Category Archives: Customer Experience

What to do when… Your motor needs an MOT

The MOT is a mandatory annual requirement for vehicles in the UK – but how do you go about organising yours, and how does it benefit your vehicle?

 

If you’re feeling a little bit lost when it comes to the process, Trust My Garage has put together some top tips and advice on how to ensure you’re meeting the legal requirements and giving your motor some TLC at the same time.

 

While this information is currently up to date, the MOT test will change on 20th May 2018. Some new things will be included, defects will be categorised differently, there will be stricter rules for car emissions and diesel vehicles, and some vehicles over 40 years old won’t need an MOT. Look out for our blog post detailing the changes coming soon.

 

How do I know when my MOT is due?

Your car must undertake its first MOT three years after its first registration, and then every year after that. If you need to know when your MOT is due, you can sign up to the new .GOV MOT reminder service. This will provide you with a reminder one month before your MOT is due. You’ll get another reminder if you still haven’t had your vehicle tested 2 weeks before your MOT is due.

 

Ok, I know when my MOT needs to be completed – now what?

You can take your vehicle to any registered MOT testing station that provides tests on your class of vehicle. If you have a car, this will be Classes 4 & 7 and for motorcycles it’s Classes 1 & 2. MOT stations should have a sign outside that looks like this:

250px-MOT_Approved_Test_station_symbol

This sign shows that the station has been approved by the DVSA as fit to carry out MOT tests, and you will be able to take your vehicle there to have the test completed.

 

How do I find an MOT Testing Station near me?

With over 22,000 MOT Stations operating in Great Britain, there’s plenty of choice to be had! If you’re looking for a trusted independent garage near to you, most Trust My Garage members are approved MOT stations. You can use TMG’s handy Find a Garage map to locate a garage that adheres to a Chartered Trading Standards (CTSI)-approved code of conduct. The Trust My Garage shield acts as a badge of quality for the independent garage sector, and demonstrates the commitment our garages follow to provide the highest levels of workmanship and customer service.

 

So, I’ve had my vehicle MOT’ed, but how does it help?

The MOT covers many aspects of vehicle safety and roadworthiness, as well as conducting compulsory exhaust emissions tests. At the end of the test, you will receive a certificate proving your vehicle has passed or details on why your vehicle has failed, as well as an advisory information provided by the qualified MOT Tester. Have a look at the photo below to see the areas covered in the test for cars:

car-mot-whats-included

For a more in-depth breakdown of all the parts of your car looked at during the MOT, you can have a look at the full government list here.

 

Right. I’ve had a service though, is that the same thing?

Simply put, no. The MOT does not cover the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox, which are the parts of your car that will be looked at during a service. A yearly service is also NOT mandatory, but is strongly recommended to help keep your vehicle in roadworthy condition. Many motorists opt to have their MOT and service conducted at the same time, as it means any issues can be detected and rectified in one appointment.

 

But my car looks fine, so why would it even need an MOT?

While it’s true that your car may look fine at a glance, when was the last time you checked the tread on your tyres? Do you know the proper depth it needs to be at to be road safe? Do you think your brakes are as responsive as when you first got your car? Are the electrics still safe and functioning properly? The MOT is designed to ensure your vehicle is as safe as possible when you drive it, and lets you know if there are any problems before they become a real danger to you and other road users.

 

Thanks! Remind me, where can I get my vehicle MOT’ed again?

No problem – you can take your vehicle to your nearest Trust My Garage member business. Whether it’s for an MOT, check-up, service or repair, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved code of conduct that our members use mean that you and you motor both get the best possible service. For more information you can visit www.TrustMyGarage.co.uk – and be sure to check out the Trust My Garage Facebook and Twitter pages too!

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Consumer-bought parts – Are they beneficial for motorists?

In recent years there has been more evidence of consumers bringing parts they’ve purchased themselves to a garage, and asking the garage to fit them. This shake-up of garage traditions may seem like a good idea, but is it actually helpful for motorists?

model car fix

Are consumer-bought parts actually beneficial for motorists?

What are consumer-bought parts?

A consumer-bought part is any part purchased directly from a supplier by a consumer instead of by a garage. In the case of most repairs, if a replacement part is needed for a vehicle the garage  will order and fit it as part of their service. However, it is now much easier for a customer to make a diagnosis of the issue with their vehicle, purchase a part, and then take it to a garage and ask them to fit it for only the cost of labour time.

 

Why have consumer-bought parts become popular recently?

Over the past few years the massive rise in online shopping has meant that more and more ‘direct supply’ companies have been set up for vehicle parts. These kinds of companies mean that a consumer can buy a part directly for their vehicle, instead of going through a garage and potentially paying a small charge for acquiring the part. This method essentially ‘cuts out the middle man’. 

model car jacked up

Garages will provide reliable, high-quality parts for any vehicle repairs

Is it a good idea?

Buying parts yourself might seem like a good idea on paper. However, if there is an issue with the part in the future what consumer rights do you have? Unlike parts bought and fitted directly by a garage, there may be warranty issues about the part installation, leaving you with a once again broken vehicle and no way to claim your money back. It also could be the case that the part is of inferior quality if not purchased from a proper supplier, which could in turn do even more damage to your car. In the worst cases, it may even be a counterfeit part. Garages will use suppliers they trust to provide them with quality parts in order to ensure the best possible work for their customers – that is, after all, how they get business!

merc engine

If you want to ensure your car is fitted with the correct part let the garage source the part and complete the repair

Do garages mind fitting consumer-bought parts?

It may be that if you take a part to a garage and ask them to fit it, they say no. While this might seem as if they’re turning away business for no reason it can often be down to the issues stated above. If a garage fits a part you’ve purchased at your request, and then the part breaks, where does the blame lie? The legal position is very clear, the garage is responsible for the work they do but any issues with the part will be your problem. However modern cars are complex and disputes regularly arise. Many consumers fault the garage’s fitting, but it could be the case of the part just not being up to the job. Remember, the main priority for a technician is to ensure your vehicle is safe and fit to drive – so if the part seems questionable, it’s acceptable for them to decline to fit the part.

 

Overall, we at Trust My Garage think that while consumer-bought parts may seem like a good idea it’s always best to let a garage do its job and make sure your vehicle is safe and working correctly. After all, would you take a steak into a restaurant and expect them to cook it for you?  If you need to get your car repaired, MOT’ed, serviced or even just checked over, you can you use our handy Find a Garage map to locate a reputable, Chartered Trading Standards (CTSI) approved independent garage near you – and remember, happy motoring!

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Which car maintenance tasks are becoming a thing of the past?

Vehicle technology is evolving at a rapid pace. Modern cars are more sophisticated, intelligent and responsive than ever. As a result, vehicle technicians who are a part of Trust My Garage have to continue to complete training courses and invest in the latest equipment in order to successfully service and maintain your car to the highest standards. But where does that leave you as the owner?

Cleevely010Decades ago if your car had a problem and money was tight you’d probably invest in a cheap manual and socket set, and patch over the cracks yourself. But with vehicles becoming more and more complicated, largely through having a lot more on-board technology, this isn’t an easy thing to do. Indeed, the AA recently stated that half of the 3.4 million call-outs it attends every year are caused by poor maintenance. Of course, there are still some basic maintenance tasks you can carry out yourself, such as checking fluid levels, tyres, mirrors, etc, but many of the maintenance tasks we performed ourselves a few decades ago have been consigned to the toolboxes of history. To illustrate how the modern vehicle is evolving, we look at a few of the maintenance tasks that have become a thing of the past.

Antifreeze

Hands up if you remember standing outside, wearing more layers than the Michelin man on a cold, frosty winter night, and pouring antifreeze into the car to ensure that the water in your engine was not frozen the next morning? These days are long gone now, because most cars manufactured post-1998 use organic acid technology – or OAT – which acts as an extended life coolant. OAT consists of different chemicals than traditional engine coolants, meaning that antifreeze only has to be replaced every six years or 600,000 miles, negating the need to check levels every single winter night.

Battery

Remember having to top up the water levels in your car battery? Vehicle batteries were not as sophisticated years ago as they are today, and had to have their water levels checked regularly to reduce the risk of them overheating. Drivers used to have remove the vent cap and look down into individual cells to check water levels, topping them up with distilled water when necessary.  For modern cars this is no longer necessary. Batteries are now sealed units and in most cases are maintenance free, meaning that any battery issues are best left to highly trained professionals, such as the vehicle technicians who are a part of Trust My Garage.

Engine protection

If you own a vintage car, or an electric lawnmower, there’s a chance you’ll  be purchasing non-alcohol fuel stabiliser, to protect replace the lead that’s no longer in the fuel and protect it from the ethanol that’s now in modern fuels.  However, if you own a modern car (and live nowhere near grass), you probably haven’t even heard of the stuff. That’s because vehicle engines are a lot more robust, durable and rust-free today than they used to be, brought about largely by the availability of new materials that can be used to manufacture engines. Engines today live a lot longer than they used to, and engine maintenance is always best left to a qualified expert.

 Keep on motoring

Ever wondered why, when driving down a country road on a hot summer day, there’s always someone taking their vintage car out for a drive? Not only does it look good, but it’s also an essential part of maintenance. Many years ago cars had to be driven regularly in order to keep them in tip-top condition. Of course, it still helps to use your car regularly now; keeping it dormant still runs down the battery a very low level as there are so many systems in the car that are “live” and protecting the car when switched off – even though they draw very small amounts of electrical current. But modern cars are more robust than their predecessors and do not require quite as much driving to stay in shape.

Confused by your motor?

tmgPut down that spanner, and get your car maintained in a professional manner. The best way to keep your car in tip top condition is by having it regularly serviced and maintained with your local Trust My Garage member. Our members can service all types of vehicle to the highest standard and can even advise you on some of the checks that you can still carry out yourself today.

And just like the motor vehicle, Trust My Garage has come a long way over the last few years. Today, we are the only truly independent code exclusively for independent garages. Want to find your nearest member? Enter your details in our postcode finder.

Boost your child car seat knowledge with Trust My Garage

baby seats in the car seat

When purchasing a car seat for your child or baby, ensuring you have the correct size can be something of a complicated process, especially in light of changing regulations. The rules around car seats are set to change over the next two to three years as a result of both UK and EU legislation. With this in mind, Trust My Garage take a closer look at everything you need to know in order to keep your child safe and to ensure you’re not breaking the law.

Booster seats

The current laws in place stipulates that a child travelling in a car must use a child car seat until the age of 12 years old or until they reach the height of 135 cm. Under new rules which are set to come into force later this year, backless booster seats are set to be restricted, resulting in them only to  be used for children who are taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kgs. The results have come about due to concerns regarding the safety of the booster seats, especially in regards to younger children. Experts are recommending that parents should instead high backed booster seats, as they provide a greater level of protection, guiding the seatbelt across a child’s body properly. In addition, tests have shown they offer a greater level of protection in the event of side on crashes in comparison to their backless counterparts. The new rules are expected to come into force by the end of the year, meaning the rules will be applied to all new products released from 2017.

Making it simpler

In addition to UK regulations in regards to booster seats, the EU has also announced the introduction of the the European standard i-Size car seats. The new seat plans were announced in 2013, with the aim of making the process of buying a car seat simpler and safer, with the changes in legislation set to come in force in the UK by 2018.

The i-Size seats are to be fitted into cars using a system referred to as Isofix, a system whereby metal bar connectors built into the chassis of the car are used to connect the child car seat, making the connection much more secure. Additional security is provided either a support leg which will be built into the seat or a top tether, which will ensure the car seat does not move forward in the event of an accident. All cars manufactured today will be Isofix equipped, however you should bear in mind that not every car comes with Isofix, it was first introduced in 1997 in the Volkswagen Golf IV and more widely introduced from 2004 onwards.

The other significant change we will see as a result of i-Size car seats, will be that the correct seat will be identified by a child’s height, rather than weight, making it much easier for parents to identify the right seat for their child.

The perfect fit

The importance of fitting a child seat correctly cannot be overstated, with worrying statistics from RoSPA revealing that an estimated two thirds of all child seats are fitted incorrectly. As such an important factor in keeping children safe on the road, parents need to get the right advice and support during their purchase and installation.

Currently legislation in the UK requires the following seats to be fitted:

From birth to fifteen months, with a height of 40 to 80 cm, a rear facing seat should be fitted, with a five point harness.

Aged fifteen months to four years, with a height of 80cm to 105cm, either a rear or forward facing seat can be installed, also with a five point harness.

Aged four plus and with a height of 105cm to 135cm, a forward facing seat with a three point seatbelt should be installed.

Once you have purchased your car seat, especially if this is your first one, it is recommended that you get it fitted by an expert. You can make an appointment with a qualified fitter at your store of purchase who will guide you through the process or alternatively, local council may sometimes run a car seat fitting clinic, so it’s always a good idea to contact your local council for more information and advice.

Booster seat for a car

For additional peace of mind, get to know your car seat really well, study the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and keep them somewhere safe, so you can refer to it should you need to switch the seat to a new vehicle.

When installing a seat for a baby, the ideal position should be in a rear facing position on the back seat, ideally in the middle rear.  Once a child is fifteen months old or they can hold their head up on their own, then this can be exchanged for a forward facing seat.

The car’s headrest should not cause interference with the seat when installed, allowing the seat to be flush against the back of the car. The head rest shouldn’t touch the seat and it shouldn’t stop the car seat touching the car fabric.

When the seat has been fitted it should firmly in place and should have minimal movement with plenty of resistance. Before setting off, ensure that the buckle is secure and locked into place, making sure the material part of the belt is touching the car seat frame.

Trust My Garage

If you need additional advice on support in regards to child seats and restraints to ensure you remain safe on the roads, your local Trust My Garage member will be more than happy to advise. Find your local trusted garage by entering your postcode into our search finder to locate your nearest member.

Or, by downloading the free Trust My Garage App, you can find services in your local area at the click of a button. Trust My Garage is the only government backed code solely for independent garages.

How do I ensure responsible driving on busy roads?

Latest figures from the Department for Transport has revealed that there are now more than 25.8 million cars on Britain’s roads, up from 25.2 million at the same time last year, meaning that five out of nine regions in England now have the equivalent of one car for every two people.  With car production at a high and the use of public transport declining by more than 60 percent in the last six years, the number of cars on our roads is likely to continue to grow.

With this in mind, how can you ensure you keep safe on the road? We’ve compiled the best advice to keep you and others safe when out driving.

Mind the gap

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the mantra “only fools break the two second rule”. Unfortunately, some drivers may need to repeat this a bit more often as research from the road safety charity Brake, has reported that around 14% of accidents happen as a result of tailgating and shunting. Keeping at least two seconds between you and the car in front during normal driving conditions and four seconds during bad weather, will give you sufficient time to brake if needed.

Know your limit

It may seem obvious advice to keep to the speed limit, but drivers not keeping within the limit is one of the biggest causes of accidents on the roads. Keeping to the limit is a requirement and keeping inside the target will reduce hazards and the need for heavy braking. Remember, British motorways have a maximum speed limit of 70 mph and you should only be in driving in the right lanes if you are overtaking vehicles on the left.

Timing is everything

One of the easiest things you can do to keep within the speed limit, is give yourself plenty of time for your journey. Planning ahead to make sure you have enough time, with a route plan will leave you much more relaxed, reducing your temptation to speed.

The child in a safety seat near to mother.Focus

The longer we do something the more it becomes second nature and this is just as true for driving. The benefits of being an experienced driver are obvious, however this experience has the potential to bring complacency. Before stepping into your car, make sure you are well rested, calm, alert and free from any other issues that may affect your attention.

Night driving

Driving at night is not ideal, but if you need to, there is plenty you can do to keep safe. If taking a long journey make sure you are well rested before you begin with your route planned in advance, with regular two hour breaks factored in. Don’t ignore the warning signs, if you still feel tired during your trip, find somewhere safe to stop as soon as you can. If you’re on a motorway, pull into your nearest service station – DO NOT stop on the hard shoulder and have a nap in your vehicle.

Parking

Driving responsibly doesn’t end when you stop driving, how you park can have consequences for both you and other drivers. Are you aware that UK motorists are involved in 1400 car park-prangs every day?[1] Keep your speed low when parking as this allows you greater control in a small space. Look in all directions including left, right and directly behind your vehicle as this is where a car could be backing out opposite from you and of course pedestrians could be there too!  If your car has any form of automated parking assistance – from  reversing sensors to a full blown auto parking mode remember that these are driver aids, not driver replacements!

Mirrors

Do you check your mirrors before every journey? Before setting off, make sure you check that your mirrors are in the correct position, so you can see around your vehicle. When driving you should also check them every time you change speed, or direction and before signalling

Time for a refresh

Once we’ve passed our test, unless it’s a requirement of your job, very few of us will have any additional assessments. As we become more experienced and more comfortable with driving we all have the potential to slip into bad habits. To curb this it’s a good idea to consider a refresher course every few years, ensuring you keep your knowledge and confidence up to speed.

Car maintenance

Being a responsible driver isn’t just about your behaviour and those around you. The health of your vehicle is also paramount. Beyond regular vehicle maintenance, there are various vehicle checks you can make to ensure your car is kept in good working order and reduce your risk of breakdown.  Weekly checks should become second nature, if you’re not quite sure what you should be checking, remember POWER: Petrol, Oil, Water, Electrics, Rubber.

Regular checks will help you spot any potential issues early, if you need any additional guidance, your local Trust My Garage member will be more than happy to help.

While regularly monitoring your vehicle is highly recommended it is no substitute for regular servicing from a trained professional. Trust My Garage technicians are highly skilled and will be able to spot any issues and provide you with clear advice on keeping your vehicle in top condition. To find your nearest Trust My Garage member, visit our website and simply enter your postcode into our garage finder.

You can also download the Trust My Garage app from any smartphone and it will instantly recognise your location before showing a number of trusted garages nearby. From the app, you can view garage feedback, view our educational videos and call one of our members directly to book a service, MOT, or recovery service.

[1] Accident Exchange, 2014 report

What Trust My Garage Code status means to you

It’s great news for consumers as Trust My Garage (TMG) has now been granted Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approval under the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS). This means that when you take your car to a Trust My Garage member, you will now benefit from additional protection beyond the standard consumer rights, giving you the added assurance of a professional service, and the knowledge that your TMG member has chosen to accept the provisions of the TMG Customer Charter which forms the basis of the scheme’s compliance with the CCAS criteria .

The CTSI aims to help consumer-facing businesses, both in the UK and abroad, maintain the highest standards, giving peace of mind and added protection to customers. Businesses wishing to apply for code approval status face a rigorous process, and approval is only granted to organisations that can firmly demonstrate a commitment to the highest level of customer service and protection, and which also have a commitment to continually improving service standards within their industry.

tmgThe TMG consumer code is now the only code in the UK exclusively open to independent garage businesses, with the aim being to raise stands within the independent sector and promote peace of mind to all customers. The code means that it will ensure a strong disciplinary framework designed to ensure garages maintain the high standards that Trust My Garage stands for. It will also support garages to ensure that motorists always get the very best service at independent garages displaying the Trust My Garage shield.

But what does it mean for you when you visit your local member?

  • In addition to knowing the technicians at your local Trust My Garage member will be regularly assessed for quality and professionalism, you now have the assurance that they will always have access to up-to-date technical information, facilities and equipment, meaning that you are guaranteed a professional, quality service every time you visit a garage displaying the Trust My Garage shield. TMG businesses comply with the highest standards set by the CTSI, the national body for trading standards professionals.
  • In the rare event that you might have a complaint regarding a Trust My Garage member, you now have additional protection beyond standard consumer rights, including a clear complaints procedure and access to the National Conciliation Service, TMG’s alternative dispute resolution provider.
  • When you take you vehicle to one of our members for a service or MOT, you can rest assured that you are dealing with a firm that is determined to deliver the highest levels of customer satisfaction.
  • Trust My Garage truly is the independent scheme for independent garages in the UK. We have no hidden agenda or commercial affiliation, which means we really do exist to ensure that independent garage standards are continuing to improve; we have no commercial influence.
  • There are now more TMG members than ever before. Since we became the only CTSI backed code exclusively for independent garages, we have experienced a significant increase in enquiries from garages wanting to join the scheme, but only those that meet our standards and conditions are becoming members., We now have over 2,800 members and this number is growing all the time, meaning that there really is a TMG member near you, wherever you are in the UK.

Sounds good doesn’t it? But how do you find your nearest Trust My Garage member and join thousands of motorists enjoying independent quality every day? Simply visit our garage finder on our website or download the Trust My Garage app. Enter your postcode and we’ll show you where your nearest members are.

You can download the Trust My Garage app from any smartphone and it will instantly recognise your location before showing a number of trusted garages nearby. From the app, you can view garage feedback, view our educational videos and call one of our members directly to book a service, MOT, or recovery service.

Our brand new video explains more about Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approval and what it means for you:

 

Blood, sweat, tears and cake as we prove there’s one of us near you

After an incredibly eventful four days full of blood, sweat, tears and cake, we are all still just about recovering from our Charity Challenge! It was hard work, challenging, emotionally draining, but most of all, it was absolutely fantastic to see so many of our members donating generously to a worthwhile cause, with automotive charity BEN receiving a whopping £8,500.

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For those of you who like gravy on your chips, look away now. We can officially announce that the winner of the challenge was … *drum roll please*… the Southern Softies! They just about edged their geographical rivals with 48 visits of members to 40, but it went right down to the wire as both teams went at it hammer and tongs to claim the much coveted winner’s place.

Logistical thinking and military precision were required as the two teams plotted their path to victory, there was just slightly more Southern strategy than Northern nous. The two sides can be massively proud of their immense efforts, and even though the Northern Numpties lost, they can sit safe in the knowledge that their bold efforts have helped raise such a fantastic amount.

The drive was a lot of fun for everyone involved and thanks to the garage finder on the Trust My Garage website both teams easily managed to navigate their way around the width and breadth of the country, visiting an impressive 88 Trust My Garage members in total. The reason that we used this method as a way of mapping the routes was to prove that wherever you are in the UK, there is a Trust My Garage member nearby who can help, and you can find them through our website.

All of the £8,500 raised from the Charity Drive will go to BEN. The charity has been helping those who have worked in the automotive industry, and their dependents, since 1905, providing invaluable financial, emotional and physical support.

On top of that, the two Volvos supplied to us by a vehicle recycling specialist were sold on after the event and added a further £396 to the total.

We’d like to express our gratitude to everyone who supported the charity drive and followed our Twitter and Facebook updates. Now you know that our online garage finder really does work and when we say there’s one of us near you, we really mean it!

For more information on the work that BEN does, head to their website, and check out some of the photos from the Charity Drive on our Facebook page.

To find your nearest Trust My Garage member, head here!

Owner of a new car? Then reap the benefits of independent maintenance!

Perhaps the most telling sign of our recovering economy is that 2013 saw the highest number of new car registrations since 2007, before the world was plunged into the doom and gloom of the global recession.

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Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers show that 2,264,737 new cars were registered in 2013, and December marked 22 months of consecutive growth, a statistic that’s unparalleled across Europe and makes the UK the second strongest automotive manufacturer, behind perennial manufacturing powerhouse Germany.

Motorists lucky enough to own a new car will want to make the most of the technology at their disposal, and that means receiving the best maintenance at the best price.

Independents vs franchised dealers

It’s a common misconception that having your new car serviced at an independent garage will void your warranty, and that you must go to a franchised dealer. This is absolutely not the case, and in fact under European Law, the Block Exemption Regulations give you the right to have your vehicle serviced, maintained and repaired at an independent garage of your choice, without invalidating your warranty. This is as long as the independent garage services the vehicle according to the manufacturer’s schedule using parts which are of “equivalent quality”, which all Trust My Garage members comply with.

So, what are the benefits of having your new car looked after by an independent garage? Well, the most obvious one is the cost saving you’ll enjoy. New cars don’t come cheap and it’s likely you’ll have invested a serious amount of money into yours, so why needlessly waste money going to a main dealer? The Independent Garage Association recently polled 2,000 of its members and the statistics are quite startling. The poll showed that the average labour cost is just over £40 for independent garages, whereas the same rate for main dealers is currently much higher.

It’s only natural to assume that the cost saving will mean a sacrifice in quality, right? Wrong! Members of Trust My Garage have access to the same level of technical information and parts as main dealers, and train their staff to the same levels too. There is no compromise on the quality of work you’ll receive at an independent garage, meaning you’ll receive both great service and fantastic value.

It’s also worth pointing out that you’ll have a far more positive experience at an independent garage, which are often family fun businesses, because they rely on your continued custom, and will go that extra mile to ensure you keep going back. Main dealers don’t rely so much on retained customers, and more often than not you’re just another statistic. Technicians at independent garages are well and truly part of the local community, they’ll shop at the same grocers at you and take their kids to the same school as yours. By choosing an independent garage you’re reinvesting money back into your local community, which can only be a good thing!

Don’t fall for the myth that states you need to have your vehicle serviced at a main dealer. By going to a local trusted independent garage you’ll not only receive a level of service that is at the very least is on a par, but you’ll also save yourself a lot of money at the same time, money that can go towards your next new car!

Visit the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest member. Each Trust My Garage member has all the skills and technical expertise required to give your vehicle a thorough service. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals, complying with a strictly code of practice. What more, all members of Trust My Garage are independent garages – local independent businesses which are part of the community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.

Five innovations in independent garages and how they benefit you

You might have noticed how independent garages have changed over the years. Gone are the days when your local garage was an oily institution with overalls strewn all over the place and trashy pictures on the walls. Independent garages of the 21st century are efficient businesses constantly striving to give their customers the very best experience and value.

Milton Keynes’ Quality Car Service  is a Trust My Garage member that has been operating as a family-run business for five years. The advances that Quality Car Service has made in that time are truly impressive, with a real strategic approach to the day-to-day running of the garage, ensuring they’re capable of dealing with any job, no matter how difficult it may be, and leaving their customers satisfied.

Owner Chris Gurney runs through the top five things that Quality Car Service, and many other independent garages, are doing and how they benefit you, the consumer.

Chris Gurney_Quality Car Service_headshot

1.        Web design

This enables us to be very reactive with online web offers etc. We also run our own online advertising campaign via Google AdWords and we measure the results, meaning we can be instantly reactive to online pricing and offers as we can tweak them and see immediate results. We record how each customer found out about us, whether it’s from a recommendation, repeat business, Google or Facebook and we can also see the return on investment for each of these areas of marketing. Our web designer also keeps Facebook and Twitter up to date, and we send out emails requesting feedback on the service they have received. We really do listen and take on board the feedback we receive, using it to improve our own services and quality of work. We employed our own full time web designer 14 months ago, however this role has evolved into an Online Marketer, a must for every independent garage.

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2.        Staff harmony

We have a morning meeting with all our staff where we address issues, share information on technical jobs from the day before, keep everyone updated on industry news and measure each person’s performance. We talk to our staff on a daily basis and ensure they are happy at work and take interest in their lives away from work. Each year we set the technicians standards and they have to attend a minimum of three training courses a year and all free training seminars that are available. If our staff are happy then that is definitely passed onto the customers – if you come in for a servicing and everyone looks fed up and miserable then the likelihood is you’re not going to come back!

3.        Staff training and incentives

Industry qualifications take priority and every technician has a minimum of NVQ2. We also give them the option of achieving NVQ3 which is paid for by the company and we align the pay accordingly to help drive them to achieve the qualification. We also let our staff choose which training courses interest them, whether it be electrical, diesel or manufacturer training. If you bring your car in then of course you want our mechanics to be as knowledgeable and qualified as possible. We understand that these days people simply don’t have time to know their cars inside out, that’s our job.

4.        The focus on customer service

There’s a lot to be said for a family run business and we are very hands on. We treat our customers how we would want to be treated in a garage and this attitude is infectious. Our staff have a real desire to look after our customers and they take complete ownership of this from the moment a customer enters the garage, throughout the day with regular contact and at the end of the day when it’s time to run through the work carried out and hand the vehicle back to the customer. Our full-time valetor takes real pride in his job – he knows how many service washes he has in a day and when he can he will upgrade the service wash to include a body wax. It’s a nice touch to show customers we really care. We review the percentage of repeat customers we see on a monthly basis and we strive constantly to grow this. If the figure goes backwards then we find out exactly why and react.

5.        Constantly updating hardware and diagnostics

We’ve all heard the story of the garage owner that had to close down due to not investing in equipment and it’s very true that you must invest constantly into the latest tooling and diagnostic equipment. If you cannot diagnose a car because you do not have the correct on-board diagnostics reader then you lose the customer. If you’re not prepared to invest in a tyre pressure monitoring system then don’t bother selling and fitting tyres. Ultimately if you cannot diagnose a fault you will lose the customer. Our staff and customers recognise the investment we make and this keeps them loyal to us.

It’s not only the workshop that needs investment and we are currently looking at working with a company to develop a fully automated electronic point of sale system (EPOS) that is being developed for the garage industry. The EPOS is the digital system used in retail establishments.  This is cutting edge and it’s what we, and other garage owners, have been looking for for a number of years. Watch this space, it’s going to transform the front end service and customers’ perception of the industry.

Why the MOT debate isn’t about price, but regular servicing

You will probably have seen our recent blog post explaining why the cheapest MOT isn’t always the best. It’s a popular consumer issue at the moment and many motorists are looking for the best deal, unaware that they might not always be getting the best service. There are 20,000 MOT stations in the UK and 18,000 of those are at independent garages. So we turned to one of our members and asked them where they stand on the popular topic of MOTs.

CavalieroutsideAll independent garages can give a qualified opinion on the MOT but Cavalier Garage, in Manchester has been carrying out high quality MOTs for over twenty years so their views are based on considerable experience and are worth listening to. Owner Rob Harris is a qualified MOT tester and has two other MOT testers on his team. He explains what he had to do to in order to operate a garage business that was qualified and trusted to perform the MOT test.

Becoming certified for MOT testing is quite a rigorous process. You have to apply in principle to VOSA with in-depth plans of your workshop, indicating where your testing bay will be and the facilities you have available for it. Then an enforcement officer comes out and has a look at your workshop. If they are happy that you have the facilities for MOT testing then they will accept your application in principle. It’s then up to you to install the necessary high quality equipment for MOT testing in the workshop.

After that you have to ensure that you have staff who are authorised MOT testers. They need the training and the certificates to achieve this and you have to send them for re-training regularly to ensure they are always up-to-date in their skillset. You also need someone in charge of quality control and administration. Then, VOSA need to approve your MOT testing bay and your MOT testers and you are told to audit your MOT testers’ quality every two months. It’s a long process that is on-going and it’s a big investment.”

We mentioned before that a garage providing an MOT needs to cover the costs associated with providing it and therefore often can’t afford to offer MOTs at an unrealistic or headline-grabbing price. This does mean, though, that when you have an MOT performed at one of our member garage you receive a proper job, and will be charged fairly only for parts that need to be replaced.

For Cavalier Garages, price is not so much an issue as the fact that motorists need to treat the MOT as a test of their vehicle’s road safety and environmental standards. It’s not the same as having a vehicle serviced and doesn’t check its general mechanical condition.

Cavalier1Rob explains: “An MOT and a service are two entirely different things. When was the last time you saw someone pull up on the hard shoulder of a motorway with breakdown and they are baffled as to how it happened because their car passed its MOT the day before? It’s not because it was missed in the MOT but because how well the car runs is not part of a standard MOT test (other than testing for emissions).

“It’s common sense. A car is such a big investment so why wouldn’t you want to have it serviced regularly to ensure it was always performing safely and correctly? It makes a lot more sense than relying on an annual MOT to tell you if there’s something wrong with your car, when the MOT test is not designed to do that.

We are always telling motorists that there are some checks they can carry out on their car themselves, in between their regular services, to ensure that their car remains safe on the road. Remembering the acronym WARM and checking your “Wipers, Anti-freeze, tyres (Rubber) and having regular Maintenance in winter can keep your car safe in potentially dangerous conditions. We always recommend you frequently check your petrol, oil and lights too. Regular checks will help keep your car in top condition, but there is absolutely no alternative to regular servicing, certainly not the annual MOT test!”

If you live in Stretford, Manchester, make sure you visit Cavalier Garages for regular servicing. If you don’t live in Stretford but want to find a garage you can trust, enter your postcode in our postcode finder and we will pinpoint your nearest Trust My Garage member. Don’t forget you can now leave feedback on our website too!