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What is the difference between an MOT and a service?

What is the difference between an MOT and a service?

MOT and Service - What's the Difference?

When it comes to being a responsible vehicle owner, ensuring your car or van is regularly serviced and has an MOT at the correct time is crucial. Not only is driving without an MOT illegal and could cost you a hefty fine, it also keeps your vehicle in check to ensure it is safe and road worthy in the eyes of the law.


A car service, while not a legal requirement, is an important part of your vehicle's maintenance and should be booked and taken as seriously as an MOT. We rely on our vehicles to get us and our loved ones around safely and in comfort, but when it comes to these two important procedures, do you know what checks to expect and the difference between an MOT and a service?

Here, we explore the two procedures in more detail and map out exactly what you should expect from both.



A service is a routine check-up of your vehicle; it involves an inspection of your car's condition and certain consumables, such as oil and filters, will be changed. There are many benefits to having your vehicle regularly serviced at the right time, such as:


Bullet point list of benefits of vehicle servicing


Do I need to service my car?

While it's not a legal requirement to service your car, it is in your best interest to have your car regularly serviced.

As well as keeping your car in good working order, it's an opportunity for trained professionals to check for any small issues or damage that may become big problems down the line. Knowing about these small potential concerns early on means you can have them repaired before they cause a breakdown or further damage, saving money and hassle. As well as saving money on avoidable problems, regular servicing makes your engine run more efficiently, meaning you save money on fuel.

Regular servicing could be a term of your car's warranty; not having the car serviced at the required intervals could render your warranty claim being rejected.

You may come to a time when you wish to sell your car and being able to prove that it's been taken care of through its servicing records can increase the resale value over an equivalent car that doesn't have proof of regular servicing.


When is my car due a service?

When it comes to vehicle servicing there are two options: minor and major. Minor services are typically carried out every 12 months or 12,000 miles, and major services every 24 months or 24,000 miles - subject to manufacturer guidelines. If your car has a minor service one year, it will need a major service the following year.



Should I service my car with my MOT?

Timing your service to coincide with your MOT, which happens every year and is a legal requirement, works out more cost-effective than taking them in separately. There is a degree of overlap in the checks carried out as part of a service and in an MOT; booking them in together means the technicians won't waste time duplicating checks and this saved time saves you money.

Scheduling them together also means you won't forget either part, and it is also much more convenient as you only need to take your car in once. Don't forget, we offer courtesy cars to help keep your day running smoothly when you do need to drop your car into one of our Autocentres.


What happens during a service?

What happens during the service depends on which level you've opted for; minor or major.

The minor service will provide an engine oil change, oil filter change and air filter change. A major service includes all this as well as a pollen filter change and, if required, a fuel filter change (diesels) or spark plus change (petrols). Your service technicians will also check your car is in good working order and flag anything of concern; the higher the level of service, the more thorough an inspection will be carried out. You can see this all laid out in the table below.


Mechanic fixing a car


Minor service: What's involved?

A full service includes several maintenance procedures and checks that are not found in an MOT, so it is important to have regular servicing alongside your annual MOT. This type of service involves over 50 system checks and regular servicing is recommended to help prevent future costly repairs caused by lack of upkeep.

A full service should be carried out every other year or after a specific number of miles (typically 12,000, but this may differ depending on the manufacturer) - whichever comes first.

Here is a breakdown of what you can expect:


Bullet point list of what to expect from a full service


Discover more about what happens during a minor service here.


Major service: What's involved?

A major service includes the same checks that you'd expect from a full service, with the addition of more in-depth checks.

A major service should be completed every two years, or after your manufacturer's specified amount of miles (normally 24,000), whichever comes first.

Here is a breakdown of what to expect:


Bullet point list of what to expect from a full service


Find out more about what happens during a major service here.



What is an MOT?

An MOT is a test conducted by the Ministry of Transport (hence the name) to assess the roadworthiness of a vehicle. MOT technicians will perform a range of checks on your car including its brakes, fuel system, exhaust, lights, mirrors, seatbelts and windscreen wipers. It is important to be aware that an MOT does not cover the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox and does not check its general mechanical condition.

An MOT is a legal requirement and must be done every year.


Do I need to MOT my car?

Once your car or vehicle is over three years old, it must be tested every year to ensure that it meets road safety and environmental standards. It is a legal requirement to have a current MOT to drive your car on the road.

Failure to have an MOT could also invalidate your insurance, and cars without a valid MOT certificate cannot be taxed.


When is my car due for an MOT?

An MOT is an annual requirement and so you will need to have your car MOT tested every year. The specific date will depend on your car's previous MOT tests, and you can find out when your MOT is due by using the vehicle enquiry service on the website. This will also tell you when your tax is due.


What happens during an MOT?

There will be numerous tests carried out throughout the MOT, which include checking:

  • The vehicle structure/body is free from excessive corrosion and contains no sharp edges to cause injury
  • Towbars are secure, in good condition and have not had inappropriate modifications
  • Fuel system leaks, secure hoses and pipes and secure fuel caps
  • Exhaust emissions standards
  • Condition or brakes and ABS
  • Condition, tread depth and size of tyres.

Click here to find out more about what you can expect from your MOT and you can avoid common MOT fails.


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"They have always been helpful and honest, big shout out to Suzanne and the team! The mechanics are also great, when I had a concern over my car, they were happy to do a quick check late on saturday morning to make sure my car was safe." - Cassandra T

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Your Next Steps



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If you want to drive your vehicle safe in the knowledge that it has had an MOT or been serviced thoroughly, give it the VIP treatment it deserves with a service at one of our RAC Approved Autocentres.

Get in touch today to book your interim or full service.  Our friendly, expert team are on hand and ready to help.


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