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What to avoid during a car service

22nd Nov 2016 4:50 pm

Why ticking all the boxes on your car's service quotation is a bad idea. And how you can stay away from procedures that aren't critical.


When it comes to getting their cars serviced at authorised outlets, owners usually go the whole hog. They want their cars coming out of service centres looking brand new, and are willing to pay for it. But do service centres take undue advantage of this? Yes, they do. Servicing may involve changing certain parts and oils after a set interval, but service centres will almost always try to plug in a few extras using technical jargon that a layman may not really understand. Certain processes are completely unnecessary, and customers end up paying extra as they are not aware of what's important and what's not. Also, most of the times, the service associate will throw you a hard sales pitch, and it's not always done with your best interests in mind. So what exactly are the things you don’t really need and should avoid?

Engine flushing

Flushing an engine simply means cleaning the impure oil and gunk that has built up overtime that reduces performance and efficiency. It’s a rather simple process where a flushing chemical is added to the engine oil and the car is run at idle for a few minutes so that the additive can reach all areas accessed by the engine oil. Now, although engine flushing isn’t completely irrelevant, it is not necessary for newer cars or cars that have been maintained well. If your oil changes are regular, there is no reason to waste your money on it. However, if you’re looking at a used car with a high odometer reading, and aren’t sure of the oil changes, it is advisable to get it done. But it's not required each time you give your car for a service. Service centres usually charge a lot for engine flushing depending on what car you own. So the next time you get a service checklist, make sure you think hard before checking the box.

Cost: Rs 1,400-2,000

Oil additives

Another product that is silently slipped into your service quotation is an oil additive. What it does, or rather claims to do, is improve the efficiency of your engine and ensure smoother operation. However, experts are sceptical about it and rightfully so. Lubricant engineers work with the best materials and state-of-the-art technology to develop engine oils that ensure the best balance of performance and efficiency and is made specifically for your car. Therefore, it’s hard to justify why you would shell out extra cash for something that your standard engine oil already has. Follow normal maintenance procedures periodically and there is no reason you’ll need to use to rely on oil additives throughout your car’s lifespan.

Cost: Rs 500-600

Injector cleaning

Fuel injector cleaning is a process that's highly recommended by service centres. Cleaning the gunk build-up from burning fuel is necessary to run the engine smoothly and efficiently. However, technological advancements in lubrication have made it easy to produce high-quality fuel that burn cleanly with less carbon deposits compared to older cars. It is a fairly expensive process, especially for diesel cars as the injectors need to be completely dismantled and cleaned separately using specific machines. Watch out for certain signs and symptoms that point towards the need for injector cleaning. Look for a rough idle, difficulty on starting and a loss in efficiency. If you notice any of the mentioned signs you might need to opt of the injector flush, although it is rare in cars produced these days. Nevertheless, make sure to fuel up at good fuel stations and try to use a common fuel pump each time.

Cost: Rs 800-1000

Engine decarbonising

Engine decarbonising is exactly what it sounds like. Removing the carbon deposits from inside the pistons. Now, even though this sounds similar to the previously mentioned points, it isn't. Engine decarbonising is a mechanical process that thoroughly clears the engine of carbon deposits. Mechanical decarbonising is an expansive process that requires time and tools which shoots up the cost but for better results. However, it is only required for relatively older cars or ones that haven’t been well maintained and which have not been run for a long time. If you are experiencing loss in power and efficiency, engine decarbonising just might solve it, but you can never be too sure. Modern engines are developed to an extent where engine decarbonising will almost never be required. So don’t be blindsided by what your service advisor tells you, especially if your car is fairly new and looked after well.

Cost: Rs 3,000-3,500

Protective Coatings

The appearance of the car is just as important as its internal functioning. But there is no point going overboard with this. Anti-rust coating and paint coating are two things you can do without. A paint coat is a thin transparent layer of chemical, applied over the car's body to protect it from UV damage, hard water spots, light scratches and harmful chemicals that can leave blemishes. However, dealers often tie-up with small cheaper brands and leave a margin in it for themselves. So if you want to do it, go for private companies that specialise in it or make sure the dealer is tied up with a good company. Incorrect application can result into swirl marks that are difficult to get rid of and it also scratches the paintwork. Anti-rust coating is another box that you might see on the quotation. It essentially is a coating applied to protect certain parts like the underbody from corroding in humid conditions. However, most modern cars are built with galvanised materials and already have an underside coating. Check the wheel and the underside of your car for any thick, generally black coating. If you see this, you don't really need an additional anti- rust coating.

Cost: Rs 2,500-3,000

Car polish

Car polishing is done to bring back the paint's aesthetic appeal and make the car look newer. However, for cars that are in their first or second service, it is highly unlikely that they would need a coat of polish to look new. Modern cars come with a clear coat from the factory, and polishing a car before it's needed scrapes off this coat. A good polish job will keep your car shiny for a couple of weeks at best, and that’s if you maintain it well. Service centres usually are adamant on getting it done. However, if really needed, there are private companies that do the job much better, and also offer good deals and packages at similar costs.

Cost: Rs 1,250-1,500

Wiper washer fluids

Running the wipers without the washer fluid could scratch the windshield, and that could prove to be a costly affair. The simplest form of washer fluid is plain clean clear water. However, car manufacturers nowadays also offer certain spirits that are more effective in cleaning small debris and particles on the glass more effectively. They also ball up the water into droplets that can be easily cleared away by the wipers. But they take a toll on the rubber blades as the chemical used is too harsh, resulting into hardening. If you feel you need more than plain water, it is easier to make the washer fluid yourself and it takes barely a few minutes. Just mix a sachet of shampoo with some water and fill the washer reservoir. Make sure the solution is quite dilute and not too soapy. Certain car companies offer this service at no cost, but if it is offered as an option, do give it a miss.

Cost: Rs 75-250

AC disinfectant

With a climate like ours, driving a car without air conditioning can be quite painful. Therefore, owners do all it takes to keep the car's AC in top shape with the coolant topped up and filters clean. As necessary as all that is, checking the ‘AC disinfectant’ box is not. Dealers try hard to convince you on how it is important with the growing pollution and possibility of bacteria in the system. An AC disinfectant is just a couple of sprays in the AC vents, that claims to kill off any bacteria and germs. This is said to give off healthy air and keep your car clean. 

How well these work really depends on the quality of the disinfectant used and of course on whether or not your system has germs to begin with. It is really a matter of how obsessed you are about cleanliness. If you feel like your system could use some sanitisation, just buy the spray bottle and do it yourself instead.

Cost: Rs 750-950

It is best to stick with only the services outlined in the owner's manual. The additional services arent 'must have' but 'nice to have', so only opt for them when you are convinced they are necessary. When doing so, also make sure you are convinced by the dealer's ability to carry them out or else find a specialist to do so. 

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