What is a car service?

A complete guide to car servicing

Find out what a car service includes and how much it costs

Getting your car serviced is an important part of owning a car. It’s one of the best ways to keep your car running smoothly.

But lots of people are unsure about exactly what’s included in a car service and how much it’ll cost. We’ll help you know what to expect and give you tips on dealing with your garage.

In this article

Car servicing

What is a car service?

A car service is when you take your car to a garage for a routine check up. A mechanic will look at your car’s condition and check parts for wear and tear, like brakes, oil, filters and engine belt.

It’s common for the garage to replace your oil filter as part of the service. They may recommend that you replace other car parts too. That way, getting your car serviced can help you spot any issues and fix them before they cause a breakdown.

Regular servicing also helps to prolong the life of your car. A complete service history can even help with the resale value of your car as it shows that it's been well looked after.

Get a service at an AA approved garage near you

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Is a service different to an MOT?

Yes - a service is different to your MOT. It’s common to have both at the same time and many garages offer a package for your service and MOT. But they’re not the same thing:

  • An MOT is an annual test to check your car’s safety and make sure it's roadworthy.
  • It’s a legal requirement to get it done if your car’s over 3 years old.
  • You can’t drive your car without a valid MOT.
  • A service isn’t a legal requirement.
  • It looks at wear and tear on your car and is recommended to keep your car performing its best.
  • The car manufacturer will detail which checks should be included in the service.

How often should you service your car?

Most modern cars will have a service indicator to remind you when your service is due. This is likely to take into account the time and mileage since your last service. 

Details of your car’s recommended service schedule will be in the handbook. Many manufacturer’s recommend getting a service every 10,000 - 20,000 miles depending on the type of car you have.

Some garages sell their services based on a recommended period of time or amount of miles, such as:

  • Interim service - After 6 months or 6,000 miles, whichever comes first.
  • Full service - After 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.
  • Major service - After 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

What's included in a car service?

What’s included in a car service depends on the garage you go to and the type of service you pay for. Garages usually offer an interim service and a full car service. Some also offer a major service. 

All services will involve visual checks to your car, like looking for damage to your car’s body or wheels. They’ll also include manual checks to things like your brakes and gearbox to make sure they’re working as they should.

If you have an electric or hybrid car, the checks will include your charging port, cables and connections.

Checks during a car service can include:
  • Engine oil and oil filter
  • Lights, tyres, bodywork and exhausts
  • Brakes and steering
  • Fluid and coolant levels
  • Suspension
  • Car battery

Your garage will replace certain worn car parts and fluids during your service. But how many replacement parts and changes you get depends on the type of service you book. 

What are the different types of car service?

There are 3 main types of car service to choose from:

Interim car service

It’s recommended to get an interim service every 6 months or 6,000 miles that your car has driven - whichever comes sooner.

All services will include checking lights, brakes, tyres, steering, suspension and all fluid levels. An interim service might also include:

  • Oil change
  • Oil filter replacement
  • Inspect drive belt

Full car service

It’s recommended to get a full service every 12 months or 12,000 miles - whichever comes sooner.

A full service will usually include everything that’s in the interim service plus extra checks and changes. It could include up to 80 checks on your car. A full service might include:

  • Fuel filter replacement (for diesel cars)
  • Air cleaner replacement
  • Alternator hose and vacuum hose inspection
  • Parking brake shoes inspection
  • Remove and rotate road wheels

Major car service

This might be recommended after 24 months or 24,000 miles. A major service usually includes all the checks and changes in the full service, plus some extras. Changes to your car might include:

  • Brake fluid replacement
  • Odour and allergy filter replacement
  • Spark plugs replacement
  • Automatic transmission oil level inspection
  • Test battery

How much does a car service cost?

The average cost of a car service varies from garage to garage and depends on what part of the country you’re in.

Prices at independent garages will vary the most, while big chains like Kwik Fit and Halfords should charge a standard price.

  • An interim service could cost around £75 - £125.
  • A full service could cost £150+.

The cost of the service won’t include certain parts if they need replacing. 

If you have AA breakdown cover and need replacement parts, you can get 10% off in-store at Halfords.

When you use our Smart Care service, we take the hassle out of booking your car into a garage. We’ll give you a competitive price and book you into your choice of an AA-approved garage. And if any work needs doing to your car, we’ll double-check the garage’s recommendations and get a fair price for you.

Help with getting your car serviced at a garage:

How long does a car service take?

It’s best to ask the garage how long it’ll take at the time you book your service. But as a rough guide:

  • An interim service is less extensive and includes fewer checks on your car. It may take around 1 1/2 hours.
  • A full service is a check of the whole car, so will take longer. It may take around 3 hours.

Depending on the garage, the service could happen while you wait or you might need to drop your car off and pick it up later in the day.

When you choose Smart Care, we can pick up your car and drop it back off for you after it’s been to the garage. It’s the hassle-free way to get a car service.

How can Smart Care help with servicing?

Smart Care is a hassle-free way to book a car service online. We make it quick and easy to find a local garage you can trust from ones we’ve inspected ourselves. Book a time slot online and be confident that you’re getting a fair price.

If you have any questions about anything technical, we’re just a phone call away. Plus, all parts and labour come with a 12 month guarantee.

Here’s how Smart Care works:
  • Enter your number plate and postcode.
  • Choose whether you want a service, MOT or a vehicle check.
  • See set prices with no hidden fees from a choice of approved garages.
  • Pick a date and time to drop off your vehicle at your chosen garage, or we can usually collect your vehicle from you.
  • Put in your information, hand over your vehicle and you're all set. We'll work with the garage and only charge you once everything's done.

Book a car service with Smart Care.

How important is a car’s service history?

Making sure your car has a full service history can help it to keep its value when you sell it. It’ll show it’s been well looked after and could help you get a better price for it.

A full service history is also something to look out for when you’re buying a used car. Again, it shows you that the car’s been maintained. A missing service history could mean there’s a problem in the car’s past.

Whether the car has a service history or not, you can get a used car vehicle inspection for peace of mind.

Published: 24 July 2020 | Updated: 24 July 2020 | Author: The AA

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