Use this Car Servicing Checklist to Get What You Paid For

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What does a full car service include and how do you know you’re getting what you require? If your car is due for a service, you may be wondering just what exactly those mechanics do under the hood. It feels like you need some kind of car servicing checklist to figure out everything they’re doing, right? We’re here to help!

As Aussies we just love our cars, but we don’t particularly like maintaining them. A survey PD Insurance completed back in 2020 of 1,000+ car owners found only 24% knew how to change an oil filter, 32% knew how to change a fuse, 57% knew how to change the windscreen wiper fluid, and so on… In fact, only 58% knew how to change a tyre and only 34%!

Conclusion: most people think they have a below average understanding of car maintenance.

Importantly, 46% worry about taking their car to the mechanics, with the top concern being that they’ll be ripped off. The second biggest concern was being upsold repairs or maintenance their car doesn’t need and the third was the mechanic not doing a good job. (Read more stats in our Basic Car Maintenance Tips article)

To empower you with info and bring some clarity to what mechanics do, we’ve created this easy to refer to car servicing checklist, so you can get what you want and what you paid for.

mechanic explains car service quote to woman

Find a mechanic you trust

Car servicing is really important for the health and longevity of your car.

As any good car servicing guide will tell you, cars are complex machines with literally thousands of moving parts. And sometimes those parts need replacing, repairing or just some TLC. Sometimes all it takes is some car maintenance tips to learn to DIY what’s needed, but other fixes need a mechanic.

Women and men both feel the heat

Did you know, as of 27 February 2023, there are 21.2 registered motor vehicles in Australia. Even though females account for more than half of all drivers licences, they’re much more likely to feel patronised or ignored when it comes to car-related services.

That said, plenty of men feel this way too. You don’t know what you don’t know about cars – and that’s frustrating!

Some quick tips and extra reading

If you’re feeling anxious about taking your car to the mechanic, ask yourself why. Is it just a general lack of knowledge, or do you feel like your mechanic ‘can see you coming’ and is taking advantage? Finding one you trust is one of the most important parts of this process.

Give our ‘How to Choose a Mechanic‘ article a read and we also have a car servicing guide that should help you avoid a mechanic ripping you off – here. When you’re looking for someone to service or fix your car, be sure to at least ask family/friends/colleagues for recommendations, check Google reviews and call in to have a chat before letting your instincts say yay or nay.

Also, you might not know what a car immobiliser is, or if you even have one. Read this ‘What is a Car Immobiliser and Why is it Important?‘ article to find out.

Toyota land cruiser in water - Toyota is the most reliable car brand

How often should you service your car?

As a rough rule, most cars should be serviced at least once a year. For the average driver, that’s around every 10-15,000km, but this will vary between cars and manufacturers.

If your car is older than 5 years old or has a very high mileage, then it’s a good idea to increase the frequency of your services and book it in every 6 months. If you use your car for towing a lot or want to (read our advice on towing a trailer), you might need more regular check ups. Same goes if you’re driving hundreds of kilometres a week. You’ll usually find guidelines in the manufacturer’s handbook, though.

As well as changing basic things like oil (here’s how to check your oil for a start), a mechanic can check if any other parts have wear and tear or if there’s something else wrong with your car. Perhaps you could schedule your car’s regular service at the same time as your car insurance renewal and snag your pink slip/safety inspection report for renewing your car rego at the same time? It keeps it all happening at the same time.

Car servicing guide: Know your services

Without further ado, here are our two checklists that answer the age old question: what does a full car service include. The first is a minor car service checklist and the second is a major car service checklist. Reading these will help you make sure you’re not getting ripped off. They’ll also help ensure you’re getting the service you need and the one you pay for.

Caveat: these lists are not exhaustive. So, we suggest you also do some Googling about your car and the types of regular serving it needs. Oh, and remember to read about whether capped price servicing is worth it while you’re doing your car servicing checklist research! It might be something you look into for your next car.

Minor car servicing checklist

A minor car servicing checklist will usually include:

  • Changing the engine oil and oil filter
  • Checking the air and fuel filter
  • Inspecting brakes, fluids, belts and hoses
  • Checking tyres and rotating (if needed)
  • Testing the battery

Major car servicing checklist

What does a full car service include? A major car servicing checklist should include everything that the minor one does, plus any or all of the following:

  • Checking the overall health of your car engine
  • Lights (front, rear and blinkers)
  • Replacing spark plugs
  • Testing the air conditioner
  • Coolant and transmission
  • Brake fluid and brakes
  • Wheel alignment
  • Windscreen wipers
  • Suspension and steering
  • Tuning (if needed)
The Ford Falcon is the most popular car in Australia in the 70's. Because it's old, it might need more regular servicing.

Questions to ask your mechanic

The exact questions you ask your mechanic will depend on why you’re there. But we’re assuming – given you’re reading about a car servicing checklist – that you need a service of some sort.

Whether a minor or major service, any good mechanic will welcome questions and be happy to give straightforward answers. Here’s a few to get you started:

How much will it cost?

This question ☝️ is probably the very first on most people’s car servicing checklist.

If the mechanic starts umming and ahhing or tells you some baloney about having to look first (especially for a minor service), say thank you and exit stage left.

Unless you’re awash with cash, you need to keep a close eye on car servicing costs. Your mechanic should be able to give you a complete list of what’s wrong, what needs to be fixed, and how much that’ll cost you. And make sure you get it in writing too!

Speaking of saving your dollars, perhaps you’d like to give these PD articles a read:

Car model over a lot of money stacked coins on white background. You may have to pay car insurance excess

What are my repair options?

Chances are, you’ve more than one repair option. You might be able to use a refurbished part, take an alternative route, or even just live with the fault. Depending on what it is, obviously. A dodgy aircon might be inconvenient, but dodgy brakes are downright dangerous.

You just have to ask about the different repair routes when you go through your mental car servicing checklist. If you’re being pushed towards the one (more expensive) option and your gut is telling you something different will work, walk away.

Can I see the parts?

If not, why?

If they removed and replaced them, where’s the old part? Parts don’t simply disappear. If they can’t show you, fish a glove from your handbag, slap the mechanic lightly across the cheek and challenge them to a duel at dawn!

Seriously though, seeing the old part and having them explain it to you helps you upskill your car knowledge. Plus, it puts your mind at ease that they haven’t taken out a perfectly functional part and charged you an arm and a leg to replace it.

Should they be unable to produce said part, you should wonder, quite loudly, why you’re being charged for a part they can’t show you. Add that to the car servicing checklist, pronto. Yes, the part about wondering aloud.

four young people in jeep for summer driving trip. servicing your car before a road trip is important for road safety

Side note: Becoming more self-assured behind the wheel takes time and practice but it’s worth the effort. Increase your confidence in driving by reading this ‘How To Become A More Confident Driver‘ article.

Get up close and personal with your car

So now you more or less know how to answer the question of what does a full car service include. You paid a lot for your car so why not take care of her/him properly?

Like any new relationship, you’ll both have to work at it. So, read up and learn what yours likes, dislikes and the best way to care for it. In return, they’ll see you safely home after work or play, take you on fabulous adventures and never judge when as you sing along to your favourite tunes.

At PD Insurance, we know getting your car serviced well can feel like a dark art. If you’ve been stung, you feel for you and hope this car servicing checklist has helped for next time.

Perhaps you’d like to save some dollars with our comprehensive car insurance, to ease the pain a little? Why not get a quote now in just a few minutes?

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