For the past few years I have been sending out fortnightly e mails to you, our customers, on motoring issues. Quite simply, I continue these as the feedback I get encourages me to write them still.
My aim is to offer my perspective on topics I think will be of benefit to you, as a motorist.
Over the next few weeks I am sending out on alternate Fridays an email on car repairs. What I want to do is offer more of an explanation on the common vehicle faults we encounter here at Fields.
What items wear? Why do they wear? Can you do anything to prevent them doing so?
I will also try to explain some of the jargon we mechanics use and demystify the language and terms we use. Terms like ‘CV boot’ and ‘lower arm bushes’ what the heck do they mean?
All professionals have their jargon. I do feel though sometimes we speak to customers about their car’s components with these odd terms and they really haven’t a clue what we are talking about! Sometimes it’s not easy to explain.
“Just fix my car and tell me how much!” is the answer we get …LOL
Maintaining a car can be costly with the repair bills. Sometimes a little more knowledge can help ease this. I’m calling these emails ‘What’s under my bonnet!’ This is the first one…..
Most cars now have ‘brake pads’. In the past they had brake ‘shoes’ but largely these have been phased out as the pad system is far more efficient.
The easiest way to explain this is to
show you the difference between a new brake pad and an old one as in the photo above. Very simply when you hit the brake pedal these ‘pads’ move out to press against the brake discs and that in turn stops the car. At service we check the pad condition for wear and try to estimate how long a life they have before they need changing.
You have these front and rear on the car, however front pads will tend to wear quicker as your braking is done by the front brakes.
How often do they need replacing?
A lot depends on how you drive and how hard you brake! The idiot thrashing around Woking, slamming on his brakes will get his comeuppance when new brakes will be required a lot sooner than normal!
Heavy, larger vehicles would tend to wear more quickly as often do Automatic cars where driver braking techniques can have an effect on wear.
Some vehicles have a warning system to alert you as they wear down. Others, nothing to warn you before it’s too late! This is why regular servicing is important.
The ‘pad’ works with other brake mechanisms, especially the condition of the discs which they work with to stop you.
You can see in this picture the difference between old and new discs. Most of the time we recommend that the pads and discs are replaced together. To replace pads on their own often causes
judder issues and noises (see below), plus they will no doubt wear quicker as the pad works with an old disc. I guess I would like to get 25,000 miles or so out of a new set of pads and discs.
Often one complaint of a brake noise is a high pitched screeching. This may not mean they are worn out, it is often caused by rusted discs or a build up of dust from the pads.
You may have also heard a grinding/graunching sound as you or someone else brakes, this may be caused by worn brake pads. Pads have a friction material, that if left to wear out it will expose the metal of the pad causing them to grate into the discs.
We have seen ones so bad that the pad has come off the car or as the picture shows, broken up. A serious safety concern!
Alternatively it could be just a stone caught up (boy that can be loud!) or just a build up of dust.
A common problem is experiencing a judder through the brake pedal as you brake. Discs can overheat, warp or wear which translate to this juddering.
My last comment is that modern braking systems now encompass electric control. Oh yes, it’s getting more and more complicated! You will notice that the old style of hand brake we used to have to yank upwards slowly disappear as it is replaced with an electric control. All well and good but it creates more things to go wrong as well! Progress!
Any concerns you have now or in the future, brakes are one of those safety items you cannot compromise with, so never hesitate to ask our advice.
I will tell you more about our night but first let me take you back if I may. Richard, my brother and I started FCC back in 1981. The business grew over the years and believe it or not we still have some of those original customers who came to us when we started. So many thanks to you for the support over 36 years now.
In 1995 we entered a Motor Trade Award for the Auto Trade Magazine. It was our first venture into the world where we had to compete against other garages, some very notable companies I will add. Back then we had the great experience and accolade of winning ‘Independent small Garage of the Year’ 1995 in Birmingham. Fast forward to 2005 and we tried again. This time we were runners up at the ‘Motortrade Awards’, Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane. A good experience but we came away disappointed we had not won. But in these awards you are up against some very impressive businesses.
We stepped back from this world of competitions and concentrated on FCC growth. However this year, Richard decided the time was right to try again. We entered for two awards, ‘Car Dealer’ magazine ‘Service and Repair Outlet of the Year’ and ‘Workshop’ magazine ‘Independent Garage of the Year’.
On a cold wet November night we arrived at The Brewery in London for the awards evening. Little did we know what was in store for us. As the names of the five finalists were read out I thought we might get a “Highly Commended” mention but when we weren’t among those I thought we were going home early. So it was to our amazement when Mike Brewer announced the winner as Fields Car Centre of Woking.
This is going to sound like it’s easy to win such recognition … but believe me it’s not! Once again in the same venue we were left feeling stunned at what we had achieved. Having been awarded ‘Service and Repair outlet of the Year’ in one award ceremony, we suspected there may be a sense this time of ‘sharing it out’. Meaning another deserving garage would win this accolade. In other words having won one award, we wondered if that might count against us … but NO!
Field’s Car Centre won ‘Independent Garage of the Year – Southern England’. You are going to get sick of me saying this but we really are speechless. Amazed!
We have been here before and gone home empty handed, the competition is very strong for these awards. But 2017 was to be our year to do the ‘Double’:
Some of you have asked us how we were chosen, what were the judges looking for? Well check out the videos taken, where one of the judges explains why we were chosen.
The motor trade has several magazines that service our industry. They each run their own individual awards. We entered for the ‘Car Dealer Magazine’ Service and Repair outlet of the year award and also ‘Workshop Magazine’ Independent Garage of the Year. You know the old adage… ‘You wait all day for a bus and then two come along’ well, that’s how it was for us.
The extra special moment for us was something I noticed when we went to collect our award. We mounted the stage to receive our award from Formula One motor racing legend Johnny Herbert. Then as we came off the stage to walk to our seats, one table of guests rose to give us a standing ovation.
A huge thank you, to you our customers, without your support and ‘feedback comments’ we would not have won these awards. Thank you SO much. So many of you have offered your congratulations but do you know what has meant the most?… It’s when people, like you not only say “Congratulations” but then add “You deserved it!” To hear this means so much to us, we can win in life, in all sorts of areas, but when someone says ” Yes you deserved to win!” that’s special! And of course to our staff … What a Team! How proud we are of them!
A while back a car was in the garage for an MOT and a Service. When it was driven in to the workshop the guys started making noises about the smell coming from the car.
“Whimps” I thought, “Just get on with the job and stop moaning!”
But then tucked away in my back office, here at Field’s, the ‘smell’ started to permeate into my domain. “What is that smell?” It was the most foul odour – ‘had the car come off a farmyard?’
The smell seemed to reach every part of the garage and soon every one was protesting. Keith, our MOT tester, managed to do the test without passing out. Then Graeme, our old hand here, offered to service it, but first he was determined to work out ‘where that smell was coming from!’
Much to our amazement the customer had made no mention. Now some of us here have been working around cars for decades, we should have realised straight away. Graeme soon rooted out the culprits…
Looking for an escape route
Mice – a whole family of them! They had nested in the panel below the windscreen, bedding and a winters food supply (stolen dog food)! They were there for the long haul! It turned out that the car had been ‘laid up’ and had been driven to us to be put back on the road.
We had to do something to get them out though.
Not an easy task as they were scurrying around all over the ‘under bonnet’ area and the dash. Mice can do no end of damage. I have had them in my garage at times and seen what they can do. In making a nest they can create havoc. We had a snooker table, ruined, where they had made holes in the green cloth and were nesting in the pockets!
In cars they will nest behind the dash, in the heater ducts and we even found one in the heater fan once. Some interior fans look like a hamster wheel. Think they soon found out it wasn’t! Mice will chew through the wiring, which can cause major headaches as often you just can’t see the damage. With modern electrics on cars, this is no small thing. Back to our family of mice, we sadly had to evict them from their home.
Not at all easy to do, with some very intensive cleaning the car was soon smell free. These are very cute fellas, but boy do they cause problems!
Safe Motoring this weekend
01483 766634 [email protected] www.fields-carcentre.co.uk
Now, I know some of you will be thinking…
“I will let my husband do these” or “I can’t be faffed to do it, I’d rather pay someone else to do!”
I want to encourage you by saying that they are really quite simple jobs to do, and as I have stressed these checks are really no big deal, it’s just a periodic check.
It’s just being sensible. Your car is a dangerous machine if not maintained properly, yes we play our part with servicing and doing the MOT for you but there is something about not being complacent and being in control. A little knowledge, as they say, goes a long way.
What I would suggest is that before you do any long run, do these 5 simple checks. It could save you a lot of potential inconvenience, hassle or even an accident. (I find that some people are really interested and others just glaze over and really aren’t bothered.)
If you are one of our lady customers you may be interested to know that we are running another of our ‘Ladies Nights’ in May. This is a great opportunity to come down and let us show you what we are referring to. Dates and info at the end of this e mail.
So, to the final two checks… and to be honest these are the ones, that if they do need attention you may need to pay us a visit! Both fluid levels are monitored by the cars’ warning system. That is to say, if the fluid level should drop, indicating a leak perhaps, then a warning light will show on the dash… you hope. That’s the theory. Of course ‘warning systems’ can malfunction or even ‘not work’!
“So why do I need to check the levels if the car has a warning system?”
Well firstly, we are asking you to open the bonnet to check oil levels and top up washer fluid, so whilst you are there you may as well cast your eye on two things. Remember what I said about warning systems sometimes not working, well this is playing it safe. They are easy and simple to check …. honestly!
As in these diagrams, most cars use a similar system. The brake fluid reservoir will have markings on the side showing min and max levels. Similarly the coolant bottle will have too.
The level should ideally be on max and certainly not near min. If it were then we would need to see what the reason was for this.
Brake Fluid is a hydraulic fluid used to operate the braking system. The level can sometimes drop a small amount as the brake linings wear down, this is normal and all that is required is a top up of the brake fluid. You can pass by here for us to do this for you or if you aren’t close by, pop into parts shop and ask for the correct fluid.
If it has dropped to the near the minimum mark this
could indicate a loss of fluid and could mean a leak that would put the car in a very vulnerable position.
Best get advice, call us, or if we are closed and you need immediate help, call your breakdown company.
For those confused between antifreeze and coolant, we are actually talking about the same thing. Engines need a coolant to ‘cool the engine down’. This coolant must have an antifreeze additive to stop it freezing in cold weather. Hence antifreeze is mixed with the water.
Should the coolant level drop slightly you can top it up with normal tap water. However, if you find it needs much more than a ‘top up’ we may need to check why. There may be a leak developing and if you have to ‘top up’ often with water the antifreeze strength will be diluted and not give the protection needed.
So, there we have it! Please remember if in doubt pass by here, we will happily check and top up. It’s all part of the service we give to look after you and your car.
So… here’s to keeping cool and slowing the pace down!
Have a great weekend
PS: I mentioned earlier about our Ladies Night in May. Dates and information shown in picture…. well later in the year we are using this successful formula to open up the garage to New Drivers.
There is no age restriction, anyone of any age can come but specifically aimed at those who are new drivers or looking to learn to drive. No, it’s not a learn to drive course but an introduction for those new to car ownership. It will be an evening of demonstration as well as participation with an emphasis on fun too. Dates will follow soon.
Every so often we get a car in for service and what we find horrifies us. Usually it’s something that could be potentially lethal.
This vehicle came in for a routine service. Now, look carefully, as our mechanic did and you will see a hairline crack in the alloy wheel.
The crack goes right through. Imagine driving at 70mph one day, the crack widens, and then the wheel collapses! Just think! Gulp! I have to give credit to our Graeme here, who spotted this, (I can say “Our Graeme” as he comes from up north!). Graeme has been in the trade nearly as long as me. “So, he’s ancient then Mike?” No, it just means he is young looking and still has his hair, just like me! Lol!
Wheels are often very dirty, a crack can be easily hidden, older hands like Graeme’s are thorough, simple as that. They have seen everything before, nothing fazes them, nothing surprises them and nothing escapes their attention. Mechanics need a sixth sense sometimes and the best of them, like Graeme have just that.
They know what to look for, they see things others may well miss, they are simply the top guys.
I often use the analogy comparing our guys with the Football Premier League. You can play for Woking (no offence Woking players), that’s really good, but you are just a National League player. Playing in the Premier League is the top of the tree. The best of the best! I consider our team of mechanics and technicians are the Premier League guys.
Have a great weekend.
PS: Spotting this could easily have saved a life.
Sometimes we all want to save a bit of money and so may choose what seems the ‘cheaper option’. We may miss a service or even go somewhere cheaper. Well, I know who I would want to service my car.
The car industry is failing women: that much we categorically know. Every customer survey, every “deep dive” into a huge data set of women drawn from Facebook, Mumsnet and other areas unconnected with the car world, returns the same findings: women are not marketed to, not recognised as a different buying demographic.
They are patronised or ignored or talked to in the sales showroom on the assumption that they then need to discuss a purchase with their husbands before making a decision. The vast majority of women feel 100 per cent disenfranchised from the buying process, despite having 85 per cent of the spending power.
A recent list published in Autocar magazine “celebrating” the top 100 women in the car industry showed how the industry is floundering: it was a navel-gazing look at jobs inside the industry for women, with categories such as the top female HR director and top female PR director, when it could have served its readers and the wider public better by celebrating the people who are actually doing something on the front line, to change the relationship between cars and the female public: social influencers, brand advisers, dealership managers, breakdown patrols.
Jack it up: Erin was among the 46 women at Field’s garage in Surrey
Last week, after 11 years as a motoring journalist, I found the person who has single-handedly caused the biggest shift in the link between women and cars.
His name is Richard Field, and he runs Field’s Car Centre in Woking, Surrey. If what follows seems like a big advert for one car garage, then good: they fully deserve it for ingenuity, kindness, honesty and a stroke of brilliance.
Because, one Thursday every month, they put on Ladies’ Night. Let us, for the sake of what follows, ignore the dreadful name for this event. The point is, it’s a free, two-hour session in which women learn about cars, ask all the stupid questions they want (“How do you open the bonnet?” was answered without a hint of a smirk) and get honest, kind, careful answers.
The idea came about after one woman turned up at the garage having put water in her brake fluid. It’s a complete no-brainer of a business move, too: women who come, and meet the friendly mechanics, are then far more likely to prove return customers, as well as spreading the word.
I went last week. The garage is not a swanky glass and metal dealership; it’s your average scruffy repair, servicing and MoT garage on a small trading estate; they also sell a few secondhand cars. Forty-five women joined me, and there’s a waiting list for each night. They were all ages – from 60-year-olds down to mums and their teenage daughters who had yet to pass their driving test. Seven welcoming mechanics waited in seven bays, and we split into groups that rotated round each bay. We had Gary on “awkward lights on dashboards”, Sal showing us how to change a wheel, Keith under a ramp pointing out MoT failures (“ladies like the idea of getting underneath Keith’s ramp”), Steve who’s normally on the phones but that night was explaining why a car needs to be serviced, how to check the oil and so on, another Gary on changing headlight bulbs, and Chris taking any questions at all, “although he doesn’t know about soufflés”.
Add in a raffle and a gift bag from Bose with sponges and tyre thread gauges in it, plus some cocktail sausages, crisps and soft drinks for all, and I had myself the finest, most useful, cheering, pleasant evening I’ve ever had in the car industry.
Next up, one woman pointed, out, it should be “Men’s Night”. We agreed they’d all turn up, but obviously no one would ask any questions.
I’m going to be looking at some of the new features that are already on some cars now and most certainly you will encounter in the future. ‘Park Assist‘, ‘Lane Assist‘ the list goes on.
What are now on the more upmarket models are soon to be standard on the types of car that you and I drive. So what I thought would be helpful was a Field’s ‘simples’ guide to some of them. Explaining what they do and how they can easily be used. Cos believe me, some of them are not ‘simples’ to use!
Manufacturers are loading their cars with new features, useful things, safety features but some of them just won’t be utilised by you or me if we don’t have a clue how to use them.
When it comes to new technology, new gadgets, new gizmo’s, it seems there are two types of people.
One: Those who embrace all things new, they take time to learn and use. (Doesn’t it just annoy… how easy they find it to work the new TV remote!)
By the way Sky Q anyone? With that touch remote that goes all over the place, before you know it you’re recording all episodes of News at Ten or some dodgy programme that you have to delete quickly so the kids don’t see.
The cat sat on ours the other day whilst we were watching ‘Bake off’ and then we were suddenly watching something more like ‘Blast off’!
Two: Others fall into the ‘unless it’s dead simple and automatic’ category they are not interested. It’s just too darn complicated.
Take your mobile phone, how many apps do you use of the hundreds you have downloaded? How much of your phones’ capability do you use? Things that seemed a ‘good idea at the time’ often fall by the wayside when we attempt to use them.When we bought my wife’s BMW, like any good husband I pulled out the manual to have a read. I say a manual, it was more like BMW’s version of War and Peace! It’s massive, 600 pages and that doesn’t cover the phone and audio system. Two more books on that!
First problem was reading through all the spiel that was of no relevance. Next it was the warning system – do we really need 50 different warning symbols?
Second problem, is actually working out if your car has the bits it’s describing. “If fitted”, “fitted to some models only” or “optional extra”. There, I was getting all excited about “Windscreen display” and “Lane change assist” only to find out that our car does not have these!
But honestly, do they really expect us to read, understand and utilise even half the features! I’m in the know supposedly, and believe me, I’m confused at times.
Now I’m making a joke of all this but actually it’s a very important issue. Manufacturers spend millions on developing and implementing some features that will never get used. Some will never use ‘cruise control’, let alone ‘adaptive cruise control’ yet you know what these are not gimmicks when used correctly. They could prevent a speeding fine and on the ‘safety’ front, an accident. We will look at these in future e mails.
Many cars now come with Driver Modes! ‘Bad driver mode’ is mine apparently, according to the missus! If you haven’t encountered this, it means you can set your steering, suspension and gearbox to different driving styles or conditions.
Right now, some of your eyes are glazing over and for others they are lighting up!
‘Sport Mode’, ‘Comfort Mode’ ‘Economy Mode’ and the list goes on and on. Talk about have to make decisions! The trouble is when you start the car it doesn’t ask what mode you would like. It does not ask what your journey entails. It does not try to decide the best combination for your trip.
No, you get in your car and have to think! Today I feel like Lewis Hamilton, so it’s sports mode! One speeding ticket later, mmm that wasn’t such a good idea!
All these things sound good on paper and for ‘petrol heads’ (the name given to the Jeremy Clarkson types) but I guarantee 95% of drivers will never use these options, they just get in and drive… it’s called ‘Auto pilot mode’. And you know what, that suits me fine.
Have a great weekend