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A guide to servicing your car

If you’re going to keep your car in tip-top condition, it will need a regular car service. But what does a car service include and how much does it cost? Here’s everything you need to know about the process.

If you’re going to keep your car in tip-top condition, it will need a regular car service. But what does a car service include and how much does it cost? Here’s everything you need to know about the process.

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
17 MAY 2023
5 min read
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What is a car service?

A car service is a regular check a mechanic carries out on your car to make sure everything’s working as it should.

Your mechanic will inspect your car’s mechanical and electrical parts, along with the tyres, brakes and other essential parts. The older your car, the more likely it is to need a tune-up. For new cars, a service might only mean an oil and filter change.

Why do I need to service my car?

Having your car regularly serviced is an important part of vehicle maintenance. It reduces your risk of breaking down and could also identify potential issues, helping you avoid expensive repair bills down the line.

There are other cost benefits too. Having a clean engine means your car will go further to the gallon, saving you money on fuel, petrol or diesel. And when you come to sell the car, having a full-service history could help it depreciate less.

How often should you service your car? 

How often your car should be serviced will depend on what vehicle you drive. Check the manufacturer’s handbook to see when the car is due a service and what needs doing. Generally, a car should have a full service once a year to keep it in good condition.

However, there are different types of car service. The table below gives a rough guide to when they should be done. 

Service type When to have it
Interim service Every six months of 6,000 miles
Full service Every 12 months or 12,000 miles 
Major service Every 24 months or 24,000 miles 

If in doubt, ask your mechanic.

How much is a car service?

How much car servicing costs depends on your car and who carries out your service.

If you have your MOT done at the same time, you may well get a discount on your car service price. But don’t forget, you might also have to factor in the cost of any repairs and replacement parts. 

As a rough guide, you could expect to pay around £110 for an interim service, £170 upwards for a full service and upwards of £210 for a major service. But again, prices will vary depending on your car and where you go. 

What types of service are there?

There are three types of car service: an interim service, a full service and a major service. A major service is the most comprehensive and includes everything you’d expect from a full annual service, along with extras such as changing the brake fluid and cabin filter. 

What’s on an interim car service checklist? 

In an interim service, your mechanic should carry out the following checks: 

  • Replacing the oil and oil filter 
  • Seat belt inspection 
  • Checking the lights, battery, exhaust and tyres 
  • Checking and refilling windscreen wash, antifreeze coolant, power steering fluid, lights, charging system, steering column, shock absorber and suspension. 

What’s on a full car service checklist? 

During a full service, your mechanic should carry out these checks, as well as those carried out during the interim service: 

  • Wheel alignment, balance and wheel bearing 
  • Replacing air and fuel filters. 

What’s on a major car service checklist? 

A major service includes all the checks done in an interim and full service, plus these add-ons: 

  • Replacing brake fluid, spark plugs, odour and allergy filter 
  • Battery test. 

But, bear in mind, this is only a guide. Your mechanic will tailor the checks depending on what car you drive and the manufacturer’s requirements. Whether your car is petrol, diesel or electric will also have a bearing on what checks are carried out. 

How long does each car service take? 

An interim service takes around an hour and a half.  

A full service takes around three hours.

A major service takes around three to four hours. But, if your mechanic finds a problem with your car, it could take longer. 

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between an MOT and a service?

An MOT and a service involve having your car checked over. But an MOT is a legal test to make sure your car is roadworthy. It doesn’t include making any changes or repairs.

A service is designed to keep your car in prime condition by identifying any potential issues before they become serious and costly to repair. 

Essentially, an MOT is an annual test of vehicle safety, which checks that your vehicle meets road safety and environmental standards. 

A car service will check your car is running properly and any necessary repairs will be carried out. This will improve your car’s performance, prolong its lifespan and even protect its value.

Where can I get my car serviced?

You have a few options. You could go to your local garage – this is often the cheapest. But make sure the garage is familiar with your car’s make and model, and check that they use original or branded parts. If they don’t, it could invalidate your warranty.

Alternatively, you could visit your local dealership. Here, the mechanics will be specially trained to deal with your particular model. They’ll also have a ready supply of brand-new, manufacturer-approved parts. This does tend to be a more expensive option, though.

A third option is to head to a chain like Kwik-Fit or Halfords, which could offer good deals on servicing. They can also do your MOT at the same time.

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Julie Daniels - motor insurance comparison expert

Julie is passionate about delivering a great customer experience and rewarding people for saving on their insurance through our loyalty and rewards programme. She’s spoken to the media, including outlets like Sky News and Capital FM, about car and home insurance, as well as our rewards scheme.

Learn more about Julie

Rory Reid - car and technology expert

Rory Reid is a car and technology expert. He serves as the main presenter on Auto Trader’s YouTube channel and was previously a host on BBC Top Gear and its sister show Extra Gear. He is also a presenter on Fifth Gear. Previously, he hosted Sky TV’s Gadget Geeks, CNET’s Car Tech channel, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition and on the YouTube channel Fast, Furious & Funny.

Learn more about Rory

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