car servicingI had a narrow miss with the car servicing last week. The Minted-mobile (our trusty Ford S-max) was due for its annual check and I readied myself for a massive bill.

I know that I should find a more economic mechanic than the Ford specialist garage. I also know that I can’t rely on that old adage that I’m a woman so I’m going to be ripped off. The car is my responsibility so I have to understand what’s going on. But (here’s the excuses) it’s very convenient, there’s a nice cup of coffee and they give it a good clean. So I keep going back, even if the bill usually ends up being double the initial charge for the service at the end.

Since last year, they’ve changed the system. This time I got a text message with a link to the recommended work plus a video of the mechanic talking through the inspection. The list had no red alerts but there was a fair amount of yellow suggestions, including a pair of new back tyres, a gear box oil change and a brake fluid change.

Ouch. Of course, driving children around, you want to be safe. I almost immediately hit go on the permission button. Then I thought I better watch the video. The five minutes of looking at the underside of my car was well worth it: the mechanic said the tyres were fine at four millimetres or thereabouts. (SMM tip: the legal requirement is 1.6 mm for three-quarters of the wheel although the RAC says 3 mm is preferable.)

No new tyres needed then. The mechanic did mention the brake fluid so I phoned up the service desk to find out the cost – it wasn’t in the text link. Lo and behold, the service desk told me everything was absolutely fine (including the gear box oil) and the brake fluid was due to be changed next year. (SMM tip: a brake fluid change depends on your mileage and model but really should last two to three years if not longer.)

Result! And several hundred saved on unnecessary work. Thank goodness I bothered to watch the video. I suppose there is some technical reason for the list of ‘recommendations’ other than to harvest cash from the time-starved. All I can say is that it will always be cheaper to clean your own car and find a trustworthy local garage which is not one of the big name brands. And see our SMM guide to car insurance for more saving tips.