Our Cars : Mike’s 75 – FSH? Don’t you believe it!

Words and photography: Mike Humble

Our project 75 – 13.000 miles – 10 months – Zero regrets!

You know, it’s really nice when people stop and comment on your car, even better when someone takes a leaf from your book as t’wer and takes the plunge with a similar car.  Another one of those local residents you don’t know the name of – you know the sort, the ones you simply nod with acknowledgement in passing, rolled up at the top of the drive in an immaculate 53-plate Rover 75  Club SE Turbo and pips the horn while I was mowing the  lawn.

It transpires that ever since I have purchased mine, he has passed it every day on his way to and from work giving an admiring glance. He introduced himself as Richard and explained that his ’09-plate Audi had dined out on its turbocharger without warning one evening taking the engine along too as desert.

Working just up the road at Gatwick, it made no real difference towards petrol or diesel so he decided to purchase the aforementioned Rover from a local trader, seemed smitten with the full dealer service history and hammered the guy down to an agreeable fee. He merely stopped to ask me what were they like to own and run long term and would I be interested in servicing said chariot.

Always keen to stay in the pink with ciggies and drink, I gladly offered my services as and when they would be required, besides, the petrol 1.8 75 is a darling to service and the 160bhp turbo version is such a lovely car to navigate, delivering a seamless belt of torque in an uncanny stress free manner akin to a SAAB Ecopower plant.

The filter on the right was date stamped 2004 – So much for full service history indeed!

Just before he trundled away, and in true Columbo style (just one more question sir) he asked about his heater & aircon. Is this normal for my air vents to get so dusty? – he quipped, and peering into the classy cabin I soon took a guess there was no pollen filter fitted. He went on to remark that his service history showed a pollen filter change just six months ago – or more to the point, the box was ticked on the sheet. Asking if he had few minutes spare, I quickly unclipped and unscrewed the plastic cover underbonnet an lo and behold… there was no pollen filter. Often as not, especially on company cars, the pollen filter never gets changed until there is barely any airflow through the vents – its a commonly known missed out item seen time and time again.

But this time, the filter had been taken out and left missing all for the sake of a few quid, granted the 75 pollen filter is a touch fiddlier than say a Vauxhall Vectra, but even still, to replace said part takes less than 15 minutes and for hay fever sufferers myself included, its a must have component. After a quick spin to the local factors, a replacement was purchased and the 75 was back on the road, chuffed to bits with the lightning speed service I offered, he stuffed 20 sovs into my paw and waved a cheery farewell to his residence some 50 yards away. But after he departed, my mind was pondering about how much volume of air came from his vents after the change of pollen filter compared to my own Rover. Now I never thought my car had an issue but there is certainly less airflow on mine than on his.

Again, the tools were out and I set upon liberating my own pollen filter which according the paper work, was changed just a month before my purchase. Well, after removing the covers the filter was there in all its glory with enough fluff, straw, leaves and bird feathers to build a dozen bird nests. back to Express factors where the chap behind the counter remarked at how popular the 75 pollen filter seems to be ‘just sold one of those to a guy in a motor same colour as yours not 45 minutes ago‘ he scoffed.

Of course I kept schtum about it being me who fitted it and handed over £15.27 of the realm and drove back home slightly deflated. A quick suck of the Dyson cleared out the filter box and the all important plenum drain was checked too with a garden pea stick – vitally important, allow the airbox to flood with water and the nearby engine and brake ECUs will suffer fatal damage

The airbox drain tube – allow this to flood through blockage and you have a serious risk of Engine and ABS ECU failure.

So all in all, full service history is one thing, that actually being the case is another. The wonders of the internet can even find you service sheets in PDF format that less scrupulous traders and indeed owners, can print off and fill out thus inflating used values or making a clunker seem more desirable. I have banged on about this before, but never be embarrassed to ask to see proof of the old components before handing your bunts over at the service desk.

And of course, a full service history is about as much value as yesterdays newspaper without those all important receipts for bills of sale. Alarmingly though, the garages that short change and overcharge the most tend to be the main franchise dealers – more so the larger dealer groups!

Mustn’t grumble though about my motor too much though, I now have a blower that really blows thanks to a crispy fresh pollen filter… and I’m still £4.73 better off than I was first thing this morning!

Mike Humble


  1. Totally true about service history…
    My manager at work just got rid of his 05` B5.5 Passat 1.9 tdi Highline.
    Genuine 65k on the clock….a dealer bought it off him for £3500, then promptly put it on his forecourt for £49950 !!!
    Another workmate went and looked at it and was given the spiel by the dealer.
    “Yes mate…the Cambelt was changed at the last service…see the tick in the service book ”
    The cambelt had never been done…..the car also has a water ingress issue and needs a new Radiator.
    Its also had a new front end…..

    I avoid dealers like the plague.
    They are there to sell the car…..lemon or not.

  2. Yam’s anecdote of the Passat reminds me of some Gumtree sellers. The type who, when they buy a banger off you for a few hundred quid, put it back in more or less immediately when it has suddenly gained a full service history, and miraculously within the hour since they bought it, has had all belts changed!
    Emailing gumtree about it, they don’t care. So I avoid that site when looking for a cheap used car.

  3. As I have thought before, Mike just where do you find the time!

    Your 75 must by now be approaching perfection. Then there was Keith’s head gasket and now your neighbour’s 75. He’s certainly a lucky chap – what sounds like an already sound 75 and you down the road for service, repair.

  4. I think the 1.8 suits the turbo,i have just bought one and it goes really well-and it had a new engine and turbo!its not a keeper though,maybe look for a V8 zt or limo.

  5. After reading this story, I went out to check the filters on my ‘recently serviced’ audi. Sure enough the pollen filter was gross and the air filter much the same! Is this practice really that common among service centres? I may go back to doing my own servicing, as at least I would know that it was done!

  6. One of the main reasons why I never let anyone else touch my car! (The other main reason is the fact that I couldn’t afford to pay the charges anyway).

  7. The first time I reallised I had a pollen filter was in the depths of winter when the demister simply could not cope even with air con on full. I tried saving some pennies by washing it but this simply was a waste of time, so now I am fully up to speed and the filter is changed at the first hint of unsual misting up.

  8. I opened the bonnet of a friend’s recently purchased FSH Corsa to find no air filter at all, despite the dealer having allegedly newly serviced the car before delivery and stamped the service book. Cue major row with dealer.

    I get my car serviced by a local garage, mainly because a dodgy back and gravel drive make it excessively difficult to do myself, but I also check that they do actually carry out the work requested. Not had any problems with them yet!

  9. Dealers are the worst places to take a car, the mechanics (fitters really) are often of the lowest caliber training wise and paid peanuts, overworked and couldn’t give a toss. As said, the biggest dealer networks are usually the worst!

  10. I agree with most of the statements above. I absolutly hate taking my cars to the garage, I always do the servicing myself but cant always do some of the more involved jobs on the drive although this is always a last resort. I had a 1992 Rover Metro Gti which I bought with a full Rover service history and then spent the next few weeks sorting out the brakes, servicing the engine and fixing everthing else that was wrong!

  11. Yep, a certain Glasgow based outfit who have a penchant for yellow and black are notorious for this. Mate bought a Honda from their Kirkcaldy branch and was offered a discounted 3 service package…

    Turns out the reason it was so cheap was they didn’t do anything… Mate, always suspicious of garages etc, placed sticky tape round the air filter box. When he went to pick it up, he checked the tape and low and behold, nothing had been touched.

    He went straight back to the service manager, after a few words were exchanged, the car was taken for a full service under the auspises of my mate and a full refund for the package was offered and taken…

  12. Received a horrendous service bill from a Merc main dealer in Kent. On the bill they said they had replaced the wiper blade. I checked when I got home and they had not. Or other items I had been billed for. They said they had billed for the items, but that they were not in stock, but would fit them when they arrived. None of this wae explained to me when I paid, even though I had waited at the garage whilst the “service” was carried out. I cancelled the payment for the service with my credit card company, and phoned the garage to tell them what I had done, and that the payment would be released on completeion of the work, less a charge for my time and expenses to return the car to them for said completion. They were not happy, and never contacted me when the items were “back in stock” They gave up after they had sent two solictors letters. Thats £550 they had to write off….. I have many more service bill horror stories, because it is a company car, they seem to think the drivers don’t care. I spend company money, and look after company car’s as if it were my own.

  13. This is why to me when buying a car FSH is worth the square root of naff all. Of all the cars I have had only one actually seems to have had the work the service history says it has, and that’s my current XM, and the service history stands out in another way.. it’s all in french (Main dealer stuff as well!) The owner who had it for most of it’s life lived half the year in yorkshire, and half the year in Geneva, so it was only ever serviced in France!

    My first job whenever buying a car is replace all the service items, regardless of paperwork. I’ve found rust on ‘new’ oil filters, seized up corroded sump plugs on cars that had recently had an ‘oil change’, original locking washers that have never been undone one cam belts.. all on cars that had FSH

  14. Last year i purchased a 3L Range Rover from a very large franchise, days later whilst checking oil etc thought it could do with a service, so checked my service book to find that the garage had allegedly service car on my purchase. Not with the colour of the oil. I phoned the garage and spoke to the sales manager who assured me it had been serviced as he had a bill from the service department for 2.5L of oil. Nothing else.

    Needless to say it never went back there when they sent me a service reminder a year later

  15. As a bangernomics participant, and the owner of a small garage that looks like it was designed for an A35, I do basic servicing myself (oil, filters, brake pads).

    I do know a local mechanic who doesn’t muck about, and it goes to him when something catastrophic has occured (clutch) or difficult service items (sticking rear calipers, timing belts). Usually easy enough to verify that the work has been done anyway (eg. does the clutch work!). He was discussing an ex-company car that had came in for a service – it had FSH and the oil was full of sludge! The owner said that it had an 18k service interval. He recommended an oil change every 5-6k / 6 months.

  16. @17 – not sure but quite a few service shops probably use those oil extraction pumps, therefore the sump plug remains undisturbed. Personally, I prefer to see gravity ensuring that as much old oil as possible leaves the sump.

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