Tom’s annual car service is almost due. He’s been very consistent in ticking off items on his car maintenance checklist so he’s wondering whether his service is really necessary.
He’s done the pre-MOT check himself, checks his tyre pressure regularly, and even learnt how to check his brake pads. Plus, since he’s already booked in for his MOT, he can probably miss out on the service, right?
Well, not exactly. Modern cars have more complex systems than you’d imagine, and it doesn’t just come down to whether you can carry out the repairs yourself, but whether you can do it safely and properly.
With an annual full service, your mechanic carefully checks everything from the engine to the exhaust, and definitely does a better job than Tom with the help of a Youtube video tutorial.
If you aren’t convinced that you need annual car servicing, or just haven’t had one before, read on for a guide to what a full service includes. We’ll go over what’s included, how long it takes and how much it costs.
What's included in a full service?
A full service includes everything that the interim service does plus much more. During your full car service, the mechanic will carry out a 60-70 point check, assessing 7 key sections:
- View of the road
- Steering and Suspension
- Electrical System
- Car Interior and Exterior
There is some overlap with what is checked in an MOT, but what a full car service includes is much more in depth. When going through these sections, the mechanic looks for any parts that need repaired or replaced, keeping your vehicle in the best condition possible.
View of the road
Mechanics will inspect your windscreen and mirrors for any chips and cracks.
They’ll also look over and check the windscreen wipers and washers, topping up the screen wash.
MOTs may look over your engine, but with a full service, your mechanic or garage will do everything to keep it running at its best. They will:
- Carry out an engine oil change and replace the oil filter.
- Look out for any leaks.
- Check the coolant level and fill up if necessary.
- Inspect the condition of the radiator and air conditioning.
- Change the spark plugs if required.
- Carry out an air filter and pollen filter change.
- Top up fluid levels like antifreeze
Your mechanic will carry out a brake check by visually inspecting the brake pads and brake discs. They’ll also top up the brake fluid if needed, and ensure your handbrake is operating correctly.
Just because your tyres aren’t flat doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in good condition for the road. Your tyres will be checked for:
- Any unusual bulges or rips.
- The tyre pressure - this will be inflated or deflated as required.
- The tyre tread depth
Steering and Suspension
Your steering and suspension aren’t just there for the rocky drivers. It helps keep your wheels on the ground to provide a smooth drive for you and your passengers by easing your car's movement over any bumps in the road.
They will likely carry out a bounce test, check your shock absorbers, look for any irregular tyre wear, and check for leaks from the steering components. Your wheel alignment and wheel bearings will also be assessed, and they’ll top up your power steering fluid if necessary.
A healthy exhaust system contributes to better fuel efficiency and engine performance, so it’s pretty important to check it over. Your garage will visually inspect for any signs of damage, cracks, rust and corrosion.
The electrical system is an area you can’t just leave to its own devices, as your car’s battery, starter and alternator all contribute to the energy your car needs to power up. It will be thoroughly checked for any signs of damage or leaks.
Car Interior and Exterior
It may seem like minor details, but your mechanic has to fully inspect the interior and exterior of your car too. They’ll test your seats and seatbelts, and the interior lights.
For the exterior of your car, they’ll look for any obvious damage to the body, test your door locks and hinges, and inspect the number plate condition.
This isn't a totally comprehensive list, as the entire service can vary slightly depending on the garage, but you can see that mechanics take an even deeper dive into your car’s condition at this level of service.
How long does a full service take?
A full service is essentially an in-depth check up that looks at almost every aspect of your car, so don’t expect to have your car in and out on your lunch break.
Whether you take your car to a dealership or independent garage, how long a car service takes will vary with the service, car make and age. Particularly with older or more complex car models, your mechanic will have more to check.
For a full service it’s probably best to make other plans for your car’s time in the garage, since you’ll be waiting around 3 hours to get your car back. It might seem excessive, but with everything your mechanic has to look over, it’s really more concerning if your car takes less time! If garages are offering much shorter time frames, it’s likely because they’re not carrying out the service to proper standards.
How much does a full service cost?
You can shop around beforehand to make sure you’re not being ripped off, but again, always be wary of prices significantly cheaper than the norm. If your service is exceptionally cheap, the garage still has to find a way to make it profitable, so they could be cutting corners to save money.
When should I get a full service?
Servicing isn’t a legal requirement like an MOT, but if you want your car to last, it makes sense to take care of it.
Full services are intended to be carried out annually (or every 12,000 miles) and it actually exceeds most of the service schedules suggested by manufacturers, so you know it's going to make your motoring experience smoooooth.
We know it’s easy to get complacent with your car, relying on it being safe without actually checking it is. But with so many components hidden from view, you could be driving around with a host of unknown problems! You can even void your warranty if you avoid getting it serviced on time.
Your car owners manual should indicate how often you should service your car, and your V5C logbook will detail the full service history.
What's the difference between a full service and an interim service?
An interim and full service are pretty similar, so we don’t blame you if you’re feeling lost on which service to get.
Though an interim service isn’t intended to act in place of your annual service, some manufacturers will recommend you get one after every 6 months or after 6,000 miles. A full service is required every 12 months or every 12,000 miles.
For a more detailed guide on what distinguishes them, we’ve covered what the difference is between a full and interim service.
Do I need a full service on my lease car?
Your car lease contract will specify that you must service your lease car on a regular basis, in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations for your model. If you don’t, it’ll devalue the car, and you’ll consequently face high lease car return charges. A full car service should definitely be on your car maintenance checklist.
You can often choose to add on a car lease maintenance package that covers the cost of the multiple services throughout your lease term - we’ve looked at whether a package for car lease maintenance is worth it if it’s something you’re considering.
Still confused about the types of car services? You can always refer to your owner’s manual as it should specify servicing schedules for your particular model of car.
We’ve also covered all the services to help you decide. Take a look at our general overview of what a car service includes, or check out what an interim service includes, or what a major service includes.