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How to tell when your car needs servicing urgently

When it comes to running a car, there are so many factors to consider in order to keep it running smoothly and legally. Tax, MOT, insurance, tyres, lights and fuel are some of the more obvious things to check, but how can you tell when your car is in desperate need of a service?

Here are some hints and tips to help keep you on the road.

Service Book

It’s always worth having a flick through your service book first, to see when your car was last serviced, and when the next one might be due. Service intervals vary depending on the car, and extra components may need servicing at various times. Keep it stamped and updated.


Your car’s dashboard can give you lots of hints about what needs checking and when. Most modern cars have a service display giving a countdown to the next service and flash up reminders when it’s due. Many cars now have variable service intervals depending on the style of driving and the mileage covered, so your instrument display will give you the biggest clue. Look out for warning lights too – amber, red or flashing symbols which stay on after you’ve started the engine could indicate a problem.

Exhaust Pipe

Look out for excessive smoke coming from the exhaust, especially under heavy acceleration. If everyone behind you is choking in a cloud of smoke, then your car could be burning oil or running inefficiently.

Under the Bonnet

There are several important things to check under the bonnet, which will tell you if you need a visit to the garage. Check your oil level regularly using the dipstick and monitor the levels. If you find yourself having to refill your engine with oil regularly, then it could urgently need checking. If you get an oil warning light flash up on the dash, the damage could already have been done. Keep an eye on brake fluid and coolant levels too – if these levels fall then there could be a leak or a similar problem. While you’re under there, it’s always worth topping up your screen wash too.

Visual Checks

There are lots of checks to make which will keep you on the road, and on the right side of the law too. Periodically check all your lights work, and that your tyres are correctly inflated and have plenty of tread. The minimum legal tread depth for car tyres is 1.6mm, but their performance will seriously drop when they’re below 3mm. Make sure your wipers don’t smear, and if you get any windscreen chips then make sure they get repaired before they crack.

Knocks, Noises and Other Hints

If your car is making unusual noises including grinding, knocking or rough running, then it’s always worth booking it in at the garage. Keep an eye on your fuel gauge too – if you’re suddenly using more fuel, then there could be a problem.