After receiving some justifiable criticism from Musaeus, I am cutting down the number of rants on this blog. Today, however, I am pretty mad, so please regard what follows as a kind of helpful public information service, rather than just a mindless stream of bile.
I own a Mitsubishi ASX – I have had it now for 3-and-a-half years. It is an ideal vehicle for me – economical to run, well engineered and built, and provides optional 4WD for the bad weather (we can get a bit stranded at times in the Winter). I bought it new from our nearest dealership (which is some 40 miles from here), not least because they offered me an attractive trade-in price on my old Mitsu pick-up. When I bought it, one of the add-on lollipops was a cheap, pay-up-front offer on regular servicing - £200 on the purchase price secured me free annual services for 3 years. Since the warranty more or less cements you into main-dealer servicing for 3 years anyway, it seemed a reasonable deal, so I went for it.
The car does not do much of a mileage – my wife has her own car, and I also run a van, so the ASX has done about 23,000 miles from new, in three and a half years. Last week we drove in it down to Cheshire and North Wales, and by the time we got back on Friday there was something decidedly odd about the brakes. So yesterday I handed the vehicle over to the garage in our village, with whom I have had a long and positive relationship, and they fixed it and reported back. I have not yet seen their bill, so I may be even madder in a few days.
Now, our local garageman is a decent fellow – he is aware that if he cheats his regular customers in an area of low population then he will soon have no customers. Since everyone in the county knows or is related to just about everyone else, you can be pretty sure that word will get around. As a local builder once told me, if I do a good job for you, you might just tell someone, but if I do a bad job you’ll tell everyone – it’s a different world in the country, brothers. Howard the Local Garage Man is also professional enough to avoid criticising the competition, since such an activity simply gives the entire motor trade a bad rep. However, on this occasion he told me a few things which cast a dark shadow on the special main-dealer service deals which come with new cars.
The third and final pre-paid service on my car was carried out by the dealer at the end of January, at which time it also passed what is known for historic reasons in this country as the MOT test (a mechanical and safety check which is required annually for vehicles 3 years old or older). Since that January service it has travelled about 2,500 miles – not a lot. According to Howard, my car returned from Wales with its front brake disks rusted and pitted, the pads wrecked, and the rear brakes seized solid with rubbish and corrosion. There was no evidence of any lubrication being carried out on the braking system at any time since the vehicle was new; Howard was also astonished that the car could have passed inspection at the January MOT, given the state that the brakes must have been in 2,500 miles ago, but then the dealer carried out the test. Hmmm.
Anyway, it is now fixed, and I shall enjoy driving in comfort and improved safety, and I shall grit my teeth and pay Howard’s bill as part of what is required to keep my personal transport on the road – convenience has its cost. The bit that really grates (apart from the pitted brake disks) is the almost complete worthlessness of the cheap servicing package on a new car. The factory warranty forces the customer to return it to the dealer for maintenance anyway, an effect which is exacerbated by the inevitable series of peculiar safety recalls – “next time you return the vehicle for servicing, your dealer will carry out a necessary, free safety check on the bolts in the bonnet hinges – etc.” (this was a Renault example, but it will serve). In short, they have you by the dangly bits.
During the first three years of a car’s life – especially for a low-mileage vehicle such as mine – the servicing is likely to be cheap and routine. Any exceptions to this are likely to be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, so I appear to have had three oil changes, fluid level checks and maybe the odd new filter for my £200. Oh, and maybe the lad gave it a wash with the power jet. At the end of my first 23,000 miles with the car, it seems the brakes may have been untouched and in an unsafe state.
Not great is it? Now that the warranty period is over, I shall be very pleased to go back to getting all my servicing done locally – Howard has never let me down.