What to expect from a car service


Understanding car servicing can be difficult for those who aren’t mechanically minded but is understandable that you want to have some level of comprehension when you take your car into the mechanic. You want to know what happens to your car while it is there and how you can be assured it is returned to you in top condition from a functionality and safety point of view.

Unfortunately, there are numerous names for car servicing but lets consider that most cars have a minor and major scheduling cycle. The minor services will usually occur every 10,000 - 15,000km while the major servicing cycle occurs around every 30,000 - 45,000km depending on the make and model of your car, your mechanic's recommendations and even the type of driving you do.

The best way to understand what is going to happen to your car the next time it is serviced is to read the owner’s manual, which details the requirements for each service. Although, in some instances the log book service can be affected by the type of driving you do, for example city driving can put more pressure on your car with constant stoping and starting. This means there is often additional work to be carried out on top of what is stipulated in the owner’s manual. In other words never assume that the works listed in the owner's manual are the only work that will be required on the day. You can ask your service centre to provide you with a list of works to be carried out.

Minor service

A minor service focuses on changing and topping up fluids and checking over numerous elements to ensure they are in working order. These include inspecting for wear and tear, replacing some elements and testing the following;

  • Checking the oil and oil filter - dirty oil will affect the running of your car.
  • Checking the brakes and brake fluid - response time is measured, the depth of the brake pads is measured and brake fluid is topped up if required.
  • Checking the leads - they can last up to a decade but should be checked every service.
  • Testing the air conditioning system - to ensure it is running efficiently.
  • Testing the steering and suspension - response time is measured and functionality.
  • Testing the lights - bulbs will need to be replaced if not working.
  • Checking windscreen wipers and washers - important to ensure visibility.
  • Check the spark plugs - they are a good indicator of engine condition, greasy spark plugs could indicate an oil leak.
  • Check the air filter - it may need to be cleaned or replaced.
  • The fuel filter, belts, hoses, the car’s cooling system, battery, exhaust, transmission and tyres are also checked at a minor service.

A minor service can be relatively quick, taking as little as an hour and a half. Depending on the make and model of your car, it can also be relatively inexpensive.

Major service

A major service covers all of the above elements, in more depth, with some additional servicing requirements. Here is a list of what is above and beyond a minor service to help you better understand a major car service;

  • Check and top up all fluids.
  • Inspect the vehicle for safety issues.
  • Check all external engine belts and hoses.
  • Check tyres and pressures.
  • Test the battery, cooling system and coolant condition.
  • Replace spark plugs. 
  • Repack all wheel bearings - they take all the weight of your car so it is important to look after them.
  • Change all transmission oils.

A major service will take most of the day on some vehicles. The cost varies depending on the vehicle type and the service which is specified.

At the end of a service you are able to request a log of all works completed so you can understand what your car required. Each service will of course vary from the above depending on what type of car you drive, so familiarise yourself with your owner’s manual. It may also be a good idea to request a list of all works required before any work is done, allowing you to compare it to the works completed and see where the problems areas with your car were.