Who can and should service my car?

Car Maintenance
Who should you choose to service and repair your car? Ask The Car Expert!

In a previous #AskTCE article, we looked at the law regarding servicing of a new car, and whether or not you can take your new car to an independent garage for servicing without invalidating your warranty (short answer: yes, you can).

However, Garry from St Helen’s has asked about a similar but different situation, in that he tried to have a Ford dealership investigate what he thought was a simple problem on his Jaguar but they refused, claiming they didn’t have the correct tools:

“We all know that for many many years, in fact decades, dealerships monopolised their brand of vehicle for repair when it was out of warranty. For instance, if you had a 5 year old Jaguar and needed something as simple as new brakes pads, handbrake cable etc, then NO other garage would touch it, you HAD to take it to a Jaguar dealership & vice versa for Ford, Merc, Fiat, etc etc, it was a gentlemens’ agreement.  Now I remember reading somewhere that this was now illegal under a EU directive that has recently come in (well maybe last couple of years).  

“Am I correct or have I got my wires crossed somewhere?  I ask this because my nearest Jaguar dealership is in another town to me so I rang Ford’s National Helpdesk to ask if the Ford garage in my town could do an investigation to find out why my Jag is losing coolant.  It was booked in, but when I arrived at the dealership this morning the guy said that they didnt have the right pressure testing equipment for a Jag.

“So when they get a Jag in as a part exchange and sell it on their forecourt, do they not work on it ?  This was blatantly and obviously a lie, and I was wondering if I am correct in the new EU directive as his advice was to take it to a Jaguar dealership.  If I am right, how can I make a complaint and to which authority?”

The EU’s rules on car service and repair

Engine service or repair is an important issue for car ownersThe EU directive to which Garry is referring is the European Commission’s Block Exemption Regulation.  The purpose of this regulation was to increase competition for servicing and repair of vehicles, and stopped car manufacturers forcing customers to use their franchised garages for servicing to preserve their new car warranty.  But Garry’s question is basically the reverse: is a garage obliged to work on any make and model of car?

The Block Exemption Regulation does not force a garage to service all makes and models, so if a Ford dealer (for example) chooses to only service Ford vehicles and no other cars, then they are perfectly allowed to do so.

Most franchised dealers will concentrate on only the brands that they sell for a few reasons:

– the technicians are trained on those specific brands and models, so they are (theoretically!) experts at maintaining those types of cars.  Modern cars are very complicated and usually highly specific, so they require specialist knowledge.  Usually, the training programs provided by the manufacturers are comprehensive and expensive, so dealers will only pay for their mechanics to receive training on the cars that the dealer intends to service (ie – the same ones they sell).

– there are a large number of specialist tools which need to be used on many cars, which the manufacturer provides (at a price) to its approved service centres.  If the garage does not have the tools, they usually can’t do the service or repair.  As every car has different designs and locations for various parts and systems, generic tools do not always work.  This is possibly the case for Garry’s Jaguar (or it could be that the Ford garage simply doesn’t want to do it for any of these other reasons).

– the garage has a duty of care to ensure that the vehicle is correctly serviced, and will not want to risk a dangerous situation or any litigation from a customer if they fail to correctly service or repair a car for which they do not have the correct tools and specifically-trained technicians.

– if a garage is not set up to service or repair a particular car (eg – a Ford garage trying to service a Jaguar), it will usually take them longer to do the job and prevent the garage from attending to other customers’ cars, potentially reducing their income.

Buying a used car from another brand’s dealership

To answer Garry’s question about a dealer taking another brand’s car as a part-exchange to sell from their site (eg – a Ford dealer selling a used Jaguar), they will usually only do a basic inspection and check (fluid levels, brake pads, etc.) rather than a service or major repair.  If more extensive work is required and the garage does not have the expertise or equipment, the Ford dealer would usually send the car down the road to the nearest Jaguar dealership or independent Jaguar specialist to have the work done.

Based on this situation, there are no grounds to complain to the Office of Fair Trading or anyone else, as the Ford dealer cannot be forced to work on Garry’s Jaguar.  It is entirely up to the dealership to decide whether they want to take his money or decline the work.  It appears that the booking was made via Ford’s central call centre without checking if the dealership was equipped or willing to actually undertake the work.  When Garry arrived, the reason given was that the dealership lacked the correct tools to do the job, which may well have been true.  Alternatively, they may have just decided that it wasn’t worth the risk and hassle and been looking for an excuse to decline the work without looking lazy.

Expert service, advice and equipment for your car

Unfortunately, Garry’s local Jaguar dealer closed a few years ago and he has no dealer or specialist garage located in his town.  Despite the inconvenience, his best bet is probably still to take the car to either an authorised Jaguar service centre or to an independent Jaguar specialist in the nearest town.  If the problem is a relatively common one for his particular model, it is likely that they will have already dealt with other cars before and will know how to fix it as quickly as possible.  Their specialist knowledge, training and equipment will probably more than make up for the inconvenience of having to travel further to get there.

Further reading on car servicing

Do I have to have my car serviced by the dealership?  There is still considerable confusion among car owners about the servicing requirements for their cars and what is required for them to protect their new car warranty.

How to avoid a car breakdown:  Getting your car properly and regularly serviced is one of the most important ways you can reduce the chance of being left on the hard shoulder with a broken-down car.

Choose the right garage to service and repair your car - The Car Expert

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Stuart Masson

Stuart is the Editor of The Car Expert, which he founded in 2011, and our new sister site The Van Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the car industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

3 Comments

  1. Cheers Stuart, a very informative article and well explained too. Understandably no one can be forced to do a service in this case but what if the vehicle came from that service centre i.e. they sold the car second hand? I’m guessing they’d then fall in the consumer rights category then i.e. 12 month warranty or something along those lines.

    Reply
  2. The Colonel

    Gary probably ought to be apologising for claiming that the Ford dealer was telling him “blatantly and obviously a lie”.

    Beyond that, if Jaguar dealerships are few and far between, and it must be a Jaguar dealer that does it, a decent one will collect and return the vehicle, if sir does not want to drive to the next nearest one themselves.

    Reply
  3. This is a really good article and hopefully keeps people up to date with the current regulations of car services. My advice is to always check that the staff at the garage you are taking your car to are always properly trained on how to fix your vehicle.

    Reply

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