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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 By Claire Evans

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Most modern cars will remind you via a message or dash warning light when it’s time for a service. This is nothing to worry about, it’s merely a reminder that your car is due for its scheduled 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 technician working on your vehicle will inspect many mechanical and electrical parts thoroughly, including those relating to the brakes, steering and suspension. Having servicing work done will extend the longevity of your car and help it retain value.

Service time 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 to see what is included.

How frequently should my car be serviced?

You should have your car serviced according to the guidelines provided by the manufacturer in the handbook. For older cars the usual service interval is around 12,000 miles or 12 months, however, modern cars can go much longer between services. Many cars now have self-diagnostic systems onboard that will advise you when a service is due. They usually warn you in advance - some may tell you the service is due in 1000 miles - to ensure you have enough time to get the car booked in.

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 wear and tear components such as the spark plugs (petrol cars only), glow plugs (diesel cars only) and the oil and brake fluid. After this the same cycle continues throughout the life of the car, although some services will include the replacement of important components, such as the car's timing belt.

The service is also the best opportunity for a technician to get under your car and check for leaks and worn parts. 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 performance. A car with a clean engine will also typically return better fuel economy, saving you money at the pumps.

Aside from that, it's a financial investment - getting your car serviced regularly should save you money in the long run because any problems should be spotted and rectified early helping you avoiding expensive repair bills. 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, 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 have my car serviced?

There are three main choices when it comes to servicing your car. They are:

Franchised dealerships: These are the obvious place for new cars because they specialise in certain brands and use manufacturer trained technicians, tools and diagnostics equipment. The downside is the cost – they can cost more than an independent equivalent 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 franchised garages and you shouldn't have to compromise on quality of work. Most garage technicians are trained to work on a number of makes, with some specialists dedicated to one or two brands. If you're going to choose an independent, it's imperative that you do your research properly before booking the car in to ensure they will be working to the manufacturer's service schedule and using manufacturer-branded or original equipment (OE) parts in order to guarantee your warranty. We'd also recommend you choose a garage that's signed up to The Motor Ombudsman's Service and Repair code, which will give you some extra protection if a problem occurs.

Fast-fits: There are plenty of these franchises about, such as Halfords and Kwik-Fit. Their workshops 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.

Some people think that it will void your warranty if you don’t service your car at a franchised 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. They must:

  • Fit manufacturer-branded or original equipment parts
  • Use up-to-date equipment and technical information to work on your car

Where can I find somewhere to service my car?

Every major car manufacturer has a dealer locator app on their 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 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.

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