The Good Garage Guide: Tips On Servicing

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When that irritating little spanner appears in the dashboard with the message ‘Service due,’ what do you do? Ignore it for 2,000 miles? Top up the oil? Check forums for a tip on how to turn it off?

Servicing is a pain. It’d be nice if our cars simply worked without having to take them to a garage, but it is a fact of life that, every year, a service will be needed. But if you’re unsure of what is required and when, or how to go about making sure the required work is done, this basic guide should help you ensure everything goes smoothly.

First of all, familiarise yourself with the service schedule of your car, which is available in the manual. It’ll outline what kind of service is due when, and it’ll help to give a decent idea of what your next service is likely to cost.

Beyond that it’s important to check with the vehicle manufacturer if any changes have been made to the service schedule. Sometimes unforeseen problems emerge during the life of a vehicle that require these changes, and while a good garage should be aware of an altered service schedule, a bad one won’t be. Ensure you know the schedule yourself; it’s usually available on the manufacturer website.

It’s also very important to plan ahead. If you know a few months in advance that an expensive service is due, like for example a cam belt change, then you’ll be able to set aside some extra money to pay the garage. It’s far better to do this than to be caught out and stung for a nasty bill you weren’t expecting and can’t afford.

Next, find a trustworthy garage. There’s a long list of recommended, reputable garages in our Good Garage Guide, so it’s a positive place to start. Bear in mind, though, that if you have a manufacturer warranty it may be necessary to have your servicing carried out and an authorised main dealer or you may invalidate it.

It’s also very important to specify what exactly you want the garage to do. Don’t simply tell the mechanic that a service is due, because that can mean any number of things. You must say whether you want a major or minor service, and what, according to the service schedule, it entails.

It’s important at this point to get a written quote. By law the quote should include labour, VAT and parts costs, so make sure this is the case.

A garage must authorise any work you do not ask for before carrying it out. If you turn up to the garage and discover that they’ve fitted a new exhaust that wasn’t specified by you and that didn’t appear on the quote than you’re not legally required to pay for it, although you may have to in order to get the car back. After that you can sue the garage via a small claims court.

Finally, don’t ignore the service schedule. It’s there for the good of the car and should be followed rigorously. Missing a service can cause serious and even catastrophic damage to a car, and if you’ve ignored the servicing schedule you’ll receive no recourse from the manufacturer if something goes wrong.

To summarise; it’s important to know your service schedule and to plan your servicing before the ‘service due’ light appears. Stick to the schedule and make sure you find a reputable, value-for-money garage. Hopefully if you follow these guidelines it shouldn’t cost you too much and should help you enjoy trouble-free motoring without worrying about what the next thing is going to cost.



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