Getting your car serviced - A complete guide

A mechanic checking over a car

There are so many things involved when it comes to ensuring that your car runs as safely and smoothly as possible. From regular MOTs to taking care of your car on a daily basis, there are many responsibilities that you have to take on as a car owner.

One of the most important things that you need to remember when keeping your car in tip-top condition is getting it serviced regularly, and whether it’s a long-term rental car that needs servicing, or you’re looking to get the first service for a new car, it’s important to know all about the different types of car services available. 

In our complete guide below, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about what they do in a car service, what should a car service include, how long it takes and how much it costs.

What is a car service?

A car service is essentially like a health check for your car; it forms part of routine maintenance in which many aspects of your vehicle are checked. A car service will be performed by a qualified mechanic most of the time, and can often include over 50 routine system and component checks, such as engine fluid levels, general wear and tear of the car and whether any parts need repairing or replacing.

Does my car need a service (is it a legal requirement)?

Unlike an MOT which is legally required to be performed on your vehicle once a year, a car service isn’t a legal requirement, but it is usually highly advised that you get your car routinely serviced to check that everything’s in good working order.

Full car service checklist

While each mechanic or the individual who is carrying out the car service will likely have a slightly different car service checklist, most mechanics will have a standard set of routine checks that they perform on the car.

Also, exactly when a car service needs to be performed is called the service interval; this tells you what kind of service needs to be carried out under which circumstances.

Interim car service

An interim car service should be done every six months or after 6,000 miles (whichever comes first).

Full car service

A full car service will usually be done every 12 months or after 12,000 miles; whichever comes first. 

Major car service

A major car service is usually every 2 years or after 24,000 miles and it usually involves checking over 50 different things and will show things like whether you need to replace spark plugs, as well as checking wheel alignment and suspension.

Regular maintenance

This level of car service usually involves both an oil change service and/or air filter change, so a regular maintenance service will coincide with either of those things that need changing. The regular maintenance check may also involve a mechanic carrying out a check on tyre pressure/condition.

How often should you service your car?

There’s no one right answer as to how often you should service your car, but most vehicle manufacturers would recommend getting your car serviced at least once a year. 

If you plan on selling your car, you might also want to consider putting it through a car service in order to sell your car for more money as people are usually more likely to purchase something that they’re confident is safe and secure.

How much should a car service cost?

The cost of a car service depends on things like which type of service you choose, the make and model of your car and the kinds of things that need fixing/replacing. In the UK, the average car service will likely cost between £125 and £140.

How long does a car service take?

A car service should take no longer than a few hours to do and it’s usually between 3-5 hours, but of course, the more advanced type of car service you choose, the longer it will take to complete.

What's the difference between a car service and an MOT?

While many people make the mistake of thinking that a car service and an MOT are pretty much the same things, they’re actually quite different and if you want to ensure that you’re looking after your car as well as possible, it’s probably worth doing both every year.

An MOT is done on an annual basis and is required by law (as well as car insurance) to ensure that your car is safe and legal to drive, however, it doesn’t always check every little thing to do with car safety and efficiency, but a full/major car service will.

Can I service my own car myself?

It is possible to service your own car, but it’s safe to say that you’ll need to have a fair bit of technical knowledge when it comes to all things car-related. Unless you really know what you’re doing, and you have all the necessary tools and equipment to perform a full car service on your vehicle, it’s probably best to take it to a proper mechanic who knows exactly what they’re doing.

If you do want to service your own car, you’ll have to ensure that you have the following tools (and probably more) to ensure that you can carry out the job properly:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Spanners
  • Socket set (including a spark plug removal socket)
  • Oil drain tray or bucket
  • Torque wrench
  • Carjack and axle stands
  • Funnel
  • Oil filter remover

Do I have to get my car serviced with my finance company (main dealer)?

Depending on the terms and conditions of your car finance contract, you may be required to get your financed car serviced with a main dealer, rather than just choosing your own garage or mechanic to service it for you.

However, some car finance companies may be happy for you to go to an independent mechanic for your car service, but just be sure to check before so that you don’t run the risk of invalidating the car’s warranty

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