What Happens During A Car Service Check?

A mechanical looking under the hood of a bright orange car

If you’re still relatively new to owning a car, you might not be familiar with the process of taking it in for a service check. Whilst it might seem quite intimidating, it’s not something you should ever put off. It’s important that your car is well maintained—both for yourself and for the safety of other road users. Taking your car in for regular service checks will help keep your car running as smoothly as it should be. It might even save you a pretty penny or two!

We’re going to take you through exactly what will happen when your car goes in for a service check and why you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss one. Get the full lowdown below!

What is a service check?

As you’ve probably guessed, a service check involves an expert looking at all of the working parts of your car. They’ll carefully look at both the interior and exterior of the vehicle to make sure that everything’s working as it should be. As they do this, they’ll be keeping a close eye out for any wear and tear—taking note of anything that might need repairing or replacing. 

A service check is not something you can carry out yourself. You need to get a professional to look at your car. 

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

An MOT test is a safety check that involves someone making sure your car is roadworthy and safe to drive on public roads. The mechanic will give your car a full inspection to do this. That being said, they’re limited as to what they can do—they’re not allowed to actually take your vehicle apart, replace or repair anything. 

In comparison, during a service check, a mechanic will be able to disassemble parts in order to make sure the components involved are all working properly. No stone will be left unturned during a service check, so you can always rest assured afterwards that your car is in tip-top condition.

When should I take my car in for a service check?

Image source: Aron Visuals (via Unplash)

Manufacturers recommend drivers take their car in for a full service check every 12,000 miles, or every 12 months, depending on which comes first. If you’re driving a car that has a diagnostic system, it will warn you when a service is due. Like any other warning light, this isn’t something you should ignore—even if it starts well before you’ve reach 12,000 miles or a year. 

Of course, that’s if you’re opting for a full service check. Another type of service check is an interim one. These take place once you reach 6,000 miles or 6 months. Drivers who only tend to use their car for short journeys usually opt for interim service checks. They’re also a popular choice for drivers who like to stay on top of maintaining their car.

(Don’t worry if you don’t know the difference between a full or interim service check—we’ll get to that part soon enough!)

Why should I take my car in for a service check?

1. Safety: car parts start to deteriorate with age, often before you even realise. If you take your car in for regular service checks, however, you can help minimise the risk of sudden breakdowns or accidents.

2. Money: if you manage to catch a minor issue during a service check, the repair will end up costing you far less than it would have had you waited until the issue became a major problem.

3. Fuel efficiency: older cars tend to be less fuel efficient as their engines and filters get clogged up. Service checks, however, will include steps to minimise your emissions, change your oil and clean up your filters.

4. Maintain the value of your vehicle: if your vehicle’s kept in good condition, you can get a better price for it if you decide to sell it further down the line. Buyers are always more interested in vehicles with a service history.

What will happen to my car during a service check?

Red car and parts on the floor
Image source: Tory Bishop (via Unplash)

The actual process of a service check will vary depending on whether your car’s going in for an interim or full check. If you’ve not taken your car in for a service check before, or it’s been a while since your last one, we’d recommend going in for a full check just to be sure everything’s working as it should be. Of course, if you don’t use your car as frequently, an interim one will probably suffice.

Interim service check

An interim service check will involve a professional checking all of the main components of your car. This will involve looking at:

  • Levels of fluid—brake, screen wash and antifreeze
  • Battery condition
  • Exhaust system
  • Bodywork
  • Mirrors—interior and exterior
  • Lights—interior and exterior
  • Full brake check
  • Steering check
  • Suspension check
  • Windscreen wipers
  • Tyre tread and pressure
  • Dashboard warning lights
  • Condition of the engine

Full service check

A full service check will include everything involved in an interim check, alongside a few more in depth checks, such as:

  • Wheel alignment, bearing and balance checks
  • Auxiliary drive belt check
  • Brake fluid condition
  • Spark plugs or fuel filter
  • Air filter checks

Essentially, the mechanic will look over your car with a fine tooth comb. If anything needs replacing or fixing, they’ll attempt to do so then and there—or set up a date that’s better suited to you. 

If you’re at all confused about anything during your service check, don’t hesitate to ask your mechanic

How long will it take?

It will vary depending on the type of service check you’re having done. Interim checks take less time overall, coming in at around an hour and a half. With full service checks being more in depth, they can take up to twice as long!

If a major issue is found during your service check, then it will likely take longer to finish. Your mechanic might even inform you that your car needs to stay in the garage for a couple of days so that they can repair the damage.

Where should I service my car?

Automotive service building with cars outside
Image source: Daniel Salgado (via Unplash)

It’s entirely up to you! If you’ve recently purchased your car, you could head back to the dealership you got it from for your service check. You could also head to one of your car manufacturer’s approved dealerships or partners scattered across the county.

Alternatively, you could take your car to your local garage—most offer service checks, so it shouldn’t be too much of a struggle to sort out. As long as you’re sure you’re dealing with a reputable business, of course!

How much will it cost me?

It will depend on what type of service check you get, where you go for it, how old your car is and what kind of condition it’s in. You might also accrue extra fees if the mechanic encounters major problems during their check. If you’re working on a budget, you might want to think about comparing quotes online to see which dealerships or garages are offering the best deal.

Don’t let the costs put you off taking your car in for its service check. It’s absolutely vital that you maintain your car. If you let things slide, you could endanger yourself or other road users every time you take your car out. Not sure car repairs are worth it? Check out the signs that will tell you when it’s finally time to replace your car.

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.