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Service Indicators

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The subsequent lights are found on later model cars. They indicate that some kind of service or regular maintanance needs to be performed. They will of course vary from car to car, but this is what they may look like.

Service Indicator Light
These lights and others like it are different service indicators. Each car manufacturer recommends that you have routine maintenance done on your car at specified intervals, and newer cars will alert you when one of these intervals has arrived by illuminating a light like one of these. Your owners manual should tell you what maintenance is recommended when, which should give you a good idea why the light is on and what needs to be scheduled for your car. Your service technician should also have a resource for each car manufacturer that also lists what should be done and at what mileage intervals. Another resource for generally recommended maintenance can be found in the service section of this web site.
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Oil Service Light
This light, lights similar in appearance, and perhaps many other types of indicators, alert you to the fact that your oil needs to be changed. However, many cars do not have any lights that perform this convenient function. This light is usually based on a combination of mileage driven and time elapsed, as well as sometimes more advanced indicators. While these lights are useful and should always be taken notice of, the best advice is to always monitor your oil change intervals. Oil changes are often overlooked, as not changing the oil does not immediately produce a decrease in performance, or any other immediately visible results. However, oil changes are arguably the most important maintenance you can and need to do to your car. If oil changes are left undone, the oil filter eventually collapses after being clogged with contaminants and hence cannot allow enough oil to pass through it to properly lubricate your engine. This lack of lubrication can produce catastrophic and enormously expensive results, which are often irreparable. BMW, for example, recommends synthetic oil changes every 15,000 miles. It’s true that synthetic oil can go many more miles without being changed than regular oil, but 15,000 miles is way too much for even synthetic oil, let alone the filter, which is the same whether it’s filtering synthetic or regular oil. Regular oil should be changed every 3,000 miles or every 3 months, especially if you're not making any long trips, as the oil does not heat up enough to burn off contaminants in the oil with short trips. Conversely, if your driving habits consist of mostly hour long trips, for example, you can extend that oil change interval to 4,000 miles if you'd like. Synthetic oil should be changed every 5,000 – 7,500 miles.
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BMW Service Indicator
This service indicator is specific to BMWs. It has 3 different color lights that correspond to different things: green, yellow, and red. The green lights will start out all lit, and will decrease as time counts down to your next service interval. When a yellow light appears, it indicates that service is due, and will be accompanied by either the message “Oil Service” or “Inspection.” Together with Oil Service simply indicates that the cars timer for your next oil change has indicated that enough time or miles have gone by and an oil change is in order. A note concerning this interval however, many newer BMWs recommend oil changes at every 15,000 miles, and this is way too far to drive between oil changes. The oil filter collapses as it gets inundated with contaminates and runs the risk or starving your engine of oil, which could be paired with catastrophic results. The best idea is to keep track of your oil change intervals yourself and not rely on that counter, changing regular oil every 3,000 miles or every 3 months (unless the miles consist mostly of long trips, which allow the oil to heat up to the temperature where it's able to burn off many contaminants in the oil, in which case you can get away with extending the interval to 4,000 miles if you want), and synthetic oil every 5,000-7,500 miles. When that yellow light is accompanied by the Inspection message, it is indicating that your car is ready for either an Inspection 1 or Inspection 2 service. These services, Inspection 2 being the more involved service, change things like interior cabin filters, air filters, fuel filters, etc, as well as lubricate components of your car and inspect just about every inch of your car for weaknesses or needed repairs. Your technician should be able to tell you which service is needed based both on current mileage and when the last Inspection service was performed. Finally, when a red light appears in this field, it is telling you that service is overdue.
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