What are digital service records and does my car have one?

image showing mazda mx-5s up on ramps in dealership's workshop

Every car has a service history. Now they have digital service records.

Until relatively recently, every time a car was serviced, it was recorded in a book. Garages put their stamp into those to show they’d serviced a car. Now for most cars, garages enter servicing details onto the manufacturer’s digital database. Owners then access this digitally, frequently through smartphone apps.

What is a digital service history?

A service history or record should form an account of how that car’s been looked after during its lifetime. Previously this would be in a book that lives with the car. But that was flawed because it was so easy to forge or for owners to lose. To counter that, car makers came up with the digital service record (DSR), effectively a way to keep service histories online.

How do I check my digital service history?

If you have your car serviced at a manufacturer’s official dealership, the maker will enter details of the procedure onto its database. You sign up to the digital service record – usually a smartphone app – and you should be able to access the record.

Can independent garages fill in these records?

Yes, but they must belong to the Independent Garage Association (IGA) to do so. One of the benefits of the digital service record is that it’s secure. Enabling any backstreet operation to enter the record database ‑ even if they’re perfectly skilled and legitimate – is obviously going to open the system to unscrupulous operators.

And even if it can, whether an independent garage will want to input its work onto a digital service record is another question. These systems are notoriously clunky to operate and all the car makers use different systems. This means independent garages have to be confident of their IT skills to interact with different car makers’ records.

We’ve even heard of some manufacturers who are reluctant to give even legitimate garages access to their systems.

man in technician's overalls standing at a computer talks to a customer inside a car showroom about digital service record
All smiles here but independent garages can struggle to update digital service records

How to update digital service records?

If you use a manufacturer franchise to service your car, your DSR should be automatically updated. If an independent service provider carries out the service, they might update the DSR. But they might not.

If they don’t, you will need to get in touch with the manufacturer. They will probably ask you to send them scans of the paperwork the garage gave you when it had completed the service. But they might tell you that they’re not going to update it.

Do car makers have to update DSRs?

The European Union’s Block Exemption regulation means independent garages must have access to the tools, training and information they need to compete with manufacturer franchises.

It’s this same rule that gives customers the right to have their car serviced at any garage they choose without voiding their manufacturer warranty.

Technically, you might argue that by not updating the digital service record, manufacturers are flouting this regulation.

But they might come back that they can’t let everyone access their system or it’ll pose a security risk. They may also argue that the DSR isn’t absolutely necessary for independent garages to compete with manufacturers.

What if you can’t update your digital service record?

Of course, the garage you’ve chosen to use might not be a member of the IGA. In which case, you may find that you can’t update your DSR. There are a couple of steps you can take to ensure your DSR is updated.

If your garage is even remotely professional, they should give you an itemised bill for every piece of work they carry out on your car. We suggest you create a file for these. That way, when you come to sell the car, you can show potential buyers the work you’ve had done.

Alternatively, you could try the Servicefy app. This is an independent smartphone app that enables you to record all the work you have done on your car. It even reminds you when your car needs servicing and taking for its MOT.

Why have service histories gone digital?

While you and I might be fastidious about keeping paperwork and ensuring that our car is regularly serviced, it’s not the case with every driver. Some don’t bother getting their car serviced. Others lose their service book so the record disappears altogether.

The digital service record means there’s always a service history ‑ as long as details of the service are input.

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