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  • Jim Martin

Honesty Trumps All: What is Needed Service and Recommended Service in Automotive Maintenance


Maintaining your vehicle is crucial for ensuring its long-term reliability and optimal performance. Regular service and maintenance not only extend the lifespan of your car but also help prevent costly repairs down the road. However, in the automotive service industry, a common challenge faced by customers is distinguishing between necessary service and recommended service.

When it comes to servicing your vehicle, honesty should always be the guiding principle. As an automotive service department growth consultant, I firmly believe that doing what is right for the customer trumps any short-term profit gains. In this article, we will explore the distinction between needed service and recommended service, with an unwavering emphasis on the importance of honesty and customer-centricity.


By understanding a vehicle's specific maintenance needs, you can make informed decisions and navigate the service landscape with confidence. Here's how you can take control and become an empowered automotive service consumer:

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Manufacturer's Recommendations: Start by reviewing the maintenance schedule provided by your vehicle's manufacturer. This document outlines the recommended service intervals and the corresponding services to be performed. Understanding these guidelines helps you differentiate between necessary services and those that may be recommended but not immediately required. Truthfully, this can sometimes be a little tricky. Each manufacturer wants to tout that they need minimal service. Sometimes industrial-service-driven services are not listed in the manual. For instance, many Dodge trucks want their differential serviced several times within 100,000 miles. Chevrolet does not even list this service at all in their manual. If you are driving a Chevy and frequently pulling boats or trailers a differential service will likely be recommended by a service facility and should be considered. However, you will not find it in the manual.

  2. Seek Explanations and Clarifications: Don't hesitate to ask your service provider for explanations regarding their recommendations. A reputable professional will be willing to provide clear justifications and address any questions or concerns you may have. Requesting detailed explanations can also help you assess the necessity of each recommended service.

  3. Prioritize Safety and Reliability: While there may be recommended services that fall outside the immediate safety concerns, it's important to prioritize those that ensure the overall reliability and longevity of your vehicle. Components such as brakes, tires, and fluid changes are essential for safe and efficient operation. Understanding the significance of these services can help you make informed decisions.

  4. Consider Your Driving Habits and Conditions: Your driving habits and the conditions in which you operate your vehicle can impact its maintenance needs. For example, if you frequently drive in stop-and-go traffic or harsh weather conditions, certain services, such as oil changes or filter replacements, may need more frequent attention. Understanding how your driving environment affects your vehicle's maintenance requirements enables you to make tailored decisions.


When seeking automotive service, it's important to be aware of red flags that indicate potentially unethical recommendations. Here are key warning signs to watch out for:

  1. Aggressive upselling beyond what you requested or what the manufacturer recommends. This is not to suggest that a coolant exchange service while performing a water pump replacement is wrong. However, if you are being told to perform a power steering service with your water pump repair, you should take note.

  2. Lack of transparency or reluctance to explain recommended services. Any service advisor should be able to give you the “why” for their recommendation. If you are not comfortable with their answer then ask more questions for clarity. If you are still unsure then don't commit and ask someone you trust for their opinion. NOTE: if it is proposed as a safety-related concern then get the manager involved before you leave.

  3. Feeling pressured or guilty for questioning recommendations. You should feel free to ask questions. I encourage it. There are no bad questions you could ask about your car and they should be ready and willing to help you find the answers.

  4. Inability to provide documentation or evidence supporting recommendations. If the manufacturer says the transmission does not need to be serviced until 50,000 miles and you have 35,000 on your vehicle and they are recommending the service then there needs to be a reason. For instance, Some chemical vendors will provide a written warranty on your transmission beyond the manufacturer warranty if you perform the service within a specific mileage period. This is a great benefit and should be considered as an additional warranty or insurance. Like any insurance policy, It should be in writing. If there is no other benefit other than because they say it is due and the manufacturer says otherwise then follow the manufacturer's manual guidance.

5. Excessive pricing discrepancies compared to reputable providers. Although this one seems simple on the surface, be sure that you are comparing apples with apples. Some shops say that they will flush your cooling system for $69.99 and your dealer wants $149.00 for it. The coolant flush for $69.99 only drains the radiator and uses no machines for getting the other 60% of coolant from the system. They are not the same, not even close.

6. Unexplained repairs that are unrelated to your initial concern. Always ask to be visually shown a failure. Even if you are not sure what you are looking at you can pick up on body language or hesitation from the presenter. If they don’t seem to believe in what they are presenting then you shouldn't either. If you are not present then ask for a video to be sent to you. You deserve a good explanation of additional recommendations.

7. Use of unreliable or non-factory parts without consent. That cheap oil change or engine repair may be because they are using the cheapest parts that they can find. Is that what you want in your car? There are significant differences in product quality on most parts that are from the factory when compared to aftermarket vendors.


While these red flags don't guarantee unethical practices, they should prompt caution. Trust your instincts and seek clarification. Being vigilant protects you from unnecessary expenses and ensures honest and customer-centric service. By educating yourself and asking the right questions, you can hold service providers accountable and ensure that your vehicle receives the necessary care without unnecessary upsells.

In an overall industry built on trust and integrity, many service providers prioritize the customer's needs above all else. A trustworthy dealer truly is the best place to get service. By adopting honest practices, these automotive professionals are committed to providing only necessary services and ensuring complete transparency in their recommendations. They understand that long-term customer satisfaction and trust are far more valuable than short-term profits.


As a consumer, if you have questions or comments about this article or would just like to run some recommendations you are receiving by me then please feel free to reach out.


If you are a dealership and you need help identifying and implementing award-winning strategies centered around customer service I can help.




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