Servicing and repairs

Look after your car and it will pretty much look after you. Get it serviced regularly so it won’t break down and it will also be worth more when you come to sell it. Simple, except that the whole area of getting your car serviced can seem needlessly complicated, and most worryingly, expensive. So how can you fight back against rising labour rates?

Use an independent garage

You don’t have to use a franchised dealer even if your car is still under manufacturer’s warranty. Under rules introduced in May 2004 by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), consumers are able to use any garage they wish for car servicing, as long as that garage complies with manufacturer schedules and standards, and uses manufacturer parts where appropriate.

Find a garage officially

There are several industry organisations that have OFT approval and large memberships who have to abide by a code of conduct and have a minimum level of training and facilities, which increase your chances of finding a garage you can trust.

Also, at the Retail Motor Industry Federation (opens in new window) website you can click a ‘Find a Service’ button and tap in your postcode to locate garages that are members. The Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association (opens in new window) (VBRA) for bodywork repairs has a ‘find member’ facility on its website, while the only independent network of servicing garages is the Unipart Car Care Centre (opens in new window), which puts you in touch with 1500 accredited garages.

Find a garage unofficially

Talk to friends and relatives in the locality to find out who they trust. Personal recommendation certainly is one of the very best ways of finding a competitive and competent garage. If you can, join a car club specific to your car. Certainly the Porsche Club GB and also the BMW Driver’s Club among hundreds of others have a great reputation for putting members in touch with specialist servicing outlets. Otherwise simply log on and talk to other owners on the bulletin boards at numerous motoring websites.

Dealing with a garage

You need to guard against the naughty practice of charging for costly oil by the litre, not replacing parts and the possibility that they may do more than you ask. Perhaps the cheekiest thing that some garages do is charge by the book – if the manual says it takes four hours to do a job and they do it in two, they still charge for four.

The simple way around all this is to ask for a quote. Get this in writing, and if it seems high then go for a second or third quote at nearby garages. Check whether costs for labour, parts and VAT are all included. Ask if workmanship and parts are guaranteed.

Ask the manufacturer’s helpline for details about repair/service times and what is actually replaced, so that the garage can’t mislead you and do extra work.

Buy your own oil. No really, if you find out how much your car needs, buy it cheaply yourself and ask the garage to use it – you are perfectly within your rights to do so.

Tell the garage in writing exactly what you want them to do. Always ask to be contacted about any additional work. Request a fully itemised bill and clarify exactly what the sundries may be, otherwise you could get charged for the mechanic’s rubber gloves. You are also entirely within your rights to see the items that have been replaced.

Now your car is ready to go, see how much money you can save on your car insurance with Churchill.

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