Car Servicing Guide
Car servicing is a necessary evil for motorists, and something that fits firmly into the category of “grudge purchase.” Failing to service a car regularly can reduce a car’s reliability and even have safety implications, and ignoring the service schedule also reduces a vehicle’s resale value – after all a “full service history” means a lot when people are selecting a used vehicle.
So, with the above firmly in mind, we’ve put together this guide to car servicing, with saving money as a big part of the agenda.
Unless you happen to be a part-time mechanic or car enthusiast, it’s often the case that you’re at the mercy of garages when it comes to being told that needs doing and how much it’s going to cost. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way anymore – and we explain why later in the article.
First, let’s cover some basics:
What’s involved in a car service?
Car manufacturers define a set service schedule for their vehicles, usually based on a principle of regular alternating full and interim services.
As an example, a manufacturer may state that a full service should take place after every 12,000 miles or 12 months, with interim services in the middle (at 6,000 mile or six-month points). The exact mileage and time variations can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Unsurprisingly, a full service involves more work and is invariably more expensive. Mechanics carrying out a full service will look in much more detail at the “nuts and bolts” of the car.
For example, the following are some of the things that would typically form part of every service:
- Operational tests of key parts and safety features
- Air filter checks
- Fluid top ups for brake fluid, antifreeze, power steering fluid and similar
- Oil and oil filter replacement
- Exhaust checks
- Rust / corrosion checks
- Maintenance to brake pads, discs and drums
The following tasks would typically only be carried out as part of a full service:
- Wheel removal, realignment and balancing
- Wheel bearing checks
- Inspection of engine and gearbox mounts
- Replacement of spark plugs
- Air filter replacement
What about regular maintenance checks?
In between regular services, there may be a need for oil changes and filter replacements – especially if you are clocking up a high number of miles.
These works don’t usually form part of your regular service schedule and don’t earn a stamp in the service book – this is why many people opt to use independent mechanics for these tasks, or even complete them themselves.
Car Servicing Costs
On the face of it, it can seem that car service costs are quite transparent – but that’s really not the case, as we’ll explain now.
If you go into a main dealer’s service department or one of the well-known countrywide maintenance chains, you’ll often find what appears to be a very clear price list for full and interim services. The problem is that this is usually just the basic cost of the service, and won’t even include the standard consumable parts needed to complete the service (such as spark plugs and filters – and even the oil!)
Where things get really unpredictable is when you get “the phone call” a few hours after dropping the car off. This is the dreaded moment when the mechanic tells you about what they’ve found during their inspection and how much it’s going to cost to put right.
This is where costs can get out of control, because unless you’re a car expert you have to trust in what you’re being told – and you never know the mark-up on the parts either.
A Way to Reduce your Servicing Costs
Thanks to the connected world we now live in, there’s finally a way to verify these costs and make sure you’re not paying too much.
It comes in the form of a service called ClickMechanic, which utilises a network of vetted mobile mechanics to quote on and carry out work. The service finally provides those of us without expert knowledge the means to make sure we’re not being overcharged for maintenance and servicing work.
Our Managing Director here at PetrolPrices.com recently needed some work on his car, so put the service to the test.
ClickMechanic: A Case Study
Our MD visited his local (and trusted) mechanic for an interim service. He was quite pleased with the quoted cost of £124, but then received the “dreaded phone call” (see above).
The mechanic revealed the car needed additional work:
- New front break pads and discs
- Radiator coolant replacement
- Replacement valve cover and gasket
The quote was a depressing £450 in parts and labour, in addition to the agreed service cost.
Thankfully, ClickMechanic allowed him to look at what the costs would be using its service, which were £277 for the same work. This represents a 38% saving – and ClickMechanic’s partner engineers can also do the work at the weekend and without him taking the car in.
The savings actually went further upon some investigation. ClickMechanic also quoted just £89.90 for the service itself, so our MD could have saved just under £35 on that too.
Add to that the fact that at PetrolPrices.com we have now negotiated 10% off all bookings made via our site (see below), the total saving could have amounted to just under £250 – almost half the price of the trusted garage – and probably enough to pay for the next routine service!
Making sure you save money
The beauty of ClickMechanic is that you can use it as a handy tool without committing to using the partner mechanics. You can price up services and repairs online without any commitment, and compare prices with what garages are telling you.
If you like bartering you could even use the online quotes to try to entice traditional garages to reduce their own costs!
If you do decide to use ClickMechanic for any servicing and maintenance work, you can save 10% on all bookings by visiting the site from here and entering promo code UNLEADED10.
There are various other factors you need to consider regarding car servicing. We address the most significant below.
Manufacturer Service Plans
If you buy a new vehicle, the chances are the dealer will try to upsell you a maintenance plan which includes your servicing for a set number of years for a fixed fee – sometimes paid monthly.
While these proposals are sometimes a good deal, it’s essential to read the small print. The plans may not include parts, for starters. Coupled with a valid warranty, you should be able to predict your future costs fairly reliably with one of these plans, but the consumable costs could still be an unknown quantity. Tread carefully.
Service History vs Dealer Service History
The issue of whether a main-dealer service history is as valid and valuable as a “full service history” from independent garages or specialists will always be a contentious one.
It IS probably fair to say that for prestige car brands people will sometimes be more on the look out for main dealer services. However, there are a couple of big considerations here:
- Just how much more will these main-dealer services cost over the period you own the car
- How much will the resale or trade-in value of the car be affected by the difference between main dealer stamps and those from other garages when the time comes to upgrade
Obviously this is a decision down to the individual, but it’s worth keeping in mind that trade valuation guides apparently make no distinction between manufacturer services and those done elsewhere. A full service history is far more about ensuring a car has been serviced at the manufacturer-recommended intervals. Not doing so can reduce the resale value of a car by up to a quarter, according to The Telegraph.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Many manufacturers now use electronic service books, so it’s not as simple as stamping the book. If you do decide to use independent garages, it’s well worth building up a file of receipts for the future.
Where do MOTs fit in?
While many garages and ClickMechanic partners can offer MOTs, it’s crucial to remember that an MOT and a service are two completely different things.
To quote the UK government:
“The MOT test checks that your vehicle meets road safety and environmental standards.”
So, essentially an MOT is as much about the safety of others as the safety of your vehicle. A successful MOT doesn’t mean that there aren’t potentially all kinds of costly things just waiting to go wrong with your car – so don’t assume a passed MOT means your vehicle can skip its next service!
IMAGE CREDITS: Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, Geograph