Our Kev: Why a little ‘knowledge’ can be a very dangerous thing…

Our Kev: Why a little ‘knowledge’ can be a very dangerous thing…

Where would we be without the internet, eh? If anything has revolutionised our lives in the past 20 years, it’s the world wide web above all else.

Which, of course, is great. But for one thing. There is, quite possibly, too much information there. For example, if you come down with a virus of some description, a quick consultation with Dr Google will confirm your worst fears – yes, it’s fatal, and no, you don’t have a lot of time left.

I had a boil on my chin last week that wouldn’t go away, and by the time my missus had finished her research I’d been struck down by some weird tropical illness.

Of course, I lived to tell the tale, and within 48 hours the boil had reduced to a pimple and I was back at work.

So, for illnesses, Dr Google is a bad thing. But not as bad as his sidekick, the Google mechanic. There was a day, before the internet took over, where customers would trust their local garage to look after their cars. If they brought the car to us with a fault, we would get it in the workshop, have a look, and then go back to the customer with a description of the fault and a quote to mend it.

But what happens today is this. The customer comes to the garage armed with ‘knowledge’. Among that ‘knowledge’ is a clear understanding of what’s wrong with it, because ‘somebody on an internet forum about Peugeot 307s confirmed it’. They also tend to have an idea of how long it will take us to fix (normally ‘a couple of hours’).

Very occasionally, they’ve also looked up the prices of cheap knock-off parts imported from the Far East via internet auction sites, and before you know it, they reckon we can change both front suspension arms, along with balljoints, for about sixty quid.

when we point out that this isn’t strictly the case, their reaction ranges from distrustful and disappointed to apoplectic with rage, conveniently forgetting that not only does the fee include a (very modest) salary for the technician carrying out the repairs, but also a guarantee against any defects in parts or workmanship, meaning we only buy in quality bits and we don’t rush any jobs because it’s not in our interests, or our customers’, to cut corners.

Just recently, the problem has become even more rife. The rise of specialist groups on social media has led to an increased sharing of ‘knowledge’ among people who really should know better – along with a ready-made support network that has given the wrong type of people the confidence to go about doing jobs themselves.

Now, I’m not one to put anybody off picking up a socket set (well, apart from the inherently gormless) as every mechanic has to start somewhere, but there’s an element of natural selection here, and we saw it the other week with a Vauxhall Astra that turned up on our forecourt.

The owner, a young man who fancied himself as a bit of an ‘expert’ in various online forums, had decided to renew the front brake pads himself after the Astra failed its MOT at our garage. Having decided our quote was too much at £70 fitted, he bought some cheap pads online and ‘fitted’ them himself.

He’d booked the Astra in for a retest, and on arrival asked us if we could ‘quickly check’ the pads as they were making a funny noise. He was confident, though, that the car would pass its MOT as it now stopped on a sixpence.

Which, as it transpired, was about as much as he appeared to have paid towards its repairs. Not only was the ABS light illuminated for the retest (an instant MOT fail), but on further investigation we discovered that, although the pads were brand new, our customer had managed to fit them loosely in the calipers without spring clips or carriers.

Indeed, it was only the shape of the calipers that was holding the new pads in place – the ‘funny noise’ he could hear was them moving around against the discs.

We failed the car with a ‘DANGEROUS’ notification on the fail sheet, advising him not to drive it. Which, finally, was enough to persuade him to get the job done properly – humbly realising the error of his ways.

He paid £70 for some new pads, fitted properly (his previous new ones were already ruined) and £54.80 for a second retest. At the end of it all, he’d learnt his lesson the hard way. So, no damage done, but the worrying thing is that the cretin could quite easily have killed someone – through a Google diagnosis, no less.

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