Drivers’ safety could be put at risk by unscrupulous garages cutting corners on vehicle maintenance, according to industry experts.
Common faults with a car’s brakes could be going unnoticed because some lazy mechanics are skipping the “wheel-off” portion of servicing, leading to potential danger signs being missed.
And other expensive issues could arise because not all maintenance is carried out correctly.
Duncan McClure Fisher, founder of warranty, breakdown and servicing group MotorEasy, warned some garages are conducting a brief “through the wheel” check on the condition of vital parts, rather than a full inspection.
He said: “A proper service will involve the garage technician taking all of the wheels off your car in order to check the condition of your brakes.
“And yet many garages don’t bother, and instead simply peek through the gaps in your alloys or rely on the last MOT brake test.
“Loose or broken pads cannot be seen with the wheel on. We’ve even seen a car pass its MOT despite having this problem as the engineer didn’t check properly.
“And brakes can’t be measured, to see how much life there is left in them, with the wheels on. That’s not ideal if you’re doing high mileage.”
Check what you’re paying for
Mr McClure Fisher also warned that skipping other jobs could leave owners with bills running into thousands of pounds further down the line.
He recommends car owners scrutinise the garage job sheet to check what’s covered by a service and advises that many garages have a viewing area where you can watch the process if you’re concerned jobs might be missed.
Read more: The secrets of a car service manager
He added: “We know there’s a huge problem with car servicing in the UK because we’re the ones who pick up the pieces when things go wrong.
“Very often a car’s owner has made every effort to keep their vehicle in the best possible shape, having it serviced regularly and keeping up with the maintenance.
“But unless that service actually involves all the jobs that need doing, and is conducted precisely to the manufacturer’s guidelines, then you’re going to have a problem.
“When you book a service, find out precisely what it entails before you agree to it so you’re not caught short – they should be able to give you a job sheet.”
Servicing fails that could leave you out of pocket
Cambelt tensioner and water pump (potential cost: £3,000 – £20,000 for engine replacement)
Mr McClure Fisher says: “Your cambelt is part of the system that synchronises the rotation of the engine, opening and closing valves at the proper times. If it’s not working correctly, the engine falls out of synch and can disintegrate. If you don’t change the belt at the right interval, it can snap, writing the engine off in the process. Most people are aware of this and make sure the belt is changed. But if you change the belt – and not the tensioners and pumps associated with it – they can seize, tearing the new belt and obliterating the engine! Cambelt tensioner and water pump replacement typically costs between £300 and £800 on top of a normal service.”
Oil filters and oil (potential cost: £3,000 – £20,000 engine failure)
“This is the most important part of any service, and should be done annually. Changing the oil is pointless unless the oil filter is replaced too. Old oil will lose its viscosity, causing engine components to wear prematurely.”
Gearbox and differential oil (potential cost: £3,000 – £6,000 to repair)
“Just like your engine, your gearbox and differential – the component that drives the shafts that spin your wheels – also need regular oil changes. And yet these vital changes are often missed from bog-standard services. Check for your car’s guidelines on when to change the oil, and make sure it gets done – as it only costs from £200 extra on a typical service and won’t need to be done each year.”
Fuel filter (potential cost: £1,000 – £4,000 to repair)
“The fuel filter is not an expensive part to replace (around £200) and should be done in accordance with your manufacturer’s service requirements. But again, it often gets overlooked. As the name suggests, the fuel filter removes any debris that’s lurking in your fuel tank and stops it getting into the engine. This debris can cause damage to the high pressure pump and injectors, leading to an almighty repair bill and lots of inconvenience for the poor owner.”
Clean brake calipers (potential cost: £1,000 and safety risk)
“Like most things on your vehicle, keeping things clean and free from corrosion can really increase the part’s longevity. And this is key with your brake calipers – the things that squeeze your brake disc when you press the pedal, forcing the wheels to slow down. Neglect them and they’ll get dirty and corroded. And they’ll stop working correctly – which is the last thing you want on Britain’s hazardous roads. Calipers should be cleaned with a scrub brush and brake fluid to get rid of excess grease and dirt. When you consider than some calipers cost around £1,000 to replace, you could save yourself a small fortune.”