Normal? Not, Really…

Written by mitch on. Posted in Uncategorized

There are people in the world who are only too willing to stop and explain how to build an atomic clock when all you really want to know is the time. All things being equal, I’d rather not be counted among them!

My goal is to help you make some sense out of vehicle maintenance so you can make intelligent choices and manage your decisions wisely. Contrary to popular belief, most of us – repair professionals, like me – would much rather deal with an educated consumer. It’s just plain easier when you not only know what we’re doing, but understand why we feel compelled the service we’re suggesting – whatever it may be – is so important to the safe and economical operation of the vehicle.

In the previous blog post we talked about the Owner’s Manual and all the services that can be found there. I suggested that any service that appears in the “book” as a Scheduled Maintenance item can and should be considered Required. The rationale is simple – if you agree that whoever built that vehicle wants you to believe it is the most intelligent purchasing decision you’ve ever made: that it will be the longest lasting, best running, most powerful and most cost-effective vehicle you’ve ever owned – it is only reasonable to assume there is nothing they would put there that isn’t absolutely necessary.

If it has a cost associated with it and wasn’t absolutely necessary it just plain wouldn’t be there!

So, if the manual is telling you that “normal service” dictates that you rotate your tires, check more than a dozen systems for wear, condition and performance, replace your air filter, cabin filter, oil and oil filter at 30,000 miles, 60,000, and then again at 90,00 miles – with a timing belt – and, then again every 30,000 miles thereafter, there is a reason: there are reasons. The same reasons that suggest the oil and filter should be changed every 7,500 if you are operating that vehicle under “normal conditions,”and therein lies another problem.

We all think our driving conditions are normal because our driving habits and conditions are normal for us!

However, forty-six years of experience has taught me that almost no one actually reads the manual and no one’s driving conditions are normal, at least not here in Southern California! And, if they do read the Owner’s Manual, they almost never seem to reach the section that talks about the difference between Normal and Severe Driving Conditions: the paragraph the differences are defined and explained. If they did, they would realize almost instantly that, by definition, virtually all driving in Southern California is severe… And, that severe driving conditions demand a more comprehensive and aggressive service schedule, both with regard to the services necessary and/or their frequency.

What exactly defines “Severe” Service?

Some conditons are obvious, like driving on less than ideal surfaces: off-road, on dirt or gravel surfaces, or under severe weather conditions: extreme heat or extreme cold, temperature swings of more than thirty degrees in a twenty-four hour period – think about last night, yesterday afternoon and this morning, etc. But, others are a little less than obvious.

We take traffic for granted in Sounthern California. It’s a fact of life: a ‘given.’ Creeping along in traffic for extended intervals, twice a day, every day, five-days a week, may define normal driving conditions for you, but it isn’t exactly normal for the vehicle. Having purchased your vehicle with a ‘towing package’ doesn’t necessarily mean towing is normal either. It isn’t, and consequently requires a different level of care.

And, while we’re on the subject of Normal versus Severe, you should know that while the Severe Service Schedule may have additional services listed and/or more aggresive intervals, there might be services listed in the Normal Service Schedule that are equally as important but do not appear in the Severe Service Schedule and should still be performed regularly, like tire rotations, etc.

The bottom line is simple. The more proactive and aggressive you are with maintenance, the less you will be spending on costly and unscheduled break-downs. More than that, maintenance can be scheduled. Break-downs by definition are not!

They tell the story of a very religious fellow who was stranded at sea after his boat sank. He prayed, and prayed fervently for God to save him. A ship passed by, but he refused to hail it knowing God would intervene.

Another ship came close, and another, but he did nothing. Finally, the sea took him and he drowned. When he arrived in Heaven he went straight to the Almighty and demanded to know why his prayers had not been answered. God looked at him, shook His head and smiled, then quietly said, “You know, I sent three ships… You ignored each one of them. You should have made the effort to meet me halfway!”

So the best advice anyone can give you is make the effort when it comes to maintenance! You may not be saved, but you will be rewarded!

Thanks for dropping by…

The next few blogs will address a number of different services: what’s being done and why it’s important.

Till then, stay well and take care.

** photo credit: Mark Trayhurn:

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I am a fourth generation, forty-sixy year veteran of the automotive aftermarket: an ASE Certified Master Technician, Service Consultant and Approved Automotive Manager. I grew up in this business with a passion for all things mechanical, particularly those things relating to performance. That passion grew to include all aspects of management, leadership and personal development with a special focus on every day shop operations which resulted in an eight-volume series on automotive shop management published by Cengage Learning and Thomson Publishing. I have been a trade journalist writing to the aftermarket for almost thirty years, devoting my professional life to improving both the image and experience of everyone struggling to succeed in the service industry and I've worked diligently to improve communication and increase understanding between all segments of my industry. This site and everything on it is both an extension and a continuation of those efforts

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