Is the solution the problem?

A customer recently called reporting an Opel Zafira as not running on all cylinders and chugging. A common issue with this vehicle (as with many) would be that the ignition coils have a limited life span and need to be replaced.

We started by removing the spark plugs and on close inspection found soiling and a hair-line crack on the enamel of one of the plugs. Further investigation showed the head gasket was leaking very slightly and the leaked coolant reaching the plug had caused the issue. We replaced the spark plugs and advised the customer of his oncoming larger issue with the head gasket.

A common behaviour when rectifying mechanical issues is taking the easiest and most obvious answers, but often digging a little deeper is the key to correct analysis. An experienced mechanic will notice peripheral signs through noise, wear and contamination and will not simply replace the obvious.


A faulty alternator often leads car owners to replace the battery. Within a short period they return the new battery, complaining that it is faulty. If the initial diagnosis was done correctly a lot of cost and time would have been saved. A mechanic’s experience involves the understanding of the functions of all the cars parts and in the modern vehicle many repairs cannot be considered as simple.

Of course the advances in technology greatly aid today’s workshops and with the many sensors and switches controlling a vehicle through its ECU (on-board computer), it is not possible to operate without diagnostic equipment. However the value of a mechanic’s knowledge and experience cannot be plugged in.

Mostly with mechanical issues it’s not so much the size of the problem, but the size of the solution.



Who will win the race to the bottom?

Saving money is an important factor in this tough economic climate. There are many  daily habits you can change to do it efficiently and unfortunately you may need to cut on usual spending you’ve never changed before. But you just can’t cut with some primary needs, and safety is one of them. 

There are many products for which you will never try to save with, like medicines, or food for your children. You’ll never accept poor quality for these products even if you must pay more for it, because you’ll never play with your health or that of your family.


The safety of your vehicle should be regarded in the same vein. It’s not enough to simply base your decisions on which garage might offer you the cheaper price when replacing safety critical components, like for example brake pads. Poor quality brake pads will not give longevity of use, may be noisy and not brake effectively. Any experienced purchaser will ask for a brake down of items contained in any quotation which highlights the cost and specific elements within. This is also good practice when researching the cost of car repairs.

The motor industry has always been the subject of bad press and poor reputation and so it is important that you take control and analyze exactly what it is you are paying for. There will always be a reason why one workshop will be more expensive than the other but given the different qualities of product on the market and the differing levels of skills and competences, it is not necessarily down to a garage making extra profit.

Of course if the cheapest garage always gets the work it can only result in its competitors consistently searching for cheaper products which will generally be of inferior quality. In this scenario it’s a race to the bottom and nobody wins.