Hit-and-miss garage servicing

SLACK  practices are rife in the garage servicing industry an undercover investigation by Which? found.

The consumer organisation took 50 cars, all less than three years old, to garages throughout the country for servicing.

Before they went in, five adjustments were made – four simple faults were introduced and the screenwash bottle was topped up.

46 garages (92 per cent) missed at least one fault, and two missed all five.

Shockingly, 26 garages (52 per cent) missed the low brake-fluid level. Even a half-competent mechanic should notice this, while a good mechanic would try to  diagnose why it’s low as this could lead to brake failure.

More than three in four (38) garages failed to adjust the very low spare tyre pressure, and nine garages failed to adjust the other tyre pressures properly. Low tyre pressure increases the likelihood of premature tyre failure – so could be life-threatening.

Thankfully, few garages carried out significant unnecessary work, but 20 still charged for windscreen-washer fluid, even though it had been topped up just before taking the cars in.

Only two garages achieved top marks from the Which? inspectors for both spotting all five faults and for high overall servicing standards.

The average inspection rating was a poor 2.28 out of 5.

Which? found no discernible difference in standards between franchised garages and independents, although independents were 35% cheaper.

Few of the garages inspected (12 out of 50) said they followed formal codes of practice. Which? thinks there are too few regulations to make garages toe the  line and that tougher rules are needed to sort out the rogues.

Neil Fowler, Editor, Which?, says: “UK owners spend more than £21-billion a year maintaining their cars. We reckon this should go to reliable businesses with sound service procedures, not gambled on rogue traders.

“Unacceptably, getting your car serviced is still a hit-and-miss affair. We’ve found a generally lax approach to servicing, unbelievable basic errors and cases of  plain ineptitude.”