Many Motorists Drive Under Severe Conditions Without Realizing It, Reports AAA

FLORHAM PARK—AAA encourages motorists to extend the life of their vehicle by adhering to the manufacturer’s recommended service guidelines.

However, owner’s manuals usually have two different maintenance schedules – one for “normal” and one for “severe” duty.  A recent AAA study found that more than half of all motorists follow the wrong maintenance schedule.


“Manufacturers recommend different service schedules for ‘severe’ driving conditions because they increase wear on vehicle components and fluids,” says Mike Coppola, general manager of the AAA Car Care Center in Springfield.  “In New Jersey particularly, we’re faced with increased traffic conditions and longer commutes.  Many motorists don’t realize that what they consider normal driving is actually severe when it comes to wear and tear on their vehicle.”

Six percent of respondents felt they drove in conditions that would require them to follow the “severe” duty schedule.  When asked about the actual driving behaviors that create severe operating conditions, 62 percent admitted to driving their vehicle this way all or most of the time.

While vehicle manufacturers vary slightly in how they define “severe” duty driving, AAA asked motorists if they frequently drive:

  • On short trips – less than 5 miles in normal temperatures or less than 10 miles in freezing temperatures.
  • In stop-and-go traffic in hot weather.
  • At low speeds – less than 50 miles per hour – for long distances.
  • On roads that are dusty, muddy or have salt, sand or gravel spread on the surface.
  • While towing a trailer, carrying a camper or transporting items on a roof rack or car-top carrier.

“Maintenance schedules for severe driving conditions typically recommend having the vehicle’s fluids and filters changed more often, and more frequent inspections of some components,” explains Coppola.

AAA advises motorists to:

  • Read your vehicle owner’s manual and/or maintenance booklet.
  • Learn what your vehicle manufacturer considers “normal” and “severe” service driving conditions.
  • Make an honest assessment of your driving habits.
  • Schedule service in accordance with the appropriate maintenance schedule.

For assistance in evaluating whether you drive under severe conditions and determining the proper maintenance intervals for your vehicle, visit the AAA Car Care Center in Springfield (135 Route 22 East).

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