Commonly-missed car servicing FAILS that can end up costing thousands

Servicing experts MotorEasy highlight the six corner-cutting pitfalls

Those of a diligent mind who get their car serviced every year might be miffed to hear about corner-cutting servicing fails that can land you with a hefty bill, even if you pay for a 'full service' at a dealership.”

Motoring journalist and TV presenter Rebecca Jackson suggests “while it’s tempting to opt for the cheapest servicing option each year, it can be a false economy." Pointing to findings from MotorEasy, who have identified six tell-tell signs that a technician hasn't done a thorough job..

Short-cuts that can cost

According to Duncan McClure Fisher founder of MotorEasy, who provide car servicing, MOTs, repairs and protection products like GAP and warranty cover, “not all 'services' are created equal. We know there's a huge problem in the UK because we're the ones who pick up the pieces when things go wrong.”

MotorEasy's team of engineers recommend whenever possible to find out precisely what your service entails before you agree to it, ideally requesting a job sheet to ensure it is conducted precisely to the manufacturer's guidelines.

Here's their list, take a read and then let me know in the poll below how you prefer to service your car.

1. Failing to take the wheels off

A proper service involves the technician taking off all the wheels to check the condition of the brakes. However, many garages don't bother, and simply peek through the gaps in the alloys or rely on the last MOT brake test.

Loose or broken pads and leaks inside the brake drums cannot be seen with the wheel on, and brakes also can't be measured, to see how much life they have left.

POTENTIAL COST:, vehicle write-off and risk of personal injury

2. Failing to change the Cambelt tensioners and water pump

Your cambelt is part of the system that synchronises the rotation of the engine, opening and closing valves at the proper times. If it's not working correctly, the engine falls out of synch and can disintegrate.

If you don't change the belt at the right interval, it can snap, writing the engine off in the process. Most people are aware of this and make sure the belt is changed. But if you change the belt - and NOT the tensioners and pumps associated with it - they can seize, tearing the new belt and obliterating the engine!

Cambelt tensioner and water pump replacement typically costs between £300 and £80 on top of a normal service.

POTENTIAL COST: £3,000 - £20,000 for engine replacement.

3. Failing to replace the oil filters and oil

This is THE most important part of any service, and should be done annually. However, changing the oil is pointless unless the oil filter is replaced too. Old oil will lose its viscosity, causing engine components to wear prematurely.

POTENTIAL COST: £3,000 - £20,000 engine failure

More than just an oil check and change

More than just an oil check and change

4. Failing to change the Gearbox and differential oil

Just like your engine, your gearbox and differential - the component that drives the shafts that spin your wheels - also need regular oil changes. And yet these vital changes are often missed from bog-standard services.

Check for your car's guidelines on when to change the oil, and make sure it gets done - as it only costs from £200 extra on a typical service and won't need to be done each year.

POTENTIAL COST: £3,000 - £6,000 to repair

5. Failing to replace the Fuel filter

The fuel filter is not an expensive part to replace (around £200) and should be done in accordance with your manufacturer’s service requirements. But again, it often gets overlooked.

As the name suggests, the fuel filter removes any debris that's lurking in your fuel tank and stops it getting into the engine. This debris can cause damage to the high pressure pump and injectors, leading to an almighty repair bill.

POTENTIAL COST: £1,000 - £4,000 to repair

6. Failing to clean brake calipers

Like most things on your vehicle, keeping things clean and free from corrosion can really increase the part's longevity. And this is key with your brake calipers - the things that squeeze your brake disc when you press the pedal, forcing the wheels to slow down.

Neglect them and they'll get dirty, corroded and will stop working correctly. Calipers should be cleaned with a scrub brush and brake fluid to get rid of excess grease and dirt. When you consider that some calipers cost around £1,000, it’s a job worth doing.

POTENTIAL COST: £1,000 and safety risk.


Do any of the above servicing fails bring back painful and expensive memories, and how do you approach car servicing? Let me know in poll and the comments below.

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Comments (19)

  • Two hundred notes to change a fuel filter?!

      2 years ago
  • Could a mechanic cut a brake sensor line and why would one do that unless they were trying to scam you? Another mechanic told me it was definitely intentionally severed ( I did not mention the other mechanics name to keep things neutral....small town).Anyone have any thoughts on this? Other than never go back to him, obviously!

      2 years ago
    • I like that probability better than thinking the mechanic had done it! Thanks for the info! Did not know that could happen.

        2 years ago
    • Thr car in question is an 08 Nissan Sentra. Could I trouble you for another question? What is the reason for stopping the dash lights from coming on?

        2 years ago
  • A mix of garage for simple servicing while jobs like brake discs and pads upwards are DIY unless a ramp will really help.

      2 years ago
  • There is some misguided advice here. For starters.....changing the oil and not the oil filter is not a waste of effort. In fact I recommend that customers will actually be better off changing the oil twice to every filter change and change the oil at half the service interval. So if the manufacturer says oil and filter change every 10000kms, change the oil every 5000kms and the filter on the 10000kms. This is especially important on turbo charged vehicles that lubricate the turbo with sump oil as the heat from the turbo will break down the oil far faster and cause it to lose its viscosity resulting in poorly lubricated bearing surfaces that won't shed heat sufficiently when the engine is under load. As a general rule, if you halve the oil change interval, you will double the life of the engine if all other factors are equal. When changing the timing belt, tensioners and pumps, you should all so change the idler pulleys, radiator hoses and hose clamps (including hydraulic hoses for the transmission cooler when required). If you are stripping the front of an engine down for a semi major service it is a pittance extra to change the little things that are prone to failure (top/upper/return radiator hose falls in to this category). I would all so recommend doing the heater hoses at this time as they are often neglected. As to the brakes.....NEVER EVER clean them with a wire brush unless they have been taken off the vehicle and completely stripped (preferably buy a professional that specialises in brakes). You only have to put the tiniest nick in the dust boot of the brake piston and water and dust ingress will eventually cause the caliper to fail. Usually in the form of a frozen/jammed piston. Because of the heat extremes that brakes have to deal with, the small amount of air within the dust boot will contract when the brakes cool and draw in any crap/moisture around the smallest of holes on the affected dust boot. Given time, that crap will work its way on to the piston and cause it to rust and ultimately fail. Fwiw a brake caliper with a seized piston is a pita to dislodge and usually requires a new piston to be fitted once the offending part is removed. Ive been in the automotive game for a lot of years and the most comon problem I come across is damage caused by dealer servicing. They will charge you top dollar for servicing and get their first year apprentice to do it all unsupervised. I could not count the amount of times I have done repair work on vehicles that were damaged because someone forgot to check their work and sent a vehicle out with a fault. Either do it yourself and be methodical and check everything or find a decent mechanic who will.

      2 years ago
    • The oil filter is cheap and easy to change so why not?

        2 years ago
    • On a lot of cars it isn't easy to change and requires removing several parts to access. The 3.4ltr Prado is a classic example and so is the Nissan SR20 in an east-west configuration. Most fleets use a 2:1 change ratio because the filter will...

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        2 years ago
  • Issue is people are driven by money and if the dealer or more respectable garage charge over £100 for a service they will find a cheaper garage that will do it cheaper. Issue is some of these cheaper rate garages might not do the servicing as prior to the service manual and only change the oil and give the tyres a kick. It's the same with the UK MOT inspections some garages may do this test correctly then other dodgy garages will just pass the car even if they know something is terribly wrong with the car.

      2 years ago