Workshop competence…

Posted on October 30th, 2007 in Driving Emotion,Opinion by Julian Edgar

There is a major difference between workshops that hustle their customers well and those that take pride in the quality of their work and produce the goods.  It’s easy to lose sight of the latter when blinded by the former. 

Paradoxically, I’d be especially wary of workshops that are given much publicity – and are even revered – in modified car media. Often those workshops are widely covered because they’re doing exciting things – but do you want exciting times with a workshop or just good jobs? Excitement more than often means breakages, something which in my experience the customer – not the workshop – always ends up paying for….

By far the best way to assess workshop competence is to ask for a customer reference – to get the phone number of a former customer who has had similar work done on a similar car.  That way, you can have a chat with the person and see if they were happy with the work, the service and the price. If you’re told that customer info is confidential, provide your own contact details and ask if the customer can give you a call.

Another way of checking things out is to ask about the workshop’s involvement with competition cars.  Any workshop worth their salt will be fielding cars (or have customers with cars) in drag racing, club sprints, speedway, touring cars, hillclimbs, motorkhanas, off-road racing or the like. And that applies even to small town workshops. If they aren’t currently involved in any way with competition, and have never been involved in any competition involving cars, leave.

Finally – and it‘s by no means infallible – workshops that have been around for many years are more likely to have been doing the right thing by their customers than those just starting with a splash.

Over the years I’ve seen the best of workshops with few customers and the worse of workshops with heaps.  Just occasionally – VERY occasionally – the best workshops also have lots of customers.

One Response to 'Workshop competence…'

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  1. Howard said,

    on October 30th, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Where I live, the quality of workmanship goes against the grain of “You get what you pay for.” The local dealer mechanics have terrible reputations for quality of work and extortionate bills, and that’s just for general purpose servicing of general purpose cars. On the other hand, a mechanic who I actually, though rarely (I prefer to do my own work) use, charges very reasonable hourly rate and does a quality job. And best of all, he’s a car nut. He use to be involved in club car racing, has done many and varied engine conversions. He even got (with some help from others) a Delco ECU from a Camira, to run a Jaguar V12.

  2. Vincent said,

    on October 30th, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    The quality of the workmanship depends a lot on the customer’s point of view. Some want a quick fix at minimal cost, and will so seek out the shade-tree mechanic, while at the other end of the spectrum there are those who know their cars, know what is needed and are willing to fork out for quality work.

  3. Blake Parry said,

    on October 30th, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    I have been relatively lucky with the workshops ive chosed to work on my car, but have followed some common sense guidelines.

    previously, i owned a modified daihatsu, and happened to come across a workshop that i had heard good things about. Turns out the guy running it, was a former ARC f2 champion, running exactly the same model car as mine. Whilst not cheap, the real world testing experience, knowledge on the make/model and genuine “good guy attitude” was certainly worth the cost. Ended up driving across the city to still take the car to him.

    More recently, i found a local mechanic, purely by chance as i lived nearby. Exactly what i want in a workshop, prompt, upfront, no BS, and a decent rate. After servicing/modifying multiple cars there, my gearbox happened to split, and i had to leave the car there for a week or so. No questions asked about moving the car etc, just a regular call to see how i was going. Dropped off a replacement gearbox, fitted in a day and off i go.
    Best thing i find, if they make a genuine mistake, they’ll admit it, and fix it for free. Too many places these days will BS you, and end up making you pay more.

    Best advice i can give, if you find a good mechanic, treat them well, they’re a rare commodity. Dont bitch over a set of 4 spark plugs you saw at repco for $2 cheaper than they supplied, suck it up, and know that looking after them, has them looking after you.

  4. Carl said,

    on November 1st, 2007 at 12:38 am

    I do not agree with you Julian saying if they are not involved in racing, leave. My old man is a brilliant mechanic and handy man much like you. He has run his own business in a small farming country town for over 25 years, managing to expand while the town shrinks. He works on all types of machinery from huge Havesters to tiny motorbikes. He even draws customers from other towns in the areas, and is regularly asked questions from other mechanics in the area.
    Yet he is not involved in racing. So going by what you have said, many people would be mad to go to him. I do get the ‘jist’ of what you are saying however, such as having an interest in racing demonstrates interest in the work he is doing.
    I would think you should be saying something around the lines of ‘if they work on other mechanical projects outside of work, then they are most likely good mechanics’ or something like that.
    O and finally…back to my old man, being interested in the mechanical feild. He has restored many old shearing engines and the like, as well as 2 really old (sorry i am unsure of what models exactly)…really really old, bulldozers.
    Anyhow thanx theres my 2 cents.
    keep up the good work

  5. Julian Edgar said,

    on November 1st, 2007 at 7:37 am

    Yes fair comment Carl. When I wrote the piece I was thinking primarily about modified car workshops but I didn’t make that clear.