Garages are taking customers for a ride Nearly 90% miss faults in our mystery shopper test

23 August 2010

Car garage servicing

Almost 90% of the garages we investigated missed easy-to-spot faults

There are shocking levels of incompetence in UK car garages, despite the introduction of several codes of conduct, according to an undercover Which? investigation.

Nearly 90% of the garages we investigated missed (or ignored) at least one potentially dangerous fault, while almost 40% charged for a product that wasn’t supplied.

Missed faults

Which? introduced four deliberate, easily fixed faults that any competent mechanic should spot – 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, while five failed to fix any of the introduced 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.

We also filled up the screenwash as an honesty test to see how many garages charged for it anyway - 39% did so. Amounts charged were small, between 68p and £2.41, but we think billing for products that aren’t supplied shows inexcusable dishonesty.

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Poor servicing standards

Poor servicing standards in this industry aren't new, but there are now several codes of practice that aim to raise standards and boost consumer confidence. While Which? applauds such codes in theory, they’re failing to deliver in practice.

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 worse than the 43% achieved by independent (non-code) garages.

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Codes don't go far enough

Which? is calling for all codes of conduct to include robust mystery shopping and we'd like to see a recognised, industry-wide qualification introduced for all mechanics.

Peter Vicary-Smith, Chief Executive, Which?, says: '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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