You don’t have to be an expert to know that preventive maintenance is the best way to make sure your vehicle keeps running at its optimum level. Vehicles are machines and, over time, machines break down. When it comes to avoiding potentially expensive automotive repairs, there are steps you can take to protect your investment. Preventive Maintenance helps to prolong the life of your vehicle and to proactively resolve any potential issues. Our professional CARMAX Auto Technicians are trained on preventive maintenance measures, services and everything in between.
Choose from 2 categories of our YEARLY Service & Maintenance plans below…
CARMAX All–In One AUTOGUARD Plan (Service + Preventive Maintenance + All Parts + All Labour)
Choose CARMAX Preventive
“Vehicle maintenance is more than just oil changes and wheel alignments. CARMAX offers an extensive catalog of Manufacturer’s recommended Checks and Services for your vehicle, which keeps it running at its optimal level at all times.”
To get more details or to understand what any of our packages contain, simply call us to discuss the details of what you would prefer or
Our Maintenance Plans cover the following areas and more…
- Cabin Air Filter
- Cooling System
- Differential Service
- Engine Air Filter
- Fuel System
- Oil Change
- Serpentine Belt
- Spark Plugs
- Timing Belt
- Tire Rotation & Balancing
- Differential Service
- Windshield Wipers
It’s no surprise that your vehicle will drive better, if all the wheels are pointed in the same direction. That’s called wheel alignment. If your wheels are out of alignment you may notice that your vehicle pulls to one side or the other.
Something that you won’t notice right away, but you will if you keep driving when you’re out of alignment, is that your tires are wearing unevenly and fairly quickly. That’s because when the vehicle is pulling to one side, you have to steer it back straight. The outside of the tire just wears out fast because you’re constantly turning, which can be very exhausting on a long road trip – fighting to keep the vehicle going straight down the road.
Some of the things that commonly throw a wheel out of alignment are slamming into a pothole, smacking a curb or something like a rock. And it doesn’t have to be a big shock, it can just be the regular bumps and bangs of daily driving that add up and eventually take your vehicle out of alignment. That’s why your owner’s manual or service advisor may suggest having your alignment checked periodically.
With an alignment service, we measure each wheel’s alignment and to see where they are relative to factory specifications. While we have the vehicle on the alignment rack, we inspect the tires for wear as well as the suspension and steering components for damage or wear – things that can contribute to alignment problems. With some vehicles you can adjust all four wheels so we bring all wheels into alignment. On those vehicles where you can only adjust the front wheels, we bring the front into alignment relative to the rear.
If it’s been a while since you’ve had your wheels aligned, bring your vehicle for an alignment check.
Cabin Air Filter
Let’s talk about cabin air filters. There seems to be some confusion about them that we should be able to clear up. Much of the confusion starts because cabin air filters are relatively new. Not all vehicles have them, so some people confuse their cabin air filter with the engine air filter.
Every vehicle has an engine air filter that cleans the air going into the engine, but not all have a cabin air filter that cleans the air going into the passenger compartment. Easy to get mixed up.
The cabin air filter cleans out dust, pollen, spores and other pollutants. To give a point of comparison, a grain of sand is about 200 microns across. A cabin air filter can stop particles that are just 3 microns in size. It really does make the passenger cabin a much more pleasant environment.
When the cabin air filter gets dirty, you just need to replace it. Your owner’s manual may have a recommended interval for changing it. If not we can inspect it. You know, it’s ironic that many people who don’t realize they even have a cabin air filter first find out they do when it starts to get smelly.
Some cabin air filters are very easy to access when it’s time to replace them. Others, not so much. We may have to get behind the dashboard and it takes some time.
A clean cabin air filter keeps out smog, allergens and other harmful pollutants. If it’s time, get it changed right away.
We’re often asked questions about the cooling system – the system that cools your engine and keeps it at the proper operating temperature. Let’s examine the topic in two areas: first the coolant itself and, second, the parts that make up the cooling system.
The coolant is the mix of water and antifreeze that circulates through the engine to draw off heat. First, you need to have the proper amount. If you don’t have enough coolant it can’t keep your engine cool.
You also need the right kind of coolant. Different makes of vehicles require different coolant formulation to protect against corrosion.
Finally, your coolant needs to be fresh. Over time and miles, the anti-corrosion additives in the coolant are depleted and the coolant can actually start to eat away at the cooling system parts. Your owner’s manual and your service adviser can help you with the recommended coolant replacement schedule and make sure you’re getting the right type of coolant.
Now let’s talk about the cooling system components. These will all eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Starting with the radiator, we see them coming into the shop with leaks or clogged with deposits. Depending on the damage, we will clean, repair or replace. We also see radiator pressure caps that can no longer hold the proper pressure. We recommend replacing pressure caps when you change your coolant to avoid this problem. We see leaky water pumps and hoses that need to be replaced. There’s also a part called the thermostat that opens and closes to regulate the flow of coolant. Sometimes they stick open or closed and the cooling system won’t work properly.
Engine damage from overheating can be very expensive to fix so it’s important to maintain your cooling system properly with scheduled coolant replacement and periodic inspections of the cooling system. Certainly come in if you suspect a leak and have us take a look.
When you take a corner in your car, the outside wheels have a slightly longer distance to go than the inside wheels. That means that the outside wheels have to turn a bit faster than the inside. The piece of mechanical wizardry that makes this possible is called the differential.
The differential allows the drive wheels to rotate at different speeds in turns without the wheel binding or hopping. If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the differential is on the rear axle. You’ve seen that bulge in the middle of the axle when you’re behind a truck – that’s the differential.
If you have a front-wheel drive vehicle, the differential function is handled by your transaxle. Of course, all-wheel drive vehicles have differentials on both axles. They also have a center differential or a transfer case between the front and rear axles to compensate for speed differences between the front and rear.
Because all the power of the engine is transferred through the various differentials, you can imagine that they are very strong and are built last a long time. That’s why it’s important to keep your differential properly lubricated. Differential fluid cools and protects the gears.
Your service technician will check differential fluid level and top it off if necessary. With low fluid, the differential will run too hot and wear prematurely. Ask your service advisor for when it’s recommended to change your differential fluid. Fresh fluid will extend the life of your differential. Your technician will also inspect the u-joints which connect your drive shaft to the differential and may recommend service. Some u-joints can be lubricated as part of a routine lube, oil and filter change as well.
Now, of course differentials eventually wear out and need to be replaced. You might notice a strange noise from you axle area as one of the first warning signs. When the differential shows signs of failing, it’s important to repair it. If you leave it too long and it freezes up when you’re driving you could lose control of your vehicle and other parts like the axle, driveshaft and transmission could be damaged.
Engine Air Filter
The Engine Air Filter is the filter that cleans the air before it’s burned in your engine. People wonder how often they should change their engine air filter. The simple answer is when it’s dirty. That’s a function of how much air has passed through the filter, so your manufacturer will recommend a mileage interval for replacing the air filter. But you can imagine that how dirty the air is would affect how quickly the filter gets filled.
If you drive where there’s lots of dust and pollution your engine air filter will get dirty more quickly and need to be changed sooner. That’s why we check the air filter with every full-service oil change. We can visually tell if the filter needs to be changed.
Your filter can only hold so much dirt. Once the filter is full, dirt will pass through to the engine. This dirt gums up the combustion chamber and hurts fuel economy and may cause damage. It can also contaminate the Mass Air Flow Sensor which will affect drivability and can be fairly expensive to replace.
A dirty air filter would also restrict the amount of air that gets to the engine which Impairs fuel economy. We can replace your engine air filter with one that matches the factory specifications or you can upgrade your filter for enhanced performance.
So when your service advisor shows you your dirty air filter, you know how important it is to get it replaced.
The Fuel system starts with the fuel tank. The fuel pump is located inside the tank and pumps fuel out to the engine. Somewhere along the way is a fuel filter whose job is to filter out dirt before it hits the engine. Then there’s the fuel intake system and the fuel injectors that deliver the fuel to be burned in the engine.
Our focus is to discuss how to make the various components of your fuel system work well and last as long as possible. Now the best thing you can do for your fuel pump is to use good quality fuel. Top tier gas typically has fewer contaminants and more detergents to keep things clean. Using good gas, or adding a fuel system cleaner to your tank, can prolong the life of your fuel pump. Because the fuel pump lives inside your tank, it’s pretty expensive to replace, so helping it last as long as possible is a worthwhile goal.
The fuel filter catches dirt and contaminants. When it’s clogged, your engine may not be able to get enough fuel and could sputter. Many fuel filters have a bypass valve that allows unfiltered fuel past when the filter’s clogged. That prevents your engine from dying while you’re driving, but it can’t protect your engine from dirty fuel. Check your owner’s manual or talk with your service advisor about when you should replace your fuel filter.
Now fuel will cause gum and varnish to build up in the fuel intake system. A professional fuel system cleaning will remove the gunk to keep fuel flowing freely and help prevent contamination from reaching your fuel injectors and your engine.
Fuel injectors squirt fuel into the engine. The fuel must be delivered in a precise amount, at a precise time, under precise pressure and in a precise pattern. Pressure can range from 45 pounds per square inch to 45,000 pounds per square inch depending on the engine. As you may guess, fuel injectors cost a lot. Allowing them to get gummed up will not only hurt your performance and fuel economy, it will cause the injectors to wear out much more quickly than they should.
A professional fuel system cleaning will keep injectors clean and working correctly. It’ll also clean deposits from the inside of the combustion chamber and off the intake valves giving you optimum performance and mileage. Check with your service advisor and see when he recommends you get a fuel system cleaning.
An oil change: Sounds simple, but there’s some pretty important things to know about preventing oil sludge.
Oil eventually starts to turn into jelly. Literally – petroleum jelly. Sludge clogs up oil passages and keeps oil from getting to some areas of the engine, causing parts to wear out prematurely. And that means expensive engine repairs.
That’s why you need to change the oil and oil filter on schedule – to get the old oil out before it turns to sludge. Your manufacturer will have a recommendation for how many miles you can go between oil changes. They also usually have a number of months between recommended oil changes. That’s because the detergents and other additives in the oil break down over time.
Your owner’s manual will have a recommendation for time and mileage, but you need to remember that it’s based on using the recommended weight of oil. And if your vehicle came from the factory with synthetic oil, the recommended intervals assume you continue to use synthetic.
Also how you drive can have a big effect. Most owner’s manuals will have a list of driving conditions that are harder on your vehicle. Things like stop and go driving, short trips, driving in very hot or very cold weather, heavy loads and towing. If some of your driving fits this, you may need to change your oil and do other maintenance on a shorter schedule.
This may sound complicated. Some vehicles have an oil life calculator that takes all of these factors into account and tells you when you should change your oil. Otherwise, talk with your service advisor about how you drive and get their recommendation for when to take care of your service.
Finally, if any of the steering or suspension parts can be lubed, your technician will take care of that with a lube, oil and filter service.
You know that long belt that snakes around the front of your engine? It’s called the serpentine belt. The belt’s driven by the engine as it turns. It powers your alternator, air conditioning compressor, and power steering pump. On some vehicles it also runs the water pump, radiator fan, and power brakes. Sounds like a lot of important stuff doesn’t it?
If your serpentine belt were to break, your battery would die in a few miles. If it runs your fan or water pump, your engine could overheat. And steering and braking could be more difficult. Obviously, the best thing is to replace your serpentine belt before it breaks.
Check your owner’s manual for when it’s recommended to replace your serpentine belt – or just ask your service advisor. He can inspect the belt as well to see if it’s in trouble. You may have been told to look for cracks in your belt to see if it needs to be replaced. Of course, cracks are still a concern, but modern belt material doesn’t crack as often as old belts did. What we look for these days is the thickness of the belt. We have a special little tool that measures the depth of the grooves in the belt to see if it needs replacing.
A worn belt can slip or be misaligned, putting undue stress on the accessories it runs.
Now you can imagine it’s important for the belt to be tight, so there’s a tensioner pulley on your engine that puts pressure on the belt to keep it at the right tension. The spring on the tensioner wears out over time so we recommend replacing the tensioner pulley at the same time as the serpentine belt.
Replacing your serpentine belt on schedule, or when an inspection warrants it, will keep you from an unexpected breakdown.
The days when you changed your spark plugs every couple of years has ended. Back in the day, spark plugs really did wear out that often. A couple of things are different now. First, spark plugs are made of better materials that last longer and they’re designed better. The second reason that plugs used to have to be changed was that they were fouled up with carbon deposits. The deposits built up when fuel wasn’t burned completely. With modern engine management controls that just doesn’t happen as often.
Engine control computers precisely time when fuel is injected into the engine and when spark plugs fire. Unless something’s wrong, spark plugs just don’t foul like they used to.
Electricity from the battery goes into a coil that allows power to build up to anywhere from 12,000 to 45,000 volts, depending on the vehicle. The engine management computer tells the coil when to release the power to the spark plug. The electricity travels through a wire from the coil to the spark plug. At the tip of the plug, a spark jumps between two electrodes and ignites the gas in the combustion chamber.
Some engines have more than one coil. Coils wear out and need to be replaced occasionally. Also, spark plug wires can wear out and need to be replaced.
Modern engines are delivering more power and better fuel economy all the time. That’s largely credited to fast engine control computers, advanced sensors, electronic ignition and improvements to the lowly spark plug.
It’ll be interesting to see where future developments take us. One last thought: it’s critically important to have the right kind of spark plug for your vehicle. Because engines are designed to run with different internal temperatures, spark plugs have different designs to work properly within those temperatures. Your service advisor will be able to get the right plugs for your vehicle. And he’ll be able to advise you on when you should replace your spark plugs as well.
Steering is one of the things we take for granted in our vehicles. Let’s break it down into two areas: first, the power assist and second the actual parts that steer the vehicle.
Most people under 40 have never driven a car or truck without power steering. Most vehicles today have a hydraulic power steering pump that provides boost to help you steer. The pump is usually driven by the serpentine belt, but some newer vehicles have an electric pump. Some vehicles even have an electric motor that directly powers the steering.
The important thing to keep in mind is that these pumps and motors will eventually wear out and the hoses will start to leak. You can postpone that day by having a power steering service from time to time. We will drain the old fluid and replace it with fresh fluid. This removes water and contaminants that can corrode power steering parts. Ask your service advisor for the recommended change interval.
What about the mechanical steering parts? Is there anything you can do to maintain them? Yes. If any of the steering parts can be lubed, your technician will take care of that with a lube, oil and filter service. Other than that, just watch for signs that parts are wearing out. Things like loose steering and uneven tire wear.
Worn parts can be replaced to get you back on the road. Now, sometimes parts can be bent or damaged from hitting potholes, curbs or rocks. It’s important to take care of these problems early on. If you neglect them, the damaged parts stress other attached components which starts a chain reaction of damage.
Steering maintenance is pretty straight forward: Replace power steering fluid as recommended and fix worn or damaged parts right away. That’ll save you money in the long run.
Let’s address a very important maintenance item – timing belt replacement. It’s important because letting this one slide can lead to very expensive engine damage.
Your timing belt choreographs the timing of your combustion process. Your pistons travel up and down in the cylinder. Intake valves open at the right time to let in air and fuel, they close at the right time to allow the fuel to burn and then the exhaust valves open at the right time to let out the exhaust.
All this happens thousands of times a minute and it’s your timing belt that makes sure the valves are opening and closing at precisely the right time. If the timing is off, your engine won’t run. And that’s the best case.
The worst case is that a valve is opening at the wrong time and collides with the piston. The result is bent valves and maybe even more damage to the cylinder head. Repairs can run several thousand dollars.
Now, timing belts just wear out naturally so you want to replace a worn belt before it slips or breaks. Check your owner’s manual or with your service advisor to see when they recommend you replace the timing belt. If you’ve never replaced your timing belt and have 60,000 or more miles on the clock, talk with your service advisor right away to see if you’re due.
On some engines, the water pump is driven by the timing belt as opposed to the serpentine belt. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to replace the water pump when you’re replacing the timing belt, and vice versa since much of the same work has to be done for either. The same is true for the timing belt tensioner – it should be inspected and possibly replaced.
Now, replacing a timing belt is one of the more expensive routine maintenance items on your service schedule. But not replacing your timing belt can lead to some of the most expensive repairs you’re likely to ever have.
Tire Rotation & Balancing
You can make your tires last longer with regular tire rotation and wheel balancing. Let’s start with tire rotation. In normal driving, your front tires wear more on the shoulders because they handle much of the cornering forces in turns. Front-wheel drive vehicles have even more force on the front tires.
We rotate the tires so that all of the tires do some duty on the front end as well as getting a little break on the back end. That way, all four tires wear more evenly over their life and last longer. Tires always rotate front to back.
For most vehicles, tires are rotated front to back. Some manufacturers recommend a cross rotational pattern that includes the spare tire and some high-performance vehicles have different size tires on the front and rear and may even have uni-directional tires that can only be on the left or the right side of the vehicle. Your service advisor can help you sort that out and will perform the right tire rotation for your vehicle.
Your tire manufacturer will have a recommendation for how often you should rotate your tires. It’s usually somewhere around 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
Let’s move on to wheel balancing. That’s when there are heavy spots on the tire and wheel that cause it a bit of wobble. Balancing adds weights to the wheel to balance it out. Now, we are talking about very small weight differences. Variations in the tire and wheel manufacture can cause a slight imbalance. The valve stem, and now the tire pressure monitoring sensors in the tire, also play into the equation.
Even small differences can cause annoying vibrations at speed: the wheel is essentially bouncing a bit as it goes down the road. For example, at freeway speeds, an out of balance wheel can be slamming into the road 14 times a second. That’s annoying and can cause your tires to wear out more quickly.
If a front wheel’s out of balance you’ll feel the vibration through the steering wheel. When it’s a rear tire, you’ll feel the vibration through your seat. If you’re getting bad vibes from your vehicle, bring it in to see if it’s a balance issue or something else. You should balance your wheels whenever you get a new tire or remount a tire like when it’s been removed for a flat repair.
You may not know much about transfer cases, but if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you’ve got one. It makes sure you have power available for both the front and rear axles. For example, if you have a rear-wheel drive SUV, power goes to the rear wheels until you need 4-wheel drive. That’s when the transfer case steps in and transfers some of the power to the front wheels as well. You might use a shift lever to go into 4-wheel drive, or it could be a button on the dash or it might even go into 4-wheel drive automatically, depending on your vehicle.
The transfer case is serviced by periodically draining its fluid and replacing it with fresh fluid. We also check for leaks and damage. Transfer case fluid cools and lubricates the gears, chains, bearings, shafts and other parts. Over time, the additives in the fluid wear out and it doesn’t protect as well. Also, bits of metal and clutch material wear off and contaminate the fluid. Look, there isn’t a filter in the transfer case, so if the contamination is allowed to stay for too long, it’ll further accelerate wear.
Now, your owner’s manual may not have a recommended interval for when you should change your transfer case fluid – so ask your service advisor. There are several things that affect how often you should change the fluid, so tell her how much you use 4-wheel drive, if you drive in wet environments like crossing streams or through mud and snow. That kind of stuff really shortens the drain interval.
Transfer case parts will eventually wear out and you’ll have to make repairs. But properly servicing your transfer case will keep that day as far in the future as possible.
Transmissions are heavy duty pieces of equipment that are designed to last a long time. But like any other machine, they’ll eventually wear out and need repair. So let’s focus on what you can do to push that day off as far as possible.
The first thing you can do is to make sure your transmission always has enough fluid. Transmission fluid cools and lubricates the transmission. When there’s not enough fluid, the transmission will run hotter and wear out sooner. The transmission fluid also provides the pressure needed to transfer power from the engine to the transmission. Not enough fluid, and your transmission won’t shift properly.
We will check your transmission fluid level with a full service oil change and top it off if needed. If you see any transmission fluid on the driveway – it’s a reddish color – have us inspect it for a leak. A gasket, hose or seal could be leaking and may need to be repaired.
The next thing you can do to prolong the life of your transmission is to replace your transmission fluid on schedule. As you can imagine, all those gears grinding on each other result in lots of little bits of metal in the fluid. The more there is, the faster the transmission parts will wear out. Transmission fluid also contains detergents and other additives to protect your transmission. These additives are depleted over time, so old fluid doesn’t protect as well as new fluid. Your owner’s manual or service advisor will have a recommendation for when you should have a transmission service.
If your transmission isn’t shifting as smoothly as it should, or if you suspect a transmission leak, let us take a look at it. And ask if it’s time for a transmission service. Regular maintenance and taking care of small leaks right away will help your transmission last as long as possible.
We’re going to talk about windshield wiper blades. Now that may seem like a pretty mundane topic, but think about how important your vision is: We protect our eyes. If we need contacts or glasses, we taking care of them too. And, well, wiper blades are critical to our vision when we drive.
We really ought to think about wipers as part of an important safety system. We should think about maintaining safety – not just responding when our wiper blades fail: how many times have you been caught off-guard by the first storm of the season with a streaky windshield you can barely see out of? Or with no washer fluid.
Wiper blades live outside the vehicle, exposed to heat and sun in the summer and cold and ice in the winter. It’s no wonder that they get dry, brittle and torn.
We recommend changing wiper blades twice a year – before they’re so damaged that they don’t work. If you replace them in one of your spring and fall oil changes, you should always have wiper blades that can get the job done.
Some of us live in areas with more extreme weather and temperature conditions. You might just live somewhere where it rains more so your blades wear out faster, or you travel a lot and use your wipers to clean bugs and road grime.
If that’s the case, consider a premium grade wiper. There are special wiper material compounds, blade designs and wiper arms that really improve your vision in adverse conditions. There are even special winter blades that don’t get all clogged up with ice and snow.
We can also apply a special windshield treatment that repels rain, sleet and snow as you drive. The increased visibility can improve your driving response time.
When it comes to wiper blades, it’s important to think of it as maintaining this safety component by replacing your blades before they fail. That’ll keep you seeing clearly in all conditions.