The old saying goes “If it ain't broke, don’t fix it”. While that's good advice in many situations, scheduled maintenance for a vehicle is an exception to the rule.
“But my car runs great, why waste my money?” is a common rebuttal to a mechanic's suggestion to have scheduled maintenance performed. It's an understandable attitude, but you should be aware that regular maintenance prevents larger problems and tremendously increases the life of a car. The owner’s manual should provide recommendations for what should be done at specific mileage intervals, and you can void your car's warranty by not keeping up with regular scheduled maintence.
Common maintenance checks
Mechanics don't always agree on the ideal interval between oil changes, and it can vary between specific automobiles, but having it done every 5,000 miles is generally good. You can go a bit longer if you use full synthetic oil, but you should adhere to your manual's recommendation if your car is under warranty. Most shops will recommend that your oil be changed every 3,000 miles, but newer cars (10 years or newer) can usually go longer. If your vehicle is used for frequent towing, driven in heavy stop-and-go traffic, or frequently driven in extreme hot or cold weather, you should try to have an oil change every 3,000 miles.
The recommended interval between transmission fluid checks can vary widely depending on the car, so be sure to check the owner’s manual. Make sure you've had your transmission fluid changed at least once before your car hits 100k miles or many shops won’t touch it. Every mechanic have heard horry stories about cars that stop going into gear after the transmission fluid was changed on a car with more than 100,000 miles. Try to stick to your manual's recommendation. Once your transmission starts slipping, it's too late for a fluid change. By then, it’s time for a transmission repair shop. Much more expensive!
Cars need to have their coolant system flushed at regular intervals in order to run properly. This intervals also varies depending on the vehicle and the type of fluid that you use, and it's common for mechanics to see a rush of people wanting fluid changes just before winter. Coolant not only keeps your engine from freezing in cold weather, but it also helps it run cooler in the hotter months. When old coolant fluid begins to break down, it wreaks havoc on the entire cooling system and may lead to engine failure from overheating.
Brake fluid changes are often overlooked by automobile owners. Some manufactures do not even mention brake fluid changes in their list of recommended scheduled maintenance, but it should be performed at regular intervals (approximately 30k miles) for maximum performance. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means it attracts moisture. As water gets into the system, your fluid's boiling point is lowered, ultimately resulting in loss of braking power. Brake fluid also picks up copper from fittings in the braking system. Copper and water debris can dry out rubber seals leading to leaks, and ultimately, a shorter than necessary brake life.