Friday, 1 March 2013


My car passed its MoT.  I was not expecting it to fail, given that it is not all that old, and quite low mileage, but it was still a gentle relief, as it was when we got to lunchtime, having dropped it off at the garage at nine, and still hadn't had a phone call to discuss an unexpected problem with the brake discs, or signs of excessive wear or failure in some other vital part.

I really like my garage.  This is probably a minority view, since consumer rights groups seem to be forever releasing reports on how their undercover investigators took assorted cars to a selection of garages, who then did unnecessary work, or charged for the work without doing it, or failed to spot actual life-threatening defects in the vehicles.  In six years of Skoda ownership my garage has charged me for a minimal amount of work beyond the routine services.  Three faults have emerged, a broken gasket (or was it a gaiter?) that was covered under the warranty, a wiring fault that meant that the brake lights stayed on all the time, even when the key wasn't in the ignition, and a burst console brush (or bush).

The first cost me nothing to put right beyond the nuisance of taking the car to the garage, while the second was certainly a genuine fault since I saw the lights stuck on with my own eyes.  Apparently it is a known Skoda Fabia failing.  Fortunately the Systems Administrator knew how to remove the fuse from the brake light circuit overnight, so that it couldn't flatten the battery before I got the car to the garage.  The console brush (or bush) I have had to take their word for.  It was flagged up as an advisory at last year's service and MoT, when the garage said it was not a crisis but I should get it done within the next two or three months.  I didn't, partly because the garage went bust shortly afterwards, and I was still sulking about the loss of my useful local Skoda dealer when they reopened, but then I never got round to it, though it played on my conscience occasionally.  It is done now, and cost me a hundred and thirteen pounds in labour, and the woman who runs the service department did warn me that excessive play in the front wheels might have contributed to wear on the front tyres.  That will teach me.

We could never work out how a Skoda dealer in Little Clacton could go bust, even in an economic downturn.  Frinton-on-Sea is just up the road, natural Skoda owner territory, full of responsible people over the age of fifty who are going to want to keep their investment properly serviced and maintained.  The garage did not go out of business under its own auspices, but as part of a larger group which had bought it from the original founder.  He was able to buy it back and re-open it with the same staff, which is handy for them and for us, though I suppose not so good for any suppliers who were owed money by the previous owners.

The woman who runs the service department sounds as though she knows quite a lot about cars.  I have waited while she took down copious details from a young man whose car was playing up, as she questioned him minutely about exactly what his car had and had not been doing.  She wrote so much she ran out of space in the field on her computer, telling him that the more the mechanics knew before they started, the faster and more cheaply they could do the job.  It sounded like one of those cars that you wouldn't necessarily want to spend much money on, so you needed to know what was wrong with it and how expensive it would be to fix before you started.  As well as knowing quite a lot about cars she knows how to pronounce our name correctly, which is a rarity.

She wears a small cross around her neck.  As someone whose faith was never fully formed enough in the first place to merit the term lapsed Anglican, I don't share her persuasion, but I don't mind at all if she wants to wear a crucifix where I can see it, rather than under her sweater as a private mark of faith.  Goodness knows who the customers are who are supposed to be offended if the staff they deal with wear visible religious symbols.  I'm more offended by the assumption of the management of the likes of British Airways that I'm so intolerant, or insecure in my own agnosticism, that I'd be upset by seeing a small cross.  Am I meant to be afraid that my garage, sensing a member of the ungodly approaching, will put a pinch of sugar in my petrol tank or give my brake pipes a quick rub with a hacksaw?

The car was all ready, serviced and MoTd, by mid-afternoon.  The only advisories this year were the somewhat worn front tyre, and slight smearing from one windscreen wiper.  I'd already noticed that, and it wasn't bad enough to be an MoT failure.  If it gets worse then even I can buy a wiper in Halfords and change it.  I like my garage, and very much hope I don't have to go back there for another year.

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