Vehicle Servicing: Cynical or naïve ? I'm never quite sure

I have been having cars serviced for the best part of 60 years, and one thing seems constant. When I ask for a service, I can rely upon a follow-up telephone call asking if I’d like fries with that - or to be more accurate, would I like a wheel alignment, tyre rotation, computer check, new tyres or some other service apart from checking and maintaining the fundamentals.

Yesterday, I went through the same process yet again and the follow-up call asked if I’d like a new set of tyres which wouldn’t leave me much change from $1000. Now I am more than somewhat skeptical given that I drive very little and although the car is nearly 5 years old I have yet to drive more than 24,000 K in it. A quick Google search suggests that tyres should last between 40,000 and 60,000 and so I ponder whether this is a reasonable suggestion on behalf of the garage or whether perhaps this is simply another way of extracting more and more from the hapless motorist. I declined the offer, but I really feel that this verges on exploitation. What do others think ?

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YMMV - I usually say no. Even for the dealer service centres past experience suggests are trustworthy. Staff can change, Managers can change. The owner/Franchisee can change. Past performance dies not always assure future performance. Although one would like to see loyalty rewarded with honest appraisals.

For tyres the best prices and service will likely come from a tyre service centre. Past experience is car service centres will any most instances pass this work off to one and add their margin. One may also find a greater choice of tyres and price points. Tyre wear is relatively straight forward to assess. Most tyre specialist offer free inspections and quotes. Going to more than one for another quote can be very rewarding, even for the same brand and model of tyre.

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I mostly avoid the up-selling by specifying that I want a ‘book service’. That is, what is on the service schedule is done, and nothing else.
If they try to offer things like a brake fluid bleed and renew, or new wiper blades, or a tyre rotate or balance, or a wash and vacuum, then I ask if it is in the service schedule.
That usually kills the attempts to flog unneeded things.

As for tyres, it is very simple to check for wear oneself. The service center may notice a problem like a nail in a tyre, but that is an issue for one tyre. Not all four.

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Tyres obviously need replacing when they wear, but they may also need replacing after a number of years since manufacture. Tyre compounds can harden over time, and often crack when that happens. In many cases it is visually apparent when it is time, but not always so if there is no visible wear, no visible cracking, and the date suggests they tyres have a way to go, ask the shop ‘why they think the tyres need replacing’.

This manufacturer web site explains it well enough.

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I like to keep my car well maintained regularly but it’s a real chore dealing with folks that work in the industry. Went to a newish business in town that was recommended to me and it wasnt a successful experience. Got me to collect the car at close up time (Im inconveniently half an hour away out of town) and told me extra things that needed doing. I knew that these things were going to have to be addressed soon so I asked for a general idea of the outlay. I wasn’t impressed so I rang another place I’d been to before and the cost was several hundred dollars less and the customer service preferable too. (If the first place had rung me and mentioned the required work when they had the car I may have said ‘ok you can keep it there and complete the jobs’ but communication didn’t occur.
Moral of the story though is as a consumer these days you really have to have your wits about you, get another quote, don’t put up with substandard or non-existent communication and don’t be afraid to go elsewhere for a quote or advice.

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It can oftentimes be a real issue dealing with these businesses if you’re a woman too. Sometimes need to try to come across as a firm no nonsense type

Did you ask why they thought they needed to be replaced?

It could be to get more business or it could be a genuine reason such as sidewalls being deeply scuffed/small tyre bubbles forming/obvious rubber cracking, all indicating perishing or potential for premature failure.

As the ‘rubber’ is important for vehicle safety, I hope that the reason was to make more money from you.

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Should one need to ask or should the service contact provide the reason with the advice? If the tyres were unsafe to drive on surely the service contact would be obligated to say so. It may be poor service not to fully inform the owner, and due cause for the owner to be sceptical if that is how it has transpired. A greater concern would be if undue wear or damage to the tyres while noting the vehicle is 5 years young is symptom of some other fault with the vehicle. None mentioned.

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As the OP, @boblorel mentioned, having many years of getting cars serviced, I would think they would be pretty familiar with the state of the tyres. And know very well that there was nothing wrong with them, knows how long tyres should last, and has posted a comment on the try-ons service centers get up to.

Cynical? Definitely me too. Naive? I have been stung a few times, but learned from those times.

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Oh yeah… I go to a particular centre in the Newcastle area and they regulary do what I call “upselling”. I only ever book in for a logbook service and request a list of requirements before the next one. This year, apparently old Bessie needs over $4k worth of repairs. UM. Nope. I know that some things on the list will need doing, but its not going to cost me that much. THey have already passed it for next rego (due November). I have a plan to get stuff done over a period of time and not at the service centre… I’ll get tyres at a tyre place, suspension and struts at a suspension place and so on.

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You got that one right … the vulnerability of women extends to all manner of areas where they often have little expertise. Mind you, if I went into a dress shop I’d be similarly ill equipped to know if the prices were reasonable. I take your point though - a lot of people will exploit other people without too much hesitation.

I did ask, and they referenced the age of the tyres and alleged cracking. However, I can see no such cracking and the tyres look fine to me.
Back in the day you could go to the RACV for an unbiased check, but these days the only RACV outlets seem to be garages that have the RACV logo. In a world where price gouging is rife, and morals and ethics aren’t what they used to be, it’s hard finding reliable, honest advice - on anything!

This could be why they recommended the replacement. The cracking could be on the inside side of the tyre making it very difficult to see. The inside can crack first as for most vehicles, it flexes more than the outside.

The only way to see is to remove the wheels, put the car on a hoist or if the car is some distance off the ground (e.g. 4WD) look at the whole of the tyre while underneath.

Cracking can be caused by age and other factors:

The mechanics also know the service intervals of the car and could believe there are risks if it is left until the next service.

Some RACs around Australia recommended changing every 5 years, as often tyre deterioration isn’t visible:

No, for the reason out above. As there are claims the tyre is cracking, the tyre may be unsafe at some stage in the future and before the next service. A mechanic can’t force a owner to replace tyres.

As the reason for the recommendation was made, if a customer says no to their replacement at collection from a service, it is up to the owner to arrange the tyre replacement.

If a customer knowingly drives potentially an unroadworthy/poorly maintained vehicle, it could have insurance implications. As such, I would be getting a second opinion about the condition of the tyres, such as from a local tyre fitter.

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Ten years is the longest life limit mentioned by

https://www.bridgestone.com.au/learn/maintenance/age-of-a-tyre#:~:text=Tyre%20lifespan&text=Tyres%20should%20be%20removed%20once,the%20condition%20of%20your%20tyres.

For a lower use vehicle one answer. For a higher typical average annual milage most vehicles will not reach five years before the tyres are at the safe/legal wear limits. Perhaps the alternate shorter time spans are more reflective of observations of tyre condition on higher use vehicles?

One experience with a national tyre chain was the mechanical inspection advising the vehicle required new front struts (AWD) vehicle. A $4k job with genuine replacement parts! An independent suspension specialist carried out a free inspection and test rig assessment. Zero defects!

It’s no surprise many consumers are doubtful of the integrity of those in the industry, the respective industry associations, government registration of trades and the august motorists organisations. Gambling on seperating the good from the not so, one lifetime challenge consumers should not accept.

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The age of a tyre is from manufacture, not mounting. Many tyres are already years old prior to being sold and might have short ‘time remaining’ lives prior to hardening or cracking.

‘Tyre life’ has been discussed on the Community.

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I find this whole 10 year lifetime assertion to be both irrelevent in this case, and self-serving by tyre companies who naturally want to sell more product.

The OP’s car is not yet 5 years old, done only 24K, and no visible signs of cracking or undue wear on the tyres. And a quick look at the tyre maker’s mark will reveal how old the tyre is. As if a car manufacturer would be putting anything other than new tyres on their new cars?

This is just a blatant attempt at up-selling.

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You are right to have concerns, you never know who to trust. I am female & in my 60’s & this is what I do when I get my car serviced, I hope the following helps.
Tyre replacement I would ask them to show you the depth of the tread. Anything above 1.5 mm is still road worthy. Below 1.5 mm you should consider replacing your tyres. You can do this yourself by simply inserting a matchstick, head down, between the tyre tread. If the match head is exposed above the tyre tread, then it is time to change your tyres.
Rotate the wheels I mark my wheel rims with a permanent marker “FR” “FL” “BR” “BL” somewhere inconspicuous, this way you can tell if they really rotated your wheels or not & usually the wheels are balanced when they are rotated.
A wheel balance should last at least 10,000 kms. After a wheel balance if the vehicle still shakes while driving then take it back for them to re-balance them.
A computer check is standard practice with modern cars as this is the only way mechanics can do a proper diagnostic check for the engine, transmission, exhaust system, & other vital components.
I also mark the oil filter cartridge with a permanent marker & the air filter, to make sure they have really replaced them with new ones.
I sometimes even provide the a new oil filter & air filter & oil to the mechanic myself, if I know it will work out a lot cheaper than their prices.
Also don’t take their word for it over the phone when they tell you about extra work that may need fixing, you need to go to the workshop & get them to show you the problem e.g. damaged steering rods (to check for play in the wheel, grab one of your front wheels and push with one hand while pulling with the other to see if there is any significant movement)
My mother was being ripped off, where she got her car serviced, she hardly drove it (1000 kms in 6 mths) & they were telling her that she needed to bring it in for a service every 6 mths. And they were the local NRMA agency.

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A woman of like mind !! I like your strategies. These days we are forced to treat everyone with suspicion which is a poor reflection on society. I haven’t gone to the same lengths, but I am constantly wary of sales talk, “expert opinion” and people who generally want to part me from more of my money than is justified. Often, the mere fact of being “old” puts a target on our backs and rather than being treated with respect we have to be alert to being taken advantage of. All a bit sad really.

For us not so young - another of many more years of experience tended to compare offers of extra work against what it cost last time. Usually a very small number compared to the suggested quote, such was the cost 20, 30 or 50 years past. If the business could do it for the same or similar price it might be considered. :joy:

Marking various items to check if they have actually been replaced is a good idea. I’ve caught workshops out for claiming work had been done, when clearly my marking showed that it had not been done, and when I brought this to the attention of the staff, they tried everything they could to evade the obvious truth.

I do all my own car servicing wherever possible, except for the first 3 years of a new car, to comply with the warranty requirements.

When my current car was about 2 years old, I took it to the dealer for the regular scheduled service, which they did, and they also told me that the brake pads were almost worn out and needed replacing. Being a very light user of brakes, I was very suspicious of their claim, so I told them I would check it out first, which I did, and there was oodles of meat still on the brake pads. That was about 6 years ago, and a recent check of the brake pads revealed they still have a long way to go before they need replacing.

The dealer wants to charge me over $300 for a regular service on my car, which is basically an oil change and replacement oil filter. Oh yes they also check the brake fluid, radiator coolant, battery water level and tyre wear just to pad it out and make me believe I am getting good value for money, but when I can buy the oil plus oil filter for around $75 total, and do the service myself, I do this whenever it is within my capacity.

A car dealership equipped with all the right tools can quite easily do a basic service in less than half an hour and they get the oil at bulk prices, so the $300 + they want from me is a profit of at least $200 on a standard service.

BB