Car servicing centres guide

Think you'll get a better service from the dealer's service centre? Think again.
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  • Updated:30 Apr 2008

07.Get a better service

There are steps you can take to help avoid being ripped off or getting an unpleasant surprise. Before taking your car to be serviced, make sure you do the following:

  • Do some basic checks yourself. For example, tyres usually have tread wear indicators showing the minimum legal tread. If you know where the dipstick is you can check the level and condition of your oil. And anyone (with the help of a friend) can check whether the lights are working.
  • When you’re looking for a mechanic, ask friends for recommendations.
  • When getting a routine service, make sure the mechanic will ask for your OK if the car requires repair that’s above the normal requirements and exceeds the quote by more than, say, 10 percent.
  • Ask for an explanation of the pros and cons of different brands of spare parts, especially if they’re not from the original brand of the car.
  • If you’re expecting major repairs, or if you’re not convinced a quoted item really needs attention, get several quotes.
  • Ask for an itemised bill that gives details of hours, hourly rates, parts required, part prices, etc.
  • Check all the repairs you’re being billed for have been carried out. For example, if an engine oil change was done, check the new oil is translucent and honey-coloured. If parts have been replaced, ask to see the old ones (which admittedly may not be very helpful if you don’t know your starter motor from your distributor ... ) and, if feasible, check where new parts have been installed.
  • If you’re unhappy with any part of the service you’ve received, discuss it with the workshop manager or owner. If you can’t resolve the problem, put your complaint to the management in writing. If there’s still no agreement, you can write to your state’s or territory’s fair trading or consumer affairs department.

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