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My fiancee and I are interested in buying a new...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



My fiancee and I are interested in buying a new car. We have been impressed
with the new Chevy Malibu. I am concerned, however, about their boast that it
will not need a tune-up for 100,000 miles. Not only do they claim that the
platinum-tipped spark plugs will last that long, but they also claim that the
engine coolant will last five years or 150,000 miles, the timing will never
need to be adjusted, and the automatic-transmission fluid will never need
changing. Is Chevy for real, or are they just setting their customers up for
more "unscheduled maintenance" later? -- Tom

TOM: That's a very good question, Tom. As you know, part of this is driven by
marketing. Chevy wants to claim that its cars need virtually no maintenance
because that appeals to the people who might buy them. After all, who wants to
be taking a car in for service every few months, right? So you're smart to be
skeptical.

RAY: On the other hand, advances have been made in a number of areas which do
allow you to go longer without maintenance. In the old days, we used to change
oil every 500 miles. Now we recommend changing it every 5,000 miles, and some
people say even that's too often. And the change is due to advances in engine
technology and oil technology. So their claims are not necessarily poppycock.

TOM: The answer is that nobody really knows for sure. And we won't know for
sure for another 10 years or so, until a bunch of people like you serve as
guinea pigs. My guess is you can follow their maintenance schedule and you'll
probably get away with it, particularly if you only plan to keep the car for
100,000 miles. Any decent car will go 100,000 miles these days, even without a
lot of maintenance.

RAY: But if you plan on keeping a car longer than that, I'd take a little more
proactive approach to maintenance. If it were my car, I'd change the oil and
filter every 5,000 miles, the fuel filter and air filter every 30,000 miles,
and the transmission fluid and coolant every 60,000 miles. And I'd probably
"halve" most of their other recommendations.

TOM: And as for the spark plugs, if you wait until 100,000 miles before
changing them, you'll never get them out of the cylinder head! It'll be like
they're welded in. So make sure you have somebody take them out every 30,000
miles or so and -- if nothing else -- at least admire them.
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