What maintenance is necessary?

So, I have posed this questions to numerous people and they all give me a different answer. What maintenance is necessary? I have a 2005 Chevy Malibu and I always change the oil every 3,000 miles, and have the tires rotated and balanced every 6,000 miles. I also have the alignment done whenever necessary. The air filter is always changed if the mechanic recommends it.

So, I always get the basics done. But what about the following: fuel filter replacement, automatic transmission flush/replacement, antifreeze flush/replacement, differential fluid flush/replacement, power-steering fluid flush/replacement?

The only thing my owner’s manual recommends is a “automatic transaxle service” every 50,000 miles under severe conditions only (which I don’t think I qualify for) and a cooling system service every 150,000 miles. Does this mean I can ignore everything but the owner’s manual until my mechanic recommends it when during my routine oil changes? Also, what are people’s opinion’s of transmission service. To flush or not to flush? I have heard you should always do it every 60,000, then others say never do it because it will never be the same.

Sorry about the long question.

You’ll hear a range of opinions here, too. I would follow the manual, with the addition of following the 50k trans service. If you aren’t ‘severe service’, why do you do 3000 mile oil changes? 5000 may be plenty often-doesn’t your Malibu have a service reminder? If so, I would follow it. You do not need to have the tires rebalanced every rotation, unless you lose a weight. As for coolant, you could change more often if it makes you feel better, same with brake fluid. 50k miles would be a convenient time. I think your differential uses the same fluid as your transmission, and I don’t worry about power steering fluid.

Key question-how long do you plan to keep it? This level of maintenance is for those in it for 10+ years. If you’re selling after 5, stick to the manual.

I concur, how long do you plan on keeping it? If only another 2-5 years honestly follow the schedule to a tee and don’t worry.

First the own’s manual is the minimum. Never do anything less. I would strongly suggest the severe conditions recommendation for the transmission for sure and I would also do it for the cooling system as well. I would not flush, at least not without first dropping the pan and cleaning the filter.

[i] Also, what are people's opinion's of transmission service. To flush or not to flush? I have heard you should always do it every 60,000, then others say never do it because it will never be the same. 


This story can be tracked back to those who have never done any transmission service until after they suspect they are having a problem.  So then they service it and when it dies 5,000 miles later they blame the service rather than admitting the real problem which was the lack of service over the first 150,000 miles. Once you see a problem damage has already been done.

To answer your questions, a fuel filter is a good, cheap preventative measure to prevent problems with the injectors and fuel pump. I would do that every year or two. A transmission flush is definitely cheap insurance against very expensive transmission failure and I would do that every 50,000 miles. Your differential is a part of your transmission (transaxle) so that is a wash. I would definitely shorten the service interval for the coolant flush. Dex-Cool has a bad habit of sludging up and eating gaskets. I suggest a coolant flush every 2-3 years for anybody, regardless of what their car came with. As far as severe service goes, nearly everybody technically falls into that category. If your driving is limited to only highway driving in the spring and fall, you qualify for the ‘normal’ service schedule. Any city driving, winter driving, or dirt roads will all put you in the ‘severe’ schedule.

Here is what I’ve observed over the years.

Fuel Filter: The recommended interval on my 98 Pathfinder is every 50k miles. I change it once a year (every 30-40k miles) and it’s FILTHY. Some gas stations do a better job of filtering the gas before it goes in your tank then other gas stations do.

Transmission Flush: My 4runner use the new WD type fluid. It’s suppose to last the life of the vehicle. I had it changed at 100k miles…it was FILTHY. I’ll NEVER leave it in there that long ever again.

Differential Fluid Flush: For most vehicles this isn’t needed. The fluid should last the life of the vehicle. Since I do some towing and off-roading…I change mine every 100k miles or so with a full synthetic.

Power Steering Fluid Flush: Probably never needed.

Brake Fluid Flush: This should be done every 50-100k miles. Brake Fluid will absorb water this water can deteriorate the brake system.