If you’ve taken your car for a service recently, did the garage do a good job? The scary truth is that you may not even realise if they hadn’t – as we went undercover to find out…
Our latest findings on garage servicing are released today, and they make for pretty depressing reading.
Nearly 90% of the garages we tested missed (or perhaps simply ignored) at least one potentially dangerous fault on our doctored cars.
Putting garages to the test
We put garages to the test, by finding 62 cars between three and six years old, and introducing the same four basic faults to each car:
- Reducing brake fluid level to minimum
- Blowing one of the reversing light bulbs
- Deflating nearside rear tyre to 20% below required pressure
- Deflating spare tyre to 10psi (almost flat)
All these faults should have been fixed as part of a routine service. Yet just eight of the garages returned the cars fault-free – and five failed to fix any of the introduced faults.
Keen to see how they measured up in the honesty stakes, we went one step further. Each car’s screen wash bottle was filled to the maximum level to see how many garages charged for it anyway.
Again, the results were shocking – 39% of garages charged for screen wash that wasn’t supplied.
Is there any good news about garages?
Tales of shoddy, dishonest garages are nothing new, of course. Sadly, we found similar issues in our last garage servicing investigation three years ago.
But it would be unfair to say nothing’s changed since then. The industry has made some effort to raise standards and consumer confidence with voluntary codes of practice such as Motor Codes, Bosch Service and the Good Garage Scheme.
Encouragingly, the codes do seem to be making a difference – both Bosch and Motor Codes garages outperformed those that weren’t affiliated to any code of conduct in the study. But, for me, these codes don’t go nearly far enough.
Time for compulsory qualifications
Mechanics currently don’t need to have any formal qualifications at all – how can that be?
If a plumber comes to fix my boiler, he or she has to be registered with Gas Safe. Yet the mechanic fixing my car may have had no training whatsoever.
Poorly-maintained cars put the lives of drivers and other road users in danger. To my mind, a recognised, industry-wide qualification, such as that offered by the Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA) scheme, should be compulsory for all mechanics.
Motor Codes and the Good Garage Scheme must also introduce mystery shopping to keep garages on their toes.
As cars become ever more complicated, even those of us – like me – with a limited degree of mechanical knowledge are left increasingly reliant on the garages that service them.
We put our trust in garages, and many of them betray that trust. Now it’s time for the garage industry to clean up its act.
Do you trust your local garage?
I have a reliable garage I use regularly (49%, 76 Votes)
I use one but don't trust them (32%, 49 Votes)
I avoid garages because I don't trust them (19%, 29 Votes)
Total Voters: 154