30 years ago, “need an Audi service near me” were likely words spoken between yourself and one or two friends, and not a search term you entered into your computer’s browser. Yes, even how we find a service center for our cars has changed, and this extends to the way we maintain our cars generally. This isn’t too surprising when you consider the sheer depth of technological prowess built into modern vehicles, so let’s take a closer look at how maintaining your vehicle has changed over the last couple of decades.
Oil and Filter: The Foundation Of Preventative Maintenance
We’ll start with a look at what hasn’t changed all that much, namely, the need to change your car’s oil and filter. For quite some time, oil change intervals were set to around 5000-7500 miles, with only severe use – or fleet use – necessitating that oil change intervals be reduced to around 3000 miles. Gradually, synthetic oils began to take over, with these oils resisting heat and friction a lot more effectively than products used previously. So, while changing your oil on time remains critical, intervals have lengthened considerably, with Audi’s recommended service schedule currently at 20 000 miles.
Goodbye Tune-Ups, Hello Electronic Ignitions and Fuel Injection
Before electronic ignitions became the norm, tune-ups were required around every 12 000 miles. This process included replacing condensers, cleaning and replacing ignition points, and replacing the distributor rotor. Electronic ignitions and fuel injection have both since eliminated the need for tune-ups, as well as the associated maintenance checks. By providing a much more accurate fuel/air mixture, fuel injection has greatly improved gas mileage and often, problems with the system can be quickly be rectified by resetting your ECU.
Diagnosis Made Easier
While there is no replacement for an experienced technician or mechanic that knows what he’s doing, back in the 70’s or 80’s, a lot more guesswork – as well as time, and probably an engine stethoscope – were needed to diagnose a mechanical or electrical fault. Today, it only takes connecting your ECU to a diagnostic control reader to quickly figure out what’s happening under the hood or, at the very least, give technicians the guidance they need to go straight to the source of the issue.
Older spark plugs used to call for replacements at around the 30 000-mile mark. Today, thanks to improvements in the construction of engines and the spark plugs themselves, you can now drive for up to 80 000 miles before needing to replace these items.
While a manual and a socket set were all you needed to get your car going again a few decades ago, modern cars have become increasingly tricky to work on. Your modern BMW 328i contains a significantly greater amount of equipment than its e30 predecessor from the eighties, which is why there is a lot less space to work with under the hood. With many modern cars having covers over the top of the engine and undertrays beneath, access is certainly more of a challenge than it used to be. Modern vehicles also come standard with service light indicators, and any DIY work you may perform on them could tamper with these electronic systems. All of it means that the DIY enthusiast has a much tougher job on his hands if he wants to work on his own car.
All these changes aside, what remains true is that quality, timely, and comprehensive preventative maintenance remains as important today as it was back then. A well-maintained vehicle simply runs better, will last longer, and uses less fuel. Your best bet, if you enjoy maintaining your own car, is to keep your classic weekend toy for these exploits, while getting your newer, day-to-day executive serviced by the specialists.