Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Choosing a service provider

What do you want from a maintenance program?

When people bring late model cars to Robison Service (or any independent service specialist) they are often seeking an alternative to dealer service.  Why? 




In my experience, dealership service personnel follow a game plan that is laid out by the carmaker and oriented toward maximum new car sales.  In other words, keep the new car buyers happy so they buy another car in 2 or 3 years.  The primary purpose of a new car dealer is to sell new cars.  Service may be an important tool to build client satisfaction but it’s not the reason dealers are there.

 Shops like ours – specialists who concentrate on one or two makes for service only – have a different orientation.  We are here to keep the cars under our care on the road and as reliable as possible for as long as our clients want to drive them.

With that different perspective it should not come as any surprise that the dealer and we would espouse different philosophies when it comes to preventative maintenance.

The manufacturer may call for a 15,000 mile oil change interval in a certain model car.  That may work fine for new cars.  But we cars that are 7-8 years old, with 70-80,000 miles on the odometers, and that 15k service interval hasn’t worked out too well.  Maybe the owner didn’t make it in a exactly 15k.  Maybe the dealer didn’t use the right oil.  Maybe the 15k recommendation was a little too aggressive.  Maybe . . . .

From our perspective, the maybes don’t matter.  Results matter.  We see the damaged high mile cars, and we see other cars whose oil was changed at 10,000 miles.  Those cars don’t show any wear or damage. 

The dealer represents the carmaker, and if they say “do oil at 15,000” that is what they do.  We are independent.  If the evidence of our service fleet causes us to believe 10,000 miles is a more prudent interval, we’ll say so. 

We also recognize that tests may facilitate even better fine tuning.  If you run 25 vehicles, and you sample oil from all of them at different intervals you will get a very accurate idea of how often to change oil for your fleet in the circumstances in which you operate.  You may be surprised at the number.

We may deviate from the manufacturer’s suggested service schedule based on our experience.  Does that mean the manufacturer was wrong?  No.  It means operating conditions differ in different areas, and service schedules may be optimized to reflect that.  In some cases, manufacturer service scheduled may be trimmed down to present a lower cost of upkeep in the early years.  If you only drive the car for those early years that’s good for you.  But if you plan to drive it for ten years, you’ll pay a price for that early economy.  We don’t have to follow that plan for long-term owners, while we can embrace it for short term lessees.

Flexibility has value.  We can apply that flexibility in a hundred different areas from filters to fluids; from software updates to system upgrades.

There’s room for more than one opinion when it comes to service.


Think about that as you consider what you want from a service provider.

John Elder Robison is the general manager of J E Robison Service Company, independent restoration and Bosch Authorized Car Service specialists in Springfield, Massachusetts.  John is a longtime technical consultant to the Land Rover, Porsche, and Rolls Royce Owner's Clubs, and he’s owned and restored many of these fine vehicles.  Find him online at www.robisonservice.com or in the real world at 413-785-1665

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