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What happens if general maintenance is not done regularly?

I know very little about the mechanics of cars, but I need to find out if the neglect of general maintenance on my cars is causing them to have so many mechanical problems.

I have:
2000 Dodge Durango 5.9 4x4 automatic with 190xxx miles. I bought this used with 120xxx miles. Checked out good with the mechanic when I bought it.

2008 Nissan Versa Hatchback S with 150xxx miles (90xxx miles on engine and tranny). I bought this used with 30xxx miles. I had a brand new engine and tranny put in at 60k miles due to an accident.

Up until 2 years ago, I took my cars to a mechanic for ALL maintenance and repairs, including oil changes. 2 years ago a family member started doing ALL maintenance and repairs himself on my cars and some other family members. Id notice things like my washer fluid was never checked or filled, so I filled them as needed myself. He does not do oil changes as recommended. I recently found out he uses 3k mile oil and every car goes over a minimum of 3000 miles (6000 total) before he will change the oil or check any fluids. He told me this was because having to change it that often is a marketing scheme and cars can go triple that mileage on an oil change. I drive about 150 miles a day, so the miles add up fast. My Nissan once went 11k miles without an oil change. I doubt hes checking or filling the other fluids unless theyre completely empty. About 1.5 years ago, 6 months after he took over maintenance, things started falling apart on my cars. The other family members cars are all having issues as well. I do not pay this person for labor, so I know hes not scamming me. I buy the parts myself new from Napa, everytime.

So far ive had to replace the following parts in the last 18 months:

Durango - transmission, torque converter, radiator, hoses, shocks, spark plugs and plug wires. The engine has started rocking and making a knocking sound. Black smoke comes out of the tailpipe when I first start it. Needless to say, i no longer drive this one.

Nissan - Main exhaust thing near engine, brake fluid reservoir and brake lines, the clutch and the slave cylinder. This car has also been slipping gears and its increasingly getting worse. The slave cylinder still needs to be replaced, so I dont drive this one either.

I recently bought a 2008 Suzuki Forenza, had a mechanic check it out first and he said it was a solid car. But, I dont want it to start falling apart like the others. Can not doing general scheduled maintenance cause these sort of problems? Is this all just coincidental and bad luck? Could my driving (quality or quantity of miles) cause this to happen to fast? Im not a bad driver, my daily mileage is 99% highway (i live in the country) and im usually only driving 65-70 mph

yes, not doing scheduled maintenance can cause all sorts of problems. The answer is obvious, use a real mechanic to do the maintenance. And read the user manual and keep track of the requirements.

However, if you are buying the cars used, the previous maintenance before you bought them is even more important.

I don’t know what this is… used oil?

“every car goes over a minimum of 3000 miles (6000 total) before he will change the oil” – this is unclear also. Does he change oil at 3k or 6k intervals? But 6k is OK for most cars, check the owner’s manual, what does it say?

What about the other maintenance items, like brake fluid, transmission fluid, antifreeze?

Plus 1 to billrussell. Most of what you mentioned is normal repairs not maintenance. My last work car had 530,000 miles on it with no engine problems with 3,000 mile oil changes. Trans fluid every 30,000. Depending on the car, I now change every 3000 or 5000 miles. Suit yourself though, and why in the world don’t you pay the guy for labor? No wonder he doesn’t like to do it very often.

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If you drive 150 miles per day, 5,000 miles between oil changes is ok imo. 6,000 is stretching it, but I doubt would cause any problems. 11,000 is too much though. You’ll get best results by simply following the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual. In your situation you may have to keep track of that yourself, and just communicate with your family member when something is due, and make sure they actually do it. You can fill your own window washer bottles, right? I presume you are saving some $$$ with the family member doing it, so appreciate that, and be wiling to do a few of the other chores that don’t really require a mechanic, like checking all the fluid levels frequently, do those yourself.

One thing you can do, make sure the proper fluids are being used, the exact one spec’d in the owner’s manual. You might be best to buy them yourself, and supply them to the person doing the work. Then you know they’ll all have the correct specs.

The problems you report above could well be normal wear and tear and would have happened whoever was taking care of your vehicles.

I strongly suggest you do more research when buying used vehicles. Not to pile on but Suzuki has left the US auto market so keeping a close watch on fluids and maintenance schedule is really important. Assuming you have a computer and know how to do spread sheets take the vehicle manual and make yourself a service guide. I am with Bing, why expect this family member to do this without some kind of monetary appreciation.

Factors that determine whether a vehicle will go long and trouble free include

  • maintenance
  • design and manufacture
  • driving environment (desert? city? highway? Arizona? Alaska?)
  • how the vehicle is driven (hard or soft)
  • and s*** luck.

With used cars the answers to all of these for the prior owner(s) is critical. But you can help skew your odds by getting the vehicle checked out thoroughly by a good garage, NOT buying a car if it already has a problem, and taking good care of it once you get it.

With new cars, you can improve your odds by gathering as much empirical data about different makes and models as you can and choosing from the best of the bunch, being OCD about maintenance, driving your car smartly (not beating on it), not lending it to friends, and making efforts to protect it from the environment. Like covering it when parked in Arizona or trying to find a parking space off the street in Boston.

Luck or the lack thereof is the only thing you cannot influence. But the truth is that the overwhelming majority of what happens has root causes in areas other than luck.

That might be just the engine and transmission mounts need to be replaced. The black smoke on start-up is probably the valve stem seals are leaking a little. That can be be fixed on some engines with the engine remaining in the car and not even having to remove the head.

The Durango is not a particularly reliable vehicle, however with regular oil changes it might not be knocking and blowing black smoke. Many regulars here change transmission fluid every 30,000 miles. I do 60,000 myself. You might not have had to replace the transmission. You buy cars with a lot of miles on them and drive a lot, that is a recipe for a lot of repairs but that can be minimized by rigorous maintenance . Don’t let antifreeze go past its change time, 2 years for the green stuff and 5 years for the extended life. When you have a brake job, have the brake fluid changed. I assume the Durango has 4 wheel drive, have the differential fluids changed on schedule.

The Nissan Versa is actually a Renault design and as such is Nissan’s least reliable car.

The Suzuki is probably the most reliable of the bunch but there are no dealers here and they didn’t sell a lot of them so junkyards are not full of parts. Rigorous maintenance will help minimize repairs.

With the mileage you drive , you might be money ahead and buy a new car or at least a 2 or 3 year old car from a make known for reliability. I can tell from the cars you buy that, like me. you like a bargain, but there is no cheap way to drive the kind of miles you do.

Have you considered moving closer to work? It would save you time and money.

What makes you say that?

Durango: Black exhaust smoke means the engine is burning too much fuel. It could be leaking injectors or as simple as a real dirty air filter. Run a bottle of fuel system cleaner with your next fill-up or two through the system. You can continue to drive the car if the smoke goes away after the engine warms up, but your gas mileage might suffer a bit.

You didn’t give much details about the knocking sound. Have you checked your shocks lately? Contrary what was said here, your Durango is a very reliable car as long as you take care of it and do the maintenance specified in the manual. I have a 1999 with 236K miles and it is serving me very well.

Nothing sounds crazy to me. Your dodge is 17 years old. Water pumps, hoses, and things like that go out over time. I have a 99 dodge with 100K and I have had to replace these items due to age. Dodge transmissions in the 98-00 range had many issues. Many failed early. getting 190K on it seems reasonable to me given the history of these transmissions.

3K oil changes is old recommendations. Now for conventional it is 5K and synthetics from 10K to 20K. I target changing mine at 15K for my smaller 4 cylinder cars that have huge commuting miles (40K per year). My dodge I target 5K but I don’t drive it but maybe 5K per year. Many of the miles on my dodge are pulling a horse trailer and more driving down dirt roads.

The transmission fluid on my toyota cars recommends to never be changed. I disregard that recommendation and I change it every 75K.

Shocks and struts go out when they go out. Mileage, age, and type of driving dictates the timing of replacing these types of items. Could be 60K miles or could be 200K miles.

My dodge, I have replaced the plugs and wires about every 30-50K miles. Recently had to replace plug wires early because a pack rat used them for a nest. My toyota has had plugs replaced about every 100K.

kurtwm2010 - Consumer Re[ports reliability charts, although I love Chrysler products for their comfort, ergonomics and performance, it has been a long time since they lead in reliability and I don’t think being bought by Daimler-Benz or Fiat has improved things. The idea that Fiat can help improve reliability is pretty funny to me.

These cars are costing you a bundle in repair cost. Get a Toyota!