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How to have your car serviced

No matter how old your car is, regular servicing is the only way to ensure it remains in tip-top condition. Here we answer your most common questions, including the importance of servicing, where you can have it done and the benefits it brings

Words ByWhat Car? team

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Most modern cars will remind you via a message or warning light that it’s time for a service. This is nothing to be afraid of or to panic over – it’s merely a reminder that your car is due its annual check-up.

Why is it important to service my car, and how much will it cost?

Having your car serviced can be seen as a financial burden, but there are a few key reasons why it is important to do so.

Firstly, it ensures that your car is in good working order, because the technicians working on your vehicle will go inspect the mechanical and electric parts thoroughly. Having these checks, work and updates done will, crucially, extend the longevity of your car and help to retain its value, too.

Secondly, this sort of inspection will allow technicians to carry out a health check on your car, including checking the condition of your brakes, suspension and tyres among other things. This is done to ensure those parts are in working order, identify any potential problems, and recommend how to rectify them before they become a serious issue.

Finally, it is also the perfect opportunity to mention any niggling issues that you’ve noticed, as the technician will be able to investigate and possibly fix them while the car is up on the ramp.

The cost of a service depends on numerous factors, including whether it is a full or interim check-up, where you choose to book your car in, and in some cases where in the UK you live.

Be wary of fixed price servicing, as they often are focused on price rather than ascertaining exactly what your car needs. The key thing here is to do your research ahead of time.

How frequently should I service my car?

You should have your car serviced annually or by a certain mileage outlined by the manufacturer (typically 12,000 miles) - whichever comes first. The best way to check is in your handbook, as each manufacturer, model, fuel type and engine can have different service intervals.

What work is carried out during a service?

This depends on the service interval you reach. Most first services for new cars will involve only an oil and filter change, while the second service will also include the replacement of those components with a 24-month lifespan – such as the spark plugs (petrol cars only), glow plugs (diesel cars only) and the brake fluid. After which the same cycle continues throughout the life of the car.

Remember a service is also the best opportunity for a technician to get underneath 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 advise how best to fix them for an additional 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 return better a MPG figure, 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. It also protects your manufacturer’s warranty, too.

When you come to sell the car, having a full service history boosts the second-hand value of the car, and if your car is written off an insurer is likely to pay out more than a vehicle without one.

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.

Where can I service my car?

There are three main choices when it comes to servicing your car, which are:

Dealerships: The obvious place for most, as they specialise in certain brands and use manufacturer trained technicians, tools and diagnostics equipment. The downside is the cost – often more than the independent equivalents due to 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 mostly cheaper than dealerships without compromising on the quality of work. Most garages are trained to work on a number of makes, with some specialists dedicated to one or two brands. The downside is that you miss out on the plush waiting areas. Joking aside, it's imperative that you do your research properly, and ask whether they are trained to work on modern cars and if they use manufacturer-branded or original equipment (OE) parts, in order to guarantee your warranty.

Fast-fits: There are plenty of these franchises about, such as Halfords and Kwik-Fit. These workshops are focused on getting a car in and out as soon as possible, and offer fixed price servicing packages for motorists to choose from. Technicians are similarly trained to independent garages and competent enough to work across a variety of car makes. The main downside is the short amount of time spent on the vehicle, making it unlikely they will have time to investigate any specific issues you may have.

Some people think that you will void your warranty if you don’t service your car at a manufacturer dealership. However, this is not the case. Independent garages, specialists and fast-fits are all capable of servicing your car without invalidating your warranty – provided they adhere to a couple of key areas.

  • Fitting manufacturer-branded or β€˜Original Equipment’ (OE) parts
  • Using up-to-date equipment and technical information to work on your car

Are you sure using an independent garage won’t invalidate my warranty?

Going an independent garage for a car service is fine, and won’t invalidate your warrantym because they will operate according to your car’s official service schedule. The reason they can do this is due to the European Union’s Block Exemption Regulations, created in 1995 and subsequently updated in 2002 and 2010, which prevent anti-competitive practices and abuse of a company’s dominant position in the market.

The motor industry’s tweaked agreement allows independent garages, traders and organisations, such as the AA, the same access to the manufacturer technical data, repair and servicing information as dealerships, allowing them to all correctly work on all cars.

Where can I find somewhere to service my car?

Every major car manufacturer has a dealer locator app on their website so that you can find your closest dealership. Alternatively, there are numerous websites that provide information on all types of garages near you, which we have 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.

Can I service my car at home?

Yes, but only if you’re confident you can do the job. This is 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 properly care for your car. Read on to the next page for our top car maintenance tips.

Hemal Mistry

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