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There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch -- or a Maintenance-Free Car

27 October 1998

There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch -- or a Maintenance-Free Car, Says the Auto Club

    LOS ANGELES--Oct. 26, 1998--Today's platinum-plated spark plugs and computerized car engines might make the phrase "tune-up" almost obsolete for newer cars. But during National Car Care Month in October, the Automobile Club of Southern California is warning buyers of 1999 models that freedom from tune-ups doesn't mean their cars are maintenance-free.
    The 1999 car models have arrived at dealerships with more reliability features than ever before, according to Steve Mazor, the Auto Club's principal automotive engineer. Innovations like platinum-plated spark plugs and computer-regulated engine parts have reduced the likelihood of engine failures.
    "High-tech advances in cars and trucks have greatly reduced the frequency of maintenance intervals and tune-ups," Mazor said. "But drivers still need to listen to what their car is telling them. Ignoring basic maintenance greatly increases the odds of being stranded with car trouble."
    The first piece of equipment to check after buying a new car is the vehicle owner's manual, Mazor said.
    "Don't just stick the manual in the glove compartment and forget about it," Mazor said. "New car owners should read their manual periodically and most importantly, follow through on the equipment replacement and inspection recommendations."
    New car buyers are often influenced by extended warranties. But if an automotive component fails and the motorist can't prove the vehicle has been properly maintained according to the owner's manual recommendations, the warranty may be voided, Mazor said.
    As new cars have become more reliable, many full-service gasoline stations have closed up shop or converted to self-serve. That puts more responsibility on vehicle owners to check their car's condition regularly, Mazor said.

    During National Car Care Month in October, the Auto Club is reminding all motorists to:

    -- Check their owner's manual, familiarize themselves with its
    recommendations, and follow them.

    -- Make a habit of checking the tires regularly. Tires are among
    the most neglected vehicle components. AAA estimates that
    nationally, one in two tires on the road today is either worn or
    under-inflated. Tire pressure should be checked twice monthly,
    particularly in extreme weather conditions.

    -- Change wiper blades if they are more than one year old, before
    bad weather begins.

    -- Check the age and condition of the vehicle battery and battery
    cable connections.

    -- Check vehicle fluids, particularly the engine oil. Change and
    replenish them if necessary.

    -- Make sure belts and hoses are properly connected and in good

    Advice on how to properly maintain vehicles is available in a new AAA brochure, "It's Time for a Reality Check," available free of charge at the Auto Club's 69 district offices.
    During Car Care Month in October, Southern California drivers -- whether they are Auto Club members or not -- can receive free 38-point vehicle inspections offered by more than 700 Auto Club "Approved Auto Repair" facilities. The AAR garages undergo annual inspections by Auto Club experts to ensure that they provide quality service from highly trained technicians using proper equipment.
    To schedule an appointment, motorists should contact a local Auto Club office or visit the Club's Web site at to find the closest participating Approved Auto Repair garage.
    The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest affiliate of the AAA, has been serving members since 1900. Today, Auto Club members benefit by the organization's emergency road service, financial products, travel agency and trip planning services, automotive diagnostic testing and analysis, highway and transportation safety programs, insurance products and services, automotive pricing, buying and financing programs and legislative advocacy. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club's Web site at