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The Rat who is made of Stainless Steel


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stainsteelrat
So we took Lu's RAV off to be serviced this morning @ Nationwide Autocentre in Sandhurst.

Curiously we got a call from the servicing place at 8:30am asking where the car was, although they had said previously it just needed to be there before 10:30am.

Lu had forgotten to ask if they used Toyota parts, and when she asked during the phone call she was told they don't, and she should have chosen that option when she got the quote on the Internet. Except, as Lu told him, there was no option for genuine parts. The guy said genuine parts would cost more.

When we arrived there Reception Guy had ordered the genuine parts, but told us the parts they used ordinarily would not void any warranty (ER Spec?... OR Spec?... I forget the name he used, despite intending to remember it, but he said they were used on "brand new" cars they got for servicing without issue). It turned out the genuine parts only added £17 to the £200 bill, so Lu said to go ahead with genuine, for peace of mind. Both Lu and I have 3-year warranties on our cars (we bought from the same garage).

We went off shopping in Camberley. I bought a few toys for Amélie in Mothercare*, including a phone thingy. She's obsessed with phones and remote controls, so I thought she'd appreciate it.

*I've just remembered that I wasn't going to buy anything from Mothercare. Oops.

I inevitably went to Jessops, and ended up getting the Tamron 18-270mm, and also a new bag. My previous bag has been getting on my nerves as (1) I have to open it on the ground, to prevent everything spilling out and (2) it's causing a lot of pain in my shoulder. Although I can carry the new bag on my shoulder, I can also use it around my waist. Plus because it opens at the top I don't have to put the bag on the ground to get the camera out. I would have got the Canon 28mm f2.8 prime, but they were sold out, as I'd expected. I'll keep my eye on eBay I suspect for a mint secondhand one.

Lu missed a couple of calls from the garage with some questions, and she only noticed when we thought it was time to head back. Turned out that the wheels needed balancing - not sure why they had checked that - but they'd done it anyway and charged £10. There were also some advisories, including a severely corroded exhaust, and 75% worn brakes. At least they didn't say it needed doing now though. I would have been very sceptical if loads of work had been required now.

Oddly they didn't mention the tyre pressures, as I'm fairly sure Lu's rear offside tyre has a puncture, as it's typically quite low when I check it (we just haven't got around to sorting it). But this wouldn't be the first time I've had a car serviced and they haven't checked the tyre pressures.

Curiously when we got home there was a credit card receipt, and what at first glance appeared to be an A4 invoice for what was done. Except it was not an invoice at all, but a quote for the advisory work. There was no receipt listing the items changed and work done, which was a bit odd. Reception Guy had complained earlier that we didn't have any receipts itemising whether the brake fluid needed changing, and the service book made no mention. Yet they didn't give us any work receipt either?

So all-in-all they seemed OK, despite some minor cock ups. Although finding a garage that doesn't make any minor cock ups is a miracle. Thanks kuzanagi_ for the tip.

I will check the price at the local Merc garage for my servicing (everywhere I read mentions that Merc dealers rip you off), but if Nationwide Autocentre are substantially cheaper I'll go with them. I did quiz Reception Guy about it, but he didn't seem to know what the Merc "A" service was (a quick Google seems to find it), which is what the car is prompting me with, although I know it's an interim service. I assume they know how to deal with the computer ("reset service maintenance counter in instrument cluster"), and confirm that a service has been completed? Not sure how that bit works. The alternative is someone like MBS of Southampton, but that's a heck of a way for a service, unless we tie it in with a visit.

Anyway, we got home OK from the garage, and Lu's car didn't explode ;-)

I've been trying out the Tamron lens, and it's more or less as expected. As per the reviews: image quality is pretty good, but the supposed stabilisation is fairly poor, autofocus is slow, there's a weird bit of friction around the 100mm mark, and the lens extends under gravity. But it's great as an all round lens, and negates me having to carry both the 450D's stock 18-55 lens, and the Tamron 70-300mm. It seems once you have a lens with zoom it's compromised. For speed, quality and control it seems to be a case of using primes, unless you want to throw lots of money at zoom lenses, and there aren't really that many around that are super expensive and good. Although you can throw a heck of a lot of money at primes as well. So as mentioned I'll try and get the Canon 28mm prime. I suspect 18mm is just too wide angle for me. I like the expression "fast glass" :-)

Along with trying out the lens, Amélie also tried out her phone and her other toys. She likes the phone, just because of the flashing lights and buttons for the moment. Later on she will get something from the shapes and spoken text. Is she going to be a geek like her Dad? Anyway, she's tired herself out, and is currently sleeping at my feet on a blanket.

Not 100% sure the office cleaning's going on tomorrow, but will confirm with the guy mid-morning. If it does that knocks my Sunday out for going out anywhere, mostly.


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They don't sound particularly great compared to the branch I use. Obviously that's no good to you unless you fancy meeting up when you service your car next?

It just seemed to be a lack of organisation, unfortunately. I guess if you have someone keen and savvy managing the place it makes all the difference. But anywhere that doesn't rip you off is a good thing in my book!

As long as they did a good job and were reasonably priced I guess my recommendation was warranted. I was actually pretty worried in case it went to hell since I hate making a recommendation that ends up being poor.

Yep, they ticked both those boxes, £100+ cheaper than Toyota - I'm always antsy about garages because they are often so poor, and as we all know, cars are expensive things! Why are garages frequently run and/or staffed by tossers? Anyway...

I did think afterwards that I probably came across as a pedantic shmuck, but was only intending to give all the detail about what happened - for both of our edification(s?) :-)

So don't stop giving recommendations!

Edited at 2010-08-29 09:22 am (UTC)

I was talking to a friend at work about this a few months back, and we concluded that we might set ourselves up as consultants. For a fee, on behalf of polite middle class people we'll negotiate and communicate with builders, workmen, plumbers and garage staff. We'd earn a fortune!

I know what you mean, I've done that on here before. Something's actually pretty good, then you type about it, read it back and realise that you highlighted the few negatives. Anyway I'm glad it worked out for you.

I think there's a couple of review sites out there for tradesmen in the UK, but I'm not sure where offhand. The difficulty is that these reviews sites are often skewed by competitors, or some person who's just a difficult customer to begin with. A shame really, because in this consumer age this sort of thing ought to be easier.

For garages there's also The Good Garage Scheme (forgot about that), which sounds like a good idea in principle.

Just remembered that I read somewhere Nationwide Autocentre has been bought by Halfords. I also noticed they were recommended by the AA.

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I think the RAV's 2003, although I could be wrong. Seems a bit odd, but if they used rubbish quality materials?...

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Ta. It doesn't look like a super posh exhaust, so hopefully won't be expensive. Such is the buggeration factor of secondhand cars :-(

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