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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
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 boilers with a tank on top of them to half fill with water , it suddenly have stop working, I have no idea how to sort this issue , I had previously called engineers who will say they are not familiar with electric boilers ,any one who can advise many thanks

Guest

If you have the make and model number, someone here might be able to help you.

Guest
Corneliu Hoffman says:
12 October 2016

To explain in more detail Our boiler was having issues and after calling another suplier we decided to put a claim. Homeserve engineer came on 24/09/16 and decided that the boiler needs a new heat exchanger. He told us that he needs to order parts , called his manager and set up an appointment for Tuesday 27/09. We waited the whole day and after calling the office were told that no appointment was set. They then offered another appointment for Thursday 29th and another engineer came in without any parts and without knowing anything about our issue. After numerous phone calls to the office and the other engineer he told us essentially the same thing, he needs parts and we have another appointment Saturday 01/10. On Saturday a third engineed came, this times with parts and tools, spend 2 hours reinstalling the parts in the boiler to realise that they have ordered the wrong parts. Once again the boiler was not fixed and we now have an apointment for Tuesday 4/10. I took a day off on 4/10/16 and no engineer showed up even though on 1/10/16 I have confirmed with homeserve that I had a service appointment for 4/01/16. The service was once again postponerd until 6/10/16.

We had no hot water or heating for 9 days now and had to stay home for 5 different days waiting for them. I have contacted the company in three different ocasions and filled complaints but heard nothing from them.
On 6/10/16 an engineer came. He was supposed to come between 8-13 and he came at 12:50 and stayed untill 15:30 . He fitted the part in the boiler and the boiler started to work. However it had a leak and we were forced to call homeserve again. We had been promised an engineer between 13-18 on 10/10/16. The engineer first called saying he will come at 12 then he said he will come at 1 then that he will come at 4 and finally he came at 17:50 and stayed untill 19. He fixed the leak but now the boiler makes a horrible noise each time it starts.
I called again and was promised an engineer on 12/10/16 between 8-13. Due to past experience I called both the office and the support office evry hour between 8-12:30 and was assured each time that surely somebody will come befoew 13. One of the people I spoke to was actually quite rude saying that even if the engineer comes at 13:00 he is still not late. However at 12:30 the engineer called and said he will only arrive in a “couple of hours. In fact he came at 14:50. I am hoping he will resolve this now.

Guest
gasman says:
3 January 2017

i think the moral of these stories is to extend warranties..Not take any boiler care covers

Guest

I had British Gas do my safety check a few weeks back. It passed, which was no surprise as the boiler is barely a couple of years old.

It has dripped slightly ever since the visit.

At first, I didn’t notice it, then I noticed water collecting beneath it but, as it’s right next to the kitchen sink I just assumed that I’d spilled a little. When I finally realised that the boiler itself was leaking, I contacted British Gas Home Care (with which my landlord has a plan), whereupon they stated that they would charge me nearly a hundred quid for the call out.

I argued that as the leak appears to be related to something done by their engineer, and as I have no money, I’d be better off servicing it myself and keeping my fingers crossed. Would they be okay with the consequences?

“Ah… we’ll put this down as a recall visit. There’ll be no charge if the engineer agrees that it was left in that state by us.”

I get your game, British Gas. I see what you’re doing.