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A guide to car servicing - what's included and why is it important?

Treating your car to a regular service is a great way to keep it in tip-top condition, and a full-service history is attractive to future buyers if you're planning to sell.

Servicing your car

Like any health check-up, servicing can seem like a bit of a drag, but it’s important for your car’s wellbeing – and your safety. We look at why it's important and what you need to do when it’s due.

Why is it important to service my car?

First up, servicing a car isn’t cheap. Depending on where you take it, a service can set you back a few hundred quid.

But it's money well spent, an investment in not only the car’s health, but also in your own safety.

The main reason for sticking to a regular servicing schedule is that it helps ensure your car is in good working order. During a service, the mechanics will inspect all the different parts that make your car run as it should. All these checks will extend the life of your car – and help it retain its value if you decide to sell it.

Running a car in its optimal condition also means that it will be as efficient as possible – which will save you money on fuel.

A regular service also means that fully qualified technicians can spot any potential issues. Checking important mechanical parts such as the brakes and engine means that the first signs of wear and tear can be spotted before they have the chance to cause lasting – and possibly expensive – damage. Replacing one worn engine component is a lot cheaper than having to replace the entire engine.

Taking your car in for a service can also be a good opportunity to sort out any niggles that you might have with the car. If you point these out when you hand over the vehicle, the mechanics can take a look and offer some possible fixes.

And finally, a service is good for the safety of you and your passengers. A roadworthy car with brakes that work as they should, for example, will help you avoid collisions – and could even save your life.

When does my car need a service?

Your car’s handbook (in the same wallet as your service booklet) will tell you how often you need a service, but a good rule of thumb is around once a year or after 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. This is known as the service interval.

You might also see a message in your instrument panel telling you a service is due. Alternatively, a dashboard light warning message might come up, highlighting an issue, so you need to get the car checked when you see one of these.

Different types of car service

Not all services are the same, so it's a good idea to be aware of what type of service your car is due. 

The first-year service is straightforward and only involves changing the oil and filters.

The second service involves components that only tend to last two years (spark plugs in petrol cars, glow plugs in diesel cars, brake fluid) so these are changed. The next service is oil and filters again, followed a year later by plugs and brake fluid – and so this cycle continues, year after year throughout the car’s life.

But remember that the technicians should also be giving your car a thorough once-over, so they might identify other issues that need fixing, which involve extra costs.

A man in blue overalls checking a car tyre with a woman dressed in a light blue shirt

Where to service your car

Car owners have three options when it comes to choosing where to get their car serviced.

  • Car dealership: This is the no-brainer choice, because taking a car to the service department of the dealership where it was originally bought (or another that sells the same brand of car) ensures that the technicians are trained to work on your car, plus any replacement parts will be the original equipment (OE) parts that are made specifically for your car – and ensure that the warranty is still valid. You will also get a dealer stamp in your service booklet, which is useful when selling the car. However, this is likely to be the most expensive option.

  • Independent garage: This should be cheaper than a dealership, while the quality of the work should be just as high – especially if it’s a garage where they specialise in particular car brands (the mechanics are often former dealership staff). But you do need to check that they not only know how to work on your brand of car, but that they also use OE or OE-equivalent parts.

  • Servicing chains: Companies that can often be situated in high streets and also offer replacement tyres are another option. They can service a car quickly and do the job as part of a fixed-price package. The mechanics are competent and able to work on cars from a number of brands, but their focus is on doing a quick job, rather than a thorough one, so they might not be as good when it comes to spotting potential future issues. They might not also use OE-equivalent parts, so any existing warranty might be invalidated.

Learn more about car maintenance: