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#405329 - 1st May 2010 7:50pm Advice for dealing with garages
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
I was hoping to put a thread together to give advice and experiences of dealing with garages, concentrating on the used car market and vechicles that need general run of the mill repairs and fixes. Iím not trying to concentrate too much on new cars or design faults with components, but more for advice on taking your car in to be fixed.

Iím not a car mechanic, but I have grown up around family that spent a great deal of time fixing vechicles and reconditioning engines and iíve visited garages more times than I care to remember.

Typically as cars get older, see more use and drive more miles things tend to wear out, components will break and the car will need regular servicing to keep it mechanically sound.

What sort of things can go wrong?

Well pretty much anything can give up on a car because they take a lot of abuse from bouncing over roads, carrying people and operating in a variety of conditions.

Where should I take my car when I have a problem?

This is the million dollar question and it depends on many factors. You may choose to repair the car yourself, take it somewhere because itís convenient for you, cheap, does good quality repairs, can fit it in when you need it, know the owner, they provide a courtsey car or any number of other reasons. The big question for me is what is wrong with the car? as this will dictate where I take it. If itís tyre/wheel related, it goes to a tyre shop, if itís mechanical I may fix it myself or take it to a local garage.

How do I know whatís wrong?

Well this can be completey obvious like a flat tyre or more often than not some diagnosis has to be performed. Now the diagnosis can be the tricky bit as many garages may charge you to perform fault finding.

Much on a car can be visually insepected or faults may be detecible in the way a car behaves in particular sitations, such as braking, acceleration, cold starting or idling. Alternatively, electronics may come into the picture.

Electronics

Many cars started getting more complicated in the mid to late 1980ís this was an effort to reduce emissions and make cars more efficient. A device called an engine management system or ďECUĒ controls how the engine behaves. These devices are fitted to almost all modern cars and have typically replaced carberators.

Simply, petrol engines need fuel, air and sparks to operate; the ECU will regulate the fuel/air mixture and govern the ignition timing of the engine to ensure it runs well. It gets this information from a number of sensors that measures things like the water temperature, fuel pressure, cam shaft postion, air and throttle (acclerator) position.

This complicates matters as there are more components that can go wrong than older cars, but these ECU devices are clever and can perform diagnostics and log events in their memory when sensor signals go out of expected range or disappear altogether. Your car will typically throw an error light when this happens, usually at the same time the error will be stored so you can take it to a garage so they can read the error and tell you whatís wrong.

This is where they may charge to perform this diagnosis, a main dealer fee could be upwards of £50 and you would usually get a print out. You could then fix it yourself or take it to another garage that doesnít own the diagnostic kit to get the repairs done cheaper.

Taking the car along

I like to print out a description of whats wrong with the car including any steps taken to make the fault occur. I explain the sitation that causes the fault, what happens, how often is happens and the typical symptons. One printed copy goes in the car and the other gets handed in to the garage reception with my keys.

I tried to avoid telling the garage too much about what I think the problem is, I let them make that determination if Iím paying for the diagnosis. In a recent example of mine, I tell the garage that I want to book my car in for a fault with wheel wobble when braking because thatís what needs fixing. I donít say that I want them to replace the discs and pads as these may not be at fault. I ask them to call me when theyíve made their assessment with a cost & implications, then I decide what to do next.

The main dealer & specialist

I have a modified BMW and itís fairly complicated so if itís not obvious whatís wrong with it, I like to take it to someone who knows these cars inside out. On a recent MOT, the garage told me that my prop shaft output flange was leaking. I looked in my Haynes book and basically I would have needed a ramp to easily undertake the work. I made some enquiries and got some prices. I rang a BMW specialist who said itís rare that the prop shaft flange goes, more likely selector shaft seal thatís above and the oil is leaking on the prop; sure enough thatís what the problem was. I was glad I never took it to a non-specialist as I probably would have ended up paying twice.

Whilst a back street garage may sound cheap, it is worth considering the specialist if the repair could be complicated or if youíre not entirely sure whatís wrong.

What to do if things go wrong

I am the worst customer going, typically everything I own goes back the shop, if there is a fault Iíll find it and I will fight refunds or reimbursments to the bitter end if I believe that I am in the right.

I took my car to a main dealer who diagnosed that a wheel wobble was caused by suspension components. After paying the diagnostic and repair fees, I was almost £250 out of pocket. I drove 400 yards down the road and the car did it again. I was fuming as they told me it was fixed.

I write the garage a letter sent by registered post to explain the situation and demand the car to be fixed as iíd paid for a diagnostic (always keep the reports). We exchanged a few letters, once I decided that I wasnít getting anywhere I used the money claim online service. The garage coughed up with a full refund and the director rang me with an apology. Money clain online is very easy to do and only costs £25 (which youíll get back if you win). It's sort of like an online small claims court.

I would not get into bitter arguements with garages then ask them to do the work as they may sabotage your car with iron filings in the filler cap or similar. Always go for the refund and take it elsewhere.

Replacing parts

Iím fimrly of the opionion that as parts are expensive itís always worth finding out what part has failed, donít just replace bits because it ďcould be thatĒ. Been through this myself when a few cars of mine developed idling problems.Ē Itís the idle air control valveĒ says the novice garage, ďyou should replace thatĒ. Really? Thatís bollocks as there are many things that can cause idling issues such as leaky inlet manifold gaskets and loose wires. Get the diagnositc first.

Other methods I have used

I bought a car from a local dealer to have no end of problems with it. Must have taken it back over 17 times under their so called warranty. I waited until the garage was at itís busiest (sat morning) and started loudly mouthing off about it in front of customers. They didnít like it one bit. Always go in force to do this, never go alone.

As iíd taken it back 17 times, they had demonstrated to me that they couldnít fix the problem. I told them to book it in with the main dealer, to which they agreed. Now Iím not stupid, I told them to arrange the booking with the dealer and that iíd drop the car off directly at the dealer myself. When the car was fixed I would call at their garage first to collect the cheque to pay the main dealer with so I could collect my car. Doing this helped ensure that they couldnít damage my vehicle or blag me off. I also got the main dealerís receipts to keep for the work.

Some points I'd like to share:

1) Keep your car regulary serviced. At least change the oil & filter if nothing else
2) Consider paying the diagnostic if it's not clear what the problem is.
3) Ring round for estimates once the problem is diagnosed (if it's expensive)
4) Send letters by registered post if you have a disagreement with a garage
5) Cheap isn't always best. Specialists and main dealers are good for complicated jobs and they will know your car well
6) Don't just start replacing parts if you don't know what's wrong
7) Go on recommendations and search on the net for people's experiences
8) don't leave your car with a garage after a bitter arguement
9) Don't flog a dead horse, if it costs more to fix than what it's worth, consider getting rid.
10) just because it has an MOT doesn't mean it won't have any probs.

Comments and experiences welcome!


Edited by Neil_c (1st May 2010 7:53pm)

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#405374 - 2nd May 2010 1:17am Re: Advice for dealing with garages [Re: Neil_c]
bobi1 Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 5th Dec 2009
Posts: 572
Loc: wirral
I'm sorry neil but I lost the will to live somewhere above half way but I was with you all the way till then. I agree that too many garages rip you off but the design of car engines these days means that you can't fix them yourself. Count yourself lucky that you aren't a woman cos that means some, OK loads of mechanics treat you like a moron and rip you off.

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#405375 - 2nd May 2010 1:23am Re: Advice for dealing with garages [Re: bobi1]
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
Sorry if it was a bit long. If there is something I can't fix with my girlfriend's car then I take it to the garage myself. Ask what's wrong and if you are feeling that you're being fed shit, walk away and try somewhere else for a second opinion.

There are some good forums online, I like bimmerforums for my car where I can ask the opinions of others with similar motors.

Also getting a Haynes manual is good, even if you don't repair stuff yourself as it will give you an idea how much work is involved in fixing something.


Edited by Neil_c (2nd May 2010 1:23am)

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#405423 - 2nd May 2010 10:10am Re: Advice for dealing with garages [Re: Neil_c]
Vanquished Offline

Enthusiast

Registered: 22nd Mar 2009
Posts: 118
Loc: Northants but made in Birkenhe...
I'm in agreement with alot of stuff you have said but some of it just doesn't make sense.

Normally, if an owner has a problem with his/her car after a repair, they would return the vehicle giving the mechanic a chance to fix it. I don't think it's fair that your recommending, you shouldn't take your car back! In my 26 years in the motor trade, I have never heard of any mechanic wanting to savatarge a customers car.

So if I took my car to a dealer, asked them to tell me what's wrong. let's say a camshaft sensor was at fault. Your saying I should drive the car away and either fix it myself or take it a 'backstreet' garage. Now I've replaced the sensor, who's going to distinguish the service light? And who's going to data-log the sensor to see it was the sensor and not a harness problem?

There are good garages out there and people should treat them well. At my workplace, we have a system that every car has to go through no matter how small the repair.

Car is dropped off.
Receptionist fills in a report on damage etc.
Car is washed and leathered, again it is inspected for damage.
Car is tested in by a tester. This includes a technical report and checking the customers complaint.
Car goes into work
Repairs are signed off by technician
Tester test's car and final check sheet is signed.
Car is courtesy washed or valeted.

No work is carried out without the customers authority.
If a car is put into final test and fails, the technician must explain himself. Every test-out is recorded on to a data base, so there's no getting away from it!

Pity not all places carry out the same treatment. Our customers know we have taken every step to ensure the fault has been fixed. At times we have intermittent problems where a customer needs to return the car but all this is explained and I think our customers are very satisfied. I travel all over Europe to service and repair cars at something like £1200 per day............Why? Because the job is done right first time round!
_________________________
http://www.astonmartin.com/content/allsi...d271c779986.pdf


POWER BEAUTY SOUL

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#405449 - 2nd May 2010 12:13pm Re: Advice for dealing with garages [Re: Vanquished]
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
Hi,

Of course you should give the garage every opportunity to fix it, but if you've taken the car back with the same fault ten times (and paid for parts), then they've clearly demonstrated they don't know what it is, so alternative action is required.

I had a recent example where girlfs car stutters a bit on acceleration when cold. Take the car the gararge who diagnosed the fault as the MAF. £90. Start the car next day after repairs does it again. We'll it's clearly not the MAF; ended up being a small hole in a pipe, £3 to replace. I want the old MAF fitted and the money back, they won't do. Got the old MAF back off them in the end, fitted it myself, few letters exchanged, small claims court and the money is back in my pocket and the garage has made a £90 loss. Car drives fine now. Not how you treat your customers.

As you will know not all cars need ECU lights extinguishing after faults are fixed. My car used to shudder heavily, I take it to BMW, crank pos sensor faulty. "We know you arse round with you car Neil, we'll sell you the sensor and you can replace it yourself. It's easy to do and will save you our labour fee."

Yes there are many good garages out there who are responsible and accountable for the work they do, right back to original mechanic (like your own), but there are very many more that aren't.

I take an older car back to a used car dealer 12 times as it pours oil out. How can they give me it back and say its fixed? No quality control. They realised I wasn't going to quit and refunded the whole car.

I take my car along and the garage hasn't done the type of work before and ask to see my Haynes manual. Something is wrong, they shouldn't be asking for this. They are no more experienced than novice me at doing it. I'll take it elsewhere as I have a huge amount of choice.

I do treat garages well and give them every opportunity to carry the work out. If the fault is intermittent then I'm cool with that if it's all explained. I don't mind paying more money for the work if I know I will get a good service.

I guess the points i'm trying to make is that there is a lot of choice and competition out there which you can take for either diagnosis, repair or service. I am also suggesting that legal action is now very easy to take if you feel that you've been mistreated.


Edited by Neil_c (2nd May 2010 12:16pm)

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#405461 - 2nd May 2010 1:49pm Re: Advice for dealing with garages [Re: Neil_c]
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
One example I forgot to mention. I see a car I like in a local garage that I like. I take my old car along to part-ex and they go through it with a fine tooth-comb pointing out minor faults, trying to get the value down.

I didn't like this as I felt I was being ripped off a bit. It was only fair I did the same. I took my friend along who was a main dealer tech, fully attired in his main dealer clothes. He had it up on the ramp and found several minor faults (ok for the age of the car), this helped me close the price garp. Garage wasn't happy as they couldn't argue with him. My mate was Vauxhall trained.

A few weeks later the rev counter hops around all over the place, it's just the unit that's fault but they mess me about. Five times I try to arrange to have it booked in but they fob me off. I explain it will cost me about £200 to get it fixed myself from a main dealer or £25 to take them to court.

Garage writes back and tells me they won't risk legal action and arrange the next day for my car to be fixed, but they suggest I take their coutsey car with a rev counter to tell me when to change gear.

It's a shame I have to do this, but if you treat your customers with respect, things shouldn't need to go this far.

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#405471 - 2nd May 2010 2:28pm Re: Advice for dealing with garages [Re: Neil_c]
Vanquished Offline

Enthusiast

Registered: 22nd Mar 2009
Posts: 118
Loc: Northants but made in Birkenhe...
I see your point now. Sounds like you've had some bad experience with your garages. It's unfortunate that not every mechanic or garage don't take much or any pride in their work.
_________________________
http://www.astonmartin.com/content/allsi...d271c779986.pdf


POWER BEAUTY SOUL

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#405486 - 2nd May 2010 3:34pm Re: Advice for dealing with garages [Re: Vanquished]
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
I suppose it's just like any other trade, understanding what to do when you feel that you're not getting value for money.

The main dealer example was my favorite, we exchanged letters concerning the fact that I'd paid them a diagnostic fee before the "unneeded" work was carried out.

The service manager writes back as says that it's my fault I didn't tell him about the after-market brakes on my car. Hello! "I was paying for the diagnostic, it's for you to tell me what's wrong, not for me to tell you. You had the car all day in the garage to look at it for as long as you needed." (plus he must have been blind not to see drilled and grooved discs through the alloys).

This was brill he'd served himself up on a plate with this, sending me this response on BMW letter-headed paper. I knew the refund was getting close.

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