There's an oft stated adage in the world of car repairs which is well worth repeating, "Be fair with your garage and they'll be fair with you".

A bit homespun, perhaps, but the truth nevertheless.

Always use a reputable garage, either one that is a member of one of the recognised trade associations - the SMMT or RMI for example, or the VBRA in the case of accident repairs, or one that has been recommended by someone whose opinion you respect.

So many people who express disappointment with work that has been done on their car have simply failed to instruct the garage properly and are faced with paying the price for their own carelessness.

When you take your car into any garage, either for a service or for mechanical or accident repairs, it is essential to give the service department a clear set of instructions. Tell them:

  • If you are able, what work is needed
  • what the limitations on your expenditure are
  • where and when they can contact you if they find that additional work is needed

For a simple job, for example a new set of brake pads or an oil change, get a firm quotation, preferably in writing. Many larger companies and nearly all main dealers now offer a fixed price menu for most straightforward servicing, repair or replacement items.

For more complex problems, obtain an estimate before works commence and instruct the garage not to exceed the estimate without first alerting you to the additional costs and seeking permission to continue.

Explain as clearly as you can what work is to be done or what the problem is and take advice from the specialists on probable causes and costs. If you are not sure what the cause of the trouble is ask the service manager or a mechanic to accompany you on a brief test drive so that the symptoms can be understood and a diagnosis reached.

Ask questions, that's what the service staff are there for, they can tell you exactly what is to be done, for example what parts will be replaced during a service, and they will happily explain any terms that you don't understand.

It is imperative that both parties reach a clear understanding as the garage can quite legally refuse to release a repaired car until full payment has been made for works carried out. However, no garage likes to be so confrontational, better a sensible discussion beforehand than acrimony afterwards.

Also remember that a reputable garage will never willingly release a car which it believes to be in unroadworthy condition and may absolve itself in writing if you insist on driving a potentially dangerous car away.

Treat the professionals in your local garage with respect and they will accord you the same honour.

Article © Graham Benge 2007


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