Blog : Mike puts the boot into garage chains

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mike Humble

Rover 25 - Driven often by the kind of owner who falls prey of rip off garages.
Rover 25: driven often by the kind of owner who falls prey of rip-off garages

I was wondering to myself just the other day what was I to do with three days off on the trot… However, no sooner had I returned home from my last day at work, than there was that knock on the door which signalled a favour might be called for. My neighbour’s Rover 25 Impression had failed its MoT and the aforementioned owner was clutching the fail sheet in his paw. He was looking to see if I had any appetite for undertaking the repair work on his behalf, as the quote offered by the testing station was quite scandalous.

Without going into names, I will stop as far as saying this place is part of a chain who claims to ‘go the extra mile’, and for me rates either beyond useless or superb depending on how you view them. Looking at the fail sheet that totalled nothing more than a split drive shaft CV boot and an advisory notice for the same component on the other side, I wondered if the quote was actually in Russian Roubles rather than Queen’s Sterling.

Either way it was bloody eye watering to say the least!

After suggesting both the boots were replaced, a fee was agreed that undercut the quotation by almost £120. The joints were knocked off, the drive shaft gaiters were soon fitted to MoT standards and the little Rover will be submitted for re-test in the next couple of days. After pondering the matter for little while over a brew just earlier while doing the job, I realised that some good old-fashioned ripping-off almost took place.

I know for a certain fact this chain uses the supple-type replacement boot kits with a special tool that fits the boots in minutes rather than hours. My sources have confirmed this. So where exactly is all this labour charge going? Nowhere, I’m sorry to say. The car gets fixed in 10 seconds flat and the customer is paying for the privilege of having their car parked in the car park doing sod all for a couple of hours – and it’s bang out of order too!

However, this is not the only tale of woe from this particular garage, either. A very good chum of mine (and avid fan of this site) took his company Volkswagen Passat Estate to a different branch earlier last week for an MoT. The car failed on a defective number plate light and picked up an advisory notice for its rear brake pads wearing low. Authorisation was sought from his fleet management company to put right the naughty number plate bulb and (rarely in my experience) to replace the rear pads.

Two and a half hours for rear pads? Don't make me laugh!
Two and a half hours for rear pads? Don’t make me laugh!

I say rarely ‘purely’ because my past experience of fleet management has found me driving a car with wipers that simply won’t clear the screen or brakes that almost spark and hum like a shipbuilder’s arc welder before authorisation. He asks how long the car is going to be and the reply floors him like ‘Enerys `ammer’ – two and a half hours!

Understandably my aforementioned sparring partner was far from being enamoured with the idea of hanging around a waiting room, when he ought to be on the road doing business.

He suggested that the car was brought back at a more sociable time for the brake pads to be replaced, only to be told they cannot release the car back to him. Nor would they allow him to use their ‘phone to speak to the fleet management company. Or to go to the car to get the number, so he had to call from his mobile, citing ‘health and safety’ reasons. In the end he got through to the right person and, with great reluctance from the garage staff, the car was released from the ramps.

I’ll bet they did this because they were worried about a job falling off the list and not showing on the day’s final takings. The reason for such a delay in doing the job revolves around the fact that fleet drivers are often seen as lepers of the motoring world. The time of two and a half hours allows them to fit the work around other quick jobs, rather than dedicate one fitter to the job – that way, they get it done in one hit. Also, I will bet my last Rolo that changing rear pads on a 2010 Passat can be done in around an hour.

We are, of course, referring to the same outfit which became an automotive laughing stock some years back when they gained the UK national contract for the repair and servicing of Daewoo cars. In very little time they made a pig’s ear of it in my opinion and disposed of all their garages – only to buy them all back again recently. Why they think they are now up to standard in the increasingly cut-throat world of after-sales amazes me.

I don’t think I can be surprised any more.

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

62 Comments

  1. They would not release the car because they was lying bastards more like. 1.5 mm is they brake pad/lining limit for an MOT and even then ONLY if visable without removing components. So the brakes advisory is the VT’s interpretation of low and not the below 1.5 mm fail.

    I would not take my car to Halfords ever. Not release the car? well im sorry,someone there would have had a broken jaw.

  2. Good job your neighbour has you close by and able to help Mike. Readers of this site may also have noticed dust covers on the smaller track rod end joints failing tests during the last year, which have recently been included as failure items on the latest round of changes to the test. Just like with the cv boot kits, very good value generic dust cover selection boxes are available from most good local factors and don’t take long to fix so keep your eyes open for hefty quotes on these too!

    On the referred to Passat story, I’ve heard numerous similar stories from customers during my years in the industry. Most sets of brake pads on modern cars can be changed in times of a little over 30 mins to an hour. Only on some of the bigger premium stuff with complex electronic handbrakes will a trustworthy independent not be able to offer you a decent saving over some of the more greedy, less reputable chains out there.

    Moral of the story, ask if they can email images of the supposed worn out parts to you, retain the parts for inspection or get a comparable quote if you think you are being quoted too much. Tyres, exhausts, brake friction materials and suspension components are relatively easy jobs for semi skilled fast fit centres and a great profit opportunity for those not well equipped with morals.

  3. @2, Most scantools have the EPB windback platform or dedicated inexpensive EPB tools is literally a five minute job, even on prestige models,those boot kits are handy any way if you disturb drop links,say changing a srtut you cant help but damage the dust cover-they live another day.
    Most independants i know offer a better than dealer level service,wheels off,brakes stripped and cleaned and adjusted and the hubs copper eased so alloys dont stick all as part of the service,whether interim or major.

  4. The same chain offer “free brake pads for life”, when you buy a set and have them fitted.
    I bought a set for my last car, then changed the car, The terms say you have to take the new car to them to check the pads within 30 days of purchase.

    So I took my new focus to the Blackburn branch ,3 weeks old and a few hundred miles on the clock, as required
    The “service manager” said I had to pre book the check,so he couldn’t do it till Sunday,even though they didn’t seem busy.
    I went back on Sunday at the agreed time,to be told I would need to leave the car with them all day!

    I then went to the Southport branch,and the service was totally opposite,they did the check there and then, no need to remove the wheels or even go on the ramp.

    What a contrast between the two branches,

    I have yet to try and actually get the fre set of replacement pads,that may be somewhat more of a challenge!

    Dave

  5. Halfords eh? I have a story about them , years ago when i was a skint 21 year old I had an old Orange VW Beetle with the metal dash. Now the stereo hole in the Beetles dash doesnt fit modern stereos , so , after saving for a budget radio cassette and multichanger set for my little VE I got them to supply AND fit the whole system. BIG mistake! As the hole is too small , they had to cut it (and therefore the dash) to fit a modern DIN unit , anyway , cut a long story short , I went back and picked it up , woo hoo I have music at last , everything is rosy! Or was it? erm no , because it started raining , and when I put the wipers on – nowt! I knew they were working before , so I popped the ‘boot’ and had a look , and found the wire had been pulled off the motor , guess why?? Yep , they hadnt checked the clearance of the wiper motor mechanism and only after they had cut the hole , realised that the wipers now fouled the stereo!!!! So they left me with no wipers so I wouldnt know when i switched it on…. ripping bar stewards , I would never ever get halfords to fit anything for me again.

  6. The problem is that Joe Public trusts big brands for everything from car repairs to holidays to washing machines, thanks to big advertising budgets. Add to that the “dodgy backstreet garage” reputation that said ad companies like to portray the motor trase is on an uphill struggle.

    That said however the independent trade does need to sort out a credible scheme similar to GasSafe for gas fitters, so that reputable garages are easy to spot.

  7. 20 years in the trade has taught me this:
    …If it is a blokes name over the door (ie a good independent, with a local reputation for honesty), the job will be done right.
    Chains, that include main stealers…sorry…dealers, employ staff that by and large couldn’t give a toss. They will be on a crap wage, and probably do not expect to be there for the duration.
    The independent workshop has his house mortgage, or his children’s inheritance riding on his business, and its reputation.
    Block exemption rules also mean that if he is vat registered, the warranty on a car will be intact also!
    Every town has a decent wee garage – it is not rocket science!

  8. I work for Halfords and can confirm they are a unbelievably lousy company, total mis-management on every level. They employ the cheapest, untrained staff on minimum wage, charge through the nose for shite quality parts and treat their staff like crap. Money is all these idiots are interested in and shareholders rule the roost. I have lost count of the amount of eye-wateringly laughable cock-ups and naive errors these idiots have made. I feel embarrassed to work for them to be honest!!

  9. A sad reflection on the UK’s never ending downward spiral.
    While the car buying public treat cars more and more like white goods then this is inevitable.
    Couple that with the trend for people in the UK being less and less practical and having no skills or knowledge of car mechanics, then punters are ripe for the picking.
    TV like Top Gear doesn’t help as they never cover any serious items any more.
    Then we have dealers themselves, who tell buyers that the cars are so reliable that they don’t even need regular checks (what a local Renault dealer told a neighbour of mine – he told me that when he saw me checking under the bonnet of my ‘it must unreliable, you’ve got the bonnet up’ Rover) then drivers quite frankly, get what they deserve.

  10. And people wonder why I DIY?

    I’ve found a trustworthy garage to do my MoTs. He knows I do my own work and therefore isn’t touting for business with me. If my car fails, he’ll bring me in, point out whats wrong on the ramp so I can see it, then let me fix it. If I wasn’t going to do the work myself for whatever reason, his garage would be the one.

    He’s only failed my car once. It was my first MGF with a power steering fault. He explained the procedure for recalibrating the torque sensor on the steering column and the car passed when re-presented the following day.

  11. @4 Hi David, I must be missing the point here. If you bought a new car why would you take it to Halfords for brake pads?You said it had only done a few hundred miles. Did you put the old brake pads, which were guaranteed for life, onto the new car?……surely not.

  12. A friend of mine was quoted £850 by an MG garage to do a clutch on an MG ZT cdti 135 tourer! I managed to get my garage to do it for £400. Pays to shop around and negotiate. Beware of diesles with duel mass flywheels – cost a fortune to repair and change clutches. I am keeping my Rover 75 Club se 1.8 K series for as long as possible!

  13. But surely the hub will still have to be removed to replace the CV boot? I know there is a tool which allow the new boot to be stretched over the CV joint so that it doesn’t need removing.

  14. Top Gear doesn’t need to cover motoring related consumer issues as programmes like Watchdog and Rip Off Britain do that, and they will get the target viewers.

  15. Of course it does Kev, but there is no need to split the joint or for ease of access – remove the shaft.

    The special tool shaves half the job time but the extra supple boots dont last as long.

  16. @12,Did he not charge labour or did he not change the DMF?
    £600 – to £800 is quite reasonable especially with a 2 year guarantee-i doubt the garage would want to know if anything went wrong for £400, its £80 for the CSC alone,never mind the clutch or flywheel.

  17. @12, Dont mean to bang on,some 1.8’s especially the turbo have DMF’s they are not a massive job they are made out to be, on ECP’s site for a diesel you are looking at nearly a monkey in parts,sounds like your friend had a £90 quid clutch thrown in and nothing else for that money.

  18. Only thing I’d buy from Halfrauds are air fresheners. Bought a set of wiper blades for my old Astra a few years back ‘oh we’ll fit them free of charge for you sir’. Well thank you very much, it’s a drizzly day, you do that whilst I wander around and play with your overpriced stereos.

    Five minutes later the young cashier comes over to tell me ‘the technician has fitted your wiper blades now’. Technician. Posh.

    Went out, got in the car, turned the wipers on. The passenger side one flew off and the drivers side one was upside down.

  19. I have to agree with people being brain washed into using large firms as they think they are getting a better deal. I’m Gas Safe registered and normally can undercut British Gas boiler replacement quotations by 50% and still make a good living.

  20. @19

    Ha, had an incident with them too! Had a nail in my tyre, went to get it repaired. Wheel comes off ‘your brakes don’t have much life left in them, 500 miles tops’.

    He soon changed the subject when I told him the car had only had a full service, including brand new discs and pads only two days before.

    As mentioned above, never trust a chain! A local trusted independent garage that doesn’t have sales targets to meet will rarely let you down.

  21. @20 Exactly. Your providing a better service for a lower price but because you don’t spend £2m on saturation publicity people will still stick with British Gas.

    The only times where the big chains are handy is at 2pm on a sunday and everywhere else is shut and you need something sorting then and there, or when they have a loss-leader (e.g. aircon regas for £49) and you steadfastly ignore any attempts at upselling.

  22. my dad who was a motor mechanic for fifty years, did national service in RAF on Vulcan bombers as he was a BMC MECHANIC SO YOU GET THE DRIFT fixed everything then no exchange parts as now even relined brake shoes all in a days work in the 50s and 60s! anyway he went one day to get a tyre at kwik fit,while he was there they tried to flog him new shock absorbers which he had replaced the month before. you can imagine what was said to the “mechanic”. he never had the tyre fitted either. that’s the only time he ever used a kwik fit garage…

  23. I’d be amazed if changeing the rear pads on that Passat takes any more time than my ’85 golf GTI as the calpers and tools to do it are very similar (although the new ones are alloy).. I think I did the last lot in 20 mins! and that for both sides!

  24. There was a watchdog report about a well known chain of garages a few years back, in which the customer was told he needed a new battery, discs and pads. He was a little suspiscious about this, so took it to another branch of the same chain.

    They said it needed new discs and brake pads. What a shock, it was simply a con. Saying that, there is an independent engine rebuilders down South that sound truely terrifying and are doing things to customers cars that should be criminal.

    With cars it is best to do as much as possible yourself, and find a trusted independent garage to do all your work. That way you can be relatively safe.

  25. The best one is..
    The other day I put a battery on my XM, it fired striaght up and withing a minute was upto height after months of incativity. The neighbour asked hoe come mine was never any touble as he had one that was a disatster. My reply was that it has never seen a citroen UK dealer workshop in its life, he thought I was joking!

  26. I am surprised no-one has approached Watchdog or a similar consumer programme about this as this clearly needs investigating. The comments I have read suggest this national company is deliberately taking advantage of the vulnerable (i.e. those without a reasonable knowledge of car maintenance etc.) and clearly the shareholders of this national chain are not aware of how their dividends are being earned.

    Then again perhaps I am too caring about others and believe that good businesses are simply about offering a value-for-money quality service using employees with the appropriate skills.

    I must admit that I do not use the aforementioned company for buying car valeting products anymore. The local garage and motor factors in the East Devon town where I live offer them for a similar price, while there is a great motor factors supplier on Marsh Barton industrial estate in Exeter who comfortably undercut ‘that’ national chain, yet obviously still make a profit. Even better, if they haven’t got it in stock they will do their best to get it for you and phone around suppliers while you are there. What more could I want?

  27. In my experience, the motor trade has shysters and outright crooks both large and small. For every chain that rips you off I could find some one-off spanner-twirler that does exactly the same.

    I hope I can claim some credit for the 205’s 25 reliable years (and counting) but I must credit the superb Budgen Motors of Shrewsbury and subsequently, for 15 years, Olivier Automobiles in Montpellier, France – both Peugeot dealerships but, crucially I suspect, small family firms with long-serving and loyal staff.

    Back in the UK, I’m struggling to find a true specialist; my only experience with a Peugeot dealership (in Sevenoaks) ended in disaster – but that’s a tale for another day (possibly…)

  28. I would have to say that not ALL dealers are like that, just most of them. After warranty is finished our cars go to a small local indie. That said, I have a slight advantage over Joe Public as my dad was a motor mechanic and I still have the oil under my fingernails from helping him. I would do a lot of work myself except for the time factor (and that my Disco is too tall to get under the garage door). It’s more efficient for me to pay someone I trust for working on the car whilst I get some work done. That said, I feel for those with no mechanical / car knowledge who are just cannon fodder for many of the big chains.

    As for CV joint boots, my old FWD Triumph 1500 needed a boot for the MOT (about 1983 it would have been!) and I was totally skint. I asked my dad’s mate about doing it as he was an ex-BL mechanic (and a good one at that)and he reckoned 2-3 hours if everything came off ok. I didn’t fancy this as the 1500 was a bit notorious for being difficult so I bought a new boot, a tube of superglue and a sharp modelling knife. Slit the boot down the seam, put it round the narrowest part of the drive shaft and then glued it back together down the seam. Repack with clean grease and job done in 30 minutes.

    The join was almost invisible and it passed the MOT 3 times thereafter.

    I tend to stick my head under the bonnet at least weekly, especially on the Disco (Mk2 TD5, over 100k on the clock) just to have a poke around. I even have a look under SWMBO’s Golf although it’s under warranty. With modern diesels it’s wise to look under the bonnet every 500 miles until you establish how much oil they use. A friend’s Audi was going through a litre of oil every 800 miles!

  29. Once took my ZX to a ‘you can’t get quicker than a fitter – we’re the ones to trust’ branch.

    Left it in for MOT and some front brake pads.

    Got a call later that the battery had ran flat, and it’d need replaced. Thought this was strange, as I had not had issues with it recently.
    Turned out they’d ignored my instruction to type the code into the immobiliser before starting, cranked and cranked and ran the battery down.

  30. In the latest Car Mechanics mag there is a story suggesting that most dealers farm out even regular servicing to the local back street garage but still charge the customer full price. The Toyota place I use for my Aygo has big windows behind the service desk so you can watch them work on the car. If I couldn’t see it I wouldn’t go there.

  31. I took my Honda to the dealer once to get a job done, they had the window through to the service area, nice and clean, good job, cup of coffee and on yer way.
    Not badly priced either, for older (>10 year I think) Hondas the dealers cut the price of labour, must be trying to compete with indys.

  32. An experienced mechanic I know left the aforementioned chain after a few days, back in their Daewoo contract era. Entirely due to their lack of ethics.

    That said, some of their hand tools are of good quality and fairly priced.

    But I think there are most cost-effective options for filters, pads, etc these days, and as for fitting I wouldn’t trust them with a push bike saddle.

  33. PS, they’re also OK for batteries, and have honoured a guarantee on one I took back just before the 2 or 3 year deadline, after fitting it to a seldom-used classic.

  34. Sadly another old story which I have heard many times over the years. There have always been rip off merchants and opportunists in the motor trade, and plenty of other trades too. The trick as always is to find a mechanic or garage that you trust and stick with them. The small independent I use these days was recommended by a friend over 20 years ago.

    It does not help that none of us wants to spend money though. That creates low wages at chain tyre dealers and the like and also generates an opportunity for shysters to maximise margins by putting low cost and fake components in cars they are servicing. Or horsemeat into beef products.

  35. Another bogey tale about Halfords eh… I keep getting told that garages are pulling their socks up nowadays. There is the “Good Garage scheme” that participating traders subscribe to. I used to use one and luckily had no rip off experiences.

    My local Ford dealer is now also a Unipart Car Care Centre doing all makes servicing & repairs at cheaper rates than previous, supposedly to compete with the likes of Halfords & Kwik Fit.

  36. @37

    Ford run Rapid Fit, which I suspect might have been a natural fit for a Ford dealer wishing to compete with Halfords and Kwik Fit.

    Ford once owned Kwik Fit too in the early 2000s.

  37. @38 That’s right Will… I remember when Ford owned Kwik Fit. I’ve recently seen Ford Press adverts for servicing and repairs at fixed prices on cars over 3 years old.

  38. @39, All the dealer price match and all the rest of the palaver are loaded with T+C’s so read what you get for your “special offer”.
    I know someone was quoted £950 for a major and cambelt on a Golf TDi at the dealers,at may pals garage it was half that with genuine VW parts used ordered via VAG’s own TPS service!

  39. @11, when you change your car, you have to take the new one in, to change the warranty to the new car, seemed a bit silly having to take brand new car to have the pads checked,but I didn’t want to fall foul of their petty rules,

    I would guess its a ploy just to get you in to try and sell you something else .

    Dave

  40. I spent 2 hours this morning waiting in another big branded garage (lets just say you can get better than a slow slow fitter) for a small nail in my tire, it was about 5 cm in from the edge of the tire, after waiting 30 minutes the technician looked at it, came in, straight on the phone to enterprise rental who own the car saying it needs a tire, enterprise only fit cheap rubbish tires but he then told them all he had were pirelli’s which were 3 times the price of the budget one, so another 30 minute wait for authorization and then another hour for them to actually fit it. At one point there were no cars in the garage, and mine still sitting outside while the staff chatted.

    I know for a fact the local tire place I use for my own car would have fixed that, but it had to the big brand as its a hire car.

    Whether they had any cheaper tires I will never know but its a bog standard size tire so a bit hard to believe they only had one brand.

  41. my daughter went to kwick fit to replace a tyre which had an illegal puncture repair.Instead of replacing the tyre they replaced two sound tyres.

  42. Is there not an irony in terms of the special offer advert – at the top of these comments – for (wait for it) Halfords Autocentres?

  43. Just to balance the books a little – I have had first rate service from my little village garage who have looked after my Alfa for a couple of years. Last year they fitted a new clutch ( dual mass ridiculous thingy) as it had a slight vibration at take off. No quibbles – took it out again two weeks later and fitted another one – perfect. Cost them a lot of labour but not a penny was passed on to me.
    My only beef with most of these small places is that when I’ve been in to collect the car, both I and the car need a bath. Everything, counter tops, their door handles, the car’s door handles, steering wheel – everything is mucky! If they could get that right – and offer me fresh Danish and fresh coffee in spotlessly clean leather chairs like my Bini main dealer does – the world would be a perfect place!

  44. @ 45,

    Mike, don’t worry, you wrote the blog. In terms of what you have described here, I think many of us have been there, particularly those of us (like me) who are less mechanically inclined. However, not sure who’s responsible for determining what adverts go where? Keith?

    But Mike, your response reminds me of the excellent House of Cards TV drama and the comment from Francis Urquhart, the main character, who said something very similar. If I remember rightly it’s a drama that’s coming back here any time now, having been “resurrected” in the USA

  45. To further assist in the fairness of “balance”….

    When I worked as a mobile, I signed up to their then new “trade card” scheme and used their Valley St Darlington superstore frequently. I found them pretty good and unbeatable with items like consumables or fluids with the majority of staff being switched on.

    Back in the days when I ran a late model Sierra, I wanted to upgrade the standard “RDS2000” head unit with a CD changer package. After going through the options with their (ahem) audio specialist in Northampton Weedon Road, I selected a unit for them to fit.

    My criteria was it had to illuminate with the dash even if switched off and feature a clock on standby – oh yes sir it does all of those he says in the store, and I wanted the autochanger fitting under the passenger seat.

    Well the car came back with a huge oily workboot mark on the N/S/F door card, a poor fitting sill trim where they had rammed the wiring through, the radio did not illuminate with the sidelamps or feature a clock and where they had secured the cd changer to the floor – they had used a pair of long speed bolts which protruded almost an inch and a half through the floorpan.

    Suffice to say I went crackers at the workshop counter manager who went on to say the audio guy on the shop floor was “clueless”.

    That said, they changed the Kenwood system over for a bloody good Sony package, cleaned the boot marks and did a much better job of the fitting – all without hesitation or fuss. And as far as I know, that audio system still lives in a friends 406 who emigrated to France!

  46. Many years ago, after buying my only ever brand new car (a ford focus) I decided (to keep warranty right) for my own piece of mind to have an oil change done at 1500 miles (as used to be the norm on a new car, though apparently no longer needed! Bullsh!t)

    Anyway, after paying to have this done, on the way home I decided to squirt the window washers. Big Mistake. The disgruntled ‘technician’ who did not like the fact that I wanted my oil changed when he said I did not need it was kind enough to fill my washer bottle with brake fluid!

    After many a legal wrangling with the wanker in charge of the only coastal dealership under the control of Northern Irelands largest ford dealer group, he (or should I say Ford HQ who I wrote a letter to) agreed to do what I told him to put the car right.

    He also agreed that no matter what problems would happen with the car would be covered under warranty for the next 3 years, even though I would be the ONLY PERSON to ever use a spanner on it ever again.

    9 years on and the super reliable, running like a swsis watch, using no fluids, 100,000 mile ford focus was sold and i bought a rover 75.

    Beyond servicing, the only parts I ever had to fit where 2 rear anti roll bar droplinks and a track rod end!

    Needless to say I am a very fussy mechanic and had changed the oil and filters every 5000 miles (I only do around 8000 a year)

  47. @49

    Ah yes, good old Lindsay Ford. They used to be half decent as Coulters.

    Their GM counterpart Ballyrobert aren’t much better, I know a VXR owner dropped his car in for a service, they managed to disconnect the dashboard. Also left big oily boots everywhere (he kept the car spotless). Again they used to be half decent as Dencourts.

    Wasn’t you with the gold 75 this morning with a Ballyclare dealer on the numberplate? 🙂

  48. I wouldnt trust halfords with my car after the fiasco of trusting them with my bicycle….
    A good independent garage can be hard to find … When I lived in bournemouth I brought my car ( peugeot 407) to the local garage for a service they couldnt even manage to fit the air filter properly and broke every clip that held the air induction sytem in place which meant the car didnt run properly.

    I have found an a good trustworthy garage to look after the Alfa Romeo GT i have got now thankfully

  49. Dear All,
    Isnt it sad…most dealers are stealers…as much as I hated my Bini, both dealers were great. My Subaru dealer in Peterboro is awesome.
    The Mazda garage (years ago) in Watford was pants.

    A small local garage is much betterm where they understand that the customer is to be valued, and trust is be earnt.

    Its about time topgear did something useful like a sting operation…or watchdog…

    Great article 🙂

  50. …@27 Ford Prefect – so true, so true – my C8 (brand new) had 3 clutched and two gearboxes in the 3 years/36,000 miles that I had it – they claimed it was the way I drove it 🙂 The Renault Espace I replaced it with (then, six years ago 18 months old with 11,000 on the clock) is still on it’s original (to me) clutch and gearbox – and now the local Renault dealer in Plymouth (who also own one of the local Kwick franchises) are just like the Citroen Garage in Plymouth – useless bankers who just want to rip you off – use a better local (but minor) Renault franchise across the water in Saltash – much, much better!

  51. It’s just not with cars. I work in IT, and now and again I get asked to look at friends computers that have been “broken beyond repair and you’ll have to buy a new one” or have been quoted hundreds of pounds to fix by a large UK retailer’s support staff. I won’t name them but they rhyme with HC Vorld.

    Anyway, I’ve had a failed laptop motherboard turn out to a frayed cable on the PSU, a trashed unrecoverable Windows needing a £80 reinstall fixed with 5 minutes with me in safe mode and another failing motherboard needing £200 to replace was traced to badly seated memory and fixed in 10 minutes for some beer money.

    I would like to think they’re just incompetent but the cynical part of me reckons they know rightly what’s wrong but are just too lazy to fix or trying to rip off the customer.

  52. I thionk these days a lot of dealers and the big chains see the mechainic as an unskilled fitter and pay accordingly, when in fact the mechanic should be a ‘motor engineer’ and is anything but unskilled and won’t be working for what such outfits offer. It’s yet another example of how the UK does not values engineers at all.
    As said I have an XM, and its not a base one, it’s an S2 Exclusive Turbo. It all works, its now done 150K, it has the most extensive service history I have seen on a car. In those 150K it’s needed little more than service items although did have a clutch at 130K. It’s largley main dealer serviceng as well, but it’s all in french. The prices on the receipts would have you maching off to the engish citroen dealers to burn them down as well.

    I can only say if you have a hydrpneumatic citroen.. do some shopping trips to calais.. get the car serviced at the same time!

  53. Keith, I need to get the SLK into your specialist for the A/C!

    I buy tools in Halfords. The trade card helps a lot. But otherwise, I have had mostly poor experiences with any chain garage. Once I had a Mk IV Golf suspension arm being replaced, and they crossthreaded the captive nut and stripped it; it cost them buying the car a new X-frame…

  54. On taking a friends mk4 fiesta to ‘K.F’ for two tyres, I was told that the front wishbone bushes where worn and the arms required replacing at both sides. Both sides where brand new, I had fitted them myself that morning!
    This didn’t surprise me as a couple of years prior to this the same garage (a different mechanic) had tried to convince me my ’98 Escort needed both front springs doing. Again they where new, less than a month old.
    I don’t get angry when this happens. I just laugh at them and say “no thank you”. We all know garages create work. Its not just the chains, although they do seem to be the worst!
    The ‘extra milers’ once tried to convince me my 88 Mini needed a new coil spring on the front. Now that really is clever! creating non existant parts, let alone work!

  55. @58

    Had something similar tried on me when I had a Xantia. They soon backtracked when I asked if I could see the offending item, why it needs replaced 🙂

  56. I have a service plan with my local family dealer( ex Rover, now Ford approved used, Hyundai and Suzuki) which takes the pain out of the service on my Fiesta. They are honest, might charge a bit more for repair work than the like of Halfrauds, but at least do a good job and won’t invent work.
    Classic rip off I had was 4 years ago on a Nissan Almera. The main dealer was quoting £ 260 for the major service, so one of these Kwikfit type centres offered me a service for half that. However, while I saved £ 130 on the service, they managed to find another £ 300 of work that a friend in the know said shouldn’t have been done( apparently the brake discs and pads were on their last legs, my friend said that while the pads were likely to go at 30,000 miles, the discs should last around 80,000 miles). Later I found out another friend at work had £ 600 of work that wasn’t needed done on a people carrier.
    My advice is, either use a trusted indie for repair work- I use a company set up by two brothers for tyres and repair work- or use s trusted family dealer to do work if you need a car done that is either under warranty or an indie doesn’t have the equipment for.

  57. Just had the Bini serviced at the Bini Centre in Swindon.
    Superb service, polite and professional attention.
    Phoned me to advise of SLIGHT wear in anti-roll bar bushes – did I want to change them now or next time.
    Car was MOTd (no advisories other than the bushes) and was completely washed, leathered and valeted when I picked it up.
    Reasonable costs for a main dealer. Book stamped.
    This evening the Sales Manager has e mailed me to se if I was satisfied!!!
    These companies who go the extra mile and serve us well are out there – though I have no formula for choosing one and getting it right!
    I just hope those experiencing poor service soon find the good guys.

  58. Kwik fit broke our rover 820. They inserted the wrong key and set off the anti theft device in the lock. Worst bit is they spent the next 4 weeks or so trying to wriggle out of it rather than just making an amicable settlement. We only took it for an MOT. They just cant be trusted. Not so much because of their silly mistake but because of the way they acted afterwards….

    Rich

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