How to extend the life of your car’s fluids
In simple terms you should never exceed the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals. Over time oil and coolant can degrade and their performance and ability reduce.
Not adhering to service intervals can decrease the reliability and life expectancy of your engine, so it's simply unwise to seek out a way to extend the life of your fluids.
How long should your car’s fluids last?
With the advent of modern oils and additives, engine oil and coolant lasts longer than it ever has – but that doesn't mean you should ignore the service intervals.
It's generally recommended that you change your oil at least annually, or every 16,000km, whichever comes first. Although some manufacturers state shorter, or longer intervals between changes.
Coolant generally has a much longer service life, with some manufacturers recommending a 15-year, or 240,000km change! But a shorter, five-year or 80,000km interval is a more common recommendation.
With both of these fluids it's important that you consult your handbook, or ask your dealer to find out the correct intervals.
How much does it cost to change your engine oil and filter?
Depending on your car, and how much oil it uses, the price will vary but for an average car (such as a Ford Focus) an oil filter (which you must always change at the same time as carrying out an oil change) can cost you less than $20 and the oil will cost between approx $30 and $120 depending on how posh the oil of your choice is.
The same job at a dealer is likely to cost you up to $250 depending on their hourly rate, so you can see that there is a considerable saving to be made.
Why you should check your fluid levels
Most of the fluids in your engine bay are critical for the car’s operation. Among the most important are the engine oil and coolant, which is why these should be checked weekly. A low engine oil level will cause the engine to wear more quickly, and if it drops to a dangerous level the engine could seize. It’s a similar story with the coolant.
Brake, clutch and power steering fluid are still important fluids but don’t need to be checked as often. However, a drop in level from month to month indicates a leak in the system, and it’s important to fix this as soon as possible, rather than to keep topping up the fluid.