Car Service Intervals for Low Kilometres


Hi John,

Firstly, love your program on Radio 4BC in Brisbane. Very interesting and entertaining. 

I have a 2012 Mazda3, which has only done 7700kms. Obviously I don't want to pay for the "big" services like the 10,000km/20,000km, etc., but Mazda insist that it's the distance driven OR the time that determines which service is due. How could it need major services when it has such low mileage?

Thanks for your help,



Hi Carol,

Thanks for the kind words about the program. Glad you enjoy it. (Makes all the difference to have happy listeners out there.)

Unfortunately, service intervals are indeed the lesser of those two factors - the distance or the time, whichever comes first. (It's not just a Mazda thing - it's a consistent thing across the auto industry.) There are good reasons for this.

Some aspects of automotive wear and tear are directly related to distance driven. (Things like brake and tyre wear, for example.) Other aspects are time-based - chemical degradation of oil from combustion byproducts in the engine lubricating oil, for example.)

Also, because your kilometres are so low, I'm assuming your car does mainly short trips. Engine wear is very high in these operating conditions (with a lot of cold starts). Basically, engines and transmissions are machine parts build to precise tolerances. Unfortunately, metal expands as it heats, and those parts are designed to be at the right tolerances at their normal operating temperatures. In short trips, those parts do a lot of operating at cold temperatures, where the tolerances are less than ideal - and wear rates are high. Also, lubricating oil does to some extent adapt to its changes in temperature, but it still does its best work (keeping the metal parts separated by a thin, slippery film) at normal operating temperatures. Therefore, wear rates are high even when kilometres are low - so, time- and distance-based servicing makes sense from an engineering viewpoint even though it seems counter-intuitive if you've never held a spanner.

Importantly your warranty depends on getting the services done at the right times/distances. If you don't and parts fail (expensively) you will have to pay the full cost of repairs, potentially. This will be much more painful, financially, than just getting the services done on time.

However, you should shop around for cheap servicing. Dealership servicing is almost always very expensive. An independent mechanic, or even and Ultra Tune or Kmart Tyre and Auto Service, can service your car so that the warranty still pertains, usually a lot cheaper than the dealership. More on this issue of servicing and preserving your warranty here.


John Cadogan