Would you take your car to someone who wasn’t competent to work on it?
The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) surveyed 2000 motorists revealing that 98% of people wouldn’t let anyone work on their car who didn’t have an acceptable level of skill, but only 9% admitted to checking if this was the case.
41% of people wouldn’t let an unlicensed technician work on their car with 70% thinking that a license existed. The reality is that the motor trade isn’t licensed. Anyone can set up as a mechanic and work on your car.
So, are reasons such as ‘they know my car’ or ‘I’ve known them for many years’ good reasons to stay where you are or should you check they are currently competent?
When there was an increase in injuries in the electrical and gas industries, the Government regulated them. The cost of getting it wrong is so severe, that they strongly advise you to employ a licensed electrician or gas engineer as their level of competence has been checked. Of course, there will always be cheaper options, but with safety involved, would you risk it?!
As you can imagine, there are many components in a car from brakes and electrical faults to highly flammable fuel and explosives. When a vehicle has been serviced by a garage, they are confirming that the vehicle is safe to drive and you put your trust in them that this is the case.
Take yourselves back a few years and realise how the technology and complexity in cars has changed. Among others, consider: airbags, tyre pressure sensors, intelligent protection system, adaptive front lighting system, computer console, ABS, Electronic Stability Program Traction control, USB/ipod connectivity, advanced navigation system, air conditioning, lane departure warning, collision warning, power steering, cruise control, climate control, voice command, parking distance sensors, capless refulling systems, heated seats, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, key-free systems, immobilisers….. and just think of the electrical wiring in that lot!
There is also a common misconception that to diagnose a fault on a car, all you need to do is plug the car into a computer and it tells you exactly what is wrong. It doesn’t! It guides you to an area of the vehicle where the reading is picked up by the vehicles computer to say that things aren’t quite as they should be. It is not a magic plug in tool that is the answer to everyone’s prayer. It needs interpreting and analysing by a competent Diagnostic or Master Technician.
Even the basic mechanics of a car have changed considerably, so it is really important that the Technicians are regularly checked for their competence in all these areas.
If you don’t have a sufficiently capable technician working on your car, they can miss the small faults that over time become larger and more expensive to repair.
The IMI (Institute of the Motor Industry) is a professional body with an aim of raising and promoting high standards across the industry. They introduced the Automotive Technician Accreditation which Technicians can only maintain if they are regularly assessed. The IMI invest over £100k on training every year and the diligent garages are just as enthusiastic.
Steve Nash, Chief Executive of the IMI, says “We are concerned. There are a great number of people working on cars and as far as the general public are concerned, many of them believe that there is a higher degree of qualification than, in truth, there is. So, we are trying to make the differentiation between those people who are properly trained and those who aren’t.”
“It is an unregulated sector. I don’t want to frighten people, but most people chose their garage because it’s local and convenient, and we can all understand that. A two minute check can help them find out whether or not the person working on their car is competent to do so. They need to check that the person is currently competent. Not just got a qualification 20 years ago and has just decided to work on cars again, because cars are incredibly sophisticated things and unless you’ve continued to work on them, over time you just wouldn’t be up to speed.”
There are limited ways of checking if the person or garage working on your car is currently competent. There are around 200k technicians known to the IMI, but only 40k are registered. There is plenty of scope for unscrupulous garages who are not doing the job properly.
It is a little confusing and you need to look at what the certification mark means to you as the consumer, not what it means to the garage!
IMI Professional Register – To register on this scheme the IMI check qualifications and training are up to date on individuals before they are allowed to join. It is free, so there is no reason for a technician not to register if they are currently competent. If you have a mobile mechanic or take your car to a garage where there are only a couple of technicians working on your car, then check their names on the register. www.imiregister.org.uk
Retail Motor Industry IGA’s Trust My Garage is a customer assurance scheme based on Service and Repair. Trust My Garage is growing and is a sign of good quality work and good customer service. They check that the latest diagnostic equipment is being used, Health and Safety in place and checks current qualifications and knowledge of all staff. This is a great way of checking that a garage has the necessary credentials to work on your car. It is free for them to join, so there is no reason not to! www.trustmygarage.co.uk
Motor Codes – is a government-backed, self-regulatory body for the motor industry committed to maintaining high standards throughout the sales and service process. This is predominantly held by Main Dealers who operate in both Sales and Service. The dealership has to pay membership for this one and it increases their profile, but it is highly regarded. www.motorcodes.co.uk
Which Trusted Traders endorse traders against their strict criteria including qualifications and standards. As a consumer body, they conduct a rigorous assessment process from the point of view of the customer, not the industry. This mark is great if you want to ensure you will be treated well. Businesses pay an annual fee and are monitored annually. www.trustedtraders.which.co.uk
Trading Standards ‘Buy With Confidence’ Scheme – Hertfordshire’s Buy with Confidence scheme is a tough standard where every part of a business is interrogated. Its aim is to help residents to find businesses who comply with the law and to improve customer protection. There is a cost to the business associated with this as they constantly check that the business is conforming to their standards. www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk
This is not the exhaustive list, but the most widely used or recognised. Be aware of other schemes! Look into what they offer you as a consumer. Some will offer lots of branding and advertising to the garage to promote sales, but this isn’t free and a garage can pass the cost onto you.
Some schemes insist on the garage purchasing additives for your car that you don’t necessarily need, but the garage will be targeted on them, so it is in their interest to sell them to you.
Others charge the garage a fee to be on a list of traders that have been ‘checked’ but not necessarily endorsed!
So, with all this in mind, wouldn’t it be easier for the customer if the Motor Trade was licensed? Isn’t it appalling that anyone can work on your family vehicle, or even the largest of Lorries, and not be competent to do so?
Next time you are on the motorway or travelling to do the shopping, look around at how many cars you see and how confident would you be that they have all been checked thoroughly and safe to drive.
Remember that ANYONE can set up as a mechanic or garage! Check their certification either as an individual or as a garage, and at the very least ask to see their credentials.