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A Guide to Car Servicing - What You Need to Know

Updated: May 29, 2021

It may not be something you look forward to or even think about much, but making sure a car is serviced correctly can not only keep you off the dreaded hard shoulder but also play a critical role in how safe the vehicle is.

Play it safe, service your car!

The term car service refers to quite a broad range of tests, checks and work, and car owners must be aware of the different levels of car servicing. Simply going into a garage and asking for a service could leave you open to abuse, as some garages may do far more than is needed; others may even do less!

This guide is designed to explain the main types of car service, what is included in these, and to help answer several common questions around car servicing. It aims to make sure you understand what your car needs and when it needs it, and to make sure you are in control when it comes to booking and paying for a service.

What is Involved In a Car Service?

Although there are a number of different types of servicing, it is important to have an overview of the point of the service and what primary factors are involved.

An MOT Test Is Not a Service

Firstly, car servicing is not an MOT, and this distinction is critical. Many people think once they have had their MOT, they do not then need to service the car, which is incorrect. The MOT test is a safety check; it covers points around the vehicle that are involved in keeping drivers, passengers and other road users safe. This means it covers things like tyres and brake efficiency, but it does not include maintenance. As long as each area is up to standard, nothing else is done. A service is all about replacing lost fluids, changing filters, brake pads, belts, spark plugs and more. Many of these things affect how the car runs but not how safe it is. It is crucial to treat servicing very differently from the MOT test.

Types of Car Service

There are only two main types of car service you need to be aware of: the Full Service and the Interim Service. The interim service is a minor service involving checks and small changes like oil. The full service will include many of the interim points but also inspections and replacement of many other more significant parts around the car.

Interim Service

An interim service is designed to check and change many of the usual consumables in and around the engine. This includes things like engine coolant and oil. Both of these will be reviewed, and the oil and filter should normally be changed.

Full Service

A full service will include a lot more, and all the points from an interim service. Again, the finer detail of what is included can often be manufacturer and even model specific. A full service can also vary depending on how many miles have been covered. Some items like the timing belt will only need to be changed every 50–60,000 miles, so they will not come up in every full service. The checklist for a full service can be around 60 items long. Every car will have a manufacturer’s service schedule. This information will tell you precisely what should be done at each service interval if you follow the timings recommended.

Service Items

The list of things each car needs at different times varies greatly, but there are a few major points that every vehicle must have changed or checked at various points.

  • Oil and Oil Filter

  • Air Filter

  • Pollen Filter

  • Timing Belt check and change (apart from chain timing belts which need the tension checked)

  • Brake Pads and Fluid

  • Clutch

  • Light Bulbs

  • Coolant

  • Spark Plugs

Love you car and it will love you back

How Much Does a Car Service Cost?

Once again, the cost of a service varies greatly depending on the type of service and the type of car. An average price for an interim service is between £50 and £100, and the average cost of a full service is between £140 and £200. There are many factors involved in the price range, including the make of the car, the size of the engine and where you take the vehicle to be serviced. When considering the price of a car service, the best advice is to call at least two reputable garages to get a price comparison.

How Long Does a Car Service Take?

The time a service takes can differ hugely. This is down to several factors, not least, how busy the garage is and how the workshop chooses to prioritise your car. Most interim services should be done in around 2–3 hours. More extensive, full services can take up to a day. If certain parts need to be replaced during a service, this will increase the time required, especially if these parts need to be ordered. Different cars have different parts and part layouts, so some makes of car are simply easier and faster to work on than others. It is worth asking the mechanic how long they think it may take when you drop the car off. If time is critical, you can also ask for an update on how long it may take during the service. This way, you can be informed of any delays in getting parts of fixing unexpected issues.

How Do I Know When I Need a Service?

Most modern cars will tell you when they need a service. A dashboard warning light should come on at pre-programmed intervals of time or mileage. Each time the vehicle is serviced, this will be reset, ready to let you know the next time it needs to be looked at. The other way to tell is to use the manufacturer schedule and simply look back at the previous work receipts and MOTs to work out how many months or miles it has been since the last service.

What is the Cost of Skipping a Service?

Skipping services is never a good idea. With very new cars, it might seem something worth doing to save some money. The idea being, the vehicle is new; what can be wrong? The issue here is that new cars have to bed in, and many things should be checked even with a new car. Missing a service can lead to minor issues becoming significant issues too. If something isn’t picked up early, it can soon become a far more costly problem. The service intervals have been set up to keep the car running well and keep it safe. Ignoring them can lead to damage, breakdowns and more expense in the long run.

Of course, where there’s a breakdown, there’ll be someone needing support. And who better to offer help than a rescuer. If you’re an experienced provider of roadside assistance and repair, and you’d like to develop your customer base to get supplementary work, then you ought to join RexQ.

There are many advantages for you:

  • The RexQ app is free of charge to download and register

  • No subscription or membership is necessary

  • No monthly or yearly cost to you

  • You get told when there’s work close by

  • You bid for the job and decide what price to offer.

If you win the work, RexQ will transfer the funds to your chosen account, minus a small commission.

​RexQ is looking for specialists in:

  • Breakdown recovery (jump-start, tow)

  • Mobile tyre-fitting

  • Fuel professionals (fuel drain, out of fuel, misfuel)

  • Auto locksmiths

Dealership Service or Local Garage?

This question is a common one and can lead to different answers depending on who you speak to. Naturally, the dealerships will always say they offer the best service, and local garages will say they provide better value. The reality is a dealership will be more expensive nine times out of 10. They will claim they have more specific tools and will do a better job, but a good local garage has access to everything a dealership does in this day and age. That being said, dealership service stamps and records are more appealing to a used car buyer and will help if you want to trade it back in. What does this mean? Well, if you want to keep the residual value as high as possible, then dealership servicing is the way to go. If the car is a little older or you feel your dealership is charging far too much, then finding a reputable and well-reviewed local garage is the answer for you.

What Does a Full-Service History Mean?

Almost every used car advert will mention service history. This is often abbreviated to FSH or PSH, which means full or part service history. A full-service history is simply a complete log or receipts and stamps in the owner book for every service undertaken on the car. It is undoubtedly worth a great deal in the used car world because it shows the vehicle has been well maintained and services have not been skipped.

How Can You Check a Car’s Service History?

Checking a car’s service history is not as simple as it may sound. If the logbook has been lost or just never stamped and there are no receipts with the car, then there are a few things you can do. The first thing is to contact the manufacturer with the VIN and see what information they have on the car. They should be able to tell you which dealership sold it. You can then contact them and see if they serviced it at all.

In reality, most cars are serviced at many different garages, and this can be where the trail goes cold. However, some companies have a centralised database for service information which means the work should all be logged there. Renault and Mazda are two manufacturers that offer this.

Ultimately, servicing is vital to the functioning of the car and your safety. It can be costly, and it is important to understand which service is needed and when. If you are well informed and follow the servicing schedule, then your car should remain problem-free. Also, by keeping a good record of all work undertaken, you are doing your best to keep residual values up.

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