CHOICE membership

Vehicle Service Schedules


#1

My car is a 2016 Subaru Outback which has to date presented no significant problems in the 76000 km it has traveled. My most recent dealer service included at least one item (door hinge lubrication) that had not been completed, although it was included on the invoice. Subsequently, I received an email (or SMS) from the dealer advising that my car had been booked in for servicing some six months hence. Emails to the dealer have not elicited a response.

This led me to consult the manufacturer’s Owner Manual in relation to service intervals. The manual states that the basic service interval in normal operation is every 15000 km or 12 months, whichever occurs first. However, the Warranty and Service Manual from Subaru Australia specifies the same service items at 12500 km or 6 months.

Subaru Australia advise that the Owner’s Manual is generic. When pressed they refused to identify any specific reason for the difference but simply say that the Warranty and Service Manual is produced by Subaru Australia for Australia.

Apart from the obvious profitability issue, can anyone suggest why a car needs to be serviced up to twice as often in Australia as elsewhere?


Why is car service K's or months based
#2

The manufacturer will argue the climate in Australia is harsher on vehicles, especially on lubricants and greases…making wear greater.

We also have a Subaru and after the warranty period, we service our vehicle less regularly than stated in the manual. Our independent Subaru approved mechanic (not a Subaru service centre) indicated that this is okay as we do low kilometres. From memory, the 6 monthly service in the manual is more or less and grease and oil change.

Unfortunately in Australia, it is condition of the warranty to have the vehicle serviced in accordance with the service intervals nominated by the manufacturer which means if it is not serviced in accordance with the Australian supplement documentation, the warranty could be voided by the manufacturer.

Also see if there is a mechanic that specialises in Subarus near you. You will find that the cost of a service is significantly less than the dealer’s Subaru service centrres (check with the local Subaru owner’s club). Servicing at such places is significantly cheaper and won’t affect your warranty.


#3

Another reason for the more frequent servicing is the use of synthetic oils more frequently used in modern vehicles. My mechanic recommends either 5K or 10K servicing of our older Honda Jazz which uses synth oil. As it ages the oil can become “sticky” and can create particles which hinder good lubrication (which he has shown us in live demos). Our hotter temps (in general), dust as car filters can become quickly blocked, not always good roads, and a number of other factors all contribute to a recommendation of getting a service more frequently than in some other countries.

If you drive in normal suburban and CBD streets, are a low Km user (over 20K per year is getting above average with the avg being around 13.4K per year), monitor engine fluids and tyre pressures regularly, check your lights regularly, check your brake pads/shoes and disks regularly then a longer interval is probably a safe option. If you use your aircon a lot and/or smoke in your car then getting that filter checked (most cabins of vehicles have filters for the aircon) more frequently is also recommended.


#4

A relevant war story on some of the ‘why only 6 months intervals’. In 1986 I bought an Acura (Honda) Legend in the USA. It was a new upscale import to rival Toyota’s Lexus brand. All the Acura dealers had Very Small service areas and part of the sales pitch was ultra reliability and only annual servicing.

The car was absolutely brilliant. They were among the best for reliability and quickly gained a positive reputation. Fast forward a few years and the dealers were complaining their profits were not up to expectations. A solution was at hand, mostly in the service departments.

More service was required and the bullet-proof reliability went down a bit, and profits went up. Subaru Australia has apparently been running a similar business model to keep individual dealer profits up in our small market where volume will never compensate.


#5

I have a Forester and took it to the dealer for service (at some inconvenience) during the warranty period. I now take it to a local at considerably less cost in money and inconvenience.

The clincher was when the local bloke suggested we need a new aircon filter. I knew this was on the cards as I had taken it out and cleaned it but it was still grubby. So I checked with the Subaru dealer, sure they could do it next time, the filter would be $60 and $30 to fit it. Fitting takes literally 3 minutes. The local charged me $35 for the filter after getting it in specially and fitted it free. It’s a thin plastic frame around some concertina paper not a close tolerance bit of high tech kit.

Is it reasonable to tie warranty conditions to dealer servicing at inflated prices?


#6

No! Perhaps Ford knows something?

Some observations to consider.

The 6 cylinder 4.0l Ford Work Ute came with a requirement to service every 12 months or 15,000km. It weighs approx 2,000kg in final setup.

Our Subaru from the same year was a 4 cylinder 2.5l and weighed closer to 1,400kg. The relative engine power and other details for the two vehicles are similarly in proportion. The Subaru is nominally 65% of the Ford, which suggests a similar load and duty for both vehicles.

The Subaru however required a 6 monthly 12,500km service schedule!

For a curve ball.
A similar vintage V6 3.0l Toyota Kluger has a 10,000km or 6 months service interval.

The need to follow the service schedule to minimise warranty arguments is important. Although legally a failure under warranty may have nothing to do with servicing compliance. It is unlikely everyday consumers have the legal support, technical backup and deep pockets to argue this point. At least consumers are no longer bound to dealers for scheduled in warranty servicing. Although there are problems with non dealer servicing accessing manufacturers manuals and tech. There is a Choice topic on right to repair.

Beyond the warranty it is up to the owner to decide. Some owners simply top up the oil as needed, replace worn tyres and wiper rubbers, and at five or six or xyz years simply trade the vehicle as is?

P.S.
Many second cars travel too few kms to ever suffer due to basic neglect and will happily hold together for 100,000km or ten years. Yes, this is anecdotal, if based on the habits of some I know. It would seem unlikely the industry has ever sponsored a survey demonstrating this possibility. It’s a substantial saving based on not paying for dealer servicing.

For the everyday car owner who feels a little more responsible it may be worth considering a small annual investment in servicing based on usage, typically distance travelled.

As some aspects of a vehicle do deteriorate with time having a professional inspection and any necessary repairs done or scheduled annually would be reasonable.

And some items, EG brake fluid and cooling fluid are two notables, do need replacement based on calendar time. There are others.

The biggest risk _emphasized text_with scheduled servicing for the average consumer remains reliance on the integrity of the service provider. When a premium synthetic motor oil is recommended by the service provider, is it really necessary for you circumstances? Is the brand offered simply the one that delivers the best margin to the service provider?

I did sample the RACQ web site (I’m a member) for some specific guidance on motor oils. Nothing to report!

The best independent advice may come from an independent taxi owner. How to get 500,000km out of a Ford taxi or these days a Toyota Prius, they must know something.


#7

Synthetic oils have been around for some time. It seems an unusual recommendation that more frequent servicing is a consequence of their use compared to a common standard mineral base oil.

Generally synthetic oils are recommended where a longer service life is required.

There is considerable diversity in modern vehicle engines design. It would seem inappropriate to generalise as to what the differences are between modern and not modern?


#8

One explanation that seems to have merit is that the evolution to more efficient engines has also come with far tighter tolerances, so even the most minor wear could impact, where in previous generations there was a lot of slop and as long as it ran and did not consume too much lubricant all was well.

That miniscule wear could affect the pollution to a point where jurisdictional pollution regulations would be violated and that is on the manufacturers’ heads. From the US EPA as an example of a country that was once serious about pollution but has moved on to prioritise dollars in pockets. Still, these regulations are on the books for now. Check the warranty requirements as a partial explanation for what seem to be inane servicing requirements. Of course that is there not here, but should cast some light.


#9

In the Jazz we have it requires very light oil 5W-20 as the oil pressure sensor gets erratic with heavier oils (and Honda advise 15W-40 cannot be used due to this problem), more current Honda cars use even lighter oils eg 0W-20. From the Honda FAQs"

I-CDTI and I-DTEC Diesel Engines

For the i-CDTi and i-DTEC diesel engines the recommended oil for Western European driving conditions and weather conditions is fully synthetic motor oil meeting the minimum specification ACEA C2/C3. The recommended viscosity is 0W-30.

Petrol Engines

For all petrol engines, excluding Hybrid models, the recommended oil for Western European driving conditions and weather conditions is a semi-synthetic motor oil meeting the minimum specification ACEA A1/B1. The recommended viscosity range is between 0W-20 to 10W-40.

Hybrid Petrol Engines

A unique Hybrid Green Oil has been developed by Honda. This new oil not only improves the performance characteristics in all driving conditions but also has the additional advantages of not only improved fuel economy, being environmentally friendly and is the first oil developed specifically for Hybrid engines.

Note: 15W-40 cannot be used in vehicles equipped with an oil level sensor. If you put 15W-40 oil in an engine with an oil level sensor, the sensor may indicate an incorrect oil level reading.

What’s the difference between synthetic and mineral Oil?

Synthetic lubricants are made up of molecules that have been modified under complex chemical processes and allow for enhanced performance under extreme conditions of temperature, pressure and forces. Mineral lubricants are composed of molecules present in crude oil that are separated in the distillation process at a refinery."


#10

Looks like very low and high engine temperatures can degrade engine oils in different ways…

Maybe manufacturers consider Australia to be a high engine temperature environment and thus resulting in more rapid degradation of engine oils. Resulting in more regular servicing that our European counterparts?

I wonder if one can get around this by servicing ones car say in late autumn…then the lubricants benefit from cooler operating temperatures (unless one puts the engine under high load such as 4WDing or towing) and then will rapidly degrade over the following summer…ready for a change in the following autumn? Practicalities of this…and everyone servicing in late autumn would kill a businesses cash flow.


#11

It sounds plausible, and is often a topic for discussion without a clear outcome.

Do we need a detailed technical appraisal? I doubt anyone will stake their reputation or personal liability on assuring an outcome based on a longer service interval then the manufacturer recommends.

There is a lack of definitive alternate evidence to support behaving differently. There is variation between different models, in how they are used, in driver style and quality variation within a single model variant.

Are consumers being taken advantage of as suggested by the original topic article concerning Subaru commended service intervals? Yes IMHO.

This is about much more than just engine lubrication?
A discussion on what is the best choice of engine oil vs service for a motor vehicle is worthy of it’s own topic and discussion.

P.S. or down the rabbit hole, if anyone is wondering.
Please excuse the generalisation. The following is intended only to outline some of the issues or scope around a discussion on motor oils.

There are endless discussions on motoring focused forums about engine oil types and selection. Many only encourage confusion and inconsistency. Some serve very particular interest groups. The industry is awash with marketing hype and a multitude of competing products. And manufacturers are all progressively updating engine designs.

As a simple head spin read the attached link. It is pure marketing wrapped around some basic technical detail.

https://www.castrol.com/en_au/australia/car-engine-oil/engine-oil-types/fully-synthetic-oils.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIpP3Vi5i_4gIV2ARyCh0lagO0EAAYASAAEgJU0_D_BwE

For Australia which has very limited requirements to deliver low emissions, and also fuel costs well below Europe, there is more latitude in what we are able to import as product.

Engine technology in use today varies between light alloy construction, high tech multipoint fuel injection, variable valve timing, computer control (ECU), to designs still rattling away with a single point fuel injection system, and cast iron! And that is without considering turbos!

Places like the USA, Southern Italy and Spain all see similar summer conditions or worse, than most of coastal Australia where 90% of our vehicles are driven. Even Tokyo is known for humid 30-35C wet summers?

Cars in Europe and Japan probably do much stop start and short distance driving. No different to downtown Sydney or Melbourne really?

Simple comparison might be enough to reason that for a typical motor vehicle in urban Australia the servicing needs should be no different than most other big motoring nations. Notably given Aust is a little slacker about pollution controls and emission performance we might even be able to relax how often some servicing needs are met.

If there are international exceptions they might reasonably relate to driving in sub zero conditions or the Simpson desert daily.

For technical simplicity the manufacturers recommended grade (EG 5W-30) and minimum specification of engine oil is important. What ever the grade recommended it will typically suit an Aussie vehicle for the whole of the year. We also typically do not have genuine endless extremes of cold (eg Canada winter) or heat (Central Australia summer) in Sydney, Melb etc.

The car makers oil specification (eg expresses by a code such as SF, SN, etc) is a minimum standard. Higher specification oils may last longer in service. Synthetic oils are highly refined and modified (chemically manipulated) made from the same feed stock as everyday mineral oils. As a consequence the synthetic modified products are more stable and have less variation in the chemistry, they handle higher temperatures (nothing to do with the outside environmental temperature) in the engine better and have the ability remain usable for a longer service life. That is assuming the engine oil blender has not skimped on the additives package. Many quality base oils remain usable in service past life of their additives.

Most engine wear is attributed to limited lubrication when an engine is first started. Having the recommended grade of engine oil for the service environment plus the quality of the additive package is critical to minimising this wear. All other attributes or properties of oils used for ICE engine lubrication there after quickly descend into the mire of expert disagreement and amateur ignorance. Cold sub zero winters are more of a challenge for engine lubrication on starting than Australia’s milder climate.

Once up and running 99.99% of engine lubrication relies on the viscosity of the lubricating fluid. And modern engines quickly achieve a stable running temperature. The same operating temperature whether the engine is in a Darwin summer or Canberra winter.

More modern engines with tighter clearances reduce oil loss (burning) which reduces emissions and also enables lighter grades (less viscose) engine oil to be used. This reduces engine friction caused by viscose drag between the moving parts of the engine which improves fuel economy.

Owners of high performance and older vehicles may have differing and some special needs.

Irrespective of the views of the more sceptical that service intervals are set based on profit margins at dealerships and spare parts sales.

Servicing to schedule is considered by many to be a good insurance policy against the unexpected breakdown. This seems to be self evident. Although the lack of hard evidence of an epidemic of broken down vehicles is not proof. There is also a large element of guilt driven marketing with the need to service often. Erring on the conservative or safer ground might also be wisdom, but is it necessary?

With more knowledge of each individual vehicle, usage patterns, and analysis of a sample of engine oil at each service, it would be possible to do better, and possibly run longer. Assessing each vehicle individually removes some of the uncertainties. The cost of the sample and analysis? About the same as the cost of the next basic service.
Cars now have enough smarts to track actual usage, performance cycles and condition. It could enable the trip computer to make an informed estimate of when the next service should be provided, rather than fixed time or distances alone?

However at least for the warranty period the intervals suggested are ultra conservative. It appears to serve several vested interests, including those of the owner.

For a better understanding and in-depth discussion Monash University and others offer post graduate studies in Engineering Maintenance (Terotechnology) and Tribology.


#12

I looked into buying a Kymco Scooter recently and came across the same issue. Service intervals were significantly more frequent in Australia. Do you seriously believe that conditions on Australian roads are harsher, hotter and dustier than in the Asian third world countries where they sell most scooters? (and where the specified service interval for the same scooter is 30% longer). Warranty period (capped price) servicing added up to 80% of the vehicle purchase price - but how often do buyers do that kind of math? I have no doubt that it’s all about fleecing the customer.


split this topic #13

10 posts were split to a new topic: Synthetic Engine Oils


#14

It is worth reading the Consumer Report link in @TheBBG post here…

Synthetic Engine Oils

as it discusses service intervals for vehicles. The Consumer Report, while a independent organisation similar to Choice, states you should still be getting that oil changed twice a year which is the same as the standard Auatralian Subaru service interval mentioned in the original post.


#15

I remember when I was looking at new cars one of the deciding factors was the warranty service intervals from memory Honda was 10,000 or 6 months Subaru was 12,500 or 6 months both were taken off my list. I thought I would do somewhere between 6000 and 8000k’s in 6 months I left Mazda on as they had I think 10,000/12 months but at the time only offered a 3 year warranty compared to others offering 5-7 years I ended up with Kia 15,000/12months and 7 years


#16

Is this not a cause that Choice might pick up @BrendanMays? It seems that Australian consumers are being ripped off by being forced to comply with excessive servicing regimes. In Europe a 2 year service interval is normal for some Diesel cars. Conditions in parts of Europe are no different to those in Australia (except maybe that they have higher mandatory fuel standards).


#17

It’s a good suggestion @samwardill, I’ll pass it on to our campaigns team. We’ve done articles before, but to be fair these are probably due for refreshing.


#18

I just looked at the articles. There is nothing on the industry wide issue of excessive servicing regimes. I made a contact on LinkedIn that might be useful (albeit he works in the industry). I’ll see if he is willing to explain. He would probably say it is due to the fuel standards but then that would still be a worthwhile cause for Choice to pursue. He has argued previously that Australia gets less developed country car models because we do not have developed country fuel standards. This is presumably because companies owning refineries in Australia lobby against tighter fuel standards. The knock on impact of this is that we also have lower emissions standards so more particulates & NOx are pumped into the atmosphere.


#19

It is not just vehicles, it is almost everything. Manufacturers were still selling VHS here like there was no tomorrow while the rest of the developed world had moved on to PVRs, then ‘we’ were blessed with SD PVRs while HD was rolling in. And so it goes. There is a history where ‘we’ seem to be the last dumping ground of choice (no pun intended) for most all outmoded, superseded technologies and products.


#20

This is the guy https://www.linkedin.com/in/kurt-mcguiness/. I will ask him but Choice might get more response @BrendanMays