21 Jun 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

New year, same vehicle faults

I should begin by explaining what I am doing with my time currently, I need to go back to the beast of the past;  COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, I was traveling through Australia delivering various training programmes to some incredible independent vehicle repairers.
Then Coronavirus came, and I barely escaped the total lockdown there, which lasted beyond two years, by a handful of days. I will not make that mistake again. This left me without any training events for over two years. Many of the leading trainers took to delivering online training programmes with remarkable success, however this was not my style, as I prefer being face-to-face with hands-on delivery

Mentor and advise
Three years on, in defacto semi-retirement and enjoying less technical challenges, David asked me to mentor and advise at Eldon Street Garage, the third garage acquisition in the ADS Group.
I should begin by explaining the profile of the business and how it differs from ADS. This is  a local business founded around 1980 with a loyal and regular clientele. The vehicle parc reflects what I call utility owners, relying on vehicular transport with may I say limited value. That said they are prepared to invest, when and where necessary, in maintenance and repairs. Recent media reports identified that many PCP owners are struggling to meet payments, therefore repairs and maintenance are taking a back seat. Older vehicles are currently enjoying a premium value.
The business provides a wide range of services; MOTs servicing, repairs, tyres, and limited diagnostics. The service bay has four ramps, four techs, with a separate tyre and MOT workshop. They are well equipped for general service and repairs, with diagnostics relying on Topdon, Snap-on, serial tools and me. Their work ethic is exceptional, and they provide excellent quality of workmanship, with evolving organisational discipline. So, I began my duties very much at the coalface, reviewing the tool inventory, and general workshop efficiency. Like many similar garages, they had been acquiring tools over 40 years, so my first task was filling the scrap bin until I was faced with a veritable mountain. I must say that 40 years of grime did not part company with its environment easily; Endeavour always prevails especially when the brush is in my hand.

Updated technical work ethic
My next task involved advising, training, and developing an updated technical work ethic. The average vehicle age is between 8-15 years. My first shock was experiencing the appalling state of previous repairs. I had assumed that the dark ages of vehicle repair had passed us by with the advent of technology. Sadly, this is not so; It has just found new depths of incompetence to dive.
I would like to take this opportunity in debating recent events in the workshop which I believe are related to an article in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday 10 December. The focus was the demise of diesel vehicle sales and their potential value in the current climate.
Reflecting on the fuel price differential around £1.60 petrol, £1.84 diesel together with media disapproval internal combustion engine vehicles, sales have fallen by 17.6% in the last 12-month period. Coupled with my earlier comments on PCP ownership problems, manufacturers and dealerships are I believe conducting covert policies forcing premature vehicle scrappage. Let me explain my thoughts and reasons. Example one; Vauxhall Antara CDTI 2012, requiring both lower turbo intercooler hoses, cost from the dealerships £524.00. Please refer to Fig. 1. Example two; Vauxhall Corsa diesel 2013 with a badly blocked DPF. My initial intention was to provide a new genuine DPF, cost via the dealership circa £3,000! This is not a miss-print, this was the actual quote given. Please refer to Fig.2. This was a simple close-coupled DPF. My assumption, like many other recent price hikes, leads me to suspect a determined intent to force older vehicle owners to scrap in favour of new replacements. Please contact Aftermarket with your experiences and raise debate on this vital issue for the aftermarket.

Recent repairs
To continue I would like to share some of my recent repairs which involved a Volkswagen Golf mk5 fuse box. Please refer to Fig.3. The owner of this vehicle was experiencing fuse overload when using the hvac blower motor. Some bright spark determined the solution was a bigger rated fuse. The additional current won the battle with the fuse panel insert as the image shows. My task was to integrate the front panel fuse holder with the wiring matrix whilst in situ. Not an easy task. Please refer to Fig.4.
Another memorable vehicle presented to us following previous repairs from the dark side of the universe was a Land Rover Freelander. Several previous repairs included a new handbrake cable. Note that it has been run from the lever then left tie-wrapped to the original without connection with the brake calliper.The same vehicle had an ABS MIL lamp error suggesting a wheel sensor fault, observing the wiring showed the appalling state of previous repair attempts.
Finally, the same vehicle had repairs to the hydraulic brake hoses, apart from questionable routing length note the steel bracket without the correct support restraints. These experiences remind me that we still have a long way to go if we are to gain professional recognition as an industry. I place the blame and responsibility firmly on all the various industry organisations in their failure to implement mandatory professional qualifications and standards. I have worked within this industry for 55 years and think the time for excuses has long passed.