Like teeth, cars require regular maintenance

Dear Car Talk: I have a 2010 Chevy Tahoe approaching 125,000 miles. It runs great. Doesn’t even rattle.

I had it checked out and serviced at 100,000 miles. Does it need a 125,000-mile service? Thanks. — Steve, D.D.S.

Steve: Well, since you’re a dentist, Steve, let me ask you a similar professional question: If I get my teeth cleaned every six months up until the age of 60, do I need to keep going to the dentist after that? Even if my teeth are in good shape? And don’t rattle?

I think you’d say yes, right? Because at some point, I’d develop a cavity, and if I didn’t treat it, the tooth would rot, and then I’d get an infection, it’d spread to my jaw, and pretty soon, they’d have to remove half my face to save me. Which would probably improve my looks, actually.

Well, the results aren’t quite as dire with your car. Because unlike your face, you can just have the car towed to the junkyard and get on with your life.

But, if you’re concerned about cost, or want to keep your car running for years to come, then you should absolutely keep up with the regular service and maintenance.

The reason is simple: You can catch something when it’s a small problem and keep it from becoming catastrophic. Let’s say you have a small oil leak. At 125,000 miles, your mechanic might find it and fix it by tightening some bolts or replacing a gasket for a few hundred bucks. But, if you keep driving, and the oil leak gets worse, you might run out of oil and cook your bearings, which will cost you at least $5,000 for a used replacement engine.

So, even though most owner’s manuals only list service intervals up to 100,000 or 120,000, the idea is that you will continue to follow the maintenance pattern as long as you’re committed to keeping the car.

If you read the details of the scheduled services, you’ll see there are some things that come up every 30,000 miles. Some things are called for every 60,000 miles. So, do the math and follow the patterns.

And take the car in regularly — especially when it gets older. When a car has 100,000 miles on it, all of its parts are getting older and can fail at any time. So a good examination along with your oil change once or twice a year can save you money in the long haul.

If you agree to that, I’ll keep flossing, Steve. Deal?

Dear Car Talk: I took my 2016 Genesis (bought used) in for an oil change and was informed that the end of the dip stick broke off. The mechanic said the broken off piece would sit in the sludge and would cause no problem.

He replaced the dip stick. I have now driven 8,000 miles with no symptoms. Should I have the piece removed or just continue as is? Thanks. — Mort

Mort: On our NPR radio show, before a break, my late brother and I used to warn listeners, “don’t touch that dial, or the end of your dipstick will fall off.” I think you’re the first recorded case of it ever actually happening, Mort. Congratulations.

Now you can forget all about it.

Your mechanic is right. Oil collects in the oil pan, at the very bottom of your engine. From there, the oil pump sucks it up and sends it all over the engine, to the places it’s needed. Then, gravity slowly draws it back down to the oil pan. Rinse, lather, repeat.

So, why won’t a broken piece of dipstick get sucked into the oil pump, jam it up and cause your engine to seize? Because the oil pump has a screen on its pickup, to make sure nothing but oil gets sucked into it.

It’s a fine mesh screen, and there’s no way a section of dipstick — or anything non-fluid — can ever get through it. So, it’ll just sit there on the bottom of the oil pan until someday in the future you send the car to the crusher, and that dip stick remnant becomes part of a 3x3 cube.

If it really bothers you, Mort — if you’ve been getting up in the middle of the night and pacing over this — next time you get your oil changed, your mechanic can try to get it out with a magnet attached to a wire or a coat hanger.

Once the oil is drained, he can toss a magnet in the drain hole, and try to fish around and grab that rogue section of dipstick — which is ferrous metal and will be attracted to a magnet.

If he’s able to get it out, you can take it home, have it made into a necklace and wear it as a good luck charm.

Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at

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