Why you should service your vehicle

I don’t know what I resent more, having to send your car for its yearly service or going to the dentist for my yearly check up. I think we can all agree, that both, although absolutely necessary, are grudge purchases that nobody likes to think about or budget for.

However, servicing your vehicle it is an absolute necessity if you wish to keep your vehicle safe and in good running condition. In much the same way as those yearly brush and polishes, perhaps even a small filling here and there, keeps your mouth and teeth healthy and able to perform their duties (eating Droewors in my case).

While a service is an upfront expense, it may save you further expenditure downstream, as servicing your car will extend your engine life, reduce fuel consumption, increase the safety of your vehicle, prevent wearing of moving parts, maintains road worthiness and improves resale value. It is also an opportunity to pick up and resolve issues early, and fix or replace failing components before further and more expensive damage occurs. To continue with my bad tooth analogy, if picked up in time, a small tooth cavity can be fixed with filling. If left longer, it will require a more expensive repair such as a crown. If neglected even longer, the tooth will rot and need to be removed and then you are looking at full implant.

A small leaking water pipe now may be a few hundred Rands to replace, much like a filling. Neglected, it could eventually lead to an overheated engine which cost tens of thousands. I often tell the story of a friend who neglected to change his cambelt at the specified 90 000kms, arguing that the R5000 quoted was excessive and that the belt showed little signs of wear and would last a few thousand more kilometres. It did, until it snapped one day and left him with an engine rebuild which cost 5 times more to fix. 


How often you service your vehicle

Every manufacturer’s service recommendation differs, so how often should you actually be servicing your car?

Your manufacturers handbook will outline the carmaker’s recommendation for your service schedule, including how often you need to get your car services, maintenance you can do yourself and when parts should be replaced.

As a rule of thumb, your car should be checked by a professional at least or every 10,000kms or 15,000kms. Generally, schedule intervals run in a minor, major, minor, major pattern. So for a vehicle with specified 15,000km service intervals, you will probably find that the 15,000kms, 45,000kms and 75,000kms are minor services, and 30,000kms, 60,000kms and 90,000kms are major ones.

Unfortunately, there’s no ‘one-size fits all’ when it comes to car servicing. Cost and regularity depends on your specific vehicle model and variant and with variables including fuel type (petrol, diesel, electric) and drive type (AWD, FWD, RWD), and sometimes also transmission type (manual, auto, CVT).

Although this may not be specified in the manufacturers handbook, consideration should also be given to the climate and environment in which your vehicle operates. If I lived in Jhb and drove a 4x4, I would be happy to change the air filter at the recommended 15 000km intervals. If I lived on a farm, and travelled everyday on dusty sand roads, I would replace it much more regularly.


The cost of servicing

If you don’t know what to expect from a service, it’s easy to feel like you’re being ripped off and wonder if those service costs were really worth it. I agree that often the vehicle manufacturer charges an absolute fortune for parts which you could buy on Start My Car at a fraction of the price. In fact, I urge you to compare their prices to ours and you would be pleasantly surprised at how much you could save. NGK, Castrol, Kyb, Valeo, ATE et al, these are all O.E.M part manufacturers. Why pay triple the price for your new Renault clutch, when it’s a Valeo product that we sell at a third o the price?

If your car is out of warranty, and you are not forced to service it at your manufacturer’s dealership, I would definitely advise buying your parts online and taking your car to a reputable mechanic to fit for you. It will cost you a fraction of the price.

For the same money, I would always rather replace more parts, even if they are aftermarket ones, than fewer manufacturer-branded ones. In my case, I would happily replace all four shock absorbers with aftermarket components, then just the front two which are Mopar branded and amount to the same (in fact, more).


The Two Types of Services

There are two types of services: a minor service or major service. Let us look at what each should typically cover. Again, each manufacturer and workshop differ, so this list is not exhaustive.


Minor Service

A minor service generally entails an oil and oil filter change, while the technician will also check all fluids as well as belts, hoses, filters and brakes, and lubricate the chassis if it has not been factory sealed. The service will also include a check of all lights, windscreen washer and coolant levels, brake fluid level and colour and the power steering fluid level. Most workshops will also check your tyre pressure and do a tyre rotation if recommended by the manufacturer.


Major Service

A major service includes a thorough and comprehensive checklist process, where the technician performs a check from head to tail of the vehicle, which even extends to inspecting it for scratches and dents, and checking the pedals for any squeaks.

All components of the vehicle will be checked, in addition to the actual body work. All hinges and latches will be greased, components lubricated, the engine and vehicle washed, and all parts reported on. Depending on mileage or years as per the manufacturer’s instructions, the mechanic will also check the timing belt.


When taking your car for either service, speak to your mechanic about any concerns you may have with your vehicle, or any problems that you may be experiencing, so that the mechanic can investigate and advise.

If anything major is picked up during the service, the CPA dictates that the technician or workshop must provide a quotation for any additional work that needs to be performed, before the work actually commences.