Mannheim (dpa) – Whether you have a new or old car, there’s no way around the need for regular vehicle inspections. While mileage used to be the key factor in deciding when a check-up was necessary, almost all modern-day cars report any issues to the driver through indications in the cockpit.
“There’s no such thing as a maintenance-free car, and regular inspection is vital to ensure vehicle safety,” says Dietmar Clysters of the German Automobile Industry Association.
“There’s usually a distinction to be made between minor and major inspections,” explains Herbert Engelmohr from a major German automobile club. Minor inspection can include a basic inspection of engine oil, brake fluid and water, as well as an oil change in some cases. In addition, the air filter and the tyres can also be looked over.
“The more thorough inspections also involve checks of the axles, body, engine and transmission,” says Engelmohr.
Depending on the manufacturer, checklists for major inspections range from 30 to 40 points. In general, most carmakers suggest taking a car in for an inspection at 30,000 kilometres on the odometer, or a year after purchase – whichever comes first.
While inspection intervals used to be based purely on mileage, inspections today are often based on actual wear-and-tear. Audi, for example, has made a distinction between oil changes and vehicle inspections, resulting in two separate service timelines.
“The oil change interval is very flexible, because it depends heavily on the driving profile, which is captured by the engine electronics,” notes Audi spokesman Josef Schlossmacher.
Once inspection time rolls around, the driver can choose between workshops. Prices fluctuate according to what the manufacturer requires at inspections. In general, independent mechanics are cheaper than the dealership workshops.
The cost of an inspection hasn’t gone down at all in the past 10 years, says Schlossmacher, not least because car’s mechanical and electronic systems have become more and more complex.
It’s especially unwise to skip inspections. “If you do not keep to the manufacturer’s inspection schedule, you risk eliminating your car’s warranty,” says Clysters. Leased vehicles in particular tend to have a fixed mileage limit between inspections, which drivers should be careful not to exceed.
In addition, consistent entries in a car’s service booklet can increase the value of a car, making a strong argument for a higher re-selling price.
Those who want to save money by conducting parts of the inspection on their own are advised to do so very carefully. “Do-it-yourself vehicle maintenance is hardly possible these days. Even the antifreeze for the radiator today uses very specialized coolants,” says Clysters. If you make a mistake here, you could risk major engine damage.
The ADAC, Germany’s largest automobile club, believes that the near future will see a car’s maintenance and repair needs sent online from the manufacturer’s database to an affiliated workshop. The workshop will then contact the customer directly with a possible dates and times for their next inspection.