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Car Care: Don’t pay for extras you don’t need
By Jack Biddle • 06/03/2016
I get a little frustrated at some service outlets who offer their customers a variety of choices when it comes to routine servicing.
Option one is normally the basic service, while options two and three usually involve more in-depth checking, using more parts and, therefore, the total costs are higher.
It all seems fairly straightforward. In theory the customers get what they pay for, but from what I have observed at times, they can be in danger of paying for parts and labour they don’t actually need.
The end game for many workshops is to up-sell to the more expensive service and many customers simply shrug their shoulders and give the go-ahead because they don’t know any better. They rely on the service provider to give recommendations that are in their best interests as far as ongoing vehicle reliability is concerned.
But it doesn’t always work out that way.
My argument is this: if a customer pays for the “works” then the next service should be a little more basic, provided the vehicle is returned to the workshop within the recommended timeframe and distance.
Spark plugs, fuel and air filters for example, should last a little longer than the next six- or 12-month service, meaning there should be less upselling unless something unforeseen is noted during the service.
For some of the well-organised service outlets, there is little need for an options board. They rely on a customer’s past history to work out an estimate for future servicing.
I have no problems with a more in-depth and costly service when a customer is a first-timer to a particular outlet, but after that, the ongoing needs should be a lot more personalised to the vehicle.
I remember getting into a heated debate once with an outlet that specialised in routine servicing, which had charged a customer for a power steering system flush and fluid change.
It was a job that not even the manufacturer felt was necessary at any time during the routine servicing schedule, but it seemed this outfit knew better. And they knew how to charge.
The discussion got a little more strained when I asked how they actually went about tackling such a job, bearing in mind there was a steering rack, pump, hoses, pipes and a reservoir full of fluid that needed to be flushed before the new fluid was added.
I never did get the real answer but I suspect the reservoir only was drained and then topped up with new fluid. In my view, it was simply a revenue-gathering exercise that provided no customer or vehicle benefits.
Though many owners consider the franchise dealers’ costs excessive and a valid reason to gravitate toward other options once a vehicle is out of its new car warranty programme, those costs are often because of higher labour rates only. At times, owners would be wise to try to stick to the manufacturer’s routine service recommendations and not be talked into other work that may not be entirely necessary.
For example, there are more and more vehicles on our roads that don’t require routine coolant system flushes for 10 years and up to 200,000km while the same but different can apply to automatic transmissions and fuel filters. Even the good, old-fashioned spark plug will keep on giving for a lot longer these days.
The bottom line is: don’t become an easy target for those looking to make a quick buck.