For many of us, our cars are our most treasured possessions; essential for a convenient and smooth day-to-day existence. Without our cars, we would be at a total loss; unable to travel to work, take the children to school, visit our loved ones, and cram as much into 24 hours as we currently do.
Anyone that has been without a car for a day or longer will know what a hindrance it can be - so it makes sense to look after this essential lifeline and have it serviced regularly.
A whopping 872,000 vehicles were registered for the first time in the UK between January and March 2015, up nine per cent on the same quarter of 2014. As of June 2015, there are a total of 29.6 million licensed cars on the roads in Britain. It's probably fair to assume that a sizeable proportion of these car owners feel a little out of their depth when it comes to the annual service.
To make sure you get the correct level of care and maintenance for your car at all stages of its life (without being fobbed off due to ignorance) it's a good idea to understand the basics of a typical car service; if nothing else, it will give you some peace of mind.
What is involved in a first and second Service
First service: New cars
The first service for a brand new car is usually scheduled for 12 months or up to a specific mileage (varies from 10,000 - 15,000 miles) - whichever comes first. This does differ between manufacturers, but should be detailed in your vehicle handbook. You might find that this initial service is a requirement of the warranty, though you don't have to get the car serviced by the manufacturer at the original dealership. Providing the independent garage you opt for uses parts that have been approved by the manufacturer and the service occurs within the manufacturer's recommended schedule, there's no problem with taking the car somewhere else.
Don't be tempted to carry out any tweaks such as oil changes yourself as this could void the warranty - leave maintenance to the qualified mechanics.
The first service for a brand new car typically comprises an oil and oil filter change, possibly an air filter change too. As the car is relatively new, it is usually quite a basic procedure and shouldn't break the bank.
First service: Used cars
If you're buying a used car from a dealer, it's likely it would have been given the once-over before you receive the keys; regardless, taking your used car for its first 'proper' service can admittedly cause a little anxiety.
Your typical first service for a used car will be more involved than with a new model; naturally, an older one will have experienced more wear and tear.
Most garages will offer two options: an interim service or a full service, both of which are usually due after 12 months or around 12,000 miles. The choice is always yours, though many motorists tend to go for a full service, knowing that having all routine aspects checked early on could ultimately improve performance and prolong the life of their car. Having a mechanic look over features including the tyres, brakes, filters and fluids could help prevent the development of any long-term issues and avoid any nasty costs!
Of course, you don't have to wait until the full annual is due; it's perfectly possible to book your car in for a quick check-up if you suspect there might be a problem or simply want some reassurance. Some car owners might arrange for their brakes, air-conditioning systems and cam belts to be checked separately.
If your used car came complete with a warranty, the same will apply as above; you are not obliged to take it to the dealer for the first service, providing the alternative garage use parts that have been approved by the manufacturer. This rule has been in place since 2003, implemented by the EU, and gives car owners the chance to shop around for a better deal.
Like the first, the second service is generally due when 12 months have passed or a stipulated mileage has been reached. Keeping track of when a service is due shouldn't be difficult; in more modern cars an alert might flash up on the LCD screen or it could coincide with your MOT.
The same service options will usually be offered: minor (interim) and full. The checks carried out depend on the option and garage you've chosen, but a standard minor service should include an oil and filter change, plus a visual inspection of the:
- Levels of coolant, windscreen wash, brake fluid and power steering fluid
Be advised that should any of these items need to be replaced, it's likely to be at an additional cost.
A full service is far more comprehensive and your mechanic will carry out checks that are not included in the minor package. For that reason, it's advisable that you have a full service at least every other year. In addition to the checks mentioned above, the mechanic will look at the condition of your spark plugs, oil and air pollen filters and lights. Plus they'll remove your wheel to take a closer look at your brakes.
What happens if you don't get your car serviced?
Your car is a seriously complicated machine which requires respect and attention. Failing to get a regular service can mean that issues won't be flagged at an early, more easily-repairable stage. Instead, they might develop into costly problems that will pose a danger to you and other motorists. What's more, you could find it difficult to sell your car in the future if you can't prove you've had it regularly maintained. A full-service history is something that almost all used car buyers will look for.
Ultimately, regular maintenance contributes significantly to the performance of your vehicle, promoting fuel-economy, efficiency and reliability. Having spent many hundreds of pounds on your car, it makes sense to look after it, wouldn't you say?
Frequently Ask Questions
What's included in a Ford service?
A Ford service will include an aircon check, oil and filter change, wiper blade replacement, tyre check and a paint and body check. These checks are vital to make sure that your car is running as safely and efficiently as possible.
What's included in a Vauxhall service?
In a major Vauxhall service, the following parts will be checked and changed where necessary - oil and filter, air filter, fuel filter, spark plugs, pollen filter and brake fluid.
What's included in a BMW service?
A BMW service will include different checks, based on which package you purchase. Basic packages usually consist of oil and filter changes, air conditioning top up and filter change, new spark plugs (petrol) or fuel filters (diesel) and brake fluid renewal.
What's included in an Audi service?
Included in an Audi service is an oil and filter change, vehicle health check and a reset service interval display for the 'oil change service'. The 'major service' includes those actions, as well as cleaning and replacing air filters (where necessary), replacing spark plugs (petrol) or fuel filter (diesel) where necessary and a full vehicle inspection with a road test.
What's included in a Volkswagen service?
An Express Visual Check is conducted on every car that enters a Volkswagen (or VW) workshop. A minor service will include - where required - a pollen filter replacement, oil and filter change, fuel and air filter replacements, vehicle heath check, with a major service also providing an air filter change, spark plugs (petrol) and fuel filter (diesel) change, brake checks, drive belt tension adjustment, gearbox oil level check, final drive oil level check and a road test.