Forum Forum (
-   Technical Q&A (
-   -   Maintenance just before a 3K miles trip (

jgonera 09-19-2012 02:12 PM

Maintenance just before a 3K miles trip

I bought my 2003 Grand Am SE 2.2 a few months ago and used it not too heavily (added 2-3K miles). I will be moving from Virginia to California soon and I'd like to drive my car there. It has 103K miles now and I recently changed the tires, air filter and oil.

According to the previous owner the following has never been done:
- transmission fluid change
- brake fluid change
- engine coolant change
- spark plugs replacement

There are no problems with the car as of now, it runs great. I'm not sure if I should do any of these before a 3K miles trip because I don't know any trustworthy mechanic (and I'm not experienced to do it myself). I have one week left to do any maintenance, then the car is going to be unused for 1 month and then I am going to drive it to California.

What would you recommend? Any cost estimates on the things I mentioned? I already read that I shouldn't do the transmission flush, just drain, but one mechanic I just called insisted that if there's a lot of debris I should do the flush...


sleepyalero 09-19-2012 04:52 PM

spark plugs should be changed every 100k miles.

transmission fluid and filter is supposed to be serviced every 100k miles.

engine coolant i believe is... 150k miles for dexcool? or it might be 100k, someone will correct me if im wrong.

brake fluid... i mean as long as the brake fluid looks fine. you really dont have to change it out. plus its just a pain in the ass to do anyway.

jgonera 09-19-2012 05:10 PM

The manual says, both for 50K and 100K miles:


Change automatic transaxle fluid and filter if the
vehicle is mainly driven under one or more of
these conditions:
- In heavy city traffic where the outside
temperature regularly reaches 40F (32C) or
- In hilly or mountainous terrain.
- When doing frequent trailer towing.
- Uses such as found in taxi, police or delivery
if you do not use your vehicle under anyof these
conditions, the fluid and filter do not require changing.
Which is kind of vague. Anyway, I guess that I should get it changed after 100K, right?

As for the coolant it says either 150K or 5 years, whichever comes first, and the car is 9 years old.

I guess the brake fluid doesn't look fine, it looks more like the one on the right (maybe not that dark, but almost):


Metallman56 09-21-2012 08:43 PM

if it were me these are the things i would make sure to do if i had the money, and time. reason for the big list is you dont know what the car has been through the past 8 years. better safe then stranded

1.change tranny fluid ($100 to $200 fluid should cost about as much as the service)
2.change coolant ( should be $100 or less. )

if i had the time and money i would also

3 change spark plugs. old plugs wont kill your motor or tranny like the top 2, but it will kill your mpg, which i'd guess you would want to maximize on a 3k mile trip

4. tires. make sure there is a spare in the trunk and make sure it has air in it a long with the jack. also check pressure in all 4 main tires while cold.

5. i'd change my oil the day before i left. i'd use a synthetic, like royal purple or castrol edge. something that is made for more then 3k miles.

6. check your brakes. all of them. brakes going out going down the rockys would be a new g/a land speed record. i would bleed them and see what color the fluid is at the calipers if it looks like used motor oil change it.

7. make sure there are no leaks. if there are find out what its leaking, and if you cant afford to fix it, bring plenty of whatever the hell is leaking just incase. for example if your leaking oil, i would bring 2 quarts just to be safe.

8. take it to autozone and have charging system checked. bad battery or alt, means bad trip. plus if its the alternator, a garage knows they have you by the balls, is a expensive garage.

9. i would make sure to save gas in every possible way i could. plugs, wires, tire pressue, fuel system cleaner like seafoam, no check engine lights, i mean everything. its going to save gas, and god only knows how much if any of those things have not been replaced in years.

10. last but definatly not least windshield wipers. often overlooked until you cant see. make sure they work good, streak free. also make sure you have washer fluid, also an area over looked. the tank can hold almost a gallon, if not a whole gallon. its cheap, and definatly beats not being able to see

be safe and have a good trip.

p.s i'd also check this website before i left and plan my route with it. i'd stay in southern states if at all possile, and would over flow the tank in the last state before i got to california.

AaronGTR 09-21-2012 10:11 PM

^ I agree with most of what metalman said. :)

A few additions I would make though...

If you recently changed the oil it's probably fine. Even the cheap oils these days can be run more than 3k miles, but you would be better off with a synthetic or a syn blend. Since your car is stock with 103k miles you don't need to spend top dollar on the best stuff though. Royal purple is over priced crap anyway, and castrol edge is overkill. Castrol GTX would be fine (I ran it 5k miles in my grand prix with 180k) or mobil1 high mileage.

Spark plugs are supposed to be changed after 100k, but sometimes need it (or at least re-gapped) sooner. No it won't hurt your engine to leave them in for a while, but they are cheap and easy to do so I would have them changed. Assuming you plan on keeping the car for a while you'll want new ones anyway, so you might as well change them before the trip. Oxygen sensors are 100k replacement items too just as an FYI.

Trans fluid and filter should be changed at least every 100k miles if not sooner, regardless of what the manual says.

Coolant is 5 years or 100k miles. It probably would make it out there no problem with out changing it, but again if you can do it I would.

Brakes... you definitely want them working properly in the mountains. Most people don't realize how much heat they can build up on a long downhill slope. Most people also never have them serviced, when they really should. Brake fluid should be flushed at least every 3 years. It absorbs dirt and moisture through various seals and even directly through the metal lines. Water in the fluid will make it boil at a lower temp and make your brakes go soft and stop working.

For the charging system, I wouldn't worry about it. If everything is working and there are no lights on in the gauge cluster then it's probably ok. They won't be able to tell you anything at autozone anyway. A mechanic can more accurately test the system themselves with a multi-meter. Batteries tend to last 3-5 years on average. They can last 6 or more if you're lucky, or less than 2 if they have a defect or there is a problem with your electrical system. When they die it's usually suddenly though, and you don't have much warning. There's not much you can do other than carry a spare battery (inconvenient) or buy a new one when it goes out. Again, I wouldn't worry too much about that.

FuriousG 09-21-2012 10:16 PM


Originally Posted by Metallman56 (Post 1187353)
6. check your brakes. all of them. brakes going out going down the rockys would be a new g/a land speed record.

You'll need to go faster than 147 mph to pass my downhill GA land speed record... :driving:

Where are you headed in Cali?

KhellendrosxS 09-22-2012 05:13 AM

The only things I would add are to change the fuel filter and your o2 sensor since the previous owner probably did not.

The o2,spark plugs/wires, and properly inflated tires will give you the best possible MPG boost for your trip.

fljohnboy 09-22-2012 07:19 AM

I'm surprised no one mentioned the belts.

AaronGTR 09-22-2012 12:34 PM

Yeah, a new belt might be a good idea, but isn't absolutely necessary. Sometimes they can last longer than 100k if the engine has been well maintained, but usually it's a 100k service replacement part.

Fuel filter is definitely a good idea. That should be changed every 30k actually.

Spark plugs yes. I don't think the plug wires need to be changed though. They don't really wear out, and don't have any affect on mileage either.

jgonera 09-22-2012 01:25 PM

Thanks for all the tips! Finally I'll be replacing the following:

- wipers
- spark plugs
- brake fluid
- coolant
- fuel filter

I'll probably replace the spark plugs with a friend who has done it several times. But I don't have any way of lifting the car (I'm not going to do that with a jack), so I'll take it to a mechanic for the three last things.

I checked the drive belt and it looks pretty good to me. No visible cracks or anything. I haven't thought about the O2 sensor, I think the manual doesn't mention it... What can happen when it fails besides worse MPG?

I don't think I'm going to do the transmission flush now because I couldn't find any mechanic whom I would trust completely with that (two argued with me that my car either doesn't have a transmission filter or it doesn't need replacing ever).

I'm headed to San Francisco (through southern states to avoid possible snow/ice in November) and I know the prices will be higher there but I read some horror storries about poorly done transmission flushes and I'd prefer to have more time to find a good place. I'll definitely do it before hitting 110K miles, I hope it'll be fine...

I know about the gas prices. I'll probably buy some premium just before California, I heard it makes passing the smog check easier.

AaronGTR 09-22-2012 01:37 PM

That sounds like a decent list.

The O2 sensor, basically it hurts your gas mileage. If it's bad enough it will throw a check engine light and have a DTC code in the computer. Over time it can cause your catalytic convertor to get clogged too. But mostly just hurt your gas mileage.

The transmission definitely has a filter! lol The manual says the fluid is "filled for life" and never needs to be changed, but then goes on to list a bunch of conditions under which it might need to be changed. :rolleyes: My friends BMW said the same thing in his manual, and everyone on the BMW forums told him the same thing... it NEEDS to be changed eventually.

Basically they say it doesn't need to be changed only because most people who buy the car new won't keep it long enough to need to change it. However trans fluid is just like engine oil. There are conditioners and acid neutralizers in it that get used up over time, and the fluid gets dirty over time. I guarantee if you drain it at 100k miles it doesn't look like it did new.

Whatever you do though, do NOT get it "flushed". When they flush a trans they hook it up to a machine that pumps new fluid through to replace the old. They have to do that to get all the old fluid out of the torque convertor and what not. But if it hasn't been changed in 100k+ miles the fluid will be full of particles and there is usually a bunch of grit settled in the bottom of the pan. A flush will stir up all the crap run it through your seals and ruin the trans! I had this done on a grand prix I had with 127k on it... 2 months later I was replacing the trans for $3000. Just have it drained, change the filter, and refill with new fluid.

jgonera 09-22-2012 01:50 PM

The part about not flushing it was also something I was trying to ask/describe but it seemed like none of the mechanics I spoke with actually agreed with this. They would keep saying that the full flush is what I should do.

About the grit in the pan, couldn't that be cleaned to avoid running it through the seals?

Also, if I only drained it, could I use Dexron VI together with the remaining old Dexron III? How much of the new fluid would I need for that?

AaronGTR 09-22-2012 06:54 PM

OF course they want to do a full flush, they probably charge more for it.... or it easier for them or something. :rolleyes:

I speak from personal experience though, and I've talked to and read about many other people having the same problem. If it was my car, I would NOT do it. Draining it first and cleaning out the pan and then flushing it might be a little safer, but you are still taking a risk with the remaining dirty fluid in the trans. Especially if the trans is old and the seals may be weak or worn. A simple drain, filter change, and refill will replace 75% of the fluid and get enough clean new fluid with new additives in the trans to do the job.

And yes, you can use the new dexron 6 with any previous dexron fluid and it will be fine. Your car has dexron 4 in it btw, not 3. ;)

jgonera 09-23-2012 10:29 AM

I found a post on another forum explaining different kinds of flushes:

The second one (the one that uses transmission's pump) also sound reasonable, don't you think?

Wikipedia doesn't list Dexron 4, there's 3 and then 6 ( My owner's manual also says it's 3.

AaronGTR 09-24-2012 09:49 PM

Yeah, you're right on the Dexron. I just checked my manual and it says Dexron III also. That's weird... coulda sworn I saw a trans fluid at the autoparts store that said "Dexron IV compatible". Might have been III though. Anyway...

I wouldn't believe anything you read on GA owners. Most of those people have no idea what they're talking about. I've never heard of any flush using chemicals and super high pressures. When most people refer to a flush, they are talking about the kind where the car is hooked to a machine that exchanges the fluid. They often have their own pump though and don't use the transmissions pump. The transmissions pump is mechanical and driven by a geared shaft in the TC and therefore driven off the engine and the car must be running in order for the pump to run. I suppose they could do that too, but it might not work on some cars. I don't know if it would get all the fluid out of the TC either when it's spinning. Not sure how that would work.

That is the type of flush I was referring to though. That's what I had done to my car and many others have had done, and it killed our transmissions. That changes about 90-95% of the fluid though. Only way to do 100% is with a trans tear down. A drain and fill will change a LOT more than 1/3 of the fluid though. :rolleyes: He was way off on that. It's more like 2/3 or more of the fluid. Like I said, the most important thing is getting some new fluid in there with fresh conditioners and acid neutralizers to extend the life of the components and seals. A drain and fill and filter change is more than enough to do that. If you want to do a flush you can take your chance with that, but I would definitely tell them to drain it and clean the pan and change the filter first before flushing it. Of course, you have no way of knowing if they will do as you ask. A lot of shops just think "they know more than you" and don't want to go to the extra effort to do it right... they figure they can just take a short cut and you'll never know. You could get a flush and end up with a busted trans a couple months later. It's your call.

jgonera 05-04-2013 01:20 PM

Just wanted to say thank you again to all of you. I made it through the country without any problems back in November. I finally found a place where they drained and refilled the transmission fluid with Dexron VI just before I left. The car has 109K miles now and seems to be running fine.

bricooper78 05-04-2013 06:19 PM

Sweetness! Congrats!

WidbyJ 05-06-2013 10:31 AM

Dexron VI is great for these cars! Glad I'm not the only one using it...

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 05:55 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright 2011