How often should you service your car?
Whatever age your car is, regular servicing is the only way to make sure it stays in tip-top condition. We look at the costs and benefits...
Most modern cars will remind you with a warning light or message when it’s time for a service. When you see this, it's nothing to be worried about – it’s just letting you know the vehicle is due for its regular check-up.
Why is it important to service my car, and how much will it cost?
Having your car serviced can seem like a financial burden, but there are a few key reasons why it's important to make sure you do it.
Firstly, it makes sure your car is in good working order – the technicians working on it will inspect many of the mechanical and electric parts to make sure they're functioning as they should. Having your car serviced regularly will extend its life and help it to retain its value.
Secondly, during a service the technician will carry out a health check of your vehicle, which will include checking the condition of the brakes, suspension, tyres and other crucial parts. That will ensure they are in working order, identify any potential problems, and allow them to recommend how to fix problems before they are too serious.
Finally, it's also the perfect opportunity to mention any annoying issues you’ve noticed. The technicians will be able to investigate and possibly fix them while the car is up on a ramp.
The cost of a service depends on numerous factors, including whether you've booked a full or interim check-up, where you choose to have your car checked and, in some cases, where in the UK you live.
Be wary of fixed-price servicing because it is sometimes more focused on the price than ascertaining exactly what your car needs. The key thing here is to do your research before booking your car in with a garage.
How frequently should I service my car?
You should have your car serviced annually or before it reaches a certain mileage outlined by the manufacturer (typically 12,000 miles) – whichever comes first. It's best to check the service intervals in your car's handbook as they vary depending on the model, fuel type and engine.
What work is carried out during a service?
This depends on the service interval your car has reached. Most first services for new cars will involve only an oil and filter change, then the second service will also include the replacement of components with a 24-month lifespan – such as the spark plugs (petrol cars only), glow plugs (diesel cars only) and the brake fluid. There will be a larger, full service the following year, and after that the same cycle continues throughout the car's life. However, if you own an older car and don't cover many miles, you can opt for smaller services more often.
Remember, a service is the best opportunity for a technician to get under your car and check for leaks, extensive wear or damage. They will also check the condition of the brake pads, brake discs and suspension, and give the car a general health check. If any issues are spotted, they will tell you the best way to fix them and the cost.
What are the main benefits of servicing my car regularly?
The main benefit is that your car will have a clean bill of health and be running at its optimum. A car with a clean engine will also typically have better fuel economy, saving you money at the pumps.
Aside from that, it's a financial investment. Chiefly, it saves you money in the long run by avoiding expensive repairs. For newer cars, it also protects the manufacturer’s warranty.
When you come to sell the car, having a full-service history will make it more appealing and boost its second-hand value, and if your car is written off, an insurer is likely to pay out more for a car with a full service history.
Don’t forget to take your car’s service booklet (often found in the same pouch as the handbook) to the garage or dealership, so they can stamp and date when the service was carried out. A growing number of cars come with no service record or handbook, but the servicing agent should be able to log into the car maker's online portal and add in information about the service that has been done.
Where can I service my car?
There are three main choices when it comes to servicing your car, which are:
Franchised dealerships: These are the obvious place for most owners of cars that are up to five years old because they specialise in certain brands and use manufacturer-trained technicians, tools and diagnostics equipment. The downside is that they can be more expensive than independent garages because of the large overheads involved with running a dealership.
Independent garages: Often considered the place to go once your car is out of warranty. They are often cheaper than franchised dealerships, but also offer a high standard of work. It's worth asking up front if they have access to the manufacturer information on what is required at specific service intervals, and that they will use manufacturer-branded or original equipment (OE) parts. Some independents will work on a wide range of brands, while others may specialise in one brand or car group, such as the Volkswagen Group, which includes Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen.
Fast-fit chains: There are plenty of these franchises about, including Halfords and Kwik Fit. They offer fixed-price servicing packages for motorists to choose from. Their technicians are similarly trained to the ones you'll find at independent garages and are capable of working on a variety of car makes.
Will using an independent garage invalidate my warranty?
Some people think you will void your warranty if you don’t service your car at a manufacturer's dealership. However, that's not the case. Independent garages, specialists and fast-fits are all capable of servicing your car without invalidating your warranty, provided they fit manufacturer-branded or original equipment (OE) parts and use up-to-date equipment and technical information to work on your car.
The European Union’s Block Exemption Regulations, which were created in 1995 and updated in 2002 and 2010, allow independent garages, traders and organisations to have the same access to the manufacturer technical data, and repair and servicing information as dealerships, allowing them to work correctly on all cars.
Where can I find somewhere to service my car?
Every major car manufacturer has a dealer locator app on its website so you can find your closest dealership. Alternatively, there are numerous websites that provide information on all types of garages near you, some of which are listed below.
The independent garages that appear on these lists have been audited to ensure they are correctly trained and have access to the latest equipment. Many are also signed up to a code of practice that ensures they have to treat customer complaints in a fair way, and provides an arbitration service to resolve disputes.
- Book My Garage
- Motorcodes Garage Finder
- RAC Car Care
- Bosch Service Centre
- Approved Garages
- Trust My Garage
Can I service my car at home?
Yes, but only if you’re confident you can do the job. It's only recommended if your car is out of warranty, and only then if you have all the tools and parts to hand.
Don't forget, the best way to reduce the chances of a repair bill is to care for your car properly.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Best small SUVs 2022
Thinking of buying a new small SUV? Then make sure you read our countdown of the top 10 cars in this booming sector – plus, find out which ones we'd avoid
Kia EV6 long-term test
We rate this electric SUV so highly that we named it Car of the Year. But does it continue to impress when you live with it every day?