We look at why keeping your car in top condition can save you money down the road, and give you some tips on how to do it.
Whether you buy new or used, keeping your car in good nick is really important. Regular servicing is like a health check. It keeps your car in good condition and tackles any issues before they become more serious (and expensive). This could save you a lot of money down the road. So next time the little service light starts flashing, here's why you shouldn't just ignore it.
1. You can spot issues before they get worse
Breaking down is expensive. There's the cost of repairs, breakdown services, and you may have to claim on your insurance or even hire a new car while yours gets fixed. Regular servicing can help to prevent this hassle. When your car goes in for a service, it's in for a thorough check-up. Mechanics will carry out lots of checks on all areas of your car from the brakes, to the engine, to the windows. This helps make sure everything is running as it should be. And anything that isn't can be fixed there and then, rather than on the hard shoulder of the M1.
2. It helps your car hold more of its resale value
Getting your car regularly serviced keeps it in a much better condition and makes sure it runs efficiently. All cars lose value over time. But the more wear and tear and damage they suffer the more it negatively affects how much your car is worth. Making sure your car stays in the best condition through regular checks means you're more likely to be able to get more money for it, if you're planning on reselling it.
3. You could save money on fuel
Getting your tyres and your engine checked can help maintain your car's fuel efficiency. The more efficient your car is, the less fuel you'll use per mile which helps to keep costs down.
4. Avoiding regular services could void your warranty
If you get a car on hire purchase or personal contract purchase terms, your lender may make regular servicing a condition of your contract. And missing one could result in a fine. Even if you own the car outright, you’ll usually need a full service history to claim under the warranty.
5. Avoid being hit with a fine
Getting your car serviced on a regular basis helps you make sure everything is up to the highway code’s standards, which means you’ll avoid getting caught out and fined. For example, Driving with worn, under-inflated or over-inflated tyres is illegal. If you’re caught out, you risk a £2,500 fine and 3 penalty points per tyre. It’s also dangerous and may cause an accident.
How to keep your car in top shape between services
But servicing your car regularly is only the start. Here are some other steps worth taking in between services.
Monitor your tyre treads. To be within legal limits, the treads must be at least 1.6mm deep throughout. You can easily check this by placing a 20p coin in your tyre’s main groove If you can see the coin’s outer rim, it’s time to change the tyre.
Check your tyre pressure. To find out the ideal pressure for your car, enter your car’s registration number in this handy tool.
Keep an eye on the engine's oil level. Your mechanic will check the oil - and change it, if necessary - when you service your car. But it’s also a good idea to check it yourself in between services. Newer cars tend to have an electronic monitor on the dashboard. If your car doesn’t have one, you’ll need to check the old-fashioned way: by looking at the dipstick.
Replace your windscreen wipers and fill-up on screenwash. On average, windscreen wiper blades last between six to 12 months. It’s easy to tell when they need replacing - streaking, juddering and unusual noises such as squeaking or scraping are tell-tale signs. Don’t forget to check your rear wiper too.
Test your lights. You might not realise a light needs replacing until it’s too late. So it’s worth taking two minutes every few weeks to check that everything is switching on as it should.
Give your lights a rinse. Even if your lights are all working properly, their plastic covers tend to get milky over time. This can interfere with visibility. Most car supply stores sell specialised products that can take care of this problem. Alternatively, you can use water and baking soda or toothpaste.
Watch out for coolant leaks. To check the level, locate the expansion tank using your car’s manual. The coolant should be just below the ‘maximum’ mark on the tank. Anything below the ‘minimum’ mark isn’t normal, so visit a garage as soon as you can.
Look out for chips and dents. Windscreen cracks, chips and dents on the bodywork are fairly cheap and easy to fix if you catch them early. If you’re good at DIY, you can fix body dents yourself. For your windows, you can call a specialist such as ChipsAway, Dent Devils or Autoglass.
How often should you get a service?
Most car manufacturers have specific servicing recommendations. However, as a rule of thumb you should give your car a full service every 12 months or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Independent garages are usually cheaper than dealerships and manufacturers. You can check the rates in your area on Labour Rates’ website.
Servicing your car and looking it over regularly doesn’t take much time, but it’s well worth it.