You love your car, right? It gives you the freedom to cruise the streets and allows you to be independent and flexible. It's your pride and joy. But are you taking proper care of it?

One of the most important aspects of vehicle maintenance is one that can sometimes get neglected – servicing. A vehicle service including an engine oil and filter change is vital for your car’s health, and needs to be performed on time, every time, if you want your car to run smoothly, efficiently and safely.

The risk involved in not getting a service

Generally, motorists try to spend as little on their vehicle as possible, so when money’s short it can be tempting to skip a service. But, by choosing not to look after your vehicle properly, you run the risk of racking up much bigger bills later down the line or, even worse, unwittingly discovering the problem when you’re actually driving the car and putting yourself, passengers and other road users in danger.

The cost of a service (including oil and filter change) can range anywhere from $160 – $300 depending on vehicle / fuel type and how in-depth of a service you require. A replacement engine can cost anything from $2500 to $15000, depending on its quality and availability. Cylinder head gaskets range from $1500 to $5000, radiators are around $500 to fix, and water pumps start at $500 and can work their way up to $2500 with the cost of an added cambelt and tensioners. If these need to be attended to, the costs to remedy the problem will still stand, but do you really want to receive a bill to get all of the work done in one go because you’ve left it too long to get the car checked? Suddenly the price tag for a yearly check doesn’t sound quite so bad.

Catch the problem early

Getting your car serviced each year and maintaining it between services is money well spent. Problems are likely to be caught earlier and, more often than not, the earlier they’re caught, the cheaper they are to fix. Plus, getting your car regularly serviced will give it a better resale value and longer life.

The key to vehicle servicing is preventative maintenance. There are replacement intervals or a service schedule for most components found in your car. This can cover anything from air, pollen and fuel filters, to engine oil, antifreeze and driveline fluids. For example, sparkplugs on petrol engines have a few different options and replacement intervals range from every 30,000km to 100,00km.

Don’t just ‘top up’ your oil

If you’re one to simply purchase a litre bottle as a top up, beware as you can slowly clog up your car’s engine from the inside. Over time, the slow degradation of the oil lubricating properties can cause what is known as engine seizure.

Unlike fine red wine, oil ages badly and over time it degrades. The process of oxidation occurs naturally in the oil, but the rate at which this happens depends on factors such as temperature, moisture, oxygen levels and engine condition. If your engine oil is thick like tar, it likely hasn’t been changed for a while and you’re running the risk of premature engine failure if you don’t change it.

AA Motoring recommends consulting your owner’s handbook for the manufacturer’s service schedule which can vary from 15,000 to 30,000km service intervals.

As a general rule of thumb, vehicles should be serviced every twelve months or 10,000kms, whichever comes first. High mileage drivers however, should aim to have an interim level service every six months or 5,000kms.

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