Is all car servicing created equal?
I’m sure you have seen on TV, a local newspaper or a billboard some place, advertising saying something like “Full Service only £99!” The problem with that is, now you think that a Full Service can be done by all garages for the same price. Many times we have been asked to quote for a Full Service, only to then be told “we’re too expensive” or “I can get it down the road for £99, why are you so expensive?”
But, the truth is, we’re not. We are charging a fair price for the work we do, and for the quality components we use in doing that work.
In this blog post I want to set the record straight, dispel the myths, and shed a little light on this topic. We’ll look at the different kinds of a car service available, but focus on a “Full Service for a car or van” So, read on.
Difference in Servicing Types
Generally speaking there are three levels of servicing in today’s market; a small or Interim Service, a Full Service, or a Major Service. The biggest problem with this is that there are no ‘set standards’ when it comes to these services. What one garage markets as a Full Service, could in reality, just be an Interim Service. If you take 5 minutes and have a look on Google, you’ll struggle to find any two garages that will offer the same level of servicing, under the same name, at the same price. It truly is a minefield out there.
When considering these three levels of servicing, think about what’s actually included in the service you’ve asked for. As a rule of thumb, and as a minimum standard, you should expect the following:
Add engine flush and change engine oil and filter, check underside of vehicle, check tyres, check fluid levels under bonnet, check lights, check wipers.
All of Interim Service plus, remove wheels and check brakes, adjust handbrake, replace air filter, replace external fuel filter, replace pollen filter, check ancillary belts (except timing belt), check clutch adjustment.
All of Full Service plus, replace spark plugs, replace brake fluid, check/replace coolant, sanitise air conditioning system.
To confuse the issue further, main dealers! Many people think that a vehicle serviced at a main dealership is the best option. But, to be honest, these days it’s probably the worst thing you can do for your car, van or truck. The reason is simple, main dealers have a lot of pressure put on them by their fleet customers (leasing and rental companies) to minimise repair and running costs, and these cost cutting exercises extend to servicing. Often a vehicle that has a ‘Full Dealer History’ will be in a worse mechanical state after 5 years, than one looked after by an independent garage. In general, to reduce servicing costs, servicing operations are kept to a minimum. Filters are not changed until the absolute last minute. Wheels are not removed to fully check the brakes, and oil change intervals are extended past all reasonable expectations. All this leads to problems further down the line. Problems you will encounter once the vehicle is well out of warranty!
We think that the ‘old’ ways are still the best when it comes to servicing your car, van or truck. Following the sequence; interim service, Full Service, Interim Service, Full Service ….. and every 30,000 ish miles substitute a Full Service for a Major Service, to include items such as replacing long life spark plugs.
The mileage between services is also another area we think has changed for the worse, again driven by the pressure to reduce running costs. We think that considering all the problems an engine has to deal with, the oil should be replaced at least once a year, or at 10,000 miles, which ever comes first. It’s not unusual for manufactures to specify huge mileages between oil changes, 20,000+ miles is not uncommon! They’ll tell you, of course, that the engine is designed for it, and the oil can take it, which would be fine in a perfect world. But the world we live in and the strain we put our engines under, are far from perfect. This is a can of worms to discuss, and I’ll save it for another rant. But suffice to say, the oil that in theory could last 20,000 miles, was never designed to have the level of contamination in it that’s caused by today’s fuels and driving styles. For example, on a diesel engined vehicle it’s not uncommon for the oil dipstick to have 3 level notches on it (we used to have just two); a minimum level one, an oil fill maximum one, and an upper one to let you know when the oil has too much diesel fuel in it, which is caused by too many failed DPF regeneration attempts. Did you know that the oil in your engine could have 1 or 2 litres of diesel fuel in it by the time you change it? Do you think it’s good for your engine? Do you think your engine will last as long as it should do with all that contamination and diesel fuel in it? We don’t!
Let’s think about the costs of carrying out a Full Service.
The logic behind this is simple, time costs! Next time someone tells you they can do a Full Service for only £99, ask them how much their hourly rate is. Because, to do a Full Service on most vehicles takes a minimum of 2 hours to complete. The numbers just don’t add up! Unless, of course, they are are working for free, which they are not. In the UK the national average hourly labour rate in a garage is £67 per hour, that’s already £134, without any replacement parts or oil!
The days have long since gone when you could pop to Tesco and by a gallon of oil for your Ford Cortina for less than the cost of a sandwich. These days engine oil for a modern car engine could cost you the best part of £50 for a 5 litre jug, or more. Quality filters and other necessary parts for a Full Service could add a further £30 - £40+ to the bill. It’s even more if you are replacing spark plugs, some engines have 24 fitted at over £10 each! So, that’s another £240 on the bill.
Can you see a pattern forming?
As mentioned already, time costs money. Again, as a rule of thumb, an interim service will take around an hour to complete. A Full Service around two hours. A Major Service, at least 3 hours, but it could be more depending on those pesky spark plugs. Some engines have 24 spark plugs to change! The cost of replacing so many spark plugs can be prohibitive, and is often quoted for as an additional cost.
Doing The Job Properly
You have to wonder if those garages who are advertising that they can do a Full Service on your car for only £99 are doing the job properly. Are they cutting corners? Are you actually getting the job you asked for, and paid for, done?
To carry out a Full Service on the majority of vehicles takes at least two hours to do properly. It takes time to inspect the vehicle, to replace the oil, to check the brakes function as they should. It takes time to dig out the spare wheel from the boot and make sure the tyre condition and pressure is correct, and then refit it and make sure all your clutter is returned to the boot. It takes time to check the suspension components for wear and security. It takes time to make sure you are driving a safe and reliable vehicle.
Can you see a pattern forming?
The long and the short of it is this, to carry out a Full Service takes time, and when you add on the oil and parts needed to do the job properly it’s going to cost you at least £220. Don’t forget to add the VAT. I’d be willing to put money on it, that in reality that £99 Full Service is only an Interim Service at best. Therefore, your vehicle is left severely lacking in routine maintenance. An un-serviced vehicle will always be more unreliable, as well as costing you more in the long run due to mechanical failures. Failures that could have been avoided by following a comprehensive maintenance schedule.
And, to add insult to injury, if you believe the advertising and go for the ‘£99 deal’ you’ll likely fall victim to a massive up-sell and end up paying way more than you ever expected.
It always pays dividends to form a relationship with a garage like Liphook Auto Services who’ll give you up front honest pricing, you’ll get the job done right, and you won’t end up with a repair bill you need to speak to your bank manager about! As members of the Good Garage Scheme, we also follow their ‘Industry Standard Service Plan’ which ensures consistency across all Good Garage Scheme members, and gives the customer the confidence that their vehicle has been serviced to the highest standard.