Why it’s important to have your car serviced regularly (and what does ‘regularly’ mean?)


Google ‘how many moving parts in a car engine’ and you get a huge range of answers, with estimates ranging from around 1,200 up to 10,000. Whichever way you look at it, that’s a heck of a lot of moving parts, and sitting in the driving seat it’s rarely something you think about. What’s even more amazing is that all these parts – generally – work perfectly together to provide power to the wheels to get you where you need to go. And – for most of the time – only need you to fill up the tank from time to time.

The internal combustion engine has been around since the 1870s and, although it has developed almost out of all recognition, it still relies on creating lots of tiny explosions of petrol/air mixture in the cylinders to keep the wheels moving, putting stresses and strains on all of the internal components. And every now and again it’s wise to make sure that everything is working as it should be, which is why logbook servicing was invented!

The big question is – how often does a car need servicing? The honest answer is – not a lot, but perhaps more than you might think.

A rule of thumb

Bearing in mind all those moving parts and stresses and strains, the current rule of thumb for car service frequency – every 10,000km or 6 months (whichever comes first) – may even seem a little long between checkups, but it’s a recommended minimum for three reasons…

Three reasons to keep to your car servicing schedule

 

1) Buying a new car

Firstly, if you have bought a car new from a dealership, your warranty will not be valid if you do not service your car according to the schedule set out in the logbook. It’s important to note that you do not have to have your car serviced at the dealership for the warranty to remain valid, but it is highly advisable that you maintain the same schedule and get your logbook stamped by an authorised car mechanic (or ‘authorised repairer’) to demonstrate that the car has been properly serviced in the event of a claim.

On its website the RACQ states that…

“A manufacturer [cannot] void a warranty simply because a vehicle owner has chosen to have a vehicle serviced outside the dealer network… A vehicle manufacturer can however refuse a warranty claim where there is evidence of lack of maintenance, inappropriate work practices or where a non-genuine replacement part has failed or caused other damage.”

Source: https://www.racq.com.au/cars-and-driving/cars/owning-and-maintaining-a-car/car-maintenance/dealer-vs-non-dealer-servicing

2) Regular health check

Secondly, and quite apart from any warranty issues, servicing a car is very much like going in for a regular health checkup – it picks up any potential problems ahead of time and fixes them. This not only guards against the car simply breaking down, but ensures the car is safe to drive and is operating optimally. One of the biggest impacts of an engine not running efficiently is decreased performance and increased fuel consumption (and therefore increased running costs).

3) Getting the best price when you sell

Finally, the best way to ensure that you can ultimately sell your car for the best price is to be able to show a completed logbook showing all servicing has been done at the right time.

Does it matter what sort of driving I do?

It might seem logical that if you don’t drive your car very often at all, then it shouldn’t need to be serviced as much. This isn’t right for one main reason – moisture. Moisture is the enemy of an engine, as it can build up inside the engine and basically dilute fluids – engine oil, brake fluid and even the petrol. This means these fluids don’t work the way they should and in extreme cases can cause the engine to seize. With engine oil in particular any water present can thicken it to a degree where it cannot travel through narrow spaces, the result being the engine does not get lubricated and then – ultimately – seizes up.

As well as reducing friction between moving parts and keeping an engine cool, oil acts as a sort of ‘wash’ which removes tiny fragments and keeps them in suspension in the oil itself. Although the oil filter removes most of this, after a while engine oil will degrade and affect engine performance (even petrol can also ‘go off’ if left for long periods of time, as anyone with a two stroke garden mower can attest).

One particular effect of not replacing engine oil frequently enough is the build up of carbon deposits (really just soot) inside the engine, which can impede or block oil flow, again affecting engine performance.

At the other end of the scale, you might be surprised to learn that certain types of driving which might be regarded as fairly ‘normal’ are in fact deemed (by manufacturers) to be ‘adverse operating conditions’ where more frequent servicing is required. One manufacturer describes ‘demanding driving conditions’ – which require a range of ‘additional maintenance’ on top of the regular service interval – as…

  • repeated short distance driving
  • extensive idling of low speed driving for long distance
  • driving in dusty, muddy, gravelled, salt spread roads
  • driving in areas containing salt or very cold weather
  • driving in sandy areas
  • majority time driving in heavy traffic area in hot weather above 32C
  • driving in mountainous areas repeatedly
  • driving a patrol vehicle, taxi, commercial vehicle or vehicle used for towing
  • continuous high speed driving
  • frequently driving in stop-and-go conditions

Just simply commuting through city traffic five days a week, you are almost certainly driving in ‘demanding conditions’ according to this definition. If your logbook does not detail exactly what extra servicing is required, a good guide is to have your car serviced twice as often as the regular rule of thumb described above (ie every 5,000km or 3 months – whichever comes first).

What sort of things get checked in a logbook service?

Of course many aspects of the engine are checked, but a logbook service is a check of all operations of the vehicle which would impact its safety and general running. These would ordinarily include for example…

Engine

  • Oil change
  • Oil filter change
  • Engine inspection/flush
  • Fuel system inspection/flush
  • Coolant system inspection/flush
  • Belt adjustments/tightening of specific components to correct torque settings

Other

  • Brake system inspection/brake fluid replacement
  • Suspension inspection
  • Steering system inspection
  • Electrics system/lighting inspection
  • Exhaust/catalytic converter inspection
  • Tyre inspection (tyre pressure and wear)