Car Service Nightmares
The thought of taking my car in to be serviced hangs over me throughout the whole year. It’s worse than going to the dentist. And now, as a bizarre result of the fates conspiring against me, my car service is due in December just two weeks before Christmas.
I have it booked in now and every morning I wake up and then the realisation of my impending doom hits me.
I recall the various humiliations that I have suffered at the hands of the Service Desk Manager. He sees me making my way across the car park heading towards my impending doom. How many hours have I sat in the Service Department reception waiting for the car to be ready? Every time an engineer comes out with a key all the poor customers waiting spring to attention hoping against hope that it is their car. Some ‘lucky’ person is summoned to the desk and presented with a sheaf of papers. The Service Desk Manager then leans across the desk and points out a few items with the end of his pen. Needs new brake pads, we replaced the pollen filter, we had to replace the wiper blades, next time you’re looking at least two new tyres.
I have a good reason for my phobia of the Service Department. I once took my car in for a routine service and MOT. It was about 5 years old and I drive on average 3000 miles a year. The car passed the MOT and the service was completed without issue and I paid, drove it home and breathed a sigh of relief. That experience was over for another year. Or was it? The next day I noticed a small pool of fluid under the front of the car. I dismissed this; maybe it had rained. The next day there was more fluid. I rang the service department. They said I could book it in and they would investigate the problem. At this point I explained that the car had been fine when I took it in for a service; it had been returned to me with this problem and I was not going to pay for them to correct damage that had been caused during the service.
I took it in. They took the keys from me with a sardonic look. The car was whisked into the garage. I sat down on the Reception sofa and waited. And waited. Eventually an engineer summoned the Service Desk Manager into the back office. They had a discussion and kept glancing up at me through the window. The Service Desk Manager came back to Reception, holding my car key. He called me over. He cleared his throat. ‘No trace of a leak’ he announced. He glanced around at the other customers so they too could regard me with ridicule. His voice, dripping with sarcasm, ‘Our engineers examined the car and there is nothing wrong with it.’ I explained that it was leaking. He explained that it wasn’t. I took the keys and drove off in my car.
Next morning, another pool of fluid under the car. I left it a few days, then, (yes, I’m ashamed I had to do this) I acquired a man to take to the garage with me. For ease of identification, let’s call this man Dave*. Dave was a big imposing looking man. We went into the Service Reception and I explained the situation. The Service Desk Manager rolled his eyes at Dave. Dave remained impassive. The Service Desk Manager took the keys from me and disappeared into the back room. We took a seat. We waited a long time. Eventually an engineer came into Reception and conferred with the Service Desk Manager. The Service Desk Manager called us over and told me the engineer would explain things to me in person. The engineer grinned at me. He handed the keys to me and then explained to Dave that there was nothing wrong with the car. It had no leaks. He gave him a conspiratorial nod of the head. To my display Dave agreed with him that perhaps I was imagining it! Dave – you let me down totally.
I took the car home. It was still leaking. Maybe a week passed and I took the car back. An engineer met me in Reception. I told him that the car was leaking fluid. I could put my hand under the car along the front axle area by the off side wheel and feel the leak. He said they would put the car over the pit and then I could show them where it was leaking. After a few minutes I was summoned into the workshop. It was huge with cars everywhere and lots of men in overalls stood and watched me as I picked my way gingerly through the piles of tyres and machinery and was ushered into the pit under the car. I pointed to the leak. I wiped my hand along the axle and showed the engineer the orange tinged fluid. Oh, the engineer said, oh yes, leave the car with us. No explanation of why they had missed this before.
Later that day, they rang me at work and explained that that the chief engineer had now looked at the car. It needed a new gear box and it would cost me £800. No, I said it won’t cost me £800 as the car was fine when I took it in for the service, they had passed it as fine and they must have damaged the gear box. No, they said, it was nothing to do with the service. They didn’t actually have an explanation for the fact that, if it had needed a new gear box before the service, they had failed to diagnose this. I had a massive row on the phone. That evening I went to collect my car and they handed me a quote and said I would need to book the car in as soon as possible as the fluid it was leaking was definitely from the gear box.
I was furious on so many levels as the car I took in for a service had been fine, as they had then told me it wasn’t leaking and subjected me to ridicule, and actually made me go down the pit to point out a leak that none of their engineers could see and now they were going to charge me £800 to fix it. (Have I explained to you that this was a large dealership? It wasn’t just a small independent garage.)
Co-incidentally, my cousin came around to visit later that week. He is an industrial chemist. I told him the whole story and he said he would take some of the fluid away to test. (I now kept a tray under the car to collect the drips.) He phoned me with the result. The fluid was water, It wasn’t gear box fluid. It was distilled water.
I phoned the garage and told them that the fluid was water. They asked me to bring the car back in. At the end of that day, they told me they had replaced the ‘core plug’ which must have been knocked out during the service and had caused the water leak.
So, what about the new gear box? Oh, this had been another mistake. Turned out, there was nothing wrong with the gear box. So, what if, I had paid £800 to have the gear box replaced? Well, if I wanted to take it further I would have to speak to the manager who wasn’t there. I was livid. I wrote a letter of complaint to the dealership manager. I wrote to tell him how disgusted I was with their engineers and the way I had been treated. I never got a reply. I never got an apology. This was over ten years ago; if it were today and if I were a different type of person I expect I could have complained to a consumer programme or expressed my disgust on social media, but I was just left with a complete distrust of the car repair industry as a whole.
This is why I hate having my car serviced!
*Not his real name.
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© Michelle Le Grand