Why Regular Servicing of New Cars is Critical

I got an e-mail from a lady named Leanne the other day (below), which highlights the absolute false economy of letting your services slide.

As a consequence, Leanne is looking down the barrel of a likely $14,000 repair bill on her Holden Cruze - which is still under warranty.

Worse still, it looks like Holden is completely justified in its decision not to support the repair.

This is a salient lesson in why servicing should be a priority for all new car owners.

Here's what Leanne said:

Leanne's Problem

"I am really hoping you would be able to help me please. I am wanting advice in regards to taking on Holden for not fixing my 2011 SRI-V Cruze under warranty. It's only two and a half years old and although I am overdue for a service, I have had no warning lights come up on my dash whatsoever, and the turbo blew up and then blew my motor up.

"Holden told me that the turbo blew up because the car had hardly any oil in it and that the oil that was in it was sludgy. When I asked why a warning light didn't come up on my dash for low oil the response I got was that there was oil showing on the very bottom of the dip stick so an oil light would not come on.

"But it is my fault for being late for a service that had caused the problem and is now going to cost me $14,000 and is not covered by warranty? I can't afford this at all and don't know where to turn.

"I would think it would be fair to say that it is a BASIC requirement of any automobile that a warning light be present should the car require or is dangerously low on oil, and I can't see why or how a late service can be blamed for an engine and turbo blowing up without any warning at all. 

"Oh how I wish I had have come across your review prior to wasting $35,500 on this lemon. It's the first Holden I have owned and I believed Holden to be a reputable and reliable Aussie company. How wrong did I get it? I Thank you for the time it would have taken you to read this email and for any advice you can give. I'm desperate as I can't afford fix this let alone replace my car."

This is a very sobering position to be in. When I asked how overdue the service was, here's what Leanne told me:

"It's 15,000km overdue. I realise that's a lot but what I don't understand is why there were no warning lights or engine lights displayed."

Here's what I was forced to tell her:

My Response

"Leanne, I know this is not what you want to hear, but I think this problem happened because the car wasn’t serviced frequently enough.

"The oil light in a car is generally not a low oil level light, it is a low oil pressure warning light. There’s generally no oil level sensor in cars. (That’s what the dipstick is for.) Running the car low on old oil and building up thick, sludgy deposits might actually increase oil pressure.

"Unfortunately, modern cars, and in particular turbo cars are in need of servicing more or less on time to avoid exactly this problem. You should not expect that it is reasonable not to service the car and hope that the oil light will save the engine. That’s not how the system is designed to operate.

"I suspect this is entirely the cause of the failure. As much as the Cruze is a world-class lemon, I don’t think it has contributed to the failure in your case.


"If you’re 15,000km over for a service that must mean you drove something like 30,000km without checking the oil. That’s pretty profound neglect, even though you clearly  did not intend for this to occur.

"I don’t think Holden will be even slightly motivated to repair the vehicle at a reduced cost. To reduce the cost of repairs on your own you would need to get a quote from an alternative engine rebuilder, or perhaps source a second-hand engine from a written-off Cruze (from a wrecker) and have that installed.  Having a Holden dealer repair the car isn’t going to be your cheapest option.

"Realistically, the car is worth only about $16-17k (repaired) as a private sale today, or about $13-$14k as a trade-in (repaired) so spending $14k isn’t really an option. 

"If you need to borrow the repair funds, and you can get it down to $8000-$10,000 then you can probably pay this off over three years at well under $100 a week, which is probably not what you want to hear, either. 

"Sorry, as I wish I had better news for you."

What a truly terrible position to be in. Massive repair bill, plus a car worth (at best) a little bit more than the cost of repairs once it's fixed.

I guess it's reasonable to presume a warning light would come on to alert you to a potential problem - and some upmarket cars like BMWs do have oil condition monitoring systems for their condition-based servicing intervals - but ordinary cars don't do that. And, in this case, ignorance isn't a defence.

The most likely cause of the failure is breakdown of the oil causing sludge that prevented proper lubrication of the turbo. Result: mechanical failure because the oil wasn't replaced frequently enough. A couple of $300 services (not even necessarily from the Holden dealer) would have prevented a $14,000 problem.

Not getting your car serviced often enough.voids your warranty.

Conclusion? Scrimping on servicing is absolutely false economy. But you can save money on servicing and still keep your warranty intact click the below link to discover how.