Road trips give you time to think, and more importantly, time to read things like the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for your car, which would otherwise sit undisturbed in your glove box. I’m used to driving cars that are essentially maintenance-free (excluding oil changes, air cleaner, etc.) for the first 60,000 miles, so imagine my surprise when I found “replace spark plugs” at 3 years or 36,000 miles as a recommendation for my 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser.
It gets better: if you read the footnote by the recommendation to change spark plugs, it tells you “required for emission warranty.” Uh oh, this is one that you’d better not ignore, and because the service is necessary for warranty compliance, it’s best performed by a Toyota dealer. Yes, I know that I can change the plugs myself and save all receipts, carefully documenting the date and mileage that I did the work. Still, if I ever have to file a warranty claim on the emission system, I know I’ll have to battle Toyota to convince them the work was done. Having it done by a dealer eliminates this headache.
I haven’s scheduled the appointment with my Toyota dealer yet, so I don’t have any idea how much extra peace of mind will cost me (versus doing the work myself). Worse, I expect I’ll have to do the usual Service Department dance, where they call me up and tell me that my truck needs tires, brakes, blinker fluid and a new left-handed Rankin valve. I tell them to only perform the work specified (and I’m good about providing detailed lists), then they remind me that stale blinker fluid is the number one cause of sudden car explosions, like you see in Hollywood. Times are tough for car dealers these days, so even auto journalists with pro-wrenching backgrounds are potential marks for service scams.
On second thought, maybe I’ll just drop in a set of platinum-tipped plugs myself, being careful to save the receipt and log the work. Sometimes, peace of mind simply isn’t worth the cost or aggravation.