Electric car repairs, servicing and maintenance: a complete guide

How, where and when should you get your electric car serviced? DrivingElectric reveals all

Like any vehicle, electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars need regular servicing. Much like a petrol or diesel model, most can be serviced at main dealers, although if you plan to take your car to an independent garage, you’ll need to make sure the location in question is qualified to work on your pride and joy.

Thankfully, many electric cars have extended service intervals due to the fact they have fewer moving parts, which should mean less frequent trips to the workshop. If you’ve just bought an electric or hybrid car, or are considering making the leap and want to know more about servicing – read on for all you need to know.

Electric car servicing: general information

If you’ve previously owned a petrol or diesel car, the idea of having your vehicle serviced on a regular, predetermined basis will feel very familiar. You’ll have a similar experience running an electric car, but that’s not to say the servicing system is the same.

In general, electric vehicles require less maintenance and less frequent servicing, and in many cases should be cheaper to run as a result. There are fewer moving parts and there’s less to check on an annual – or even biennial – basis. Careful, though; just because your car requires fewer services, you shouldn’t take your eye off consumables like tyres, lights and wipers. These should be checked on a regular basis.

Service schedules are available from your local dealer or direct from the manufacturer. Generally, all cars require servicing after a certain period of time or a given mileage. Keeping on top of this schedule will keep your car in top condition, and will ensure any remaining warranty is kept intact.

Which parts of an electric car need servicing?

While an electric vehicle has fewer moving parts, it’s still important to get your car serviced regularly. An electric car doesn’t need things like spark plugs, engine oil, air filters or coolant, but there are plenty of parts that do need checking.

The parts that are generally covered by an electric car service include items such as brakes, suspension, tyres, steering (and tracking), plus lights, wipers and cabin filters. This list is by no means exhaustive, and a comprehensive service will cover this and much more.

Remember, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars have engines, and therefore require many of the same checks a conventional petrol or diesel model might.

Where to get an electric car serviced

If you buy a brand-new hybrid or electric vehicle, chances are you’ll be offered an all-inclusive service plan that’ll take care of many of the costs and concerns associated with running a car fresh off the forecourt. Of course, the best place to get your new car serviced is with your registered main dealer; with your warranty intact, there’s likely to be little chance of retribution from the manufacturer should anything go wrong.

But what are your options if you buy a used car, or you’d like to use an independent electric-car specialist? While not all garages are qualified to work on electric or hybrid cars, an increasing number are. The best place to check local garages near you is via the Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Repair Alliance (HEVRA), which has a list of facilities available – allowing you to search by town or postcode.

All of the garages have been “vetted for the right tools and qualifications, and receive ongoing training and unlimited technical support” from HEVRA. A quick search around DrivingElectric’s central London office shows three EV-friendly garages – in Swanley, Sunbury and Hampton. There are plenty to choose from, in fact, including several in Scotland, Wales, and even the Channel Islands.

Electric car servicing plans

Like many petrol or diesel cars, electric vehicles are often available with all-inclusive service plans. These will rarely cover consumables like tyres or brakes, but should look after other essentials like brake fluid and battery health – as well as checking items like the suspension, steering and electrics.

Manufacturers offer a variety of deals, most of which will last for between two and five years. They’ll normally allow you to pay up front or on a monthly basis, depending on which you prefer. One thing to note is that you may find your new electric car has longer service intervals (see below), thanks in part to its less complex powertrain.

Of course, you can also pay for a one-off service, though this is likely to cost you slightly more per service than if you were to take out an annual or pay-monthly plan.

Electric car servicing: service intervals

Electric cars often have longer service intervals than their petrol or diesel equivalents, due largely to the fact they have fewer moving parts. This not only helps reduce cost, but relative wear and tear should be minimal, too.

Take the Vauxhall Corsa-e as an example: this electric small car only requires a check-up every two years or 16,000 miles; buy a petrol version and you’ll find yourself popping by your local dealer for a service every 12 months or 12,500 miles.  Better still, Vauxhall offers three years of electric car service cover for just £10/month – compared with £19/month for petrol car drivers

Electric car servicing vs hybrid servicing

Electric car servicing is slightly different to petrol or diesel car servicing. There are fewer moving parts and therefore the service process is less complex. There are savings to be made if you’re savvy about this.

However, hybrid models are subject to many of the same checks as their conventional counterparts – due to the fact that the electrical systems (battery and motor) are usually mated to a traditional internal combustion engine. These cars require spark plugs, engine oil and coolant, plus various belts and pulleys to work as intended – so servicing is more complex.

Some manufacturers, like Vauxhall, group hybrids in with electric cars, making these models cheaper to service than the equivalent petrol or diesel version.

Electric car service costs

It’s often the case that servicing an electric car is cheaper than it is for an equivalent petrol or diesel model. This is thanks largely to the less complex powertrain, but also due to the fact that there are fewer consumables and moving parts.

Vauxhall charges electric and hybrid car buyers £10/month for its all-inclusive Vauxhall Care service plan, compared with £19 per month for petrol customers and £22 per month for diesel drivers.  Make sure you do the sums, however, as the longer intervals and less frequent services may mean that these plans actually work out costing a similar amount over time.

Electric car servicing: exclusions

Like with any car, there will be things that aren’t covered in an electric car service. However, what is and isn’t included isn’t all that dissimilar; consumables like tyres will be checked, but will only be replaced at the owner’s cost, while all the necessary fluids will be subject to a visual inspection.

Of course, if a major problem is detected – and this is true for petrol, diesel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars – the garage carrying out the service will flag this and offer you options to have the fault rectified. Depending on what the issue is (and what caused it), will depend on whether this is covered by the service plan or warranty – or whether you’ll need to fork out for repairs.

Electric car batteries and servicing

Most electric cars come with an independent battery warranty, many of which last much longer than the standard manufacturer warranty for the rest of the car.

For example, every Nissan Leaf comes with a five-year/60,000-mile manufacturer warranty, but the battery is covered separately for up to eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes soonest. In this case, the battery will be replaced free of charge if the maximum capacity drops below nine bars, out of the 12 that are displayed on the Leaf’s screen.

Normally, an electric car’s battery will be subject to a health check at each service, with a report on its state of health (SoH) offered at the end.