenance schedule your brother received form the dealership matches the maintenance schedule in the car’s owner’s manual, I’d follow it, meaning that if something is called for at 7 years or 100,000 miles, you should have it performed at 7 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. There is no reason to second guess your car’s maintenance schedule.

If I owned a car I only drove an average of 1,300 miles a year, I’d question whether I really need to own a car, because car maintenance expense is a part of ownership, whether you drive the car or not. If your brother isn’t going to maintain the car properly, he is going to lose money in the long run due to more expensive repairs or being left with a car that is only worth salvage value. When it comes to car maintenance, it’s less expensive to maintain it than it is to repair it, especially if that timing belt breaks. An ounce of prevention…

I think he’s about to give up driving finally. Probably should have a couple years ago. If/when he finally sells it somebody is going to get a seriously pristine 2005. Any suggestions on how to adjust value on such a car?

Sites like Kelley Blue Book have you type in year, model, mileage etc. to give you an approx. value. Now, bear in mind, some people will be excited to see low original one owner miles, and some will be put off by a car that hasn’t been driven enough to ‘clear the cobwebs out’ so to speak. You can always advertise at the higher blue book number, and adjust down if a serious buyer comes along.


There are several websites out there that, in addition to helping you find a car, will tell you the approximate value of your car. Kelly Blue Book ( and Edmunds are two examples.

I’ve been trying to sell a motorcycle on Craig’s List with limited success, so I don’t recommend it, but if you’re on Facebook, you can now list and sell items there. My neighbor sold his motorcycle on FB.

Thanks guys.

Go by the owner’s manual, not what the dealer says. The timing belt is an absolute must! Spark plugs are mileage based, my Corolla does not have a time limit.

If he is going to sell it, he needs to decide whether he want the maintenance caught up to date first or not. He is looking at $1-2k to get it caught up. The difference in the bluebook value between a pristine low mileage example of his vehicle and one of average condition and mileage may not be enough to cover the costs.

I would recommend that he get a quote from the dealer on the cost of all this maintenance, check the private owner recommended sale price from KBB ( for an excellent condition car with his mileage and deduct the cost of the maintenance from your for sale price.

Let the potential buyer know what needs to be done and show them the quotes. That would be a fair deal for everyone involved.

Uber could save him a lot of money in the long run.

My father’s advice to me was “never put new tires on a car you’re about to sell, because you’re not going to recover that cost by charging more.” I can understand fixing up a house to sell it, but not a vehicle.

With this in mind, I think the OP’s brother should apply that to maintenance. Ethically, there is nothing wrong with selling the car as-is after letting a prospective buyer take it to a mechanic for a check-up, and then, once the sale is made, saying something like, “By the way, the timing belt is going to be due soon. I recommend you get a new one installed ASAP.” You might get a cross look from the buyer, but I’d rather have that than talk myself out of a sale by showing a prospective buyer how much he is going to have to spend on maintenance.

I want to be honest, but I don’t want to be so forthcoming that I talk myself out of a sale, so I’ve learned to answer questions honestly without volunteering extra information, kind of like testifying in court. If someone asks about the timing belt, I wouldn’t lie, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to point it out until after the sale is made.

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I just sold a car that was about due for a timing belt. Even knowing I was capable of changing it myself, I decided not to, and to do what others here suggest which is to answer all questions honestly. I just did not want to do the difficult job, and I was pretty sure I would not get enough more for the car to justify paying for the work and the minor nuisance of getting it to and from a mechanic.

The point the others have mentioned about ride services like Uber and Lyft is a good one. Signing up for either is easy, and then your brother should try it and see how it goes. In populated areas it can be very convenient.

Just curious, does anyone know how to sign up for Uber or Lyft if you don’t have a smart phone or internet?

I received a letter from the “high volume” dealer over 50 miles away informing me my car was due for a 30,000 mile service. My odometer was barely over 20,000 miles. I checked my owner manual for a time limit and found none. Possibly due to there being no 30,000 mile service! I’m glad I purchased the car from the local dealer. Their scheduled maintenance notifications match the manual.

Everything is legitimate, with the possible exception of the timing belt. Seven years or 110,000 miles (whichever comes first) is the rule for Honda engines, but that only applies to the 1.7 liter engine in the Civic. The hybrid and 2.0 liter engine use a timing chain, which doesn’t need changing for a lot longer. I doubt that the dealer is scamming your brother, but it doesn’t hurt to check the engine and make sure.

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The service manager at the dealership said that, with such low miles, he wouldn’t recommend that any of the items listed NEEDED to be done, but just gave me a list and associated costs. I’ve had very good experiences with this dealer in the past. Seems to be a good bunch. I overheard them say to a lady in front of me that she or her husband could do some of the easier things on their list, air filters etc. BTW, it is the 1.7 liter engine.

Your car was probably built some time in 2004, which would make your timing belt just about 13 years old

You’re on borrowed time. It could snap at any time, with no warning whatsoever, and then you might be facing expensive engine damage

Replace it now

Don’t listen to service managers for mechanical advice . . . many of them have never turned a wrench in their life

It’s good to hear that they’re prioritizing the importance of recommended repairs, versus “You need to do all of this ASAP”

But if you want mechanical advice, talk to a mechanic . . . there are several on this board, including me


Were it my car I’d change out the timing belt at the next opportune time, and monitor the other items. Time wears out rubber and plastic parts, and miles & use wears out the metal parts.

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