Figures from the Department of Trade and Industry suggest that garage overcharging and sub-standard work costs UK motorists more than £100m a year, so it is not surprising that many motorists have an initial distrust of garages, which is unfortunate as many motorists are delighted with their establishments, whether a franchised dealership or a sole trader.
- Why is servicing important?
- What a garage should do
- Maintenance guide: Vehicle handbook
- How to avoid nasty surprises on the bill
- Charges for servicing
- Courtesy car
Why is servicing important?
Maintenance prevents premature wear and ensures optimum economy and performance; plus faults can be diagnosed in their early stages before safety is compromised. Proof of regular maintenance also enhances your car’s value and reduces the chance of breakdown and large repair bills.
What a garage should do
Any garage has to work with reasonable care and skill within a reasonable time. Additionally, parts fitted must be suitable for the job (Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982). The garage must also not make a false or misleading statement about services offered (Trade Description Act, 1968).
Maintenance guide: Vehicle handbook
Your best guide is the vehicle’s handbook which will include a maintenance schedule which must be adhered to as different cars have diverse servicing requirements. If you take your vehicle to an independent garage, be specific and ask what the garage’s own service includes as it may not include all jobs that are required. There are also a few extra items that manufacturers do not insist on, such as replacing anti-freeze, brake fluid (or LHM fluid for some Citroen models) every two years so, if your garage makes these suggestions, don’t think they are touting for extra work.
How to avoid nasty surprises on the bill
Always get your car serviced regularly to reduce the risk of components failing prematurely.
Make sure you know what you want before instructing the garage. However, routine maintenance often reveals additional work, so always ask the premises to contact you should they find anything extra. This is where doubt arises, as some customers suspect dishonest profiteering. In most cases, this is unwarranted but should you be unsure, never be afraid to ask the mechanic for a simple explanation, especially if you are bamboozled by technical jargon. Should you still not be satisfied, ask a technical minded friend, or even another garage, for advice before authorising further work.
It is wise to ask for a written, itemised quotation, including VAT and parts, for any extra work. A written quotation is important because it is fixed, whereas an initial estimate can be far away from the final cost. Even after the work has been completed, you have a right to inspect any old parts removed from your car.
Any loan car must be in roadworthy condition but check that you are fully covered by either your own or the garage’s insurance. Check it has been inspected before you leave so you cannot be accused of causing damage when you return. For the same reason it’s also sensible to have the vehicle checked in your presence when you bring it back.
Q: I have just moved to a new area. How can I find a reputable garage?
A: Other than asking your new neighbours, I can recommend checking the Good Garage Scheme. Enter your postcode and your local garages are listed, many with feedback.
Q: My car has done only 3,000 miles this year, yet it has a 9,000 mile service interval. Does this mean I can get it serviced once every three years?
A: No. Servicing is dependant on both mileage and time. Most cars need a service every year. Also, the MoT test is not a service but a basic safety inspection.
Q: What’s usually included in a fixed price service?
A: This varies widely from garage-to-garage and is dependant on your car’s make and model. Generally, routine lubrication and adjustments are covered. Components such as brakes usually only require a visual inspection so a fixed price service is unlikely to include the extra labour and parts. Some items, such as a cam-belt, need changing at one-off service interval, so be aware when such items are due, instruct the garage and budget accordingly.
Q: Can the garage keep my car if I refuse to pay?
A: Yes, they have the legal right. If you remove the car without settling the invoice, you are committing an offence. Settle any dispute as amicably as possible first. You could pay the invoice “under protest” and pursue the company via a trade association or trading standards.
The information on this Site is provided on the understanding that GEM Motoring Assist is not rendering legal or other advice. You should consult your own professional advisers as to legal or other advice relevant to any action you wish to take in connection with this website.