A little ol' lady in tennis shoes...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

I'm a "little ol' lady in tennis shoes" who drives 3,500 miles a year in my 1988 Volvo 240. I service it every year, but now, with14,000 miles on the car, the dealer is suggesting the following: 1) Renew brake fluid. 2) Flush cooling system and add new coolant. 3) Service transmission. Do I really need all of these things done since I have so few miles on the car?

TOM: Well, Sarah, these services are normally done at about 30,000 miles. But even though you've driven less than half that far, we'd recommend at least one of them anyway.

RAY: The brake fluid itself never wears out, but condensation can build up in the metal brake lines, the master cylinder, and the calipers. That can cause rust, which will shorten the lives of all of these pieces. So for that reason, we recommend changing the brake fluid every few years. So go ahead and do that.

TOM: But don't change the coolant just yet. There are two reasons for changing it after 30,000 to 50,000 miles. First, the rust inhibitors in the coolant can start to run out. And second, you want to drain out any rust particles that have formed, to keep them from plugging up the tiny cooling passages.

RAY: Our feeling is that while time (that is, years) does have an effect on how fast you use up the rust inhibitors, mileage is more important. So I'd have a mechanic you trust take off the radiator cap and take a quick look. If the coolant basically looks clean, I'd wait and flush it when you get to 30,000 miles.

TOM: And I'd wait until 30,000 before changing the transmission fluid, too. Volvo recommends you service it at 30,000 miles, and that's clearly dependent on mileage rather than time.

RAY: According to our calculations, you ought to hit that 30,000 mark on June 6, 1996. But I'd go ahead and make a service appointment now. Who knows? They might be busy that week.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One