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Service Needed?

Hello Car Talk forum,

I purchased a 2004 Sentra 1.8 in 2006. I believe at the time it had roughly 35-40k miles on it. It is nearing the 100k mark and I’ve yet to have the breaks serviced or the tires changed. The owners manual states that I have to order some other literature that tells me when I should have such services done. I’m due for an oil change and would (if needed) much rather have these services all done at the same time. I feel the breaks are okay, but may be getting to that point. Is there a good way to test the tires? I hear the old penny trick is not the best. Lastly, I do mostly short drives 15 mins to and from work and nothing has been more than a 2 hour drive in recent memory. Roads are flat and not full of holes. That being said, have I been racking up more miles on my car than needs be?

I would get an appointment with a local independent mechanic to have all these things done in short order. I would also get a new set of tires on the way home from the mechanic. If you need to “rack” up the miles then it’s best to do it in an economical vehicle like the Sentra. It’s saving you money.

Use a quarter instead of a penny and the old trick still works measuring tires. Many tires have wear indicators molded into the tread. When the tread wears down even with the indicators the tires should be replaced. You can also be a tire measuring gauge at auto parts stores and measure the tread accurately. Many states have minimum allowable tread depth in conjunction with their safety inspections.

Brakes can be measured, too, and should be replaced when they reach, or are close to, minimum thickness. This, too, is part of many states’ safety inspection.

If you take the car to a mechanic for oil changes, rather than to an oil change franchise, the mechanic can check the brakes for you.

Drive the car when you feel like driving it and don’t worry about “needless” miles.

All tires sold in the U.S. now are required by the department of Transportation (D.O.T.) to have “wear bars” running across the tread to show minimum safe tread left as determined by the regulatory agency. When the tread reaches the wear bars, the tire is considered no longer safe.

However, IMHO just because a tire has not worn to the wear bars does not mean it’s still safe. If you drive on snowy roads or heavy rain, tires can lose traction even of the wear bars are just becoming visually obvious. Tires without deep tread can ride right up onto snow or water.

Your tires currently have 60,000 or more miles on them. I’d be amazed if they’re still safe. If it were me, I’d consider changing them. Having good traction can easily mean the difference between life and death. It’s a few hundred bucks well worth spending.

If in doubt, change them out.

I do mostly short drives 15 mins to and from work and nothing has been more than a 2 hour drive in recent memory

Yet, you rack up 60,000 miles in 4 years? I am impressed, though I don’t fully understand it.

timing belt/water pump, brakes, spark plugs/wires, transmission fluid change

To uncomplicate the advice given with some refinement…

Use the wear bar indicators. A penny, a quarter or a tread gauge need too much interpretation. A penny, a quarter or a tread gauge depend on your eyesight and where you will place the penny, quarter or tread gauge.

Replace the tires when the most worn tire is worn down to where any tread bar indicator is flush with any portion of the tire tread. If the remaining tires are of the same age, replace them too.

Brakes. sorry, just a pet peeve.