Dealer always suggest more routine maintenance services than my owner's manual. Necessary?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

I took my Dodge Caravan into the dealer for the
15,000-mile maintenance, expecting to have only
the five items taken care of that are listed on
the owner's manual maintenance schedule: 1)
Inspect and Adjust Drive Belts, 2) Check Engine
Coolant Level, Clamps and Coolant Hoses, 3)
Change Engine Oil, 4) Change Oil Filter, 5)
Check Exhaust System.

I was surprised when they said there were 15
services required -- at a cost of $214.69. When
I asked if all of those things were needed for
warranty purposes, they said yes. I've enclosed
the invoice and maintenance schedule. Was all of
this really necessary, or was it just to keep
the servicemen busy? -- Carl

TOM: Did you have a bell around your neck when
you walked in there, Carl? Because these guys
definitely milked you!

RAY: In my opinion, they were certainly
overzealous in their concern for the maintenance
of your car.

TOM: Some of the things they did were almost
certainly not necessary. It's highly unlikely
that you needed new spark plugs at 15,000 miles.
Those should last 30,000 miles.

RAY: And the automatic transmission shouldn't
need to be serviced at 15,000 miles. They gave
you a complete transmission service and fluid
change, which was almost certainly not

TOM: It's also unlikely that you needed a new
PCV valve after only 15,000 miles. But these
guys put one in anyway.

RAY: Then there are things that you MAY not have
needed, like the air filter. That's a call your
mechanic makes once he looks at your old filter.
And there's no way for US to know whether they
saw a clean filter or a dirty one when they
looked under your hood.

TOM: Then there's rotating the tires. I have no
objection to rotating the tires at 15,000 miles.
In fact, it's probably a pretty good idea. But
according to your invoice, they also charged you
for servicing the brakes, which means they had
the wheels off anyway!
So they charged you $13.50 to roll the tires 10
feet around the car and put them on somewhere
else. Nice, huh?

RAY: None of the things they did will harm your
car in any way, Carl. It's just that they
weren't all necessary. And they're not all
required for "warranty purposes."

TOM: If you do the maintenance that's listed in
the owner's manual (those five areas you list in
your letter), your warranty is valid. And you
may be interested to know that you don't have to
have that work done by the dealer, either. So
there's no need to go back and reward these guys
with your business if you feel like you were
given the Bovine Morning Lactose Removal Ritual.

RAY: Just bring your maintenance list to any
mechanic you like. And keep your receipt for the
work in case you ever need to prove it was done.
Good luck, Carl.

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