What is a car service and why do I need one?

The importance of servcing your car

A car service is a thorough inspection of your vehicle to check it is working properly. Most manufacturers recommend their models are serviced every year or so.

A full service includes checks and adjustments of all the different electrical and mechanical parts of your car to make sure they are functioning correctly, in good condition and not wearing out. The garage will also usually do an oil change, replace the oil filter and top up your brake fluid, power steering fluid and engine coolant.

Surely if something's broken, I'll hear a rattling …

The point of servicing is that it allows problems to be caught early, avoiding the expense, inconvenience and long-term damage to your engine of bigger repairs. It keeps your car in optimum condition, so things like fuel economy will be at their best.

A lot of things that can go wrong with cars are very dangerous and are best prevented rather than cured. Put it this way, you don't want to find out there's a problem with your brakes when you press them on the motorway and nothing happens.

It may be a condition of your warranty that you have your car serviced in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations. Being able to show a full service history will also make it easier to sell.

I've had my MOT – why do I need a service as well?

An MOT makes sure your car is safe to be on the road, and is a legal requirement; a service is more in-depth. The garage can't take your car apart during an MOT, whereas they can (and should!) during a service.

How often should I service my car?

The manufacturer’s manual will tell you how often your car needs to be serviced. It's usually every year – or one some newer models, two years. Between full services, you may be advised to have interim services, which are less comprehensive, for example if you cover a lot of miles.

Having your car serviced regularly doesn't mean nothing will ever go wrong. If one of your dashboard warning lights comes on, showing a fault with the brakes, oil, coolant levels or tyre pressure, always check it out straightaway.

What do I need to take with me to my car's service?

A service isn't a legal requirement, so there isn't any paperwork you legally have to take, but if your car has a service book, you should take that with you. If you've had any maintenance done between services, you should tell the garage about that.

Your boot should be empty, and you need to take your locking wheel nuts if you have them. And don't walk off with your keys in your pocket…

How long does it take to do a service?

A full service usually takes about three hours if everything is fine, longer if there are things which need to be fixed.

How much should a service cost?

The Money Advice Service says a service should cost around £125, not including any repairs or new parts.

To put this in context, if you don't have your car serviced and just wait until something goes wrong, the Money Advice Service says you can expect to pay £430 for a new radiator, £240 for a water pump, £520 for a cylinder head gasket and £2,575 for an engine exchange.

Make sure you choose a garage or dealer you trust. A good garage won’t overcharge you or try to sell you things you don't need. When you first have your car serviced, you'll want to get quotes from several garages, and ask friends and colleagues for recommendations. If a garage you’ve not used before gives you a long list of work they say needs doing, always get a second opinion.

At Carwise Group, we sell a huge range of used cars – and our in-house technicians have been trained to perform car repairs and services on a wide variety of makes and models too. So if you'd like us to check your car over, call us at our Dunstable, Harlow and Maidstone dealership.