Although they're designed to make your life easier in the long run, scheduled services can be a pain when they pop up out of nowhere and add to your living expenses.
It's easy for an annual service to slip through the cracks.
Before you know it, it's six months since you got that first reminder and you're encountering some kind of mechanical issue that probably could have been avoided.
Where does this leave you with your car's warranty?
A 2016 survey conducted by Choice found just under 50 per cent of people thought they had to return their car to the dealer for servicing in order to maintain their warranty, or were unsure.
So, can skipping a service or getting it done at the wrong place void your warranty? And what recourse is available to you if you encounter a mechanical fault after skipping a service?
We turned to the experts for all the answers.
NOTE: This story was first published March 24, 2020.
Can skipping a scheduled service void my car warranty?
Short answer: It depends. A lot of this comes down to the amount of time between services and the specific issues that may arise as a result.
Generally speaking, you may be covered by consumer law, if not by your warranty.
According to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC), "when consumers buy products and services they come with automatic guarantees that they will work and do what consumers asked for, under what is referred to as consumer guarantee rights".
"Manufacturers and dealers must honour consumer guarantee rights (e.g. that a car must be of ‘acceptable quality’), regardless of any warranties they give or sell to consumers," an ACCC spokesperson told CarAdvice.
Having said that, there remains a fairly big grey area around what constitutes service neglect under warranty and Geoff Gwilym, CEO of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), says it's better to be safe than sorry.
"There isn’t a lot of evidence saying as soon as a car is outside of its service schedule, it's out of warranty," Mr Gwilym told CarAdvice.
"Dealerships and repairers really make a call on the overall condition of the vehicle. If you want to stay out of having an argument – always get your car serviced on schedule, according to the manufacturer’s specifications. It gives you a firmer position if you end up in a dispute."
What are some of the risks of skipping a scheduled service?
"The single biggest risk of skipping a service is a breakdown of oil or the sludging of oil, both of which will destroy an engine," he said.
"If you’re missing servicing you’ll run the risk of a totalled car because you haven’t changed the oil regularly. It's sludged or overheated. Thick or thin oil will both destroy your engine."
Richard Dudley, CEO of the Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA), adds that consumers could be disadvantaged by missing out on software or operating system updates.
"In more modern vehicles a consumer may not be aware of updates to technology systems – they may not necessarily be urgent or require instantaneous attention, but if you miss a service you miss the opportunity to update that tech," Mr Dudley said.
While over-the-air updates like those provided by Tesla are becoming increasingly common, not all updates can be rolled out in this manner.
"Most cars need to be plugged into a scanner to upload codes from the manufacturer," Mr Gwilym said.
Do I have to return to the dealer to get my car properly serviced?
No. And if you're being told otherwise, that's an issue.
"If the manufacturer’s warranty states that the vehicle can only be serviced by an authorised dealer, this may raise concerns under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010," an ACCC spokesperson said.
According to Mr Gwilym: "It doesn’t matter where you get your car serviced as long as it’s in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications."
Just use your common sense, Mr Dudley says. "Consumers need to assure themselves the person they’re going to engage is qualified and professional."
Do I need to ensure genuine parts are installed?
It depends, but generally part quality is more important than whether it's "genuine" or not, unless your warranty clearly stipulates otherwise.
"There are often clauses in manufacturer warranties about the use of genuine parts, so consumers really should look at the warranty documentation. As the vehicle goes outside of warranty there are options for the purchasing of non warranty parts as long as they’re fit for purpose," Mr Dudley said.
According to Mr Gwilym, the VACC always recommends using "genuine parts or parts that meet the same specifications as a genuine part".
"Dealerships use genuine parts and even most aftermarket or independent repairers use genuine or similar parts because they don’t want cars brought back because of parts not working," he said.
However, a word of warning: "If you’re going to buy cheap parts off the internet and take them to a repairer, don’t be surprised if they don’t fit them because they don’t know the history of that part," Mr Gwilym said.
"A lot of repairers won’t fit parts supplied by consumers. They don’t have to fit them by law."
If a warranty issue arises, what should I do?
"If it’s an issue based on warranty – even if it's spotted by an independent provider – you will usually be told to take it back to place of purchase," Mr Dudley said.
Ideally, you would contact the manufacturer or the dealership where you purchased the car and they will instruct you of next steps.
If I get my car serviced and a fault emerges soon after, what should I do?
This, again, depends on the fault. Mr Gwilym said consumers need to be aware a car service isn't actually an overall health check on the car.
"Often the fault with the vehicle is above what the repairer has been asked to do," Mr Gwilym explained.
"Repairers do what consumers ask them to do. They may advise on other issues, but if you’re paying for a scheduled service that’s what they’re going to do. It’s not a health check of the entire vehicle, it is a number of items as specified by the manufacturer and that will change from vehicle to vehicle."
Having said that, if an issue arises that should have been addressed in a scheduled service, Mr Dudley says you can usually expect for it to be remedied "free of charge".
What precautions should I be taking?
"Always check the logbook for the service stamp. Some logbooks are online, so go online and make sure the data has been updated," Mr Gwilym advised.
Additionally, Mr Gwilym said, "people need to understand that in tight economic times, whilst there might be a short-term saving in not servicing your vehicle, you will get a compound effect around the health of your car and the combined cost of accumulated services will be more because you’ll run the risk of major machinery failures."