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How often do I need to service my car?

5 minutes

Your car is an important part of your life, whether it’s getting you to and from work, helping bring the shopping home, or taking you out on those unforgettable family days.

It’s so much more than just a machine! Just as you look out for your own health and wellbeing, it’s important to do the same for your car, so you can keep your vehicle in tip-top shape for all those commutes and road trips.

Whether you’re regularly topping up the oil in your car or keeping tyre pressure at a consistent level, proper maintenance means you’ll get the best from your vehicle day in, day out  and help keep your car roadworthy.

A regular car service can also help make sure your car runs well and is as safe as possible. But when should you get a car service, and how often do you need one? In this guide, we look at the different types of car service available and help you decide when your car needs to be serviced.

What is a car service? 

A car service is a regular, routine motor inspection that makes sure your vehicle is running as well as it can. It will be carried out by a mechanic, who checks specific parts, components, fluid levels and more. 

Car services are different from an MOT, which largely checks that your car is roadworthy and safe. 

There are many areas a mechanic will check when servicing your car. These vary depending on how extensive your service is, but can include: 

  • Brakes – any wear on brake pipes, discs and pads, as well as checking the handbrake works sufficiently. 
  • Steering – condition of steering components.
  • Suspension – condition of road springs and shock absorbers.
  • Electrical systems – including entertainment systems and lights. 
  • Tyres – pressure and tread depth. 
  • Engine fluids – checking levels and replacing any old fluids. 
  • Internal fittings – condition of seat belts, mirrors and the horn, for example.

Do I need to service my car?

Getting your car serviced regularly can be beneficial for your vehicle. It’s not just a good idea, it’s highly recommended. The benefits of having your car serviced include: 

  • Making sure your car runs efficiently – for your safety, costs and convenience.
  • Helping your car retain more value – in case you’re looking to sell one day.
  • Highlighting any issues – so you can arrange fixes before a breakdown or your MOT. 

One of the biggest benefits of a car service is that it can flag up any issues early on. So, while it can’t guarantee your car won’t break down, it can encourage you to always keep it in good condition and reduce that risk.

How often do I need to service my car? 

How often you’ll need to service your car depends on the manufacturer, model, mileage and age. Most cars will have recommended service intervals in the handbook, but it’s generally recommended you service your car once a year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. 

It’s a good idea to retain a “full-service history” for your car, keeping records up to date every year. This will provide you with the exact dates your car was serviced with a service stamp, as well as proof of any repairs. 

A “full-service history” also helps your car retain more value, as it acts as a certificate of care and quality. This is crucial if you plan to resell your car in the future.
 
If you do miss a year, don’t worry. Getting your car serviced late still gives you a partial service history, while also giving your car a full health check.

Fixed servicing vs variable servicing

Keeping on top of your car’s service schedule might seem like a hassle, but it doesn’t need to be. Your dealership will normally remind you when your next service is due. To make it even easier, many modern cars will even tell you themselves. 

Cars that indicate when they’re due a service will be following either a fixed or variable service schedule. A fixed schedule is when the car reminds you it’s time for a service after a set time, or a set number of miles. 

A variable schedule is different in that it uses data to determine the ideal time for a service. For example, the car may leave longer between notifications if you mostly drive on motorways, as this puts less strain on it than frequent short drives. 

What service does my car need?

The type of service your car will need depends on the manufacturer, model, age and mileage of your car – as well as when it was last serviced. If you’ve missed a service, you may want a more thorough inspection, for example. There are three main levels of car service:

Interim service 

An interim service can be the best option for drivers with a high average mileage, checking the general health of the car part of the way between two full services. This could take place every six months or every 6,000 miles, for instance.
 
It will typically involve changing the engine oil, as well as checking and refilling any other important fluids – such as brake fluid or windscreen wash. The mechanic will also look for any superficial issues.
 

Major service 

Generally advised every 12 months or every 12,000 miles, a major service is much more comprehensive. 

These inspections include everything covered by an interim service with additional and more detailed checks. For example, they may change more parts where required, such as air and fuel filters. 

Full service

A full service is the most comprehensive type of car service. It’s usually recommended if you only service your car every 24 months, or when you exceed 24,000 miles.
 
Typically, a full service will include everything the garage can offer for an in-depth routine check. Again, this may depend on the car, but among other things, you’d expect:

  • All fluids changed
  • Brakes checked
  • Spark plugs replaced 
  • Tyre checks
  • Electrical checks

Where should I get my car serviced? 


There’s no better place for servicing your car than at one of your manufacturer’s dealerships, as they’ll specialise in your make and model. 

Most manufacturers also keep a full record of your car’s service history, which is more convenient for you. 

There’s no harm getting your car serviced elsewhere, though. Most garages are specialists in their trade with the same expertise as any main dealership – often offering manufacturer-branded parts, too. 

It’s always best to research what kind of servicing package you need versus what you pay – along with the details of your warranty, if you still have one. 

As well as servicing your car, it is also important that you have an insurance policy that suits you. If you’re looking for flexible, year-round cover, take control with Flow Annual car insurance – customise your policy at the touch of a button, 24/7. 

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