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Don't you wish there was one place that had everything you needed to know about car services, car care, and vehicle maintenance? We did too, which is why we've pulled together all the information you need to know about caring for your car's health and longevity.

Although we know many people use the terms car service, car care, and vehicle maintenance interchangeably, they're not the same. Below, we demystify, and fact check everything you need to know about keeping your car in good condition.

If you keep up-to-date with services, maintenance, and care, you will lower costs, lengthen the lifespan of your vehicle, and increase your resale value.

Why you should get your car serviced

Car services are annual check-ups that keep your car running smoothly and are essential to maintaining its warranty. We recommend contacting the experts, or your car dealer when you plan to service your vehicle.

Here, we will explain why car dealers care so much about services, why your car needs a service, what happens during a service and more. Why don't you start by scheduling a service reminder?

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Five reasons to service your car at regular intervals


Servicing your car saves you money by preventing wear and tear. Regular services will also help you keep your vehicle in a reasonable condition and catch any concerns or glitches before they can cause extensive damage.

The top five reasons to have your car serviced are:
  • Performance: Regular servicing reduces the wear and tear of your car, meaning that it is always operating at its peak potential. 
  • Lower costs: If your car is always running at its peak, it means that you will have an overall lower cost of ownership. Servicing helps identify and prevent many of the large-scale and expensive problems early.
  • Higher resale value: What more can we say? Most buyers look for a full service history because it is an indication that the car was well maintained… so, to ensure a good trade-in value, try not to miss a service. 
  • Keeping it eco-friendly: We're all aware that car emissions produce pollution. Regular maintenance helps your car emit less dangerous fumes and fluids than it would if it was performing poorly.
  • Maintaining your warranty: A warranty is your car manufacturer's promise that the parts in the car will work optimally, and that they will replace them if they break. You need to honour your slice of this agreement with regular services to keep the parts working as they should. The manufacturer can't promise that the parts will keep working if they don't receive the treatment they need during their lifespan.

Your first service should occur at 15 000 km or once a year (whichever comes first), then every 15 000 km or once a year (again, whichever comes first) after that. Suzuki Boosterjet engines are slightly different in that – because they have a turbo booster, the services should be at intervals of 10 000 km or one year, whichever comes first

Are there different types of car services?

Yes, you get different types of services (basic, full, and major). The type of service depends on your car's age or kilometres on the clock. All our service options will include the following:

  • Oil and oil filter change.
  • Wheel alignment.
  • Suspension tests.
  • Tyre tread checks.
  • Top up of all the vital fluids in the engine (washer fluid, brake fluid, and steering fluid).
  • A visual inspection of the car's maintenance.
  • Several other essential inspections.

Full- and major services may also include the following:

  • Oil and oil filter check and replacement.
  • Brake fluid check and top up.
  • Coolant (antifreeze) check and top up.
  • Windscreen wash check and top up.
  • Full brake check.
  • Power steering fluid check and top up.
  • Steering check.
  • Shock absorbers check.
  • Suspension check.
  • Light check.
  • Windscreen wipers check.
  • Wheel alignment check.
  • Charging systems check.
  • Exhaust check.
  • Battery check.
  • Charging system check.
  • Tyre tread and pressure check.

Remember to book your car's service at your closest Suzuki dealership.

Book a service now


Questions to ask when your car is serviced

If you're getting your car serviced, we recommend that you have the questions in our checklist above ready to ask. It not only indicates that you're interested in what happens, but it also builds a good relationship with the person working on your car.

Additionally, it's good to ask these if you're unsure of whether you can trust the quality of your service:

  • Can I meet my mechanic? If you know who is working on your car, it not only puts your mind at ease but begins to build a relationship with your mechanic. This also encourages their interest in helping you understand when something goes wrong.
  • Can I see the problem? Mechanics may have a tough reputation, but they are usually honest and experienced. There's nothing wrong with you requesting to see damaged or broken parts for yourself, to ensure everyone knows what the best way forward needs to be.
  • Can you prioritise the repairs? It never hurts to ask.
  • What will happen if I don't make the repair? To trust your mechanic and yourself with the answer to this question, you'll need to know a thing or two about what's under your car's hood. It is always a good question to ask, to understand if that knocking sound is something you can live with, or if it will lead to you being broken down on the side of the road tomorrow.
  • What's the warranty on this part? Always check how you're covered, because not many people will do it for you. Nothing beats genuine parts, and if something is under warranty, you can grab the original replacement. 

If there are any terms that your mechanic is using that confuse you, you can consult our car maintenance jargon glossary to help you.

Maintenance Plan vs. Service Plan vs. Warranty

Understanding the difference between a maintenance plan, a service plan, and a warranty is vital to any car owner. Knowing what you've selected and what that covers is important to your car's (and wallet's) longevity.

We've summarised the most important differences below for you. But, we always encourage an owner to contact their dealer and ask them to explain exactly how your car is covered.

Warranty

A warranty is the manufacturer’s promise that the machine they’re selling you won’t give you problems, and they’ll cover it if it does.

Service plan

A service plan pays for your car’s services - the labour and standard parts. However, it doesn’t include the cost of defective parts or wear and tear on parts like the clutch, brake pads, and so on.  

Maintenance plan

This covers what your service plan doesn’t: wear and tear.

 

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Basic car care

Every vehicle owner should have a repertoire of essential car-care tips and tricks to maintain and clean their car. From knowing how to clean your vehicle correctly, which cloth to use when polishing your car's body, and tricks on how to avoid unnecessary spills or stains on the interior… Everyone has something to learn.

Caring for your car: Stock up and make your Suzuki shine

Here are some essential items that you'll need if you want to keep your car clean and tidy:
  • Bucket and sponge,
  • Microfibre towels/cloths,
  • Car shampoo/washing liquid (Don't use dishwashing liquid. It is not a decent substitute and can damage your car's paint),
  • Disinfectants,
  • A general window cleaner (only to be used on the windows),
  • A brush to clean your wheels,
  • A vacuum cleaner (for the interior),
  • Optional: a grit guard (a device that sits at the bottom of your bucket and separates your water from the loose grit taken off your car). 

Once you have stocked up on car care goodies, you're ready to make your Suzuki shine, inside and out.

  • Regularly wash your car: Whether you do this at home or you go to a car-wash, keep the daily/weekly dust off your vehicle and extend its lifespan.
  • Work from top to bottom: When washing your car, ensure that you wash from top to bottom, so that all the dirt rinses off while washing.
  • Polish: Invest in a decent car polish to keep your car looking like new. Did you know that a cheap polish for your headlights and flickers can be toothpaste on a dry microfibre cloth (Coca-Cola also works)?
  • Don't forget the wheels: Wheels are often overlooked or only roughly cleaned, but taking time to get rid of all the mud and muck from out of your wheels and wheel covers/mags is vital. Not only will this help you avoid rust, but it will also help your wheels last longer.
  • Avoid stains: Too often when we spill something in the car, we say to ourselves "I'm in a rush now, I'll clean it properly later". We get rid of the worst, but we never really return to finish the job properly. Avoid stains in your interior by cleaning spills as soon as they happen.
  • Stick to your service schedule: We've explained why regular car services are important to keeping your engine running smoothly earlier on. Don't skip services or go too long in between them. Your engine needs as much love as the body and interior of your car does.
  • Air-fresheners: No one likes a stuffy-smelling car or one that smells like last night's takeaways. Keep a Sta-Soft refill (or something similar), or air-fresheners in your vehicle will keep your vehicle smelling clean and fresh. Remember: Keep Sta-Soft refills in a cool place out of direct sunlight if you use them.

According to Rentokil Initial, several dirt hotspots need special attention in cars when you're spring cleaning. Next time you're giving your vehicle a scrub, make sure you don't forget to spray and wipe the following areas with an antibacterial cleanser:

  • Your steering wheel.
  • Your speedometer button (trip calculator).
  • Your driver's and passenger visor.
  • Your gear lever.
  • Your safety belt (not just the clip, the whole belt).
  • Your indicator lever.
  • Your cubby hole and centre console.
  • Your headlight switch.
  • Your car seat adjuster.
  • Your window buttons.
  • Your windscreen wiper lever.
  • Your petrol lever.
  • Your bonnet lever.

 

If anything is ever feeling a bit too much, never fear. Your dealer is just around the corner, and they will help you if you're uncertain about a problem or have a question about your vehicle.

When not to DIY your vehicle

While we all expect our cars to never let us down, sometimes we encounter a few hiccups. In those moments, we're often tempted to fix the issues ourselves to avoid any additional costs by taking it to a dealership.

While this can sometimes work out well for the driver, it usually doesn't. We don't recommend DIY for anything other than the most basic car care (unless you have expert knowledge of how your car is made).

Sometimes it's difficult deciding what's an excellent issue to DIY, and what shouldn't even be considered to fix at home, though. That's why we've outlined the most vital components of your car below that need expert attention should any issue arise: Don't DIY problems with these parts!

  • Diagnosis: The first step in diagnosing your problem should ideally be to visit your local dealership. Without intimate knowledge of your car, how it's put together, and what needs fixing, DIY attempts can be dangerous.
  • Brake pads: Different sizes of vehicles and wheels will need different types of brake pads, and there is no set time for how long they should last. Ask for a subjective assessment of your car's stopping distance to determine if the brake pads are ready to be checked or changed (usually, this is every ±30 000 km).
  • Clutch: The clutch can wear down fairly quickly, as it's used a lot. In warmer climates, they wear down even quicker. One of the critical signs that your clutch may need some attention is if your gears are 'sticking', or if you detect a distinct 'burning' smell.
  • CV joints: If you hear a clicking sound as the wheels turn when you're driving, it's worth getting your CV joints checked.
  • Console buttons and levers: The engine is important, however your car isn't roadworthy without a flicker lever or an emergency-lights button. Everything inside the cabin is equally  important and also subject to wear and tear. If something in the cabin needs replacing, don't delay, as you might find you need to use your emergency lights sooner rather than later.
  • Steering problems: Steering problems often continue for a long time unchecked, because we either don't notice it or we simply put up with it. But it is dangerous. You can check this by finding a quiet and level road and only lightly touch the steering wheel. If your car veers to one side, you will need to ask your dealer to align the steering or check your tyre tread for uneven wear. 

Even in light of these recommendations for diagnosing your car, we will always recommend that you visit your local dealership first.

This is because we know that our Suzuki service team has undergone approved training and that all of our dealerships operate under strict quality controls. An alternative mechanic might offer a good deal but may not provide the same quality or experience.

When to go to your dealer

Building and maintaining a relationship with your regular dealer is an integral part of car maintenance. You need to trust the dealer working on your car, and you also want to be able to ask any question and have it answered timeously and accurately.

It's important to keep up regular communications with your local service centre. Get to know the mechanics and staff working on your vehicle, and ask the questions that you're dying to know the answers to.

Questions left unanswered are usually those left unasked. The more effort you put into getting to know your dealer, the more effort they'll put into getting to know your car. The question still circling in your mind is, "When do I need a dealer?"

Download your checklist now

Increase the lifespan of your car

Increasing the lifespan of your car is easier than you think because you can reduce wear and tear with regular vehicle maintenance. Simple strategies like avoiding aggressive driving, rapid acceleration, sudden stops or abrupt turns, will see your car living a long and healthy life.

That being said, some parts of your vehicle will need to be replaced more frequently than others:

  • Oil and oil filter: Every 12 months.
  • Windshield wiper blades: Every 1-2 years.
  • Air filter: Every 3-4 years.
  • Brake pads: Every 3-5 years.
  • Headlights or taillights bulbs: Every 5-7 years.
  • Tyres: Every 4-7 years.
  • Spark plugs: Roughly 10 years (if your car is otherwise maintained).
  • Belts: The serpentine belt lasts 6-8 years. The timing belt lasts 8-10 years.
  • Alternator: Roughly 5 years (frequently misdiagnosed).
  • Fuel pump: Roughly 5 years.
  • Fuses: Frequently (in case of electrical problems).
  • Water pump: Roughly 5 years.
  • Muffler: Roughly 10 years.
  • Shocks: Every 6-8 years.
  • Clutch: Every 8-10 years.

What Your Tyre Markings Mean

image002Image Source: Goodyear

  1. Tyre width - '205' indicates the section width of a tyre in millimetres.
  2. Aspect ratio - '60' is a tyre’s aspect ratio or profile which is its height from the base of the tread to the rim. This number represents a percentage of the tread width. For example, the height of this tyre is 60% of its width.

    Thus if you measure it, 60% of 205mm = 123mm. Low profile tyres have smaller aspect ratio percentages. Low profile tyres offer greater traction than a conventional type of tyre.

  3. Tyre construction  - 'R' means that the tyre has radial ply construction, meaning the way in which it has been constructed. Most car tyres are constructed this way so you will rarely find a car tyre without an 'R'.
  4. Rim Diameter - '15' indicates the diameter of the wheel rim in inches. So if you are buying wheels for existing tyres, this is the size you will require.
  5. Load index - '91' is a code which indicates the maximum load capacity of the tyre. The below load index table shows the Index Ratings for car tyre load. 
    Car Tyre Load Index ratings
    Load Index 81 82 85 86 87 88 90 92 95 96
    Max Load /Tyre kg 462 475 515 530 545 560 600 630 690 710

     

  6.  Speed symbol - V is a code which indicates the speed at which a tyre can be safely operated, subject to the tyre being in sound condition, correctly fitted and with the recommended inflation pressure. The speed symbol table below explains car tyre speed symbol ratings.

    Car Tyre Speed Symbol rating
    Speed Symbol N P Q R S T H V W Y
    Max Speed 140 150 160 170 180 190 210 240 270 300

Your tyre maintenance checklist

  • Do your tyres have any signs of wear and tear? This could take shape in strange or uneven wear patterns, a bulge, lacerations, punctures larger than 6mm, or, need we say, a flat tyre.
  • Do your tyres match? When you're replacing your tyres, you want to make sure that all of them are the same size, tread and, ideally, the same brand. If you can't always replace all four at once, try at least to still purchase matching pairs.
  • Do you check your tyre pressure regularly? Low tyre pressure makes it more challenging to handle your car and is less fuel-efficient, but too high tyre pressure can lead to the tread wearing down quicker. Know what pressure your tyres should be (found on the inside of the driver's door), and check them regularly.
  • Do you rotate your tyres every 10 000 km? Not only should your tyres be replaced when the tread is worn, but you can also save yourself from having to replace tyres too often by rotating them. Your front tyres (if you have a front-wheel-drive car) suffer more wear and tear than your rear tyres, so switching them around occasionally helps to even this out. By doing this, you'll get the most out of your tyre tread.

    Do you check your tyre tread often? In South Africa, the minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm around the entire circumference of your tyre. Download our infographic and  learn how to change a tyre:

Download your infographic now


Which petrol should I use?

Did you know that fuel can impact your car's performance? The right fuel helps to lubricate your engine, but the wrong fuel can cause knocking (that gunfire effect many old cars have).

How does petrol work?

Petrol is your car's fuel — its food if you will. Just as you eat to produce energy, your vehicle uses petrol to be able to move. It does this by creating a series of small, controlled explosions which generate the power to propel your car forward, transporting you from point A to point B. We call this internal combustion.


Which petrol is better for your car?

Which Petrol is Better for Your Car?
The petrol you choose to use should depend on both your vehicle (each vehicle has a recommended fuel type) and where you'll be driving it. In theory, you get better mileage and fuel economy from a higher octane fuel (i.e. 95 octane).

In the highveld (like in Johannesburg), you have approximately 20% less atmospheric pressure than at the coast. This makes it harder for fuel to ignite (meaning that you generally need a lower octane fuel, like 93 octane, which would likely cause knocking in coastal areas).

At Suzuki, we advise drivers that 95 octane fuel may not offer a significant boost in performance, but it does help to keep your engine clean from carbon deposits, which enhances the lifespan of your car. To better understand your Suzuki engine and which fuel it likes, take our Know Your Engine quiz.

Understanding your car engine’s oil

There are a lot of cautionary myths around car oil and for a good reason. Oil, being the lifeblood of your engine, essentially separates your engine from a large repair bill. Without oil, an engine wouldn't be able to run for longer than a few minutes. The reason for this is because oils help your car's engine with:

  • Lubrication: Engine oil provides a film between the moving metal parts.
    Removing heat: Oil transfers intense temperatures and allows them to be dissipated.
  • Holding deposits: Engine oil retains combustion accumulations, such as acid and soot, in suspension, keeping the engine clean on the inside.
  • Preventing corrosion: Oil protects your engine from rust by neutralising acids and keeping moisture away from vulnerable areas.
  • Hydraulic medium: Some engines use pressurised oil to operate specific functions, such as hydraulic tappets or the camshaft chain tensioner.

The four main types of engine oil

There are many different types of oils. Some are used for high-tech engines, others for new cars, and still others for high-mileage cars or heavy-duty SUVs. But, the best bet is your car manufacturer's recommendation, as they know your car best (you'll find their recommendation for oil type in the owner's manual). The four main types of engine oil are:

  • Premium Conventional Oil: This is the most commonly used type of engine oil. It contains additives to withstand the temperatures and breakdown resistance that engines require. It's usually a manufacturer's cheapest option. However, it requires frequent changing.
  • Full Synthetic Oil: This is ideal for cars that demand peak-level performance and high levels of lubrication. Full synthetic oil provides higher viscosity levels, resistance to oxidation and thermal breakdown, and helps fight against oil sludge. Plus, it helps improve fuel efficiency and can even increase a vehicle's horsepower by reducing engine drag.
  • Synthetic Blend Oil: This type of oil is a combination of synthetic and organic oil. Synthetic blends make it easy for drivers to make the switch from conventional to synthetic oil. This is why this type of oil is becoming increasingly popular among today's savviest drivers as an affordable "version" of full synthetic oil.
  • Higher Mileage Oil: Higher mileage oil is specifically designed for cars with more than 120 000 km on the clock (odometer). It can help reduce oil consumption, minimise leaks and oil seepage, and can also help reduce smoke and emissions in older engines.
After years of intensive research, Total and Suzuki teamed up in 2012 to reveal the best engine oil (Suzuki Genuine Oil) for our cars. SAE 5W30 synthetic engine oil variant (API rating of SM) was unveiled as the recommended oil for most Suzuki cars, such as the Grand Vitara, Swift and Celerio.

Prepping your car for a road trip: A Checklist

Whether you're planning a road trip soon, or you just like to be prepared for your next family holiday, we have compiled the ultimate road trip checklist for you. It has all the questions you need to ask yourself about your car to ensure you are ready to hit the road and arrive safely.

Download our checklist for your next family road trip.

Download your road trip checklist now

Suzuki Roadside Assistance

The Suzuki Roadside Assistance package offers a variety of services across South Africa, 24/7.

"One of the many benefits of owning a Suzuki vehicle is a comprehensive Suzuki Roadside Assistance plan that incorporates around-the-clock roadside emergency assistance."

Life has a nasty habit of springing unwelcome surprises on car owners (often when you're least equipped to deal with them!). This is why we developed our Roadside Assistance services. Suzuki Roadside Assistance opens more than 900 cases a year, which might seem like a lot. Yet, it accounts for only 1% of our Suzuki car parc.

The primary objective of this service is to get you back on the road immediately, and we manage to do that 95% of the time. The package offers drivers a wide range of services, such as the following:

  • Road patrol roadside repair service
  • Flat tyre change or repair service
  • Fuel to reach a filling station
  • Battery service including mobile battery sales
  • Key lockout service
  • Electrical and mechanical breakdowns recovery towing service
  • Emergency medical rescue
  • Vehicle repatriation
  • Armed roadside security

Download the Suzuki Roadside Assistance Guide now

Car service and maintenance jargon

Struggling to figure out what a dealership or repairer is quoting you for? Look no further. We've compiled a list of frequently used terms to help you.

  • Aftermarket parts: Replacement parts that are not made by the original manufacturers.
  • Basecoat: A paint system where the colour is shown by a highly pigmented basecoat.
  • Bench: A heavy metal platform used to restore a vehicle's structure to factory specifications.
  • Chip guard: A chip-resistant, protective coating. It is usually applied to lower panels to protect against anything chipping the finish.
  • Clearcoat: The clear coat is used for a glossy effect and as a protection to a basecoat paint.
  • Coat: A single layer of paint.
  • Corrosion: Rusting metal that leads to severe degradation.
  • DRP: This is an acronym for Direct Repair Programme. These programmes are usually mutually agreed contracts between an autobody repair centre and an insurance company.
  • Edge-to-edge repair: This is a complete panel repair, as opposed to a touch-up or spot repair.
  • FEA: This is an acronym for Front End Alignment, and you'd find it as a line item on a repair estimate or order. It means that your car needs to have its wheels aligned.
  • LKQ: This is an acronym for Like Kind and Quality. It is a used part that is salvaged from another car to be used on yours.
  • R&I: This is an acronym for Remove and Install. When a part is removed from your damaged vehicle to be saved and reinstalled after a repair has been completed.
  • R&R: This is an acronym for Remove and Replace. It is used when a part is removed from your damaged vehicle that cannot be acceptably repaired (and is instead replaced).
  • Tack rag: A cotton fabric used for dusting surfaces, almost like a polish.
  • Tint and Blend: This is a process of mixing paint toners to match your existing paint finish. Then blending the new colour into the adjacent panel to ensure there is no mismatch.
  • Touch-up: This is a repair, usually confined to a single, small area.
  • Unibody: The structural support that most modern vehicles have.
  • VIN: This is an acronym for Vehicle Identification Number, and it is a unique number that identifies your vehicle apart from others.
Do you have any words or abbreviations to add to our list? Let us know, and we'll help you decode the jargon.

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