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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

#11: Cowboy Car Maintenance in the Wild West

So, I took my car in for an oil change a few weeks’ back – at one of North Vancouver’s finest commercial garages. I’ll spare their blushes (ie. naming them) for reasons that will become apparent. I got a good deal; $36, thanks to a voucher from their website. And all seemed to be going well… until I returned from a nearby Starbucks and bounded up to the front desk to pay the bill.

Suddenly, from nowhere – just when I thought the car was back on the straight and narrow for a while – a mysterious second sheet of paper was thrust under my nose. Apparently, they ‘happened to notice’ my brakes were about to fail. Well, to be more precise, the rear brake pads (or shoes, as they like to call them; which I guess would make the brakes some kind of car-tastic feet?) were 1% from being shot. Like, the soles were tissue paper-thin and the slightest hard brake would take them over the edge (or crack the 'thin ice').

Hmmmm. And, of course, an innocuous sounding job was going to cost the Earth – and half of Mars to carry out. In fact, about 10 times what the oil change had cost! (I shake my head in non-amazement…). Yes, 360-odd dollars.

Money I simply didn’t have.

Such a scenario isn’t confined to this particular garage, though. It’s been a typical occurrence at establishments both sides of the Atlantic for me over the last 20+ years; whenever I’ve taken one of the five cars I’ve owned (three in the UK and two in Canada) in for a service (or oil change).

This is because it’s one of the unwritten laws (or lores) of car maintenance within the industry; namely that: thou shalt always go in for a new air freshener or set of fluffy dice – and come out supposedly needing a new engine, doors, wheels and a roof. So, essentially a new car.

“But I bought the car new last weekend!” you cry. “That may be so,” says the well drilled A-list actor manifesting as a garage service boss...

To read the rest of this column, check out BC Johnny's upcoming book: Chilled Almonds.

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