Servicing is one of those annual car-owning responsibilities which are in the same category as remembering to pay your road tax, or booking a MOT test. Think of it just like a check-up at the dentist; a simple routine examination to make sure everything is OK, and perhaps a quick scale and polish to keep your body in good working order. In a car service, the mechanic will do just the same – give your car the once over to make sure that the key components are working properly, and replace parts which have a limited lifespan. It’s therefore perhaps not a surprise that searches for a “car service near me” are common terms keyed into search engines.
One of the common misconceptions with car ownership is that servicing and MOT testing is an either/or scenario, or that there’s no need to go through the expense and hassle of doing that car service near me search if the car passed a MOT a few months before. The MOT is a legal test of whether your car is roadworthy or nor. The service however is not a legal requirement, but is a good way of making sure that your car is in the best condition possible to pass any MOT. Car manufacturers recommend servicing as the best way of keeping your car running properly, and the standard interval between services is 12 months or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Most modern cars also have some sort of indicator on the dashboard to let you know when that time is approaching.
Types of Car Service
When you do the car service near me search and select a local garage, the most common question you’ll be asked is about the type of service you need. The three main types of car service are:
Some manufacturers and garages may use different terminology to refer to the levels of servicing, but the basic concept of three tiers, with each increasing in the level of work done, will be the same.
Interim services are really only required for vehicles which are covering a very high annual mileage, and which will need more than one service a year. Interim services are usually every six months, and so for people who are covering many miles, they will have one more detailed and one interim service per year. This is common for commercial vehicles or taxis.
An interim service is the most basic sort od service and takes around 90 minutes. During that time the mechanic will perform an oil and filter change, top up the other fluids like brake fluids, check there are no obvious leaks from oil or fluids, and go a visual inspection of the main components of the car such as lights and tyres.
The next level of service up from the interim is the full service. This is the one which is recommended every 12,000 miles or yearly, which is why many garages will refer to it as the “annual service”. As the inspection and work carried out is more detailed, you can expect it to take around 3 hours. Most customers will leave their vehicle at the garage all day, or just for the morning or afternoon. As well as covering everything you would get in an interim service, a full service will also provide an air filter change, inspection of components like the brakes, shock absorbers, battery and alternator, a change of fuel filter or spark plugs, testing the air conditioning, and checking the radiator.
A major service is the most comprehensive inspection and overhaul of your car and is usually recommended either every 24,000 miles, or 2 years. Most drivers will alternate between a full/annual service one year, and then a major service the next. Check your car’s service book if you are unsure which sort of service you had last time round. The major service usually takes about four hours to complete, but if the mechanic identifies issues with your car, you might have to leave it with them for longer. In a full service, the mechanic will also change brake fluid or cabin filters, and give your car a much more thorough inspection.
If you have the tools and knowledge required, then servicing your own car is a good way to save time and money on taking it to the garage. However, few people have the ability to carry this work out themselves, such as the ramp needed to get underneath the car for a close inspection. There is no legal requirement to having your car serviced at all, let alone at a proper garage. However, as cars and other vehicles are an expensive asset, it is short-sighted to refuse to take the time and effort to protect that asset. If you are not keeping on top of the basic servicing, the risk is that a small, cheap to fix problem is allowed to grow into a major, expensive problem.
The one exception to this is when you are buying a car on a PCP style contract, or leasing a vehicle on a long-term rental agreement. These contracts will usually have something built-in stipulating that you must have the car serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and some leasing companies will even specify which garage they want to do the work. Always consider how convenient the list of approved service centres is when signing up for a contract of this type.
One of the ways in which we can all minimise costs for our car servicing is keeping on top of the routine maintenance jobs across the year. Doing this will keep your vehicle in the best shape, and hopefully reduce the risk of the mechanic coming across something potentially serious when the service is due. It doesn’t have to be hugely technical and time-consuming, and routine servicing is something everyone should be on top of. Basic maintenance is also known as “micro-servicing” and the jobs you should be keeping on top of are:
One way of avoiding all of this checking and servicing is to buy a service package at the same time as your car. Often, when buying a new or nearly-new car, this is something the dealer might be happy to negotiate on when they have no flexibility to decrease the price of the car. It’s also a product which more insurance companies are starting to offer. Buying a maintenance package will typically include the cost of your services over a set period, and might be cheaper than just paying the price when the service is due. The disadvantage of these service plans is that you are often tied into having the vehicle serviced at the garage or chain which sold it, which might not always be convenient.
Leasing is an increasingly popular way of getting on the road. Although leasing is a long-term rental agreement which means you’ll never fully own the car, the benefits of being able to budget a monthly cost and regularly swap into a newer car is attractive to many. Lease agreements will vary in terms and conditions. Some will include servicing in the monthly lease price, along with insurance or a breakdown contract. Others will just say that it is your responsibility to stick to the service schedule, and give flexibility over where this is done.
If you are responsible for organising the servicing and maintenance on a lease car, and fail to have it serviced by an approved garage, then you could be hit with very heavy penalties at the end of your lease period. This is especially the case if the person inspecting your car at the end of the lease thinks there is damage which goes beyond acceptable wear and tear.
If you are arranging the servicing yourself, check with the lease company about whether they have any rules about who can do the servicing. Always get the mechanic or garage who does the servicing to stamp the service book when they carry out the work, and remember to get them to reset the service light.
If you don’t lease your car, then it is entirely your responsibility to organise the servicing of your car. There are two main approaches to this. The first approach is to just keep an eye on when the service is due, book the car in and pay the bill. The other option is to buy a servicing package from the company you bought the car from, or from a third party. Third parties providing these sorts of packages often also provide other car finance related products such as warranties or insurance.
All maintenance packages vary, so make sure you know what you are signing up for. Some will include absolutely everything you might need done to your car, including new tyres or windscreen wipers. Others are more basic, and will only include the costs of the actual servicing. There is no right and wrong here; the choice will depend on your budget and what products are on offer at the time. The important thing to remember is to look carefully at what is included in each package when you are comparing prices to ensure you get the best value for money.
If you buy a car with a servicing package and then decide to sell it on, make sure that you have the right to transfer this package onto the new owner of the car. Most servicing packages will allow you to do this, but not all will and if you still have several months to run on the package then you could be losing out if you don’t have the right to cancel.