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What is a car service?

  • We explain what a car service is
  • When should you service your car?
  • We’ve got all you need to know 

A car service is a maintenance check-up for your vehicle to keep it in tip-top condition – like a health check-up at the doctors, except with the added bonus of some replacement parts.

Why does my car need servicing?

Having your car serviced regularly ensures that it’s in proper working order. If you don’t keep on top of service and maintenance, mechanical items can become worn and faulty, and reduce the performance, efficiency, reliability and safety of your car.

If things go wrong because the car hasn’t been serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommend service intervals, it could void your warranty as well (if the car is still in warranty, of course).

When does my car need servicing?

Service intervals vary depending on the manufacturer, and even individual models. Many new cars will ping up a reminder on the trip computer when the car’s next service is due, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll find the timing in the manual.

Your local dealer will be on top of things and might even contact you to remind you it’s due in for a service.

Usually, it’s every 12 months or 12-15,000 miles, whichever is sooner. But not all cars conform to this, so do check specifically what your car requires.

If you opt for a service plan, this will be detailed in the documents you got at the time of purchase. You should also be reminded when your first service is due, as well as subsequent ones after that.

Where do I get my car serviced?

While your car is under manufacturer’s warranty, for simplicity's sake we’d recommend taking it to a franchised dealer to get it serviced. This will ensure the work is carried out using genuine parts, and it’s good to get your service book stamped with a franchised dealer stamp.

However, so long as genuine parts are used, and the correct service schedule is maintained, you can still have your car serviced elsewhere without voiding the manufacturer warranty.

In time, as the car ages and the miles rack up, it may become more cost-effective to have it serviced at an independent garage. Older cars generally require more work, and franchised dealers do tend to be more expensive than independent specialists.

However, it still pays to shop around - even between franchised dealers.

What’s included in a regular service?

The extent of work carried out on your vehicle in a service can vary depending on how many miles your car has covered, as well as how old it is. It can also vary between manufacturers.

At the most basic level, an oil and oil filter change will be done; beyond this air filters and other items such as spark plugs may be changed. In all cases a general health check up should be undertaken. 

If you want to find out exactly what's carried out and when, check the service manual or contact the manufacturer for precise information.

What else do I need to know?

If you buy a car new, you’ll be offered the chance to pay for the car’s servicing in advance, or perhaps incorporate it into the car’s monthly payments if you’ve bought on PCP finance, for example.

These help to keep costs down as everything is covered for the duration of ownership, and there are often varying levels of cover, for example, some service plans will include basic service and maintenance, while more expensive schemes will even cover for wear and tear items such as tyres.

Another to note is the resale value of your car. A full service history from a franchised dealer may enhance the value of your car when you come to sell it on.

Likewise, as part of a finance agreement, a term of the contract could be that the car needs to be maintained strictly within the manufacturer’s recommended schedule, and at a franchised dealer.

Similar to

Full service history, MoT test

Looking for more jargon-busting motoring meanings? Head over to our Parkers Car Glossary page and take a look at our other definitions