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Boiler trouble? Our cameras reveal the truth about repairs

Boiler broken down? About to call an engineer to get it fixed? When they put away the toolbox, how do you know your boiler’s been correctly repaired or you’ve been charged the right amount? We went undercover.

Everyone’s winter nightmare is that their boiler breaks. Our boiler went last year – cue electric heaters, lots of blankets and, yes, occasional trips to the pub to keep warm.

Fixing boilers can be expensive and it’s also crucial that it happens fast – so the cards aren’t exactly stacked in your favour. If the guy (or girl) fixing my boiler tells me it’s the valve, or the printed circuit board, or the controls, how am I going to know if they’re right or wrong?

Which? goes undercover

With this in mind we decided to go undercover here at Which?. We invited ten engineers to service a gas boiler to which we had introduced a minor fault and watched their job with hidden cameras. This was a fault that should be fixed during the service at no extra cost (we basically disconnected a lead which stopped the boiler from lighting – a five minute job). So, how did they get on?

Two engineers suggested that we needed expensive repairs when we didn’t. One independent engineer said he wasn’t sure what the fault was – he thought it was either the board or the gas valve, with repairs predicted to cost around £500.

Another said it would be at least £200 for the part but suggested we might be better off getting a whole new boiler. We also found that two others missed key checks when trying to service the boiler. So not only are some of these engineers suggesting expensive, unnecessary repairs, others aren’t carrying out basic checks.

Do you need boiler breakdown cover?

We’ve passed our findings to the Gas Safe Register and it said it will investigate any potential safety issues.

But we didn’t stop there – we also looked at whether it would be a good idea to get boiler breakdown cover. We found that cost-wise most people wouldn’t save money taking this out. This is because the average spent on servicing is £75 and you probably won’t need repairs.

However, we also know that most people who have boiler breakdown cover do so for peace of mind, so we surveyed Which? members to find out who’s best. You can read this in more depth in our boiler contracts review. Let’s just say than one boiler servicing company got a much higher customer score than the others in our survey.

So, if you have boiler cover, do you think it’s worth it? And if you’ve ever had your boiler serviced or repaired, did the engineer do a good job and charge you a fair price?

Comments
Guest
Bob H says:
26 April 2013

Recently I asked British Gas to come and look at my faulty boiler, and they told me, if it could be fixed within half an hour the charge would be a standard £89. When the engineer called, he said he had never seen one like it before, because it was a very old boiler, and parts would probably no longer be available, so he would have to disconnect it as it was dangerous. Is it right that I should still have had the £89 pound deducted from my bank account for the disconnection, rather than for any attempt at a repair.—- Thankyou ..

Guest
Zoe says:
1 May 2013

Please can someone offer me advice. My father a pensioner has a broken boiler, just stopped working. Phoned a few companies to come and have a look and were all busy, anyone the last one could come out. The boiler is about 7 years old and cost about £1800 at the time it was fitted. Anyway, the plumber told my dad what it was and they agreed a price including part of £300, then the plumber banged away at the boiler for an age and told my dad he missed it before but there is also a leak (wasn’t there before because it wasn’t wet in there but now it was when my dad was shown again) this part would have to be ordered in and would add another £600 on my dads bill, this has been going on about 6 days and the plumber came back today after finally getting the part and then informed my dad after a few hours of working that there was another fault and that part would be an additional £200. My dad has signed a form saying that the bailiffs would come if he doesn’t pay and also that the company take the old “broken” parts away. I think they are just conning him and told him to get a 2nd opinion but he said he can’t as he’s worried about bailiffs coming out and will just pay it, he really can’t afford it but this man seems like a cowboy although the company say he is their expert and wont send anyone else out. What can he do, he’s been a week without heating and hot water and is desperate to get it sorted. The plumber is going to come back again tomorrow.

Guest
Terry says:
3 May 2013

As a Gas Safe Engineer I am sorry you have had this problem, Please give me your postcode perhaps you are near me and I can help.
Regards
Terry

Guest
Brady says:
22 June 2013

Did this problem get sorted?? What area did the guy live in? I am also a gsr engineer. Doesn’t sound right to me

Guest
gas brains says:
15 November 2014

after a shift selling property in spain.

Guest
gas brains says:
15 November 2014

ah.gas safe.run by capita.the congestion charge people,now you know you are saved.

Guest
faizan says:
16 September 2013

Hi please could some give me advice. I dont have British gas insurance son I had to pay 500 for them to repair my boiler. Its now been 5 weeks and the same issue I had before the repair has arisen again. What should I do. I’m worried that if I tell them they will say its a different fault and charge me for another repair. I know the part he repaired comes with a year guarantee. But I think he may of fixed the wrong thing in the 1st place. What should I do.

Guest
gas brains says:
15 November 2014

the lottery.

Guest
Andrew Moody says:
16 September 2013

I have a number of properties and would not let any plumber including any large service company near my boilers without identifying the fault myself which is not difficult given the amount of free advise available. Just Google your problem and the Make of Boiler. I have had plumbers disconnect wires to produce a “fault” to create work and others who have told me outright lies. The industry is out of control and driven by a culture of extracting as much cash as possible from the unsuspecting public.

Guest
gas brains says:
15 November 2014

ok then.what is the fault when eight engineers and the rep.stand around a dead boiler unable to repair it,till one of the guys whacks it with the yellow pages,dont sat the yellow pages is out of date,oh,it works after that.

Guest
Carina Birkin says:
4 June 2014

I have an engineer coming out soon to service the boilerand he has told me that I may or may not need a boiler service kit and it would be an extra £20 on top of the £60 for the service – if I do need it
The previous 3 times that I had the boiler serviced none of the engineers have even suggested a boiler service kit. Apparently ( he says) it’s something to do with the pressure.

Guest
brady says:
4 June 2014

Some boilers need seals replacing every service, some need it ever few years, other can run and run with out needing a seal change. I would suggest if he is looking at changing seals then he is conscious enough to do a good job, he has priced it right too. though not entirely sure how the pressure effects a seal change. Maybe you miss heard that bit?

Guest
gas brains says:
15 November 2014

yes, its because new boilers are designed to rob your bank.

Guest
Chris says:
11 November 2014

I have been paying Homeserve £367 a year for an 8 star insurance which should cover boiler repairs.
I have had the misfortune of calling them out last Tuesday week as our heat exchange had cracked on our halstead hero 50 boiler. I knew what had happened as I worked with the company that made these boilers for over 25 years until Glen Dimplex took us over and shut the boiler side down when they transferred business to Liverpool and expected those in essex to uproot and join them.
I am being told that Homeserve cannot source the parts and want us to find a new boiler and get a plumber to fit it. They will give me £200 towards costs.
I got a local plumber in to take a look and after a phone call, he advised his firm can get the part and will do the work. I will therefore have to pay for all of this.
Homeserve have now reduced me to a 7 star policy which excludes my boiler, so I am left with nothing from them.
How can I be treated this way. They knew how old my boiler was when I took out their insurance.
This will cost me over £300 for parts + labour at £60 hour – none of which I can claim back.

Guest
Cowboys says:
24 December 2014

British Gas Engineers ( if you can call them that) are appauling there workmanship is very poor. you can email me and I will show you some of their shoddy and dangerous work.

Guest

You can tell they’re not the best when they pull out their little tablet to diagnose issues. I don’t remember the man from the AA or RAC ( other car repair companies available) doing that.

Even worse when the little tablet doesn’t even have the right info so they make the same mistakes over and over and over again. I just hope they updated it after I told them when someone else identified the issue that the tablet said was a faulty PCB, when it wasn’t.

Guest

Hi there! I had a lot of trouble with my boiler when I first moved in to my new house – it was a boiler I was very unfamiliar with and the pressure was far too low. I had a look online as I had just moved I was fairly reluctant to call out an engineer immediately and thankfully I came across YouTube videos that took me through a step by step guide (introducing me to new things such as the filling key) which was really easy to follow and fixed my problem. There are lots of other videos as well for many different problems, I would definitely recommend a look before calling out an engineer.

[This comment has been edited to align with our commenting guidelines. Please do not post promotional links. Thanks, mods]

Guest

I see you say that four of the ten engineers said you needed expensive repairs or failed to do basic checks. Does that mean that the other six did the job correctly? 3-4 out of ten being dishonest isn’t great, but I would hope that the majority were honest.

Guest
Dawn Holben says:
6 March 2015

I called homeserve on the 31st of jan because we had no hot water 3 days later an engineer arrived and worked out what the problem was and arranged for the parts to be ordered.
The engineer then came back with the wrong parts so I spoke to homeserve to tell them I wasn’t happy. A third engineer arrived again with the wrong parts.
And then the 4th engineer arrived with the wrong parts.
All this time homeserve were being no help at all.
The fifth engineer arrived and decided the parts ordered were not necessary and went away an ordered other parts.
Yesterday 5 weeks after I reported the fault and having no hot water the 6th engineer arrived fitted the parts and left. Within a few hours I had to call homeserve again as the boiler was leaking water all over my kitchen cupboard and floor.
They sent an emergency plumber out to isolate the leak and said an engineer would bo out the next day to sort the boiler out.
But this has now left me with no heating or hot water.
I phoned homeserve this morning and they said they would get an engineer out today but the the contractor phoned to say they can’t do it until tomorrow.
my husband the had an argument with the contractor and homeserve and 30 minutes later I had a phone call to say an engineer would be out before 3pm.
At 4.30 no one turned up and the contractors and homeserve are saying that no engineer was booked to come out.
So I am now sitting here with a cold and a chest infection and I have asthma with no heating or hot water.
whilst all this has been going on the engineers broke the ignition switch and now the drop down panel on the front is broken.
I wish I had never heard or took out cover for homeserve and if I had the money I would call another engineer to do the work but unfortunately we have just had a £1100 repair bill for the car.
And during all this all homeserve have done is refund my excess and given me £30 compensation.
I really thought having the cover would give me peace of mind but that is far from what it has given me and I am no nearer to getting my boiler fixed.

Guest
Mrs P Collier says:
17 August 2015

We are looking into a local company for an annual service agreement for our new property which has a seven year old boiler. Before they take us on they have done an assessment of our boiler. They say before they will agree to an annual service contract we will need to pay for a Service Kit and radiator inhibiter. They have quoted £100 for the service kit and £50 for the inhibiter. Is this a fair price?

Guest

My neighbour has a maxol micro turbo boiler, 11 years old. After a pipe burst the heat exchanger overheated and now leaks. Advice from a couple of engineers is that a replacement hex is no longer available as a spare part, so the boiler is a write off. My question, is anyone out there offering a hex repair or custom build to avoid the cost of a new boiler?

Guest
Nyamie says:
30 September 2016

Good morning, I have one of the electric boi