Car service guide

As a car owner, one of the best things you can do to keep it properly maintained and run correctly is to get it serviced every once in a while. 

A car service is like a GP appointment; it reviews your car and points out any potential issues so you can get it fixed before it becomes a significant and potentially expensive problem. 

Although taking your car to get it serviced can feel like a hassle, as it does mean that you’ll be without your car for at least a full day, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small thing you can do to ensure that your vehicle lasts and performs well for months and even years to come. 

If you’re new to car ownership and are yet to experience a car service, here’s a handy guide from us at Car Adviser to help you learn everything you need to know about a car service.

Everything About Car Service
In this guide

What is a car service?

A car service is a like a health check for your car and is a part of your routine maintenance when you become a car owner. In a car service, a mechanic will assess everything about your vehicle, looking at multiple components ranging from your fluid level to general wear and tear. 

Not all car services are the same. Some of the most in-depth will look at 50 or more system and component checks and make slight adjustments to parts to ensure they’re working well. Others might just look at the essentials, so before you get a car service, make sure you know what quality of check you’ll get. 

When getting a car service, you’ll likely have to drop off your car at your chosen mechanic and then leave it there for most of the day. Most people can drive their car back home within 12 hours; however, if some parts need to be changed or repaired, it may take longer. 

A car service is an essential part of looking after your car, as it can help you spot issues, fine-tune aspects of your vehicle to make sure it’s performing well, and generally help you take better care of it. 

What's included in a car service?

The checks included in your car service will depend on the mechanic you use and the type of service you choose. That said, most people opt to get a full service, as this is the most complete and is usually good value. 

A full service will include an engine oil and filter change, helping to ensure that the engine system is performing well, and it will also check all the car’s essential fluids. This type of check will also likely include a full brake check to ensure that the component is working well, and there’ll likely be another 50 components checked to give a conclusive review of your car’s condition. 

A full service will typically cover the following: 

  • Checks on your engine oil and filter, and replacement for both if needed 
  • Reviews on your lights, tyres, bodywork, exhausts, and any other exterior and cosmetic parts 
  • An inspection on your brakes and steering, making sure that they’re both responsive and work properly
  • A review of your fluid and coolant levels, including things like brake fluid, power steering fluid, and even screen wash
  • A check on your suspension to make sure that your car is comfortable and stable when being driven
  • A review of your car battery to make sure that it’s not going flat and that the terminals haven’t been worn away

Although a full service does provide a lot of checks, it’s also possible to get an even more expensive and thorough service which will look at and check even more components. This type of service will likely include a change of your spark plugs and will also look at things like your wheel alignment and suspension. 

What are the different types of car services?

When getting your car serviced at a garage, most will offer three different types of services that vary in price and thoroughness. The three car services that you can get include: 

Interim car service

This basic car service includes all the essential checks, such as looking at your lights, brakes, tyres, steering, suspension and fluid levels. Depending on how generous your mechanic is, an interim service may also include an oil change and an inspection of the drive belt, although not all of them will include this. 

Full car service 

A full car service is a more complete check and will inspect everything included in the interim car service, plus a few other extras. A full car service could include things like an air cleaner replacement, an inspection of the alternator hose and vacuum hose, and a rotation or removal of road wheels. In fact, a full car service can include up to 80 different checks, helping you to learn a lot about your car’s health. 

Major car service 

A major car service goes beyond a full car service and checks additional parts and components. Due to how thorough this check is, it’s something that you’ll only have to do once every two years or after every 24,000 miles. In addition to everything you can get in a full car service, you can also get things like brake fluid replacement, a spark plug replacement, a full battery test, and many more.

How often should I get my car serviced?

It’s recommended by most car manufacturers and by us at Car Adviser that you should put your car in for a service at least once a year or every 12,000 miles, depending on which one comes first. This means that if you use your vehicle regularly, such as for work or hauling deliveries around, you may have to get your car serviced more frequently. 

That said, how often you should get a service also depends on the type of service that you’re choosing to get. 

For example, if you’re looking for regular maintenance, you should do this every time you need to get your engine oil and filter replaced, which is around every 5,000 miles you drive. For an interim service, you should come in every six months or 6,000 miles, as this frequency will ensure that your car is well looked after. 

As satiated before, a full service is required every 12 months or 12,000 miles, and if you need a highly bespoke and optimised manufacturer service, then that should be done as per your manufacturer’s service schedule. This can be found in your car’s manual.

How much does a car service cost?

A service will cost different amounts depending on where you get it from and what type you choose to get. That said, if you’re choosing a full service, you should expect to pay around £140. 

Although this sounds fairly expensive, this service is pretty good as it will usually include an engine oil and filter change, fluid and brake checks, and a 50-point checklist to thoroughly examine your car. 

That said, many people are put off by this price and choose just to get the required MOT instead. Although this may be cheaper, it’s risky because not having a service can make your car more likely to develop an issue. The whole point of a service is to prevent problems from growing into massive and expensive issues, meaning that skipping them could mean that your car could develop a fault that may be very expensive to fix. 

Plus, trying to save money by skipping your service may also be a bad idea as it could impact your warranty or breakdown cover. This is because many providers will only pay out if you keep up with your car maintenance and servicing, so skipping a service will breach your contract and result in you having to pay out your own pocket. 

Car Service FAQs

Many drivers fail to understand the fundamental differences between an MOT and a routine car service. Because of this, many car owners delay getting their car serviced, as they believe an MOT check is enough to indicate that their vehicle is in good condition. This couldn't be further from the truth, as each different inspection checks out different things. 

An MOT is a required annual test that checks to see if your car is roadworthy. This means it focuses on ensuring that your car is safe to drive and that its environmental impact is under UK limits. An MOT does not check any deeper than this.

In contrast, a car service looks more in-depth at your car, checking out more individual components to ensure they're working well and in good condition. A service may look at some things that an MOT has already inspected, but it will also look at things that it doesn't, helping the driver learn more about how well their car is performing and if any lingering issues need to be fixed before they turn into massive problems.

This is why even if you have a recently passed MOT, getting a service is still a good idea, as it can illuminate any potential issues you weren't aware of.

It is possible to service your own car, and many motorists choose to do it themselves as it can help them save a bit of money. That said, you need to be pretty experienced with how cars work and have the confidence and know-how in order to make replacements and complete vital checks. 

If you're new to car ownership and don't yet have a full grasp of the inner workings of your car, then we here at Car Adviser recommend that you leave servicing your vehicle to an experienced mechanic. That said, if you want to give it a go and have both the tools and a fundamental understanding of motor mechanics, there are a few things that you can do to service your own car.

To give your car an essential service, which is the minimum stuff you need to check, you need to be comfortable checking your engine oil and changing it, reviewing the tyre pressure and condition of your tyres, replacing your car fluids, and changing your spark plugs and air filters. Doing this will only give you a basic service, so if you want to check more about your car, it's best to leave it to a mechanic.

There are many great reasons why you should have your car serviced regularly. The main one is that getting a service helps to prevent your car from developing issues and faults that could become expensive to fix. 

Because services are meant to be regular, a mechanic is more likely to spot an issue forming before it becomes a real problem, meaning that you can fix it before it becomes a tricky repair. Although a car service can cost a fair amount of money each year, it provides a layer of protection that can stop you from paying even more if your car runs into a mechanical problem. 

Plus, some people may need a car service every year to ensure their warranty or insurance coverage is valid. Many providers will require you to keep up with regular services for them to pay out. This typically means that you need to get it serviced once a year. If you miss this deadline by even 24 hours, you may not be able to get cover for an issue, resulting in you having to pay for repairs yourself. 

In addition, if you're looking to sell your car, keeping up with regular services can help you boost its value and ensure you can get the most money out of it. It's worth having your car serviced a month before you put it on the market so that you can provide potential buyers with up-to-date information about your vehicle, making you a much more trustworthy seller to buy from. 

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