Car servicing: everything you need to know

Written by Hejab Azam

27 June, 2019

It’s important to regularly service your car to maintain its roadworthiness and safety. How often your car requires servicing depends on the guidelines set by the manufacturer, the mileage you cover, and whether you feel vital components would benefit from checking, refilling or replacing between MOTs. However, general guidelines recommend servicing a car every 12,000 miles or every 12 months – whichever comes first.

But what’s included in a car service, and what level of inspection should you choose? This guide looks at car service costs, how long a service takes and what’s included in each type, to help you get an idea of what to expect. 

MOT vs service: what’s the difference?

Both an MOT and service involve taking your car to the garage for inspection, but both tests have different aims. An MOT is a compulsory comprehensive annual test of vehicle safety, roadworthiness and emissions required for most vehicles over three years old. MOTs test the same areas on each vehicle, regardless of the make and model. In contrast, a service is an optional check that’s designed to maintain your vehicle. Unlike an MOT, services vary for each make and model and include replacing worn parts, tweaking fluid levels and adjusting tyre pressure to ensure peak performance.

Garages are allowed to dismantle things to be able to access all parts of the engine during a service, and are therefore able to give you a better idea of what parts of your car require work. If you don’t use your car every day and don’t cover long distances, the annual MOT might be all you need. However, if you use your car more often it may be worth getting your car serviced. Routinely servicing your car will help it maintain performance, ensure that it’s safe and limit the number of issues identified in the MOT, thereby saving you money in the long run.

What is included in a car service?

Cars are like human bodies; it’s important to go for regular check-ups to ensure that everything is running smoothly. If you’re unsure as to what level of service your car requires, consult your manufacturer guidebook for relevant details. Generally, there are two levels of service available:

  • Interim: An interim service is generally required after every 6,000 miles driven or six months, whichever comes first. This test includes checks on essentials like lights, tyres and the exhaust, as well as brakes, steering and suspension checks and an oil filter change.
  • Full: A full service takes place every 12 months and includes more comprehensive checks than an interim review. It includes a thorough inspection of electrical and mechanical systems like brakes, as well as topping up important fluids like power steering fluid, oil and coolant.

An oil and filter change is one of the most important parts of a service, as it ensures the reliability and fuel efficiency of your car. Each type of service builds on the previous level; while a basic service will include an oil change and visual inspection, a more comprehensive check may recommend any additional work your car needs. Drivers can also opt for a major service, which is the most complete service available and is recommended to be carried out every two years. A major service carries out everything covered in a full service, but also includes a change of spark plugs, a change of fuel filters and other services recommended by the manufacturer.

How much is a car service?

The average cost of a car service is upwards of £125 for three hours, but it may be possible to get inspections cheaper than this if you shop around. How much you pay for servicing will depend on where you choose to have it done, the complexity of your vehicle, and the level of inspection you require.  If you’re looking to get your car serviced through an independent garage, ask your friends and work colleagues for recommendations to ensure you’re getting a good deal.

It’s a good idea to use your car’s service manual to predict the cost of maintenance and repair bills. To make sure you’re getting work done at a fair price, ask the garage for a detailed breakdown of the work required so you can see what feeds into the total cost. One easy way to save money on your car service is to compare prices from different garages, dealerships and mechanics. If you’d like to have the service carried out by your regular provider, you could get a cheaper quote elsewhere and use it as a bargaining tool.

When looking at different prices, make sure you quote the same type of service so you can compare like for like, and check whether you’re getting a quotation or an estimate. While a quotation is a promise to carry out work at the agreed price, an estimate is what a garage thinks the work is going to cost at the start – meaning the final charge could be higher or lower once the service is complete.

Checks to do between services

Consulting your car’s manual is key to keeping your vehicle in good condition between inspections, as it will outline how often you need to get your car serviced, when replaceable parts will need changing, and how often regular maintenance ideally needs to be carried out. It will also help you determine the checks you can do day-to-day to reduce the cost of repairs, as regular at-home maintenance is cheaper than having to replace parts professionally due to poor upkeep.

One area you can easily maintain between services is the tyres, as those that are over or under pressure or are misaligned will wear unevenly and need to be replaced sooner. Be sure to check your tyres at least once every two weeks using a good-quality gauge or garage air line, and look for slow punctures on side walls. You should also keep an eye on engine oil, checking the dipstick at least once every two weeks and before long journeys, as well as having the filter changed at regular intervals.

If you spot any damage to your car’s bodywork, you should repair it as soon as possible to prevent rust setting in. Wiper blades will wear down over time and may start smearing the windscreen, so it’s recommended to replace them at least once a year to ensure optimum performance. It’s also essential to keep an eye on dashboard warning lights, as these will alert you to any problems with the braking system, engine, oil, coolant levels and tyre pressure. Consulting your owner’s manual will explain what each warning means and how urgently they require attention. If you suspect that your car requires maintenance and don’t feel equipped to repair it yourself, take it to a professional.

In summary….

While it can be tempting to skip servicing your car if money’s short, it can result in bigger bills down the line. While it’s difficult to give an exact price for a service due to the varied requirements set out by manufacturers, the number of miles you may have covered and different levels of inspection available, consulting your car manual can give you a good idea of what to expect.

If you’re looking for a new lease vehicle, contact our experienced team on  0113 387 4241 to discuss your requirements.

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