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Repair vs Service At Your Auto Shop

When you work in the auto industry you know the difference between repair and service. When you are not familiar with cars it may not be so easy to determine. There are many parts to a car. So many that listing them here individually is probably not the best option for a blog. However, to get an idea of what the auto industry considers repair and what is considered service we must look at specific items. Before we get into those items we want to advise you of what the terms repair and service mean. Repair is to fix something that is damaged. Auto service is to complete regular service for specific parts of the car to ensure they continue to work as designed. To relate this to something we are all familiar with, when you have to see a doctor because you have a broken bone… that is a repair. When you have to see a doctor for a regular or annual checkup… that is a service. The same can be said for a car. When there is a part that has broken due to age or wear and tear it requires a repair to be fixed. When you go to the shop for an oil change it is considered a service.

Jumping right in… Some common service related items include:

Oil Change (including filter every time) Air Filter (under the hood) Cabin Air Filter (under the dash) Transmission Service (includes the transmission filter and fluids) Transmission Flush (includes draining and replacing the transmission fluid) Coolant Flush Coolant Drain and Fill Brake Change Brake Fluid Flush Wiper Blades Replacing Spark Plugs Differential Fluid Check Battery Power Steering Inspection Fuel Filter

(Please keep in mind all of these are part of the Scheduled Mile Maintenance at some point. If you would like to keep a record of the maintenance completed on your car please click here for a downloadable document from Sun Valley Imports.)

The Items in this section can sometimes be considered both service maintenance and repair depending on the situation:

A/C Recharge: Can be considered a service depending on the year of the car and any issues that may not have worsened over time or repaired. It would be considered a repair if any of the A/C components stopped functioning properly. 

Brake Pads and Rotors: If there is a shake in the wheel when braking it is likely there is damage to the rotors and they need to be replaced. This means it is a repair. Please keep in mind this is not the only cause of steering wheel shake when braking. When the brakes are replaced because they have worn down it is considered service.

Belts and Hoses need to be checked at regular intervals to ensure they do not need replacing. If they are not replaced when suggested the chances of it turning into a larger repair are greater because belts and hoses are what connect major parts of the car to each other.

Light Bulbs: While light bulbs are usually only replaced when they blow out they are considered maintenance items. The exception would be if a wiring harness or other electrical piece needs to be replaced. Changing the light assembly itself is also considered a repair.


Anything that happens to your car not related to what is mentioned above is normally considered a repair.  No matter what car you have there are 12 different systems that make up your whole car. 

They are:

Belts & Hoses

Brake System

Emissions System


Engine cooling system (The A/C can effect this system)

Exhaust system

Filters and fluids

Fuel System

Lighting and wipers

Starting, charging and batteries (The A/C is also part of this system)

Steering and Suspension


Any of the parts in these systems can brake which constitutes a repair. The purpose of having the car inspected at each oil change is to ensure these components are all working properly. It is best to continue to visit the same trusted repair shop each time your car needs service so they can keep an eye on the items they see as problem areas. It is our job to tell you what is happening to your car so you can make the best decision for your time, budget and safety. If the shop you currently use does not tell you on a scale what is really bad, what to watch and what is there but don’t worry about yet, I would suggest checking with other repair shops. If the service advisor presses you to buy everything all at once it may be time to look at another shop. In the event you have any questions about the information in this post please call us at your convenience so we can help you understand your car better.

SVI Car Care Checklist Download

Cherril Babbs

I am Cherril and I have been around cars and trucks my entire life. From watching my dad hang motors by a tree limb in our back yard at 4, to working on my own cars and eventually writing content and creating advertising material in my current position at a European auto repair shop, I understand both the customer (you) and the shop side of auto repair and service. Do I always agree with everything on both sides, no, but do I understand them, yes. I have decided to help bridge the gap between what many people think and feel about cars and auto shops and what we actually do at this shop. It is my goal to help you understand your options and the facts of the situations we see every day. I always encourage you to ask questions no matter where you choose to have your car worked on.

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