- We run you through all the details of servicing
- From what garage to use to how long it will take
- Do your homework and shop around before getting a service
But, not all garages are the same, so it pays to do your homework and shop around - not just for the best price but also the best customer service and quality of workmanship.
- What is a service?
- How long will the service take?
- Which garage should I use?
- What should I say when booking the service?
- What if something unexpected crops up?
- How will I know if the work has been done?
- I don’t understand the jargon used by garages
- If I’m not satisfied, what can I do?
- Can I carry out a service myself?
- Is there anything I should do between services?
What is a service?
A service is a health check for your car to make sure everything is working properly and the point at which routine work, such as an oil change, will be carried out.
If you’re unsure when your car should be serviced, check the owner’s handbook or ask at the local dealership.
Different service intervals require varying levels of work. Most service halts require little more than basic checks and an oil change, but major services can involve more involved and expensive work, so be sure you know what is due at any given service so you have an idea of the cost.
A normal service should not take more than an hour and a half when carried out by a professional mechanic.
You will pay for the parts and labour, so check this on the invoice. If extra work is required, this will increase the labour charge too.
More extensive services which come round at greater mileage intervals will take longer and cost more. Many garages now offer fixed price servicing deals, so this can be a way to know how much it will cost in advance.
The Office of Fair Trading ruled in 2004 that you can take your car to any garage for a service and not invalidate the warranty. You must make sure an independent garage sticks to the manufacturer’s service guidelines, uses original manufacturer parts and is VAT registered to retain your car’s warranty cover.
Most new car owners stick with a franchised dealer, but it’s worth shopping around other franchised dealers for the best price. Older car owners are better at independent garages or a specialist in that make of car.
Ask to have a look at the workshop and check they are members of the Independent Garage Association.
Make sure you know the make, model, year and engine size of your car when you book a service. It makes you sound more knowledgeable and helps the garage know what they’re dealing with.
Be clear about what work you want done. Have a list of any extra work you’d like carried out, such as a new headlight bulb. If you ask the garage to investigate anything, such as a mystery squeak, make it clear you will only sanction work if they telephone beforehand to let you know how much it will cost to fix.
You can also use Parkers Servicing to book a service and compare labour prices.
If the garage tells you there’s something unexpected wrong with your car, ask them to explain it so you understand the problem.
Don’t be baffled by jargon. Make it clear when you book the service that you will only pay for extra work if the garage calls you beforehand to okay it.
Ask how long it will take to rectify the problem and the cost of any replacement parts involved. This way, you will be prepared for final bill.
Before paying for the service and driving off, ask to have a look around the car.
Ask the service manager or mechanic to point out what work has been done. It will be obvious if new parts have been fitted to areas where you can see, such as the exhaust or tyres. Check the work against the invoice.
Look at the oil dipstick for clean oil and check the windscreen washer bottle has been topped up. Also ask the garage to hang on to the old parts if anything has been replaced so you know what work has been carried out.
Like any industry, the garage business has its own language. If a service manager or mechanic begins to use words you don’t understand, don’t be afraid of appearing stupid – ask them to explain in plain English.
It’s far more important that you understand what work is being carried out on your car than a mechanic thinking you’re from another planet.
If you’re not happy with the service of your car carried out by a garage, the first thing to do is talk to the service manager. Stay calm and polite but firm and explain what you think is wrong and how you’d like it put right.
Should the garage refuse to help, you should have the car checked by an independent mechanic for a condition report. If the garage is a member of the Independent Garage Association, this body offers an arbitration service.
If this fails, you can talk to your local Trading Standards office, which will investigate your complaint. The ultimate recourse is through the courts, though this can be expensive.
There’s nothing to stop you servicing a car yourself, but modern cars are tricky to work on if you don’t have the right high-tech diagnostic computer. Older cars are easier to look after and lend themselves more to the DIY mechanic.
Servicing a car yourself can save money, but you must be sure of your abilities if taking this route. Any safety related work is best carried out by a qualified mechanic.
Keep a watchful eye on your car and you’ll spot minor faults before they develop into major problems. Replacing light bulbs is within the scope of most drivers, so keep on top of this sort of small work and your car should sail through its next service.
You should regularly check the engine’s oil level, ideally once a week. Also, check tyre pressures every week and keep the windscreen washer bottle topped up with a mix of water and screen wash.