The Different Levels of Car Service Explained

The Different Levels of Car Service Explained

A regular car service is a mechanical check-up carried out at set intervals, usually at least once a year or after the car has racked up enough miles on the clock. The manufacturer specifies the timescale and provides a standard list of services for mechanics to follow.  

If the car is still under warranty, then the interval and services will be mandatory. If it's out of warranty, then there’s more flexibility in the timing and services performed — though for the sake of your car you should keep as close to the recommended schedule as you can. 

A scheduled service will replace old fluids and ageing parts and include visual inspections to make sure key components are working as they should.  

There are three different types of scheduled car service: interim, full and major. While different service centres might brand their service packages differently for marketing purposes, there will always be three levels and a tiered pricing structure to choose from. 

Each service level builds on the previous one and then adds extras that the car needs at different stages of its life on the road. The type of service you need depends on how much time has passed or how much driving you’ve done since the last scheduled service. 

The three care service levels explained 

Interim car service 

An interim car service is the basic service bundle designed for high-mileage car owners who drive 20,000 miles or more annually. In their case, a single annual service may not be enough. 

An interim car service will normally wrap in an oil and oil filter change, plus a visual inspection of the car's essential exterior components, such as the tyres, lights, and windscreen wipers. 

Also included in an interim service bundle will be a topping-up of the engine, brake, and other key fluids; an inspection for any fluid leaks, and lubrication of all moving parts. 

Full car service 

A full service, sometimes called an intermediate service, is often scheduled for every 12 months or whenever 12,000 miles is chalked-up on the odometer. It's designed for drivers with lower annual mileages and only needs one service a year. 

It comes with a wider range of replacement parts and visual checks, adding on to those conducted in the last interim service. These can include: 

  • Changing fuel and air filters 
  • Changing spark plugs 
  • Inspecting the brakes 
  • Inspecting the air conditioning system 
  • Inspecting radiator and coolant hoses 
  • Checking bearings and shock absorbers 
  • Testing electrical components like battery, starter, and alternator

Major car service

The third and final service level is the ‘major’. It's typically recommended every 24,000 miles or 24 months. If your last annual service was a full service, a major service will be next on the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. 

It's the most comprehensive bundle of the three and takes everything from an interim and full service then adds on replacing parts and fluids that wear out every couple of years. These include brake fluid and cabin filter. 

Brake fluid can become contaminated over time and affect how well the brakes work. That’s obviously a serious concern when you’re on the road motoring at speed. The cabin filter can also be clogged up with dust and debris over time, affecting the cabin's air quality. 

Learn how much the average car service costs with our guide.

Are car service intervals really necessary? 

A scheduled car service isn’t a legal requirement like an MOT. However, your new car warranty might compel you to stick to a standard servicing schedule. Even if you’re out of warranty, regular servicing is the best way to keep your car in the best possible condition. 

Although service intervals can be pricey, there are a number of benefits that make it worth doing: 

  • Cars with a full-service history have a higher resale value 
  • Regular inspections of key components and replacing worn out parts will detect problems and keep you on the road 
  • Changing your engine oil and oil filter annually increases fuel efficiency and keeps the engine running smoothly 
  • Inspecting brake pads, discs and callipers every year means your brakes and ability to stop stay at their maximum level


What type of service do I need? 

Working out which type of car service you need for your car depends on your current mileage, how old your car is, the last scheduled service you had done, and the make and model of the vehicle. 

Keeping track of your car service schedule can be tricky so it's usually a good idea to book service visits around your annual MOT. Though the servicing itself is legally required, it's good for your car and your pocketbook. Scheduling both at the same time means one less visit to the garage, and many garages offer discounted packages for doing them both together. 

Since most drivers can’t easily do oil changes, replace oil filters, or check spark plugs at home, regular maintenance checks are normally the best way to keep your car running smoothly. 

A trained mechanic will lookout for any issues with your brakes and top up or change vital fluids like coolant, engine oil, and brake fluid. 

Failing to keep to the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule can affect your car warranty and the vehicle’s resale value. 

Facing an unexpected car repair bill? 

If you do find yourself facing a large repair bill for something unexpected, car repair loans can help ease the pain. You might also consider a ‘buy now, pay later service like ours. It lets you get the repairs you need quickly while deferring payments in easy interest-free instalments. 

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