How Often Should You Service Your Car?

Simply put, a car service is a series of maintenance and repair procedures that are carried out on the vehicle after it has travelled a certain number of miles or after a set period of time. The manufacturer of the vehicle will state the best options for the car and how often a service should be carried out.

Most manufacturers recommend having a full car service once a year or every 12,000 miles. But this depends on your car and how you drive it. Even if this appears before months or miles, you shouldn’t ignore it and get it sorted.

Why is it important to service a car?

Servicing is important to keep your car in the best shape possible, save you from expensive repair bills, and save you cash in the long run. During a service, a mechanic will assess everything from your car engine’s fluid levels to general wear and tear. Think of it as a health check for your vehicle that helps it to run as safely and efficiently as possible.

Your car service book should be stamped by the mechanic after completion of a service. If your car has a paperless, digital history then you may need to contact the garage that carried out the service to find out when it was previously completed. 

What are the benefits of servicing a car?

Servicing your car comes with some added benefits. Normally, a service will take up to three hours to complete. With the help of a trusted mechanic, you can spot faults with your car before they become more complicated. Nipping problems in the bud could mean you avoid expensive repair bills in the long term.

Over time, regular servicing will make your car roadworthy after the warranty ends. It helps you hold on to the resell value of your car in the long term. Car buyers are usually willing to pay more for a car that has been kept in good condition, and routine maintenance could make all the difference. 

The 7 signs to look out for

Keep an eye out for these signs between visits to your local garage or calling out a mobile mechanic:

1. Dashboard warning lights

Nothing says your car needs a service quite like a dashboard warning light. The light often appears alongside text telling you how many miles or days you have left before you should take your car to a garage. Some models will even tell you if a service is overdue. You might notice that the light illuminates at the same time as another symbol on your dashboard to help you pinpoint the problem. 

2. Strange noises

Clicks, hisses, ticks, and squeaking could all indicate a problem under the bonnet. If the sound is becoming more intense or the problem seems urgent, you should pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so and call a mechanic right away. For less noises, you should pay attention to when the sounds occur (e.g. when turning, when idle). 

3. Dripping liquid and mystery puddles

First things first, you should check if the puddle has formed or there is a fault under your bonnet. Your car can leak water through condensation in the aircon unit in the summer, or your exhaust in the winter. If your car leaks coloured liquid, you could have a more serious problem on your hands. You shouldn’t attempt to drive your car at all, not even for a service. Try to arrange for a qualified mechanic to visit your car instead.

4. Loss in power and frequent stalling

A regular service could prevent your car from struggling to generate power. There could be a number of reasons for the problems in your car and sometimes there’s a very simple fix. Spark plugs could be faulty and thankfully replacing them is a straightforward and inexpensive job, but it’s best to leave it to the professionals.

5. Brakes behaving differently

Brakes are probably the most important safety feature on your car. When you fail to take your vehicle for a check-up, they can become less effective.

You might have to press harder on the brake pedal to apply stopping power. A mechanic will be able to pinpoint the problem during a service and replacing brake pads is usually a simple process. Remember, it’s best to call a professional out to your car for repairs rather than risk your brakes failing as you drive to a garage, so check your area for mobile mechanics.

6. Smoke coming from the bonnet/exhaust

Smoke clouds can escape from car bonnets and exhausts for many reasons. If the smoke appears to come from a fire under your bonnet, you should turn off your engine. Pull the bonnet release lever but do not try to prop it open.

Passing this information on to a mechanic can help them discover what’s wrong with your car more quickly. They might find problems with your head gasket, cooler systems, electrical wires, pistons or fuel valves.

7. Vibrations

Regular services could also prevent your car from vibrating or juddering. If you’ve noticed unusual movements in your car, there could be a number of potential explanations. For example, juddering while pulling away could be due to worn-out friction material or a pressure plate defect. It could also be caused by an oil leak contaminating the clutch plate. 

If your car judders or vibrates at low revs, the engine mount which holds the engine in place could be loose, worn or broken. 

Where should I take my car for a service?

It’s easy to book a service online at one of our local approved garages. Find a trusted local garage with the RAC stamp of approval. Finding a trustworthy mechanic can seem like a daunting task but thankfully our booking tool can help you find an RAC-approved garage to carry out a service. 

Our full service includes a 77-point inspection with a change of:

  • engine oil 
  • oil filter 
  • air filter 


What happens if I don’t service my car?

If you don’t service your car, your car will become less safe to drive. During a service, a mechanic will flag any safety concerns with your vehicle and may be able to fix them too. The checks could help save you and your passengers from an avoidable accident. 

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