Vehicle maintenance should be done according to recommendations in the log book

YOU CHOOSE: Cars don't have to be serviced by the dealer from whom you bought. Ask friends and family to recommend a good mechanic. Photo: Shutterstock

YOU CHOOSE: Cars don't have to be serviced by the dealer from whom you bought. Ask friends and family to recommend a good mechanic. Photo: Shutterstock

A CAR that doesn't start can really throw a spanner in the works, which is why regular service is so important.

It's tempting to delay that all-important service; however, that's when trouble starts, according to Motor Trades Association of Australia chief executive Richard Dudley.

"As the vehicle ages, it becomes even more important to stick to a schedule of servicing," he said.

Many older cars need regular minor servicing, such as replacing the oil and oil filter, replacing spark plugs and testing the brakes.

Newer vehicles rely more on computer-aided technology and usually only need an annual check-up, with many displaying warnings on your dashboard.

When it comes to the regularity of service, be guided by the vehicle's logbook recommendation.

It pays to be a motor-mouth when it comes to finding a good mechanic; talk to family, friends and colleagues and find out who they use.

"Word of mouth is how many owners find a good mechanic," Mr Dudley said. "But it's always good for a consumer to familiarise themselves with the business.

"Presentation of the business is important and look for the usual signs of a registered business, as well as any qualifications that may be displayed."

When it comes to car maintenance, mechanic choice is yours, and there's no reason you have to stick with the dealer who sold you the car, a common misnomer.

Word of mouth is how many owners find a good mechanic, but it's always good for a consumer to familiarise themselves with the business.

MTAA chief executive Richard Dudley

"Even new cars can be serviced by a mechanic of your choice, not necessarily the dealer from whom you bought the vehicle," Mr Dudley says. "Ultimately, you have the choice, with many consumers negotiating extended warranty or servicing.

"Importantly, when you buy a vehicle, you need to look at the terms and conditions."

There are some businesses where the mechanic comes to you, which is acceptable, just a different business model.

Regardless of a vehicle's age, the more it is used, the greater the need for maintenance, particularly the engine, brakes and steering.

When it comes to the bill, most mechanics have a capped price and menu-based servicing, where the cost of parts and labour is broken down; a quote should be given before work begins.

Green light for data swap

Federal politicians are mulling legislation to give a greater choice to car owners when it comes to vehicle maintenance.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar will introduce the Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Information Sharing Scheme to parliament later this year.

If enacted, the bill would provide a fairer playing field for the repair and service of the 74 automotive brands sold in Australia.

It would mean manufacturers would have to share all mechanical repair and service information with independent auto repairers.

That means car owners could choose from a wider field when booking their car for a service.

"If a dealer gets the information, then so too should a qualified mechanic, which is good for the consumer in exercising their rights," Motor Trades Association of Australia chief executive Richard Dudley said.

"It should be a level fair playing field for everyone ... the consumer will be the ultimate winner."

Peak bodies have been lobbying for the change for a decade. Australia's vehicle industry is worth $25 billion annually.

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