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Garages taking customers for a ride

23rd August 2010

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Those joking stereotypes of dodgy mechanics taking their customers for a ride whilst doing a substandard job are worryingly close to reality.

An undercover investigation by Which? found 'shocking levels of incompetence' in UK car garages despite the introduction of several new codes of conduct.

Shockingly nearly 90% of the garages investigated missed (or chose to ignore) at least one potentially dangerous fault. 39% even charged for a product that wasn't even supplied.

The consumer watchdog left four deliberate, easily fixed faults deflated spare and nearside rear tyres, brake fluid at the minimum level and a blown bulb on the reversing light. Just eight of the 62 garages tested returned the cars fault-free; five garages failed to fix any of the faults.

  • 48% of garages didn't spot that the brake fluid was at the minimum level.

  • 68% didn't inflate the nearly flat spare tyre.

  • 57% missed the blown reversing light bulb.

  • 21% didn't notice the low pressure in the nearside rear tyre.
They also introduced a 'honesty test', filling up the screenwash to see how many garages charged for it anyway. 39% charged for filling this up. The amounts charged were small, ranging from 68p to £2.41, but Which? thinks the practice of billing for a product that wasn't supplied shows inexcusable dishonesty.

Garages affiliated to the Bosch Car Service scheme scored highest, fixing 64% of introduced faults. Motor Codes garages came a close second with 60% of faults fixed. But it's bad news for the ironically named Good Garage Scheme; its score of 39% is actually worse than the 43% achieved by independent (non-code) garages.

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive, Which?, said, "This is a worrying snapshot of an industry that desperately needs to clean up its act. Almost all the garages in our investigation failed to fix basic faults. This could have endangered the lives of drivers and other road users and is simply not acceptable.

"The fact that the Bosch and Motor Codes schemes have out-performed independent garages is encouraging, but there's still a long way to go for the industry to win the confidence of car owners."

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