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Service intervals. How far should you go without one?

There was a time, in the not so distant past, when the service interval for your car would have been specified as 10-12,000 miles. Now it's not uncommon to have your dealer waving you off the forecourt not expecting you back for a good 18,000 miles, or two years, whichever comes first. And most of the top marques will helpfully tell you when they need a service. Welcome to the extended service interval.

Surveys from warranty companies show that one in four cars suffer some degree of mechanical failure in years 4 and 5 — just as the standard UK warranty expires. Worse, the incidence of cars blowing their engines in years 3 to 5 is on the increase. So, is there a link between extended service intervals and your car's reliability?

Reactive, not proactive

A high percentage of cars sold in the UK go to fleet. And fleet buy cars on their whole life cost — purchase price + service costs + fuel used minus sales price divided by number of miles travelled equals cost per mile for the car.

Manufacturers try to keep their service costs down because it alters the result of the calculation. Which makes the car more attractive, not just to the fleet manager, but to all car buyers. Great for the consumer but not so good when the only way to keep costs down is to extend service intervals and put less into those service schedules than used to be the norm. At AYCEN, we're often asked why we didn't check such-and-such as part of the service. The reason is simple — it wasn't specified on the service schedule. Here's a classic example. The 'oil service' states simply — change the oil and filter. Time allowed — twelve minutes. Nothing else. So two weeks later, when the warning light comes on, the driver can't understand why we didn't pick it up.

The result is that potential problems are not flagged up. Car care becomes reactive, rather than proactive. And your car spends more time in the workshop. For maximum peace of mind, whatever the manufacturer's specified service interval, why not bring your car in to us for a once over, at minimal charge. Let us pick up on potential problems before they become costly nightmares.

Service and MOT

Once a car passes its third year there's the annual MOT test to think about. Many drivers choose to book their MOT and service together, for convenience. We say twelve months is too long between checks. Schedule the two separately, six months apart, and ensure your car is checked regularly throughout the year. Haven't got the time? Give us a call, tell us where the car is and we'll come and pick it up. So no inconvenience to you.

Added: January 11 2007

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