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Is every BMW service, always needed?

I have a BMW 325i 2004. It's supposed to be due for a service. The advisor says it includes the regular oil change, check fluids and top off fluids as well as differential oil change and it will cost $699. The only thing I see that may be worth doing, besides the oil change, is the differential oil change. Is this really worth doing? In the past I've done these types of scheduled maintenance only to discover a week later that I needed new brake pads but they didn't even check the brakes—unrelated but still—I'm leery of these expensive maintenance procedures.

Is this service really necessary? I'm wondering what others do about these scheduled maintenances.

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What seems to be the problem, you want to ask to check brake pads or you want to go to non-BMW shop to do only things you need and do it cheaper? –  Krom Stern Jul 11 '12 at 11:43
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Following-up on @KromStern's comment, maybe a rewrite of this question is in order. If you make a list of all the service items, we could make a yes/no recommendation on necessary. For example, changing the differential oil is necessary but not something that normal people every think about. It's also usually a pain to get at. Then you could consider the labor costs involved separately. –  Bob Cross Jul 11 '12 at 12:16
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I would follow the maintenance schedule that's in your owner's manual. I wouldn't worry so much about the service package (e.g. 60,000 mile service) the dealership is trying to sell you.

The dealership service package many times contains things that aren't in your maintenance schedule, or are done sooner than your maintenance schedule requires. The dealerships don't usually customize their services packages to each car or car line they sell; they have more of a catch all. So, for example, car A requires the timing belt to be changed at 90,000 miles, Car B requires it at 60,000 miles. Since the dealership sells and services both Car A & B they include a timing belt change in the 60,000 mile service. If you own car A you just changed your timing belt at 66% of its life. They also pad their services with extras. For example, your maintenance schedule says to rotate the tires every 7,500 miles. The service package includes rotate and balance, but you don't need to balance your tires unless they are out of balance (e.g., you feel a vibration at X MPH.) Your maintenance schedule says check the steering and suspension components for signs of wear, while the dealership package includes an alignment. You don't need an alignment unless you have irregular tire wear or a symptom that needs to be fixed (e.g., the steering wheel is off center). I could go on and on but I think you get the point.

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Thanks, that's a good way to put it. I thought they had the services scheduled based on intervals customized for each vehicle. –  Adam Mendoza Jul 13 '12 at 4:01
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Needed? Probably not. But the dealership won't tell you that. They'll probably tell you can choose to not do it now, but it will be a problem if a part breaks later on down the road because of it.

It's a really good idea to keep a car on a regular maintenance schedule. The dealer would like you to do it there because they make a high margin on them. Smaller shops will probably cost less. Doing it yourself, even less.

Not all the maintenance items are ever needed, it's more of a preventative thing. Like, your timing belt may last twice as long as recommended, but since it's so crucial, you replace it like clockwork. The windshield wipers? Just wait till they go bad. There's a whole continuum of "priorities" of maintenance items. The dealer will probably make all of them seem like they are crucial.

Like the wiper blades will kill your children because the time you need them will be when it's raining hard and you'll swerve and fly off a cliff.

Regardless of my personal opinion about dealerships, the fluid changes are a good idea to do. Why it costs $700 is beyond me, that's insane. Any place should be able to do that. The dealer, however, probably keeps track of what vehicles come in according to the maintenance schedule and which don't, and I wouldn't put it past some dealerships to use that against you in the future.

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Thanks all for answers and comments. I usually shelled out the money for the peace of mind but times being what they are I want to be more discerning of what money I put into maintenance. –  Adam Mendoza Jul 12 '12 at 2:18
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