wrench set resting on opened car bonnet with engine showing

Can you service your car yourself?

Keeping a car is not cheap, and once, or even twice, a year you’ll find yourself dreading a trip to your garage as it heads in for its service and you leave terrified as to what expenses await this time. But what if you could only pay for the parts and avoid those hefty labour costs? Find out how you can carry out your own car servicing here.

Car in garage getting checked

What does a car service entail

A car service is a regular check of all of your car’s key components, including fluid levels in the engine and wear and tear of items such as the brakes. A full service will usually contain checks, adjustments and replacements of at least 50 components.

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Can I service my car myself? 

With the cost of everything rocketing at the moment, it’s understandable that you may want to try and avoid paying a hefty garage bill once or twice a year. However, if you are going to attempt to service your car yourself, make sure you know what you’re doing. There’s a reason labour charges are as expensive as they are, and it’s because mechanics are trained professionals. If you attempt to service your vehicle without the relevant experience, one small mistake could end up breaking something within the engine, or worse, causing injury to yourself.

What tools do I need to service my car?

If you’ve decided that you do want to carry out your own service, then you’ll need to make sure you have the right tools and relevant equipment to get the job down safely and correctly.

Tools and equipment you’ll need include:

  • Basic set of spanners and screwdrivers
  • Pile of old rags
  • Socket set – including spark plug removal socket
  • Car jack and axle stands
  • Funnel
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Oil filter remover
  • Oil drain tray – or a bucket
  • Torque wrench

What parts do I need to service my car?

While there is no catch-all list when it comes to servicing, there are a few pieces that you know you’re more than likely going to need. An oil change is highly likely to be part of your service, so making sure you have the parts for that (fresh oil, oil filter and sump plug) is essential, while you may also find replacing the air filter is also a good option.

Other parts will be required depending on your findings during the service, and how much any of your components are looking a little tired. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Spark plugs
  • Ignition (HT) leads
  • Fuel filter
  • Coolant
  • Brake fluid
  • Power steering fluid
  • Transmission fluid
  • Brake pads/discs

How to service a car yourself

The first job is to make sure that you’re in a safe environment, on a level surface and with plenty of space around you to carry out the work that you need to do.

  • Oil Change
    • Carrying out an oil change is a must when servicing your car, and you can read all about how to do this in our previous post on the subject.
  • Check tyre pressures and condition
    • A simple check is to test your tyre pressures and tread depth. Incorrect pressures can increase tyre wear and reduce the quality of your car’s word handling and stability. You’ll also need to check to make sure your tyres have at least 1.6mm of tread, which can be achieved by using a 20p piece.
  • Replace fluids
  • Replace air filter
    • One of the easiest jobs throughout a service, just unclip the airbox and remove it, revealing your dirty air filter. Simply remove the old one, pop in the new one, re-fasten the airbox: job done.
  • Replace spark plugs
    • Double check your specific car’s recommendations to see when these should be replaced – some manufacturers recommend every 30,000 miles, although if your car is struggling to start or is vibrating a lot, it may well be time to replace.

Remove the HT leads and then begin unscrewing the plugs. Once they are out, clean the area thoroughly, before placing the new plugs into the socket and lowering into the gap. Tighten them by hand first before finishing off with a torque wrench.

What are the risks of servicing my car myself?

If you are not a particularly mechanically minded person, choosing to carry out a service yourself can be a very risky move. Just because you have a suitable location and you’ve bought all the tools doesn’t mean you’re going to know what you’re doing when you get underneath the car. If you’re trying to work on your car in order to save money from a garage bill, make sure you don’t accidentally find yourself booking into the nearest garage as soon as possible after you broke a key component due to your inexperience.

Aside from the physical risks of servicing your own car, and even if you are an expert amateur mechanic, you could see the value of your car plummet the moment there is a gap in the service history. Used buyers often seek a service history for proof the car has been looked after correctly during its life, so it’s best to weigh up the costs you’ll save by working on the car yourself against how much you could lose in a future sale.

Is it cheaper to service a car yourself?

It’s a well known fact that if you are able to work on a car yourself you’ll save a lot of money when compared to going to a garage as you’ll simply be paying for the parts as opposed to the labour on top. If you have all the tools and everything to hand then it will certainly be cheaper, but if you’re going to need to go out and buy a full set of tools in order to complete the services, when you add in the cost of all the parts you’ll need then it’ll probably be cheaper in the short term to just get the car serviced at a garage.

In the long term servicing cars yourself will be cheaper, until you try and sell the car on, where a lack of “official” service history will seriously hurt the resale value of your car. If you’re not planning to sell anytime soon, or the car is particularly old, then you’ll most likely find servicing yourself is going to be a much more economical option.

If you’ve tried to service your car yourself and broken it further beyond repair, or it is just getting to the point where no amount of servicing will restore its former glory, then maybe it’s time to say goodbye and send it off to the scrapyard. Scrap Car Comparison can promise you the best offer you’re going to get for the vehicle, and we’ll even come and collect it for free, wherever you are. Get started today and see just how much your car could be worth.

For more hints, tips and guides on everything to do with car ownership, from maintenance guides to explaining laws and regulations, visit our Car Care hub.

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