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Don't get caught out in the cold this winter

Travelling by car this festive season? If so, don’t forget to look after it! There is nothing more certain to spoil your Christmas cheer than a breakdown en route to family or friends.

Booking your car in for its regular service, particularly at this time of year, will not only improve its reliability, safety and environmental performance but also significantly protect its re-sale or trade-in value. Many garages also offer a ‘winter check’ of a vehicle’s fluid levels, anti-freeze, brakes and tyres, sometimes for free.

Research has shown, however, that many motorists rely purely on the annual MOT to determine their car’s roadworthiness, which is both a false economy and potentially dangerous. At the same time, if you’re thinking of lifting the bonnet for a spot of DIY servicing – don’t! Modern vehicles are increasingly complex, with sophisticated engine management and other electronic systems.

The advice from the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), which is the professional body for individuals working in the motor trade, is ensure that your car is maintained by qualified professionals. In a bid to give motorists peace of mind when it comes to getting the car serviced, the IMI, which has 25,000 members, has prepared a list of handy ‘top tips’.

A vehicle’s service history can not only boost its value but also make the difference between a desirable and completely unwanted car. The absence of a service history may knock £500 or more off a car’s value or, even worse, may simply make the vehicle unwanted.

Comments Sarah Sillars, IMI chief executive: "With vehicle systems now more complex than ever, motorists should be sure of an individual’s credentials to work on their car, if they are to avoid any repercussions. Quite simply, if there is no evidence of skills training, shop elsewhere."

The IMI has a network of over 250 approved training centres nation-wide, including most manufacturers which offer a range of technical and non-technical qualifications, including modern apprenticeships and technical certificates.

IMI TOP TEN TIPS ON CAR SERVICING

  1. Check that technicians are suitably qualified. Look for IMI membership and/or evidence of manufacturer training. Is this business registered on a local Trading Standards scheme? If in doubt, ask.
  2. Ensure that the garage is familiar with your car's make and model.
  3. Prior to booking your car in, consider how it's been running. Be honest – inform the service staff of any problems and/or any recent work carried out.
  4. Check what is included within the service - ask to see a copy of the service schedule for your vehicle type.
  5. Check the breakdown of costs, including all parts, consumables, labour and VAT - you should know exactly what you are paying for.
  6. Insist that no additional work is undertaken without your express permission. If recommended, this should be quoted against, not estimated.
  7. Ask for any replaced parts to be retained for your inspection upon collection.
  8. Ensure that you receive a detailed itemised report with a verbal explanation of the work undertaken and/or recommended. Ask about the garage’s quality control checks and make sure your service book is stamped.
  9. Ensure that the name of the technician that works on your car is detailed on your invoice. Ask to speak to him or her specifically, if you have any concerns or require necessary explanations.
  10. Ensure that you receive a guarantee. Make sure you know what it covers, check the period of validity and identify the complaints procedure, should a query arise.

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