Timing is Everything: What’s the Difference Between a Small Car Service and a Big Car Service?

A mechanic works on a vehicle for a routine service.

Regular maintenance and upkeep of your car is the best way to save money and fuel.
Smaller and larger services are usually carried out after a certain mileage has been reached; these are called maintenance intervals.
It’s important to know the difference between a minor service and a major service and what parts on your vehicle need replacing.
South Africa is on the verge of another massive fuel increase and the cost of living is constantly unbearable for most.

If we didn’t have such dire electricity problems, EVs would probably be a lot more attractive – even if the price tags are out of reach for the average person. But while we can’t afford a new or used car, or switch to something more affordable, maintaining your current vehicle is the best way to save money.

One of the best fuel saving tips that really work is maintaining your car and making sure it is serviced regularly and on time. It keeps your vehicle running smoothly and fuel-efficiently. Depending on how many miles your car has on the odometer, you may need a small or large car service. Besides the price, the main difference between these two types of services is the time and the parts needed.

SEE | ‘Car service intervals are there for a reason’ – don’t let your car’s engine go bad

Ford’s Rapid Hubs will reduce turnaround time for repaired vehicles.


When should I service my car?

When you need your car serviced will vary by manufacturer, but as a general guide, minor car services are typically performed every 10,000 to 15,000 kilometers and major car services are typically performed at around 30,000 to 45,000 kilometers. Consult your vehicle handbook to confirm specific maintenance requirements for your vehicle. Most modern cars have a service light on the dashboard to let you know when service is due.

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What does a small and large service include?

“Minor services typically include a full vehicle system and diagnostic check and oil filter change; checking all fluid levels, filter condition, pipes and hoses for leaks; inspection of fan belts and brake pads,” says Johnny Pretorius, director of sales at MotorHappy, a provider of engine management solutions and auto insurance options. “The service also includes checking all lights and tire pressure.

“A major car service is the most comprehensive type of car service with a full vehicle inspection.

“This includes the exterior of the vehicle, hinges and latches, and the timing belt. This usually includes spark plugs and filters, changing transmission and differential oils, and checking brake and clutch fluid. The wheel bearing grease is also checked here and replaced if necessary.

An experienced automotive maintenance worker looking for a part at an auto parts store.

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“These are just some of the items that would be covered at a major car service as the technician will go through a comprehensive checklist to ensure your car is inspected from top to bottom. If the technician finds any problems during the service, you should receive a quote for any additional work that may be needed,” advises Pretorius.

In this tough financial climate, cash-strapped drivers might be tempted to skip auto services, but Pretorius says it could be a costly mistake in the long run.

“A car consists of complex systems that need regular maintenance to keep the vehicle in good roadworthy condition. If you maintain your car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, it will be more fuel efficient and you will minimize the risk of breakdowns and unexpected repair bills. As the saying goes, take care of your car in the garage and the car will take care of you on the road.”

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Missing any services could void your car’s warranty. Keep a close eye on the recommended time frame or kilometers between car services.

Ford’s new Rapid Hubs ensure that customer cars get onto the road faster after the city center.


Pretorius points out that a car with a service history is often more valuable than a car without a service history because it shows the overall condition of the vehicle, who did the work, and when the work was done. The service history also shows if the car was recalled or if warranty or major repair work was required.

“A good car service plan will help you get your car serviced on time. Car maintenance can be expensive, but a service plan lets you budget for those costs with simple monthly payments. Various Serviceplan products are available in the market. Benefits may vary slightly from product to product, so it’s best to shop around.”

What about older cars?

Paul Kasker, owner of Maitland Auto Clinic, says that on older vehicles it’s best to have a small service and inspection service every 12 months or 15000 km.

Kasker says, “We don’t just do oil changes because things tend to break; if you don’t provide an inspection service, it means you miss the chance to spot a problem with a part before it breaks.

“I propose an inspection service that includes a small service and a vehicle inspection. The vehicle inspection should include a suspension check and a basic or visual electrical check, including the battery, wiring, and state of charge. Inspection of belts, tensioners and pulleys where stripping is not required. Inspection of front and rear brakes (if pick-up sticks or wheel cylinders leak) and next to it as needed.”

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He says that a car’s gasoline filter should be changed every 45,000 km, and a timing belt generally every 90,000 km, unless the manufacturer suggests otherwise.

Kasker adds that once your mechanic has a record of your vehicle’s service history, they can choose to perform minor maintenance at every other service because they can be confident in the longevity and replacement times of the parts installed.