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Know Your Car Basics 101: Looking for the Best Car Service Center?

(The last thing you expect to see in a car service centre. Image source: Pinterest)

It is heartening to hear that Proton has come up with a 60 minutes express service but in my opinion, they should have done this a long time ago.

Sending your car for car service can be a sticky thing. When you buy a new car and if you think the car as something that gets you from A to B, you probably will not be so worried of sending your car for the periodic service (some of you may even get your dad or brother to send the car for service on your behalf).

Read the previous posts on the car and car maintenance:-

You will send it to the nearest authorized service centre, drop off the car and go home after telling them to call once the service is done.

But on the other hand, if you think of the car as something more than a tool to get you from A to B, you are going to have a headache. After all, since the car is brand new and you have paid so much for it, the last thing you wish to see is for it to be “man-handled” and getting back the car with scratches and dirty patches here and there.

And for those who have done their “homework”, you will know that not authorized car service centres belong to the car manufacturer. Quite a number belongs to private car service centres.

When I got my very first car, I sent it to a car service centre belongs to Proton Edar. It looked like it was the right thing to do. Back in 2004 – 2005, Proton was still struggling in getting out newer models and quality of their cars sucked big time. Their service centres had the same problem.

I practically was spending the whole day just to do a simple service and I was rather annoyed and angry at the frequency of the mechanics taking their short breaks. But my complaints to the service centre manager fell on deaf ears and the so-called customer service did not improve. All that changed when the warranty expired and I was free to service my car in any car service centres.

A lot of changed since then. Proton’s cars are better built these days although their QA side can use a good overhaul and service centres have now become more customer service focused. I have been to two authorized but private service centres that handle Proton cars in recent times and the experience was quite different than those times in 2004 – 2005.

But then again, how you will define the criteria that make a good car service centre? What are the things you look for when deciding that you want to go to Service Center A instead of Service Center B? I don’t know about others but here are some of mine (in NO specific order):-

1. Bring Own Lube

If you head over to some websites like Lowyat, this seems to be the key criteria for most of them. Proton Edar service center which I went to for my first car often uses engine oils from a large container instead of using the usual smaller packages but they do allow their customers to bring in their own lube if they wanted to.

Bringing in your lube is nothing to shout about – most service centers allows it, as long as it meets the car’s specifications. The good thing about bringing your lube is simple – there will be leftover after they have used for your car. A couple of services later, you will enough leftovers to fill one whole bottle.

2. Cleanliness

I am not talking about the cleanliness of the workshop or customer waiting area. I am talking about how clean your car will be once the mechanics have done with it. Perodua for example, places disposal papers on the floor and wraps the seat with plastic bag so that the car remains clean.

I am not sure about Proton though – my recent service (which was done in a private authorized service center), the mechanic placed a disposal paper on the floor but did nothing to wrap the seats. But the good thing is, they provided quick wash for that and I did not find my car dirtier than before.

3. Waiting Period

How it takes for the car service center to service one car? Proton in their latest announcement says 60 minutes. Pretty good accomplishment if you ask me – I have spent hours in the past. But the trick, I guess it is knowing which service centers have less cars for the day and which day and more importantly making appointment before

4. QC Area

How many of you have seen how your car being serviced? The usual happens – you meet some customer service representatives, explain your problems with the car, the worksheet then get passed to the mechanic who is available (not necessary the best or skilled), the mechanic gets to work and once he done with your car, he parks it and pass back the worksheet back to the customer service representatives who then inform you and collects the payment. Who to check whether the mechanic did a good job?

My first service of my new car, I was outstation and decided to go to the nearest service center and was surprised to see a QC area. My car got serviced and the mechanic instead of parking it in customer’s parking parked it at QC area where a more senior mechanic double checks the worksheet against the work done by the mechanic.

He noticed some shortcomings and calls the mechanic over – they go through something and the car then got sent back for the mechanic to complete the job. The car then sent back to the QC area for another round of checking before it is considered work done properly.

5. Technical Explanation

Your car has been serviced and the customer service representative explains what has serviced and what has been replaced and he/she is speaking in Greek. Sounds familiar?

They use unknown jargon and technical and if you are not a mechanic yourself or have done your homework, it does not mean anything to you.

The best car service centers will actually explain in lay terms of what have been changed – what was the cause of the fault and the impact if the part was not replaced.

6. Customer Waiting Area

Even a simple car service will take at least 30 – 45 minutes to complete. If you have more complaints on the car and they may need to change parts, the waiting time is going to be even longer. So, how you plan to spend the time whilst the mechanics are working on the car?

Most authorized service centers have dedicated customer waiting area, fully equipped with a TV, newspapers, magazine, coffee/tea making facilities and well maintained toilets.

Most do indeed but some have small waiting area – a couple of sofas (which is not enough for the crowd and most had to contend with standing up or walking around until they get back their car) and that is about it.

One of the best waiting area I have seen is a Perodua service center – the waiting area is not big but it is just next to the service area so we can see through a glass wall what the mechanic is doing without coming out from the air conditioned waiting area.

7. Access to Food & Drinks

I am not talking about the complimentary tea and coffee but a real restaurant or food stall for breakfast or lunch, depending on what time your car service is expected to be completed.

Image stuck somewhere at some industrial area without any food stall in the morning, having nothing but complimentary coffee, sitting rather boringly at the small customer waiting area.

Damn, I rather sit down at some Mamak Shop, having a hot teh tarik and a smooth roti canai.

8. Complimentary Car Wash

Frankly, this is nothing to shout about but you know what, it is like that cherry on top of the ice cream. The car been serviced, it sounds good, it drives good and with a good car wash, it looks good too.

9. Ability to Identify Problems

You driving your car and you heard a funny sound coming from the left side of the car. You decide to tell about it on your next car service.

You explain it to the customer service representative and hope that they will make clear to the mechanic and the mechanic will be able to identify the problem but when you get the car back, the problem is still there.

What had happened? Did customer service representative heard your problems wrongly or misunderstood you? Did the mechanic misunderstood the worksheet or was not skillful enough to know what need to be done to fix the problem?

Hmm, that’s about it for now until the next car service. I am pretty sure that others will have different criteria in determining which service centre is better (like an uncle I know – he wants to stand next to the mechanic when the mechanic is working on the car)

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