When there is nothing on the box I love nothing more than to trawl through the on-line car adverts with a big mug of hot sweet tea. The female of the species call this “window shopping” and for me anyway – my favourite part of the adverts are the long and never exhausting abbreviations. ESR PAS RCL BBC ERF B&Q – the list is endless but of course the one that catches the eye is our old friend – FSH. Those three magic letters that promise you a tip top car as good as new for second hand money – grab that phone you cant go wrong… or can you?
Well after recently hearing a distant friend recount his tales of woe regarding a used Volvo estate that’s going through his bank account as quickly as a bad pint, its a sad fact that the magical automotive abbreviation – FSH can in fact mean FA. Within a few months of ownership the chap has forked out for a new centre silencer, rear brakes, wiper blades, front wheel bearing and the air-con compressor moans like… in his words not mine – a bored eight year old. Clearly, what we have here, is a tired and worn out Swedish suitcase that’s far from factory fresh – he’s well and truly shot himself in the foot!
One of the problems with the aforementioned contact is his laziness when it comes to his car purchasing. He’s the sort of chap who unless the ideal car is located within a 20 yard radius of his armchair he just simply doesn’t want to know and after further probing told me the car was sourced from “some mush who sells cars from his property” – all the boxes ticked for some serious motoring misery. Feeling like an agony Aunt he solemnly told me how the service book was all stamped up to date and how pristine the car looked when he parted with the folding stuff.
Of course, valeting a car is the easy part but there again, so is stamping the service book… as I shall explain. One of the less reliable contacts I knew sold used clunkers from his driveway in a busy village just outside Bedford, most of his stuff bordered on being mobile death-traps but every now and again he would have something half decent. I once witnessed Mr and Mrs Gullible looking round a used Citroen ZX (it was a few years back) and when the husband of the dippy duo asked about a service history the vendor glibly replied “not a problem… I can sort one out for you”
In his kitchen drawer was a varied selection of rubber stamps and wherever a service book was missing one or seven entries, he would simply thump the book with a carefully selected seal of approval – there was even a choice of black, blue or red ink pads too. With all the best will in the world, a car with a full service history is NOTHING without a bundle of bills in the old A4 sized brown envelope to back up the proof. But equally be aware of a service book full of Fast-Fit centre stamps as quite often fitting the seat cover and driving it into the workshop accounts for the Lions share of their “Multi-Point Service Check”
Rubber stamps can be purchased on-line for a few quid – even your High Street stationer sells the type you can make yourself, I too had one made up for when I worked as a mobile mechanic. But at the end of the day there is no substitute for a pile of paperwork to accompany the service book – as dog eared and tatty it all may look spread over the kitchen table so far as used car peace of mind goes… its priceless!