By October 11, 2013 19 Comments Read More →

Car Maintenance at the Dealership

Hi there!  Before I begin let me first say I have nothing personally against the dealerships….mostly. I do like to refer my online customers there for tricky problems that require the latest tools and mechanical knowledge to diagnose problems.

But, as in this video I do not recommend the new car dealer for routine maintenance items.  Here are just a few things why I don’t recommend them for maintenance service.

1. Their labor rates are usually higher than other repair shops

2. They love to bundle their “scheduled maintenance packages” into one fixed price

3. Their maintenance packages are usually full of “inspect this” “check that” and not much “replace this” “replace that” language.

So as this short video I made below will explain, you are paying a lot of money for a lot of minor inspections which really could and SHOULD be done during a routine oil change.

So if you still want to go to the dealership for service, that is fine, just read the fine print of what you are paying for in advance and decline most of the inspections that come with a fee attached to them unless you really need to pay for that individual inspection.



I made my own generic maintenance schedules that you can print out and take to your mechanic to go over. Most of the items SHOULD be done for free during a routine oil change if you have a good mechanic who wants your business.



Austin C. Davis

About the Author:

Austin Davis, consumer car repair advocate. "Hi there! I love to help people solve their car repair problems and I hope my site was helpful to you today. Thank you for stopping by."
  • Anna

    I totally agree with you Mr. Davis, great information!

  • Austin Davis

    Thanks for your comment Mary, very good idea indeed.

    This might help you as well. On older vehicles that are due for some up keep and maintenance, treat your vehicle as if you are looking for a used car to buy. Then use my used car check list to see how well it does and what work you spot that needs to be done.

    You can also use my personal maintenance schedules to help you determine what might need to be looked at as well.

  • Mary Harper

    Thank you for this important information. My situation is similar but I will not go to the dealer having watched your video. I have a 2002 Chevy Tahoe that is still running great as I keep the oil changed and do minor upkeep as needed. It is now starting to act it’s age and I think it could use some overhaul work and I was going to take it to the dealership. I think I would be better off having the mechanic who does my minor repairs check it over for me. He’s great at the small stuff so I think I’ll trust him to check what work might need to be done to keep my 11-year-old baby in tip top shape! Thanks Austin!

  • Austin Davis

    Thanks for your comment Bruce! I hear stories like that everyday, sadly.

  • Bruce McGovern

    I have always taken my 2002 Sienna with 198,000 miles on it to the dealer for repairs. I try to do the maintenance myself, except engine coolant and brake fluid replacement, maybe power steering fluid, where there is yukky stuff to dispose of.

    They do use new parts, and don’t try to sell me on trashy rebuilt parts, which for me is a big plus.

    Also, in McAllen there are good mechanics, but they are so busy they want you to leave your car indefinitely, and I have only one car. Toyota usually gets it out same day.

    In June this summer I had it in for a minor repair. When I picked it up, there was a recommendation for $1200 for fluid changes, which I had done like 25,000 miles ago. I was not happy.

    One was $250 for changing transmission fluid. I went and looked. I drain 3 quarts and refill every 15,000 or 20,000 miles. I went and looked at it and it looked perfectly clean. And, I have Mobil-1 synthetic ATF in there.

    Ditto for power steering fluid being clean.

    They hoped to play on my stupidity for $1200. I talked to the service writer, and he said, well, they said it was STARTING to look dirty. I suppose when it was brand new it was also starting to look dirty. I will take the car back if I need repairs again, but I will tell him to warn the mechanic not to try to pull fast ones on me again. Next time I am going to the owner himself.

  • Austin Davis

    Rich, thanks for sharing your comments!

    On your question about having to have documentation on every “check or inspect” item that is suggested by the dealer.

    This is my personal opinion, but having dealt with MANY car manufacturer/customer warranty complaints it seems to really boil down to this…..NEGLIGENCE.

    For example, Did you hear the water pump (or some loud noise under the hood) and suspected there was a problem but you continued to drive the vehicle normally until the water pump fell off thus causing damage to other components. That would be driver negligence and would/could void the warranty on that repair.

    Personally, just me personally I don’t think you need to document every darn inspection they ask for, they are covering their butts to say “we told ya so” but I don’t know of any dealership service writer/manager that would care if anyone previously inspected that item or not.

    They will ask, “how long has this been going on” trying to see if there is negligence or not, but even that is hard to prove.

    Even most fast lube places these days do a pretty good job at checking main underhood components and documenting any repairs that should be done or needed. Showing that you have been getting routine oil changes IN MY OPINION should be all you need to show.

    Most dealership service writers and managers know of the common repairs and component failures that each model is known for, and ask long as the manufacturer pays them for the repair they really don’t seem to care about anything else.

    That answer your question?


  • Austin Davis

    Thanks for your comments Terry.

    ON the oil light reset…..there can be 3 ways to do it….ya, silly huh. So hopefully 1 of them works for you and anyone else reading this with different year models:)

    1. Turn ignition to ON position, but engine is off – press accelerator down slowly 3 times within 5 seconds

    2. If you have a “driver info screen” with ignition ON but engine off, hold the set/reset button down for 5 seconds

    3. Push in and hold the odometer reset stem for 5 seconds

    Hope that helps

  • Rich

    Had a very similar experience at my car dealer. The service manager expressed concern that I had skipped their scheduled maintenance and that could cause warranty issues. We reviewed what had been done and I had requested a transmission fluid/filter change at 30k miles but that was it – they showed me their list and alongside the 25 check-this/that items was injector cleaning, and maybe one or two other things. I told them I’d look into it and possibly schedule follow-up.

    Then I went home and reviewed my own notes and the manufacturer recommendations. The only serious item required at 30k was the transmission/filter which was done and one or two other things that I had done myself, and the rest were just inspections. None of the inspections looked like anything requiring substantial disassembly either. I’m sure the dealer did those checks anyway even if I didn’t ask for them – if they spotted something they could have gotten paid for it (especially under warranty), and the car was in for inspection besides.

    Dealers love to add stuff to their maintenance schedules that the manufacturer doesn’t require.

    Just one question though – could I get in trouble if the manufacturer says to check x,y,z, and there is no documented record that I had it checked, but the car was dealer-inspected annually? If I need the checks documented I might just find a more reputable local mechanic for that. I keep my receipts for oil/coolant/etc, so I’m less concerned with that.

  • Terry murphy

    Great video hit the nail on the head. Now how do I get the oil life notification on my 2013 chevy truck to go back to 100% after I change the oil?

  • Austin Davis

    I have a check list I created for that too. I would HIGHLY advise you have a mechanic (hopefully that you trust) do the items on the check list with/for you. And you should try and do as many items on the list yourself as you can as well.

    Its not a guarantee you will not get a lemon (impossible to do that) but it sure will cut down your chances.

    Here is the link USED CAR CHECK LIST

    Hope that helps

  • Austin Davis

    Hi Yvette, Not sure if you are directing this to me (Austin) or to Eric who posted a comment earlier. Either way, what I would suggest you do is print out the scheduled maintenance check list I have under the video (there is a link to the page) then visit a shop that is close to you or your work.

    Show them the list, ask them what they would charge to do it (should be not much more than an oil change price would cost for most of the list) and get a feel for how they respond to the list, your questions and concerns on the list.

    Did they take the time to go over the list and talk about the items with you, or just say “oh ya we’ll do that”? Did they go out to the vehicle with you and look at something….anything, tires, belts/hoses as you went over the list? Does it look like they want your business…or just your money?

    Look at the cars in their parking lot, are they the condition as yours? Do you see what appear to be abandoned vehicles in the shop or parking lot (customer could not pay the bill? overcharged? not authorized work?). Do you see any recognizable commercial vehicles there? Commercial account managers do their homework and deal with honest shops (usually).

    Is the inside the shop and the employees clean looking or old and dirty? That is how your car will be returned to you :)

    Give a new shop a small job as a test to prove themselves before spending big bucks. How were you treated with a $80 repair bill?

    Does that help?

  • Austin Davis

    Thanks for commenting Ali. You are the second person to complain about a Toyota dealer, which I am surprised they are usually the best of the bunch. Remember folks, the new car dealer’s main focus is SELLING new cars, not offering cheap/honest/affordable repair in their service department.

    Maybe they inflate the repair bill to push you into a new vehicle? Just a thought. :)

  • Yvette Pittman


    My second question is: how do I pick a reliable used car and make sure it’s not a lemon? Do I take it to a mechanic? Thanks again.

  • Yvette Pittman

    Hello Eric,

    Would you be able to recommend mechanics in the Orlando/Kissimmee/, FL area? I don’t know how to pick one.

  • Ali Syed

    Most of the dealers are biggest lairs and cheaters. I never take my Toyota Sienna van and Camry car to dealer. Once my daughter took Camry to the dealer for estimate they gave her bill of over $1200. I took the car to a local mechanic who fixed it only for $300.

    O’My friends Stay away form Dealers except oil change nothing else.

  • Austin Davis

    Thank you so much Sylvia! I do have some maintenance schedule checklists that I made myself. You can print them out and take them to your mechanic. But get them to give you a price to go over the items on the list first. They should do most of the items for you for free during an oil change.

    Here is the link

  • Austin Davis

    Ouch Eric. And actually Toyota and Honda are in my opinion the most “honest” dealership repair shops around. Thanks for commenting.


  • Thanks, Austin. I figured that out about dealerships long ago. You remind me of the really good mechanic I have finally found. He charges what his actual labor is worth, but he’ll check many things out for no charge. I’ve been burned by some indepenedent mechanics, too, but I guess I’m an optimist. I kept looking. I really appreciate all the tips you send out and your website.

  • Eric Martin

    Wish things were at least that honest from my local Toyota dealer, who performed three services on my Camry but actually replaced none of the requested parts. Of course they charged full price…