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Motormouth: 'Suggested' maintenance

Bob Weber, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Q: I have a 2015 Lexus RX 350 with 66,000 miles. The manual says nothing about changing the differentials oils but only suggests to "check" them periodically assuming the car is used normally and not with heavy tow. The dealer does put the fear of God in you that you should change the oils at low mileage intervals. I finally bought in and changed them last week for an unconscionable $400, which took all but 20 minutes. I know I could get it done elsewhere cheaper, but I feel better knowing that a Lexus dealer does it. It's amazing how fast dealers can complete things when you wait for your car to be repaired, but still charge you the $200 per hour labor rate. What is your position on the differential oil changes? I know next up is transmission fluid change some day.

D.E., Naperville, Illinois

A: Many dealer service departments have “suggested” maintenance schedules that are not printed in the owner’s manual. Of course, they are a business that, like others, needs to improve the bottom line. If it isn’t in the owner’s manual, it is not mandatory. That said, the price for a quart of fluid at the service department can approach $100. As for labor, the service department charges by the labor guide and beating the book helps that bottom line. You may politely decline suggested services.

Q: I have a 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid with 60,000 miles on the odometer; two questions. First, how long can I expect the original electric motor battery to last before I may have to service or replace it? Second, my wife and I plan a cross-country trip this summer. What type of servicing and preventive maintenance would you suggest overall prior to starting this journey?

F.W., Suffolk, Virginia

A: You can reasonably expect the hybrid battery to last 8 to 10 years. You needn’t do anything special prior to your trip.

Q: I have XM satellite radio in two of my cars. But my 2007 BMW Z4 radio system does not have the capability to be able to listen to XM. Using my iPhone and the XM app, how do I link it to the Z4 radio for listening capabilities?


J.S., Mount Holly, New Jersey

A: You should be able to pair your phone to the car using Bluetooth. But you may have to go through some extra steps in your car’s setup menu. You may need to ask the folks at a BMW dealership or an electronics store about the details.

Q: I own a 2017 Kia Sorento, which has been serviced by my regular mechanic since I bought it new. All oil changes and routine repairs have been done by this mechanic, who my family has used for several years. Recently the mechanic found oil seepage in the timing chain cover and verified a leak with a dye treatment. This expensive repair is under warranty, so I took the car to the dealer where I bought it, and the service department there used the same dye treatment but could not find a leak. The dealer won't fix a leak it says it can't find. Who should I believe, my trusted mechanic or the dealer?

M.D., Schererville, Indiana

A: Trust your regular mechanic, but don’t hate on your dealer. Your mechanic may have cleaned the area and the leak may take more time to reappear. Sometimes seeping is slow.

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