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Always Fixing Something: Perspective on Automotive Up Keep

  • By Ryan Skidmore

Maintaining the Model T

Compared to vehicles of yore, modern cars ask very little of their up keepers. A driver could circumnavigate the earth (24,901 miles) before any major maintenance need be performed. Let us examine the Model T, as an example of an old timey car that needed up keep at nearly every turn. Behold the lubrication routine. Lube steering bracket every 500 miles, “Lubricate engine and transmission…daily” (Model T Manual), lube steering ball socket every 100 miles, lube spindle bolt every 100 miles, lube front drive shaft bearing every 100 miles, and so forth. Splendid, chaps, splendid! Sounds like a fun way to spend an old fashion Sunday afternoon. Here’s the non-lubrication related routine. Turn the grease cups on the axels every 200 miles, clean spark plugs every 1,200 miles, clean commutator (whatever that is) every 1,200 miles, flush cooling system every 1,200 miles, and final replace car entire every 10,000 miles. Just kidding, but we might as well. Now, for a concept entirely foreign to the modern driver. New Model T must be broken-in which means performing special actions so the new parts are ready for normal operations. Since no new Model Ts are being produced (to Carmine’s extensive knowledge) new engines are commonly broken in. We quote the Model T manual “Remember that a new machine requires more careful attention during the first few days it is being driven than after the parts have become thoroughly “worked in.” The car which is driven slowly and carefully when new usually gives the most satisfactory service in the end.” ( With service interval at frequent as 200 miles (Whoa!), it appears a certain level of mechanical savvy was necessary to operate the T over any period of time.


MTBF aka Mean Time Between Failures

MTBF is the predicted elapsed time between inherent failures of a mechanical system, during normal system operation.”  (Wikipedia) MTBF A.K.A. how long something is expected and/or designed to last. “According to the New York Times, in the 1960s and 1970s, the typical car reached its end of life around 100,000 miles, but due to manufacturing improvements such as tighter tolerances and better anti-corrosion coatings, in the 2000s the typical car lasts closer to 200,000 miles.” (Wikipedia) The life span of vehicles has doubled between the 1970s and 2000s. Tighter tolerances means parts will fail or underperform left often. Cars are simply manufactured to higher standards. Also, better anti-corrosion coatings cover vulnerable metal parts that otherwise rot from years of exposure to the scourges of the highway and the merciless weather.  Even with all these higher standards, there is still some maintenance required on every vehicle, and with the help of a fleet management system, managers can easily remember and keep track of all the maintenance requirements on every vehicle.


Maintenance Schedule of Modern Cars

The live span of cars has increased and needed maintenance to keep them running has plunged dramatically. The following was pull from the recommended maintenance schedule of a 2010 Honda Accord, an average mid-sized sedan. Oil change every 7,500 miles. As your grandfather might say, the oil is the life blood of the engine. It is the most frequently service part of the vehicle. On the Model T, the most serviced component requires attention every 100 miles. Replace spark plugs every 30,000 miles. No service is required in between, unlike the Model T that required cleaning the spark plugs every 1,200 miles. A perfect example of how the efficiency and usability of vehicles has improved. Transmission fluid replaced at 144,000 miles. Realistically, the transmission fluid will only be replaced once in the life of vehicle. Of course, if upkeep is not done the results can be disastrous. The best way to track these long maintenance intervals over many fleet vehicles is by implementing a Fleet Management system like the kind we offer here at Carmine.   Companies are busier than ever, and having a system that will remind you of all the maintenance work required can be essential in keeping a healthy fleet.  Today, we feel that a Fleet Management system is not only beneficial but it has become an integral part of your operations.

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