Being aware of auto servicing

I recently replaced my 2010 Nissan Altima sedan with a 2012 BMW station wagon (or "Touring" in BMW-speak) and was surprised to see that the BMW only needs oil changes every 24,000km. 

I was surprised because I had gotten used to the seemingly constant hassle of servicing my Altima.  The Nissan required oil changes every 6,000 km which doesn't sound that bad until you factor in the phone calls, e-mails and letters from Nissan Canada encouraging you to change the oil every three months - even if you hadn't driven 6,000km.  It seemed that I was getting some form of reminder every month.

I would have assumed that a higher-end luxury / performance car would require more regular maintenance than a more… umm… common car.  Nissan makes 4.6 million cars a year where BMW does 1.7 million - less than 40% of what Nissan produces (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automotive_industry).  Given their size and the fact that they make the Leaf, I would have expected Nissan would more likely be the environmentally friendly car company and work to extend the time between required oil changes.  

In fact, Nissan's business model seems to be built on an environmentally un-friendly practices.  My experience was that the dealerships in Edmonton had no qualms about recommending hundreds of dollars of additional service like power steering system flushes, throttle body cleaning and fuel system maintenance.  Beyond the cost to the owner, there is a real negative impact to the environment of replacing engine fluids unnecessarily.

My point here is not to have an anti-Nissan rant but to encourage car buyers to consider vehicles that have either engine oil sensors or engine monitoring systems (like General Motors) that maximize the interval between oil changes.  

Having said that, I recognize that the volume of oil used by the engine is dwarfed by volume of gas burned.  Transport Canada estimates that the 2013 BMW 328i will use 1,440 Litres of gas per year compared to only 1,260 Litres of gas per year for the 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 (see http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2013/rncan-nrcan/M141-5...).  The extra 15 Litres of oil that the Altima uses hardly makes up for the additional 180 litres of gas used by the BMW.  Nonetheless, a concerned consumer should remember to include the impact of ongoing maintenance in addition to the rated gas consumption when considering the purchase of a vehicle.

Ken

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