When it comes to maintaining your car, it’s vital to know what service it needs. The best way to do this is to check your service history.
That maintenance is based on the car maker’s recommended service schedule. Missing it will invalidate any warranty supplied with younger vehicles, or used cars sold with a warranty. And it increases the chance of a mechanical malfunction.
A service schedule typically alternates annually between minor and major maintenance jobs. But it also includes any additional tasks that need to be performed according to the car’s age, mileage and general condition.
But what if you don’t have a full service history for your car?
Well, you can lose money when you sell your car without its service book and it can make it more difficult to keep it in good condition. Here’s how you can check your car service history online and recover a lot service book.
How to recover a lost car service history
Let’s imagine you’ve moved house and mislaid your car service book. In this instance, tracing the car’s history is easy. Call the garage that has serviced the car during your ownership. Once you’ve provided them with a few personal and vehicle details, they’ll be able to email or post records to you.
When you buy a used car, make sure you have the service book. If you don’t you can have a lot of trouble tracking down the vendors that serviced it over the years. Assuming it has been maintained by independent garages, you need to contact the garages that serviced it.
If it’s been serviced within a franchised or main dealer network, any of the manufacturer’s garages should be able to confirm whether a car has been serviced by their brand’s garages. Contacting the exact dealer will tell you what work was done and when.
You can check your car service history digitally as well as on paper
Most drivers are familiar with the traditional way of recording a car’s service history: a stamp in the vehicle service book. This then usually lives in the car’s glovebox. However, some cars have secret compartments beneath the glovebox for the user manual and service history.
The stamp is added by the garage that carried out the work. It should indicate the mileage and date, type of service performed – a minor or major service, for example – and details of the garage.
Drivers who appreciate the value of complete records will also collect and keep the garage’s paper invoice, which lists the work carried out and itemises the cost of each task or part replaced. These can be an invaluable paper trail if you like to see exactly what’s been done when.
Use the DVLA to check your car service history
Let’s face it, plenty of people are tempted by the lure of a car that’s cheap because of a missing service history. Especially if they’re mechanically savvy or know someone who is and have inspected the vehicle carefully.
You might take the plunge, bag a bargain, and then set about recovering the service history retrospectively. Alternatively, you might already own a car, know it needs a service but not the kind of service it needs. Whichever category you fall into, you’ll need to trace the car’s previous owner or owners. You can download a V888 form from the DVLA website, requesting their details. There’s a modest fee of £2.50.
You’d then need to write to the former keepers. You have two hopes. First that they reply. Second that they still have the car’s service book, or at least remember what work was performed where and when.
Why do I need a full service history?
Ever wondered why so many adverts for used cars feature the acronym, FSH? It stands for full service history. It’s included because a car with a complete service history can be worth as much as 20 percent more than the same make and model that’s missing the proof it’s been correctly maintained.
As the average price of a used car sold in Britain is just less than £8000, you can lose as much as £1600 form the value without a full service history.
When the owner comes to sell a car, or trade it in for another model, most buyers like to check the car’s service history. It should help ensure the vehicle is in good working order and will remain that way for miles to come.
James is a motoring journalist and former magazine editor at BBC Top Gear and Auto Express. He has scooped, reported on and reviewed most new cars of the past 20 years, and currently contributes to the Driving section of The Sunday Times.