Servicing your vehicle, especially a vehicle which is out of its warranty period, can be a daunting experience.
Brian Joss – While there are many reliable, and reputable, operators on the market, there are those who take advantage of a lack of knowledge of modern vehicles, in order to fleece consumers.
One indication of how bad this problem is, is the fact that the Motor Industry Ombudsman (MIOSA) handles more than 4 000 calls a month. Any disputes relating to work done on your vehicle can be forwarded to this body for dispute resolution, but it can be avoided with a little forward thinking by the owner.
According to the Automobile Association (AA) it is important to do your homework before selecting a technician to work on your vehicle.
“Word of mouth is a good way of determining who the good mechanics in your area are. But, as a responsible owner, you should also be visiting workshops, and speaking to the mechanics to get a feel for how they operate and what their hourly rate for labour is,” the Association said.
The AA said it is also a good idea to ask for references and to inspect the workshop. A clean workshop where everything has its place sends a far stronger message than a workshop that is dirty and cluttered, and where the mechanics don’t know where their tools are.
Once you have decided on a workshop, the AA said, it is important to get a detailed list of the work that the mechanic plans to do and the projected costs and timeframes. Again, do your homework and research the cost price of spares that may be needed. Remember, though, that workshops will add a mark-up to the parts and will charge for labour.
“If you want to side-step this process, we recommend you make use of the AA’s Quality Assured (AAQA) service. Our team of quality assurance personnel scout the country for prospective partners across a wide range of services to ensure that motoring needs of our Members (and non-Members) are catered for. Our service provider partners range for auto body repairers, vehicle maintenance and repair centres to auto electricians, locksmiths, accessory fitment centres, and specialised repair centres,” the AA said.
To qualify as an AAQA partner, the facility must pass an audit by our AAQA team to ensure the services are on standard. Regular reviews are also conducted on these premises to guarantee that the stringent quality assurance requirements are maintained to deliver the expected service to customers.
When your car is ready for collection, inspect the engine for signs that the work which has been billed for, has been done.
“It may not always be possible to see what was done, but you may, for instance, be able to see that a new fan belt has been fitted because it will look new and have easily identifiable numbers on it. If you are unsure of what was done, ask the mechanic to go through it in detail with you,” said the AA.
If you have any concerns about the work that was performed, go back to the workshop immediately and speak to the mechanic. If you let a third party work on the vehicle before taking it back to the person who worked on it first, you may have no recourse. It is also important to go back to the mechanic as quickly as possible, and not wait too long before doing so.
“It is very important that your car is serviced regularly to maintain its mechanical condition. If your car is out of its warranty period, selecting a good, and fair, mechanic is vital. But, remember, that having your car serviced at a cheap, low-cost, rate should also be a warning of the workmanship you can expect,” warns the AA.
To recap, some important tips for owners servicing their vehicles are:
- Agree on a timeline for the completion of the work, and on the costs involved, prior to any work commencing,
- Clarify if there are any other risks the mechanic identifies prior to the work being started, or if there are any potential problems that may arise from the initial work being done,
- Ensure you get a detailed written quote from the workshop before any work starts. This means you and the workshop both agree on the work to be done and the costs involved,
- Clarify with the workshop if the specific repairs/servicing will fix the problems you have highlighted; remember that diagnostic repairs can be expensive,
- Remember that cheapest is not best. If you are unsure of a quote because it is too high, get a second quote, or cost the parts yourself through a parts dealer,
- Don’t allow a repair to drag on. If work has not been completed within the set timeframe, contact the workshop and get answers,
- Keep track of your repair and service history, to protect you in future and to assist your mechanic with his diagnostic process,
- If you have your vehicle serviced by a workshop that forms part of a group, you can escalate your complaints to a higher authority within that group if you are unhappy with a mechanic’s response.
The Motor Industry Ombudsman can help. Visit www.miosa.co.za for information..