A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Hooptedoodle #229 – Donkey Award – Main Dealer Auto Servicing

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.  


  1. Bas'tard's!!
    And for gods sake, keep up the rants....its great to know there are like minded chaps out there and its not just me!

  2. Bloody dealerships. The whole warranty thing is a giant scam. Luckily here in Australia, things may be different in the Old World, they cannot enforce the requirement. As long the mechanic is licensed and the work is entered in the log book you're fine. We have old-fashioned concepts like consumer rights in law, but these may soon be disposed of in the name of agile innovation.
    PS I'm with Ray ... don't go changing. I came for the wargaming and stayed for the ranting.

  3. I'm with Ray and Steve - your rants can have me snuffling in my coffee at times... a long time ago, someone clearly cleverer than me told me to never buy a new car - always buy them 3 years old (major depreciation done with) and always insist the garage does the first service/MOT as part of the deal... works for me...

  4. I enjoy your rants Tony, I'm usually in total agreement. This one hit a nerve, the one and only brand new car I bought was a Citroen Picasso, fine for three years then suddenly on it's first MOT I got a bill for no less than £700!! The guy said to me (Citroen Main dealer) " you had better sit down" ... I nearly fu**ing fell down. That car had done only 18.000 miles, what a load of boll**ks. It still makes me mad to this day. My current car is a good old Ford Mondeo Ghia, it's done 137.000 miles now, been cheaply serviced every year and flies through it's MOT's ..... I'll never buy another new car. Grrrr! Good old Howard I say.

  5. I must echo the comments of the others - please continue to rant whenever you feel the occasion requires. We feel your observations on garages, banks, utility providers, etc, are speaking for all of us.

  6. Only ever had one new car for the simple reason that, as soon as you put the key in the ignition, the value drops through the floor. So, 12 to 24 month old vehicles for me - easy round here as we're falling over dealerships. Consequently, main dealer servicing is wuite spasmodic and, aside from a period when I was my own mechanic, we otherwise always use 'Ian at Car Trouble'.

    Being somewhat less than fanatical (interested?) about cars - Dad was a chauffeur and 'lived' cars - I've tended to stick to VW or Vauxhall and their warranty servicing has always been pretty damn good, thank God (another advantage of having oodles of dealerships). I couldn't give a monkey's about emissions (nocturnal or otherwise) - nuke the whales, that's me. Ergo, I've always been lucky with vehicle maintenance once I'd climbed the greasy pole to the level where I could afford to pay someone to do it for me.

    Over the years, a couple of former colleagues were Mitsubishi fans and swore by them, so I'm inclined to think you've got a bit of an anus as a main dealer there, in case you haven't noticed already.

    Rants? Rubbish, they've all been justified and generally pretty civilised considering. Let fly; it's your blog and my amusement!

  7. As with the others before me, I say, "Rant on!" I rather enjoy these posts, myself.

  8. Well, gentlemen, I am deeply touched - thank you for your support - I shall always wear it. I am aware that I tend to go on a bit at times, but the rants are primarily intended to be entertaining - they help me to diffuse situations which I find stressful by mocking them or making them ridiculous, though, deep down, the jokes are mostly at my own expense. The central point about the Donkey Awards is that normally the donkey is me or some other mug.

    I write the blog, as everyone else does, mostly for my own amusement, because I learn a lot from other people's suggestions and ideas, and because - in a practical sense - I find it helpful to sort out my own thoughts if I submit them to the linear discipline of being written out. As I've said before, it always pleases - and surprises - me that anyone else reads the blog, and I appreciate that - thus I have to watch that I don't just piss people off by constantly banging on about yet another crank theme.

    Musaeus is noted as a bit of a perfectionist [sic], but he does have a point - I shall try to keep the balance appropriate to the medium and the editorial stance. Mind you, Sod's Law dictates that a succession of irritations may well crop up when I haven't got much wargaming stuff going on.

    Basically (like), I think that if something is sufficiently bloody awful (or good, for that matter), then we should say so, though I shall attempt to keep things light and fluffy...