Passenger car preventive maintenance (PM) expenses in calendar-year 2014 were flat compared to CY-2013, primarily due to extended oil drain intervals.
In addition, improvements in engine design and onboard vehicle technology, along with improved oil quality, are allowing fleets to extend oil drain intervals.
“Extended oil change intervals helped offset higher cost per incident as the miles between oil changes increased to 9,255 miles. However, the cost per oil change increased 7 percent to $45,” said Chad Christensen, strategic consultant for GE Capital Fleet Services. “Many of the pre-2010 model passenger cars have been replaced by fleets and the original equipment oil life monitoring systems are contributing to the extended oil change intervals.”
Another factor influencing 2014 maintenance expenses is OEM changes to their scheduled maintenance programs.
“We continue to see OEM ‘recommended’ and ‘required’ scheduled service intervals extended, such as fluid changes, spark plugs, timing belts, and transmission services. We expect this to continue as OEMs develop innovative technologies and longer-life components,” said Mark Lange, technical service specialist for GE Capital Fleet Services.
While oil drain intervals have increased, the proliferation of smaller displacement engines in fleet applications is putting pressure on fleet managers to use synthetic oil to maximize engine life.
“The emergence of smaller vehicle engines with turbochargers may require full-synthetic motor oil, which could increase oil change costs,” said Lange.
“Several national providers are offering ‘do not exceed or max pricing’ on full-synthetic oil changes, which provides some level of stabilized pricing. This pricing ceiling cap provides expense assurances for fleets.”
One trend putting both downward and upward pressure on oil drain expenses is OEMs offering free oil changes.
“Free maintenance offerings offered by several OEMs, which often include oil changes and tire rotation, may be difficult for some fleets to manage. Balancing the advantage of free maintenance repairs with potentially higher labor rate costs for non-free repairs can be challenging,” said Lange.
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