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Anyone had poor service from garages?

(12 Posts)
MistressMary Sat 30-Jul-05 20:31:14

Been on holiday with my son and mum in law in her car travelling.
She had an MOT done on it two weeks before we went and had an oil leak mended and temperature checked and also she asked for the tyres to be checked too. They didnt do that.
The bill was 500 quid odd, apparently.
Anyhow on holiday the car is very quick to get hot - I mean get in a traffic queue and it getting very close to boiling, in no time at all.
Also my OH notes that the brakes were very spongy and the more the car was used, the worse the brakes were.
On the journey back very bad indeed, foot to floor before brakes kicking in!!
So now we are home. I am going to get my mechanic to look at the car and give his verdict.
Will be very interested to see exacly the standard of workmanship there is from this garage.
And if we have been driving in a vehicle not properly tested then we shall be looking at taking further action.
Any advice or stories of similar workmanship?

spacecadet Sat 30-Jul-05 20:37:15

500 quid for an mot and a few minor repairs!, they are supposed to check the brakes but they dont strip them down, just lok at the condition of the pads, if the pads were worn then they put it down as advisory repair on mot sheet, it would fail if brakes completely unsafe, did they give a post mot sheet which showed any defects picked up?

Janh Sat 30-Jul-05 20:50:20

Sadly this is v v common, MM - Which magazine did a report recently. I can't link to it because you have to be a subscriber to look but I will copy and paste it, page by page.

Janh Sat 30-Jul-05 20:51:25

Our research
We anonymously booked 48 cars in to garages for a full service. Before each service, our independent car experts inspected each car. They recorded the work that needed to be done according to the manufacturer’s service schedule, such as checking worn front brake discs and tyres. They also checked whether the cars had any pre-existing problems that needed some attention.

We introduced three faults on all the cars that should be picked up in any service. We split the passenger-side windscreen wiper blade so the wiper wouldn’t clear the screen properly. A split windscreen wiper also means that a car would fail an MOT. We blew the reversing-light bulbs, which could endanger pedestrians. Finally, we deflated the spare tyre to well below its correct pressure, which would leave motorists stranded if they needed it.

Immediately after each service, our experts re-examined the cars to see whether the faults had been spotted. They also inspected exactly which parts of the car had been checked and which items had been fixed or replaced. We then compared this with the invoices from the garages.

Half the garages we picked were independent and half were franchised. And 27 were RMI members while 21 weren’t. The eight most popular makes of car in the 2004 Which? Car survey – Ford, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, Rover, Toyota, Vauxhall and VW – were used in the investigation. All were between three and eight years old.

Garages should have set prices for a full service, so we conducted a phone survey of another 48 garages to see whether this was the case. We also wanted to see how much prices for servicing the same car model can vary from garage to garage.

We made calls to equal numbers of independent and franchised garages – both RMI and non-RMI members. We asked for quotes for a full service (according to the manufacturers’ service schedules) for three cars – a Ford Mondeo, a Vauxhall Corsa and a VW Golf.

RMI says that estimates should include VAT and that garages should be open about their labour charges, so we asked for these too.

Our investigations were carried out between May and August this year. Independent garages were randomly selected from Yellow Pages, franchised garages from car manufacturers’ dealer lists and RMI-member garages from RMI’s website. All the garages were in England, with an equal split between the north, the Midlands and the south.

(Obv this was 2004 since it says May-August!)

Janh Sat 30-Jul-05 20:52:57

Service not up to scratch

73% of services were unsatisfactory
67% failed to pick up faults
23% carried out unnecessary work

After forking out £400 to get her car serviced, one of our undercover researchers discovered the garage had completely botched the job. She had to spend almost the same amount again to get it fixed properly. A different garage advertised its car servicing for £78, but charged our researcher double this. These are just two of the many disturbing cases we unearthed in our undercover investigation into the quality of garage servicing.

Most discouragingly, about three quarters of all the garages didn't do a good job. Whether we went to a franchised or an independent garage, servicing standards were often not up to scratch - and some were frighteningly poor. We found many instances of garages carrying out unnecessary work, missing basic faults, and carrying out shoddy work. And membership of the garage industry's trade body, the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), offered no guarantee of a good service.

All this comes 30 years after Which? first exposed serious problems with the quality of garage servicing. Each year, we make 1.3 million complaints about the shoddy service we receive from garages, which costs us around £170 million to put right. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Most of us don't complain because we don't realise we've been overcharged or billed for work that was either unnecessary or not even carried out.

No consumer protection
Though well aware of the situation, the motor industry and the government have failed to protect consumers from unscrupulous mechanics. In 2003, the government scrapped proposals for a fully independent scheme to improve the quality of garage servicing. This was because the industry said the Good Garage scheme, as it was named, would be too expensive to set up - about £10 million. But £10 million is just 6 per cent of the total amount shoddy garage servicing is already costing us every year. And it translates to only 35p for every car on UK roads.

Disappointingly, Melanie Johnson, then Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), agreed with the industry that this was too expensive. Instead, a much watered-down system called CarWise was proposed which would be run by RMI. This would not have been the independent scheme we had pressed for and wouldn't have delivered the consumer protection needed in this area. The scheme was never launched, however, because the OFT refused to back it. An OFT insider told us that the standard of service at CarWise garages was not high enough to improve the industry. To be granted approval, CarWise would 'need to offer a standard higher than that required by law'.

RMI Chief Executive Matthew Carrington saw things differently, saying the OFT's 'continuous delay [to approve CarWise] is symptomatic of its inability to make decisions.' But our investigation shows that the OFT was right not to back CarWise until RMI garages improve.

Standards of service
According to our independent mechanical expert, to carry out a thorough service, mechanics must follow the manufacturer's service schedule or a pre-agreed schedule specified by the garage. But we found that servicing in both franchised and independent garages is far from thorough.

RMI's code of practice states that its member garages should ensure that 'work is performed with reasonable care and skill' and that 'clear and accurate information' on the price of routine servicing should be given to customers. Our research shows that many RMI garages are flouting its code and providing unsatisfactory servicing.

Janh Sat 30-Jul-05 20:54:53

Tricks of the trade
Unnecessary work
A common trick among unscrupulous mechanics is to carry out work that doesn't need doing. Indeed, the mechanic who serviced our researcher's car at Renault Colindale in London replaced lots of parts on her car that were fine. Its charge of £840 (including parts and labour) earned it first prize for the most expensive service (see 'The worst garages'). On average, the services in our investigation cost around £200.

About a quarter of the garages carried out some unnecessary work. It tended to be small jobs, such as replacing air filters and spark plugs that didn't need changing. But small costs multiplied by hundreds of cars quickly add up to big profits.

Missed faults and shoddy work
Tony Northcott, Head of Health and Trading Standards at the London Borough of Sutton, told us that the biggest problem with garages is work not being carried out. And the expert we used to inspect the cars agreed that routine checks in service schedules are time consuming, so many mechanics cut corners by not carrying them out.

A staggering 67 per cent of garages failed to pick up the cars' pre-existing faults and 69 per cent failed to pick up faults we'd introduced. Some of these, such as under-inflated rear tyres and nails in tyres, were potentially dangerous as they could result in an accident. Others included failing to change fuel filters and pollen filters according to the manufacturer's service schedule. Four garages missed all three of the faults we had introduced.

We uncovered several examples of mechanics skimping on essential procedures such as checking the brakes and gearbox-oil levels.Two garages (Nationwide Autocentres of Burnley and Bramall Quicks in Ashton-under-Lyne) didn't bleed the brake system on our researchers' cars correctly. Failure to do this can, in some cases, turn a car into a death trap.

By skimping on these checks, garages can service more cars and make more money, but they also leave motorists with unsafe cars.

Our Brief Case 'Piston problems' (see ' Brief cases') is one example of how some garages try to get away with shoddy work. Tony Northcott sees many others like this. He told us about a case where a garage removed a car's gearbox to replace the clutch: 'When the car was put back together the mechanic forgot to fit the bolts which held the gearbox to the chassis. A few hundred yards down the road, the gearbox fell into the road.'

Pantech Auto Technicians in Guildford did such a bad job of fitting a timing belt that our researcher had to get her car repaired at another garage (see 'The worst garages').

Clearly, standards in servicing must improve. We support proposals by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) for a technician accreditation scheme. IMI is a professional association that awards qualifications for car mechanics. This scheme, which is now being piloted, would require mechanics to have minimum levels of competence before they work on a vehicle. It's shocking that such a scheme isn't already in place and that mechanics are allowed to work on cars without the necessary expertise.

Martin Lougher paid £621 for shoddy repairs to his car and for work that was never done.

'After the garage replaced the cam belt, it told me to bring the car back after 500 miles to have the cylinder head bolts retorqued. But two months later, the cam belt broke again, so I returned the car to the garage. It said the car was damaged due to a leak from the water pump and that both parts needed replacing,' he said. Reluctant to pay for more repairs, Martin took the car to an independent specialist for a second opinion.

'The specialist discovered the leak occurred because the garage had fitted and overtightened a poor-quality belt. It also turned out that I'd been charged for the replacement of eight valves but only one had been replaced. I was also charged for a new cylinder head gasket, spark plugs and a temperature sensor - none of which had actually been installed. To top it off, the advice I'd been given about needing the bolts retorqued was wrong,' said Martin.

Martin had to fork out around another £1,000 for this extra work. Furious, he demanded his money back from the garage. After speaking to the regional manager and threatening intervention from Which? Legal Service, he received a full refund.

Janh Sat 30-Jul-05 20:56:09

Cavalier costs
Receiving a bill for double the estimate that you received is frustrating and can play havoc with your finances. Jemca of London gave an estimate over the phone of about £180 to service our undercover researcher's car. It actually charged over £400, and didn't tell our researcher this until after the service had been carried out - too late to go elsewhere for a better price. When challenged, Jemca said it had mistakenly given the wrong price in the estimate.

We are reporting William A Lewis to trading standards (see 'The worst garages') for brazenly charging our researcher double the price it quoted in its advertising literature. Some garages made excessive charges for small repairs. For example, one of our researchers was quoted £45 by Lookers Speke in Liverpool to repair a rear washer - something that took our inspector a mere 10 minutes to fix.

Other garages charged for obscure extras. For example, one garage charged 5 per cent for paying by credit card. Eleven garages charged between £1 and £10 for environmental disposal and others charged up to £27.50 for fuel flush and oil flush. Our expert said: 'It's not clear why some garages make these charges while others don't.' And the Environment Agency told us: 'We're not aware of any environmental legislation that obliges garages to charge separately for the disposal of vehicle materials.'

Getting estimates
According to trading standards officer Tony Northcott, 'consumers should be able to get clear quotes that show what work is included and include VAT.' And RMI's code of practice states that 'members will provide at least an estimate of the cost of labour and materials for repairs and servicing' and that 'all estimates and quotations should be inclusive of VAT.' The code doesn't explicitly state whether this information should be given over the phone or only once you take your car to the garage. But an RMI spokesperson told us: 'It should be reasonable to expect an estimate over the phone if a service is carried out in accordance with the manufacturer's service schedule.' Yet when we called 48 garages to get quotes for the cost of a standard service, we often felt as if we were asking for steak in a vegetarian restaurant.

Worthless quotes
One RMI member, Furness Cars & Commercials of Cumbria, refused point blank to give an estimate for the total cost of the service. 'Until we see [the car], we're not going to know,' it claimed. Despite servicing cars every day, many garages seemed unsure of how much they charged. After going off to find out its charges, a member of staff at RMI-franchised garage Bristol Street Ford in Newcastle said: 'Right. I've got some approximate idea for you... but, until we actually have the car, the prices can vary from day to day.'

This and similar responses we received show that trying to get an estimate for a standard service, as set out in the manufacturer's service schedule, is pointless. Different people make up different rates. Indeed, two garages gave us different estimates when we called them twice.

This shows that you can't put any faith in phone estimates, so it's wise to back them up with a written quote or estimate when you take your car in to be serviced.

Another scam is to quote prices without VAT.

An extra 17.5 per cent on your bill can be a nasty shock when you come to pay up. Despite RMI's code stating that VAT should be included in all estimates, about one fifth of the RMI members we called didn't do this. And virtually the same proportion of non-RMI members also gave estimates without VAT.

Mysterious labour rates
Getting quotes for labour rates at RMI-member garages wasn't an easy task, yet again proving how toothless RMI's code is. Our researchers often had to push hard to get this information, and they didn't always succeed. For example, franchised garage CD Bramall Ford of Blackburn initially told us that it didn't have 'the divided out cost' for labour. After our researcher kept pushing, it told us 'it's unusual to be quoted hourly rates for labour on servicing'. Finally it admitted it didn't know them.

The situation was pretty much the same for garages that aren't members of RMI. One, St Leonards Motors Vauxhall of St Leonards-on-Sea, wins first prize for trying to fob us off. A member of staff said to our researcher: 'Mind me asking, why are you so obsessed with the labour charges? If you start trying to get all these different prices, it's just going to go above your head. At the end of the day you'll just be better off saying "right, that's what you said it would cost me, so that's how much it's going to cost me."' If only we could put that much faith in garage estimates.

Wide price variations
With so much confusion about prices, it's hardly surprising that the estimates we did manage to extract varied enormously. We were quoted between £100 and £211.50 for a Ford Mondeo, £100 to £200 for a Vauxhall Corsa, and £120 to £282.58 for a VW Golf. These quotes were all for identical work as set out in the manufacturers' service schedules.

Female customers
Government research shows that women are treated worse than men by garages.

Garages were more likely to miss faults if the car owner was female - 58 per cent compared with 40 per cent for males. And more women than men had work carried out that wasn't agreed in advance - 12 per cent compared with 6 per cent.

Franchised garages charged women about 50 per cent more than men, but independent garages charged women and men roughly the same amount.

Sutton Health and Trading Standards' Tony Northcott agrees women get inferior treatment at garages: 'Garages can be condescending to women and try to pull the wool over their eyes. But many men know nothing about cars either.'

When Helena Barker took her Alfa Romeo for its first service she was quoted over £1,000 for it. Staggered by the cost, she asked her partner to speak to the garage as she thought it might respond differently to a man.

'The garage told him that a number of the things it had quoted for weren't essential - like a new pollen filter - and that they'd quoted for things that might need doing before the car's next service, 10,000 miles away. I only wanted my car to pass its MOT,' said Helena.

She told us that the garage then agreed to carry out only the work that it said was absolutely necessary. This knocked £200 off the original quote. However, the garage still charged her more than £800, which is on a par with the most expensive car service in our investigation.

'When I took the car in, I felt baffled, nervous and led astray by the staff. The garage quoted me for unnecessary work as it suspected I wouldn't know if it was really necessary. I won't take my car back there again and, in future, I'll ask my partner to handle car servicing,' Helena said.

Janh Sat 30-Jul-05 20:59:03

Garage ratings

How we rated garages' quality of service

Very good

Nationwide Autocentres in Finchley, Abridge of Harlow, Geyfords plc in Wallington, Time Tees Cars in Basildon, Rugby Car Care Centre, Brooklyn Ford in Redditch, Colliers in Erdington.


Green Man Garage in Whetstone, Warwick Car Centre on Warwick Road, London, Jemca on Edgware Road, London, Hogan Bros in Redditch, Burnden Park Rover in Bolton, IH Motors in Wakefield.

Below par

The Beeches Garage in Farnham Common, Renault Colindale in Colindale, Automechs Garage in Enfield, Sky Ford in Croxley Green, Nationwide Autocentres in Croydon, Kemp & Partners in Sandhurst, Renault Birmingham in Digbeth, Pentagon Derby in Derby, Listers Toyota in Coventry, Wards of Burnley, Timperley Motors in Ashton-under-Lyne, RRG Bolton in Bolton.


PNG Enfield in Enfield, Toomey Peugeot in Brentwood, CB Munks Ltd in Hucknall, Green Garage in Coventry, William A Lewis in Telford, Davies Motors in Stafford, Rothley Auto Care in Leicester, Cooks in Peterborough, RE Mills in Rothley, Churchfield Motors in Nottingham, Darwin Motors in Coventry, Nationwide Autocentres of Burnley, John Delany Motors in Stockport, Bramall Quicks in Ashton-under-Lyne, Whitestake Garage in Preston, Renault Liverpool in Liverpool, Lookers Speke in Liverpool, Bells Nissan in Ashton-under-Lyne, Woodside Garage in Leeds, Elton Garages in Rochdale, Richard Alexander in Huddersfield.

Very poor

Pantech Auto Technicians in Guildford, Car Technique in Dinnington.
Pantech Auto Technicians

The worst garages

After the service was carried out by this RMI garage in Guildford, our independent inspector said the car was in such an unsatisfactory condition that it shouldn't be driven on public roads. He awarded the garage a very poor rating.

'The new timing belt hadn't been fitted correctly and there was a fault with the power steering,' he said.

On top of this shoddy work, the garage failed to change the bulb in the reversing light and to inflate the spare tyre.

Horrified, our researcher said: 'The car seemed fine at first, but I noticed a difference in its steering fairly soon.'

Pantech charged about £400, including additional labour and parts, but our researcher had to spend virtually the same amount again at another garage to have it put right.

Car Technique
The only other garage to be awarded a 'very poor' rating, this Dinnington garage failed to spot and deal with a host of problems with our researcher's car. These included a cracked number plate, a chipped windscreen and defective front and rear washers. It also failed to replace the particle and fuel filters. More crucially, it didn't replace the leaking power steering pump - which would mean an MOT failure and could result in an accident.

'I won't take my car there again,' said our researcher.

Renault Colindale
This London garage wins first prize for the most expensive service and for replacing parts that were perfectly fine. For example, it recharged the air conditioning when it only needed topping up and changed the rear exhaust assembly. It also replaced all three wiper blades at a cost of nearly £60 when only one was split. It then charged our researcher a staggering £840 in total for this.

William A Lewis
We're reporting this Telford garage to trading standards for advertising misleading prices. It claims a 'level one service' costs £78 including VAT. But it charged our researcher nearly £90 and more than £45 for parts.

VAT was then added on top, bringing the total to £157.23.

Our expert wasn't impressed with the quality of the service, either. The garage charged for degreasing fluid which hadn't been used. It failed to inflate the spare tyre or correct the clutch fluid level. Also, it didn't spot that the windscreen wiper was split, that a fog lamp wasn't working and that the washer jet missed the windscreen.

spacecadet Sat 30-Jul-05 20:59:13

b-limey janh! there is a fair amount of gumpf there!, seriously though, its a sad fact that people are still getting ripped off by garages, if you suspect your mum in law was ripped off, which it sounds as if she has, alert trading standards.
i recently had a full service and a cam belt change on my car and it only cost £275..i think an MOT is now £40.

Janh Sat 30-Jul-05 21:00:14

Getting a good service
Most of us can't tell whether a mechanic has done a poor job or charged for work that hasn't been done. Yet shoddy servicing can affect your car's safety.

According to our service expert, Phil Rhodes, 'manufacturers' service schedules include a number of essential items, like changing the engine oil and the brake fluid. Sometimes extra tasks, such as performing diagnostic checks or replacing transmission fluid, are needed. These checks are necessary and are not just a ploy to make more money from customers. However, they can be time consuming and many mechanics cut corners by not doing them properly or missing them altogether.'

Here are some tips to help you avoid being ripped off.

Shop around and get a few price estimates before choosing a garage.
When you choose a garage, if possible, ask it to confirm the estimate in writing and to state that the cost quoted includes VAT and all parts normally replaced in the service. Also confirm the details of any guarantee that comes with the work.
Make sure that the service conforms to the manufacturer's recommendations.
Tell the garage that, if extra work or parts are needed, you must be contacted to agree a price beforehand.
Before the service, ask to see the replaced parts when the car is returned.
Make sure the service details are recorded in your car's service book, as a service history is essential when it comes to selling your car.
Remember: the law says that services must be carried out with reasonable skill and care, within a reasonable time at a reasonable charge. Any parts supplied must be of satisfactory quality.
If you are not satisfied, complain to RMI (if the garage is a member) or to your local trading standards office.

Janh Sat 30-Jul-05 21:01:06

Last page!!!

Which? says
What a hopeless industry. It's clear that consumers have no protection against the unscrupulous garages that turn cars into death traps, charge for unnecessary repairs or hand out bills for work they've only pretended to do.

The government and industry seem indifferent to motorists' plight.

One reason is that the industry body is part of the problem. The attitude of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) towards its so-called code of practice shows that it can't be trusted to have any role in policing garages.

RMI's own research shows that garages aren't doing a good job. But, despite widespread flouting of the code, RMI has kicked out only four garages since 2001.

We think the garage servicing industry needs an independent scheme to clamp down on the dodgy operators. On top of this, we want training to be compulsory before mechanics are allowed to service and repair cars.

And garages that persistently fail to meet minimum standards or charge for unnecessary work should be shut down.

MistressMary Sat 30-Jul-05 21:02:53

THANKS for all that info.
Certainly intersting reading!!And scarey to think we could driving around in unsafe vehicles, and paying hefty bills for that privilidge.

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