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Tips on servicing and maintaining your car

How much does a car service cost?

The average cost of a basic car service is around £125. But, you will probably be able to get it cheaper than this if you shop around.

However, this does not include the cost of any repairs, replacements or new parts.

How often should a car be serviced?

To keep your vehicle in the best possible condition it should typically be serviced every year.

However, there are some age and mileage milestones you need to be aware of. For example, the distance you can cover between oil changes.

These will be shown in the cars manual, along with the tasks needing to be completed.

Caring for your car saves money

Getting your car serviced each year – and maintaining it between services – is money well spent. Problems are likely to be caught early on when they’re cheaper to fix, and your car will have a better resale value and longer life.

A well-maintained car is also more efficient, so you’ll save money on fuel as well. If you need to claim on a warranty you’ll normally have to show your car’s got a complete service record.

Get to know your car’s service manual

Your car’s service manual is the key to keeping your vehicle in good repair.

Written by the people who designed and built your car, it should show:

  • How often you’ll need to get your car serviced.
  • Whn the car’s replaceable parts might need changing.
  • How often regular maintenance tasks need to be carried out – for example, oil changes.

It’s also a good idea to use the service manual to plan for the cost of your car’s maintenance and repair bills.

To avoid spending money on your car unnecessarily, always follow the schedule in the service manual.

For example, many dealerships and quick oil-change chains will typically recommend an oil change twice as often as your car needs.

Watch out for dashboard messages

Most cars now have dashboard warning messages about a wide range of topics, including issues with the braking system, engine, oil and coolant levels, and tyre pressure.

Your car owner’s manual will explain what each lit-up warning message means and what you need to do.

A few of the messages are particularly urgent – they mean you need to pull off the road and stop the engine immediately.

So if you see a lit-up warning message, always check it out straight away.

It could save you hefty repair costs later, or even prevent you being a danger to other motorists and pedestrians.

The cost of skipping servicing

When money’s short it can be tempting to skip servicing your car. But if you do this you risk much bigger bills later.

The cost of a service is far less than the cost of having to replace parts later because of damage through poor maintenance.

For example:

  • Radiator – £430
  • Water pump – £240
  • Engine exchange – £2,575
  • Cylinder head gasket – £520

(Source: Motor Codes website, June 2014)

Keep an eye on the cambelt

Check your service manual to find out when your car is next due to have its cambelt (the camshaft drive belt or timing belt) replaced.

This varies from car to car, but is often needed at around 70,000 to 80,000 miles.

Cambelt replacement can seem expensive (as much as £250 or more) but if it fails while you’re driving, you could face serious engine damage costing much more to fix than changing it when recommended.

Look after your tyres

Caring for your car’s tyres will not only save you money, but also keep it safe to drive.

If your tyres are in poor condition they could blow out on a busy road or lose traction in poor weather and cause a crash.

Stick to the recommended tyre pressures in your manual and check them regularly.

Tyres over or under pressure wear unevenly and will need to be replaced sooner.

Another cause of uneven tyre wear is the tracking being out of alignment, which can be checked and repaired at any garage.

Depending on your car, tyres can cost anything from £70 each so it makes sense to get maximum mileage out of them.

Choosing where to get your car serviced

With higher overheads and staff commission, dealerships are nearly always a more expensive choice for servicing and repairs than independent garages.

The average rate for franchised dealers is £92.11 per hour, while independent garages typically charge £63.56.

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