The real costs of car servicing
2 February 2018
For most car owners, getting the car serviced ranks somewhere down near going to the dentist. You hate having to do it; you know it’s necessary; and it isn’t going to be cheap. Everyone would like to know the average cost of a car service.
So how important is servicing your car, and how often should you have it done?
Servicing is all about car maintenance
This really shouldn’t be an issue. Every car needs attention on a regular and ongoing basis. Otherwise, small issues can easily escalate into large and expensive issues, or affect the reliability or safety of your car.
How often you need to have your car serviced comes down to how many kilometres you travel, how long it is since the last service, and whether it’s due for a scheduled service.
There are major and minor services. A minor service is usually a change of oil and filters, plus a check that everything is operating as it should. A major service is more comprehensive and, naturally, more expensive. Major services are usually scheduled at 60,000 km intervals. Minor services should be undertaken every 10,000 or 15,000 km. The most important thing to do is to refer to your owner’s manual. If you don’t have one for your car, go online and buy one. Some manufacturers require six-monthly services, effectively doubling the cost (and if you ignore the recommendations, you void your warranty, so make sure you check it out).
How to make it less painful
Regular servicing ensures your car operates reliably and safely. In this case, prevention is far better than cure, especially if you ignore (or don’t recognise) warning signs that things are going wrong. Regular servicing will give you advance notice that some things will be coming due for attention, and you can have them fixed before they become major and expensive. One of the cheapest things you can do for your car is to give it regular oil and filter changes.
Another industry initiative that will ease the pain is capped price servicing. Many car companies are now offering this as standard (some will charge you extra at time of purchase). What this means is there is a ceiling on how much a service can cost, and breaks down for you exactly what individual components will be used in a major or minor service, so you know exactly what you’re paying for, and what items will be additional.
Even if your car isn’t covered by capped price servicing, you can go online and see what others are paying to have their cars serviced, and then ensure your servicing costs are in the same range.
Another way to reduce service costs is to have your car serviced by someone other than a dealer. As long as they follow the service guidelines and manufacturer recommendations, your warranty won’t be affected. But do your homework. Some capped price service deals are subsidised, making them almost as cheap as non-dealer servicing. And only dealers can carry out warranty work, so if your mechanic identifies a problem, you still have to go back to the dealership to have it rectified. Also worth considering is that private mechanics aren’t necessarily made aware of manufacturer recalls or upgrades (dealers get regular service bulletins), so your car may miss out on important attention.
Why is it so expensive?
There’s no such thing as an “average” service cost. There’s the manufacturer’s or mechanic’s hourly rate to consider, the cost of replacement parts and consumables (coolant, oil, fluids), the complexity of the service and, of course, the number of kilometres your car has travelled (things get more expensive as cars get older because things start going wrong more regularly). Other variables include whether your vehicle is diesel or petrol powered (diesel engines are more expensive), front- rear- or all-wheel drive (AWD is more complex, and so more expensive).
Another major expense is replacement of the cambelt. This is often a complex procedure, and usually the water pump is replaced at the same time. Not all cars have a cambelt – some use a chain that doesn’t require replacement. Cambelts should be replaced as recommended in your service book. If a cambelt fails while you’re driving, it can cause serious internal damage to your engine.
Some return for your outlay
Apart from the obvious peace of mind that you get from regular servicing, your car will provide better service and probably last longer. And when the time comes to sell your car, a comprehensive service record will increase its appeal to buyers, and its sale price, so make sure your service book is always stamped.
Don’t ignore in-car warning lights
These days, most cars have a number of dashboard warning lights to warn you if something goes awry with your engine, oil level, coolant level, braking system and even tyre pressure. Your owner’s manual will explain what each warning light means, and what you should do if one illuminates.
Some messages require immediate action, such as pulling off the road and shutting down the engine before major damage is done. If you see a warning light, don’t ignore it.
This article is written by Paul Murrell.
Paul Murrell has always had a deep interest in all things automotive. After a successful career in advertising, creating campaigns in Australia and overseas for many companies including Holden, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Land Rover and Renault, he relocated to the Adelaide Hills and began writing car reviews, advice and opinion pieces for specialist motoring magazines (Survivor Car Australia, Australian Classic Car, Man & Machine, Classic & Sportscar UK, Unique Cars), lifestyle magazines (SA Life, Highlife, Tasmanian Life) and websites (Practical Motoring).
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