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What Can Happen to My Car if I Postpone Regular Maintenance?

Wondering what can happen if you put off your vehicle's required regular service? Here’s what you can expect, by type of maintenance.

Oil Change (Lube, Oil, and Filter)

Oil filter

If you put off an oil change for too long, the best case is that your engine gets contaminated with muck and sludge but is otherwise unharmed. The worst case is total engine failure.

Either way, we're talking about thousands of dollars in repairs.

Tire Rotations

Putting off a tire rotation probably won’t cause any vehicle damage, but it can lead to buying new tires sooner than you’d like. Rotating your tires maximizes tire life by ensuring even wear. So, it’s best to do your rotations on a regular basis.

Fuel Filter Replacement

Did you know your vehicle has a fuel filter? It's surprising how many people don't. The fuel filter is the filter positioned between the fuel tank and the fuel line. Failure to change this as needed will result in a drop in fuel economy, a loss of performance, and in some cases can lead to oxygen sensor failure, catalytic converter failure, and even internal engine damage.

There's also a chance that ignoring your fuel filter will leave you stranded, as a clogged fuel filter basically starves your vehicle of fuel.

Power Steering Fluid Change

Power steering fluid should be changed over time, as it maximizes the life of the steering system. If you ignore your power steering fluid, you may experience steering pump failure, leakage, and in some cases even steering rack failure (which can be a very expensive repair).

Engine Air Filter Change

Air filter

The engine air filter keeps nasty things out of your engine. Should it become clogged, it will seriously constrict airflow to your engine, ruining fuel economy and causing power loss.

If the engine air filter becomes damaged, it can let dust, dirt, and debris into the engine. This can lead to internal engine damage and a variety of problems with the cooling system, emissions system, etc. Considering how inexpensive and easy these filters are to change, and considering how important they are, replacing them on a regular basis is smart.

Automatic Transmission Service

Fluid is vital to the health of your vehicle's automatic transmission. Periodic transmission service is essential to making sure this fluid doesn't breakdown, causing wear and damage to your transmission's internal components.

What's more, many auto manufacturers recommend regular automatic transmission service for "severe duty" use, and many people have no idea that they are actually severe duty users.

Spark Plug Replacement

Spark plugs are essential to the proper performance of your vehicle. If they have worn or become damaged, your engine won’t run efficiently. The will result in progressively poor engine performance and decreasing fuel economy over time.

Putting off spark plug replacement will cost you quite a bit in wasted fuel expenses. A bad set of plugs can ruin your vehicle's gas mileage.

Engine Accessory Belt Replacement


Most modern vehicles operate the accessories on one belt. Should it become worn, the belt will start to slip. The belt can even break. The immediate threat is a loss of the power steering. You’ll also gain non-functioning water pump - this will lead to overheating, fast!

Cooling System Service

The coolant keeps your engine from overheating, and also keeps it from freezing. If the coolant is no longer viable and able to do its job, your engine can overheat and damage vital components - or the block might freeze in the winter.

Brake Pad Replacement, Drum and Rotor Replacement, etc

You probably already know this, but it bears repeating: Your vehicle's brake system is the only system that keeps your vehicle for crashing into other vehicles, structures, etc. Putting off brake pad replacement (or rotor or drum replacement, or caliper replacement, etc.) is never a good idea. Safety always comes first.

If you're wondering about whether or not your vehicle needs service in one of these areas, check out your owner's manual for recommended maintenance intervals and always order OEM parts when you need a replacement.

Written by Jason Lancaster