Complete Guide To Car Servicing
A car service is the equivalent of a check-up at your doctors to make sure everything is functioning as it needs to. All the essential components and systems in the car including the engine, tyres, exhaust, electrics, brakes and steering are assessed so that the vehicle is as safe and efficient as possible.
But why do you need to get your car serviced? How often should you get a service? And what are your responsibilities if you’re leasing your car? Read on to find answers to all these questions and more in this handy guide to car servicing.
Do I need to service my car if it’s passed its MOT?
Even if your car has passed its MOT, it’s still recommended that you get your car serviced. This is because an MOT is to ensure that your car is roadworthy, not to ensure that it is in the best condition. For example, you can pass your MOT with advisory issues which could hinder the safety/performance capabilities of your vehicle but don’t affect the vehicle’s roadworthiness. These issues would only be addressed as part of a service or during specific maintenance work.
Manufacturers also recommend that you have a vehicle serviced at least once a year or every 12,000 miles (although this can vary between makes and model), whichever comes sooner. Many models also alert drivers of the need to service the vehicle through announcements on the dashboard.
If you’re leasing a car then you have the option of paying for a maintenance package alongside your lease agreement which will cover any routine servicing – bare in mind this will need to be carried out by an approved mechanic who can provide full receipt of their work.
What are the different types of car service?
When it comes to servicing a car, there are three different types of service available: interim, full and major. While the names might vary from garage to garage, the work done will stay the same. Each tier varies in the amount of work carried out, the time taken to do it and the overall cost and we will explore each in more detail below.
An interim service is targeted at high mileage drivers (typically those driving 20,000 or more miles a year) who will need more than the recommended one service a year. Carried out every six months or 6,000 miles, an interim service is the most basic of the three service types.
This type of service takes an hour and a half on average but could take longer depending on whether or not any issues were found. Pricing for this service starts from around £75 depending on the age and model of your vehicle and where you get the service done.
Usually an interim car service will include the following:
- Oil change
- Oil filter change
- Inspection of the car’s main components e.g. lights, tyres, windscreen wipers etc.
- Lubrication of all moving parts
- Top-up of fluids e.g. engine and brake fluid etc.
- An inspection for any fluid leaks
A full service is the next level up from an interim service and is the standard service that is recommended once a year or every 12,000 miles. This is ideal for average drivers doing lower annual mileage and who only need one service a year.
This type of service can take up to three hours on average but could take longer depending on whether or not any issues were found. Pricing for this service starts from around £140 depending on the age and model of your vehicle and where you get the service done.
A full service will include everything that is included in an interim service, as well as any of the following extras:
- Air filter change
- Fuel filter / Spark plug change
- Inspection of the brake
- Inspection of the wheel bearings and shock absorbers
- Testing of electrical components e.g. battery, alternator etc.
- Inspection of the air conditioning
- Checking of the radiator and coolant
A major service is the most premium service available and is recommended once every two years or every 24,000 miles. If you only have one service a year the rule of thumb is that if your last service was a full service, your next should be a major service.
As this is the most thorough service, this type of service could take up to four hours on average but could take longer depending on whether or not any issues were found. Pricing for this service starts from around £190 depending on the age and model of your vehicle and where you get the service done.
A major service will include everything included in both a full and interim service as well as:
- Changing of parts that have a lifespan of two years e.g. brake fluid and cabin filters.
How often should I service my car?
Generally you should be getting your car serviced every year/12,000 miles for a full service, but if you’re driving more than 20,000 miles per year it is recommended you get an interim service every six months/6,000 miles to stay on top of any potential wear and tear issues.
For advice on major services consult your manufacturer service schedule in the vehicle’s manual.
Can I service my own car?
Yes, there are some basic servicing routines you can carry out in order to keep on top of your car’s maintenance, and if you’re a qualified mechanic with experience working on vehicles then you may have the tools and know-how to perform your own services on your car.
If you’re leasing a car and it’s due a service as per the manufacturer’s guidelines, regardless of if you’re a professional mechanic, the finance provider won’t be able to accept work carried out on your own car. It will need to be from an approved centre, so be sure to ask them for a list of centres which they allow.
3 ways to micro-service your car
Here are three simple ways you can perform micro services on your car in between your full service routine to keep it in tip-top condition.
1. Ensure your oil is adequately filled
It’s good practice to keep your oil topped up in order to help prevent engine problems and overheating. This can also save you money when it comes to your service as the garage may charge you a premium for using their own supplies.
To ensure your oil is adequately filled, follow this simple four step process:
- Make sure your car is parked on flat ground.
This prevents any readings taken from being skewed by slopes.
- Locate and clean the dipstick before reinserting.
Clean the dipstick in order to accurately measure the reading and reinsert it to be able to measure the current oil level.
- Remove the dipstick again and check the oil level.
There should be two lines on the dipstick and your oil should ideally lie somewhere between the two. If the oil level is not between the two lines then you need to fill up your oil.
- Use a funnel and fill up your oil.
Locate your oil cap and remove it. Insert a funnel and fill up your oil by pouring the correct oil into the funnel. It’s recommended you do this a bit at a time and check your oil level between pouring to prevent overfilling. Typically the two lines on the dipstick are a litre apart so you can use that as a baseline to work out how much oil your car needs.
2. Monitor your tyre pressure regularly
Just like monitoring your car’s oil levels, it’s equally important to monitor your car’s tyre pressures. Not only does this help keep your car safe to drive, but over or under inflated tyres can wear out faster meaning you will need to splash out for expensive tyre sets more often.
It is recommended you check your tyre pressure every couple of weeks and you can find the recommended tyre pressure in your vehicle’s handbook or printed on the inside of the driver’s door sill or fuel cap. It is likely your tyres may need different pressures for the front and rear tyres, so make sure you know what is expected. There should also be a different PSI (pounds per square inch) level for when the car is laden (with passenger and/or luggage weight) and unladen (without passenger and/or luggage weight).
Before you can check your tyre pressure you will need a pressure gauge which can be found at petrol stations or bought online. With a gauge in hand, you can check your tyre pressure by removing the valve cap on the tyre and inserting your gauge. If the reading is not at the recommended pressure, inflate or deflate as needed.
3. Replace fluids
Inline with monitoring your oil levels, you’ll also want to stay on top of windscreen washer fluid, engine coolant and brake fluid. Each of these fluids should be checked and replaced at differing intervals, so use these pointers below if you need help.
- Typically needs replacing once a month.
- To do this, locate the reservoir (marked with a windscreen icon that has a dotted line running through.)
- Top-up your washer fluid with a mix of water and screen wash using the min/max lines on the container.
- Typically needs replacing at least twice a year.
- To do this, first locate the reservoir (use your vehicle handbook for guidance).
- Ensure the engine is cool before checking the fluid level.
- Top-up your engine coolant making sure to read the instructions on the product as necessary as some may require dilution. Use the min/max lines on the reservoir container as a guide.
- Typically needs replacing every two years.
- Locate the correct reservoir.
- Clean off the top of the reservoir itself to prevent dirt falling inside
- Be quick when topping-up to prevent the fluid from absorbing moisture in the air.
- If the fluid is low, top-up to near full with suitable brake fluid, but if it’s empty, you’ll need to take the car to a mechanic to bleed the brakes.
It’s worth noting that the routine servicing included in a maintenance package may do all this for you, but it’s important to check this with the provider as maintenance packages can differ across the board.
What are my service responsibilities when leasing?
If you’re leasing a car for three years or less, you won’t need to worry about getting an MOT for the vehicle, but it’s still very likely that you’ll drive the car for more than the recommended service interval distance of 12,000 miles. As such, your leasing provider will advise that you have the car serviced fully based on what the manufacturer of your model recommends in the manual.
Not doing so could lead to end-of-lease damage charges if the inspection agent deems that there are any issues that go beyond the BVRLA’s ‘fair wear and tear’ guidelines.
Assuming you don’t have a maintenance package with your lease deal, it’s your responsibility to arrange and pay for any servicing, as well as logging it in the service handbook which should be stamped by the mechanic each time a service is carried out. Also, the service light on the dashboard should be reset too.
Here are some key things to remember when it comes to having your lease car serviced.
Honour the service schedule
Although you don’t own the car, it’s still your responsibility to maintain its upkeep and a great way to do that is by honouring the service schedule. While service intervals can vary by make and model, we have already seen that on average a full service is recommended every year/12,000 miles and a major service every two years/24,000 miles.
As such, your service schedule could look something like the ones below with interim services added every six months/6,000 miles if you’re a high mileage driver.
Two-year lease service schedule:
- Year 1: Full Service
- Year 2: Major Service
Three-year lease service schedule:
- Year 1: Full Service
- Year 2: Major Service
- Year 3: Full Service
Four-year lease service schedule:
- Year 1: Full Service
- Year 2: Major Service
- Year 3: Full Service and MOT
- Year 4: Major Service and MOT
Check which garages are approved
It is likely that your finance provider will require you to only get serviced from approved garages where they have already ensured that the quality is up to their requirements. As a result, you will need to know which garages you will be allowed to get a service from. To do this, you will need to contact your provider.
It is important that you only use approved garages because taking your vehicle elsewhere could be breaching your contract.
Log each service on your lease car
On return of your lease car one of the first things your provider will look at is the vehicle’s service history. If they realise that your car hasn’t been properly maintained then they may charge you with penalties for missing services. To avoid this, make sure to log any and all servicing in your service handbook.
Consider a maintenance package
As we’ve already discussed a maintenance package is a great add-on that eases the hassle of servicing. Not only does a maintenance package cover the costs of the service, it will also cover the costs of any necessary repairs and oil fills.
If you’re a high mileage driver, this could save you a lot of money that would otherwise have been spent on interim services and oil changes.
Consider interim servicing for a high mileage lease
It’s your responsibility to ensure that your lease car is handed back in a suitable condition and if you’re a high mileage driver you could be more likely to encounter wear and tear. As such, you may want to consider regular interim servicing every six months to keep on top of your vehicle’s condition and be one step ahead of any potential issues.
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For more information on maintaining your vehicle, check out our other guides to car maintenance.