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Servicing my Toyota...

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DEAR TOM AND RAY:
I OWN A 1986 TOYOTA COROLLA LE. I'VE READ THE OWNER'S MANUAL MANY TIMES. IN THE SCHEDULE OF MAINTENANCE, IT APPEARS THAT THERE IS MUCH LESS TO DO ON THIS CAR THAN ON ANY OTHER CAR I'VE OWNED. IS THIS POSSIBLE? MY LAST CAR WAS A 1978 PONTIAC PHOENIX. ARE ALL THE ITEMS THAT HAD TO BE ADJUSTED, CHANGED, CHECKED AND CLEANED THAT MUCH BETTER ON THE TOYOTA?
EUGENE

RAY: YOUR TOYOTA DOES REQUIRE LESS MAINTENANCE THAN YOUR PONTIAC DID, BUT IT WOULDN'T BE FAIR TO GENERALIZE ABOUT TOYOTA VS. PONTIAC OR JAPANESE VS. AMERICAN BASED ON YOUR EXPERIENCE. FIRST OF ALL, THE '78 PHOENIX WAS A TRANSITION CAR. IT WAS BUILT AT A TIME WHEN GENERAL MOTORS WAS TRYING TO MOVE FROM THE DARK AGES (THE '70S) TO THE MIDDLE AGES (THE EARLY '80S). IN OTHER WORDS, THE '78 PHOENIX WAS A REAL SLED.

TOM: YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES OF THIS CAR PROBABLY REVOLVE AROUND DRINKING COFFEE IN THE DEALER'S SERVICE AREA WAITING ROOM. THE TOYOTA, ON THE OTHER HAND, IS FROM ANOTHER ERA, AN ERA OF BETTER ENGINEERING.

RAY: MOST CARS HAVE IMPROVED SINCE 1978. THE PARTS ARE BETTER, AND THEY DO LAST LONGER. TUNE UPS ARE FEWER AND FARTHER BETWEEN. OIL CHANGE INTERVALS HAVE INCREASED (ALTHOUGH WE STILL RECOMMEND 3000 MILES). MANY CARS NO LONGER NEED TO BE GREASED PERIODICALLY, AND TRANSMISSION FLUID CAN LAST THE LIFE OF THE VEHICLE. IF YOU READ AN OWNERS MANUAL FROM A 1986 PONTIAC, YOU WOULD FIND THE SERVICING REQUIRED IS COMPARABLE TO YOUR TOYOTA.

TOM: WHILE MUCH OF THIS IS DUE TO MECHANICAL IMPROVEMENTS, SOME OF IT IS DUE TO MARKETING. CAR MAKERS LOOKING FOR THAT EXTRA EDGE IN RECENT YEARS HAVE SOUGHT TO IMPLY THAT THEIR CARS ARE MORE "MAINTENANCE FREE" THAN THEIR COMPETITORS'. THE PROBLEM IS THAT SIMPLY SHORTENING THE LIST IN THE OWNER'S MANUAL DOESN'T MAKE THE CAR MAINTENANCE FREE. THE ONLY CARS THAT WILL HOLD UP OVER TIME UNDER THESE CONDITIONS ARE THE ONES THAT WERE BUILT WELL TO BEGIN WITH. IN OUR EXPERIENCE, YOUR COROLLA IS ONE OF THEM.

RAY: JUST REMEMBER, EUGENE. MORE IMPORTANT THAN ADHERING TO THE MAINTENANCE SCHEDULE IS ADHERING TO THE MAINTENANCE SCHEDULE--IE., DON'T LOSE IT! WE SUGGEST YOU ADHERE IT TO DOOR OF YOUR GLOVE COMPARTMENT FOR SAFE KEEPING.
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