Can anyone offer help/advice re: enormous car service cost?

Hi, all.

I realise many people are off on the Challenge ATM but I’m wondering whether anybody can advise re: this.

I bought a 3-year-old Sk*da 18 months ago from a reputable Sk*da dealership. They sourced it for me from somewhere else in the country and gave it a used car check before telling me all was fine. It then had 42k miles on the clock.

Today I took it in for a service at a different (closer) Sk*da dealership. The car’s now done 55k miles. It’s about 6 months overdue for service, but I don’t drive it lots. I had a phone call from the dealership earlier this afternoon to tell me they’d identified the following issues (in addition to the new cam belt that apparently they all need at 4 years/80,000 miles).

– It needs a new clutch.
– It has a significant — “quite bad” — oil leak “from the turbo area” that will require investigation, and may then be very expensive to fix.
– A problem with “two front lower suspension bushes”–I’ve no idea what they are but I was told it’s quite a big deal
– It needs new disks and brake pads, front and back
– It needs 3 new tyres
– It needs (these are less significant) a new bulb and new front and back wipers, and the rear wiper jet isn’t working

I was told that the cost of this work–including the service, but NOT including investigation and fixing of the oil leak–is £2,000.

I’ve contacted the dealership I bought it from and I’m going to take it in for them to have a look. They told me that it sounded as though perhaps the turbo needed replacing (I may have the terminology wrong there), and that that could cost an additional £500-1,000, depending on the nature of the problem.

I bought this car for £7k 18 months ago, and I’m reeling at the idea that there’s now £2,000-£3,000 to be spent on getting it into appropriate condition. Am I being naive, or is this really as shocking as it sounds to me? I know that things like pads and disks and wipers and tyres do wear out, but I’m wondering how *all* of this stuff can have become necessary in the 18 months since I was told it was fine when I bought it.

Any advice gratefully received.


29 Responses to Can anyone offer help/advice re: enormous car service cost?

  1. BG! says:

    I’d consider getting an independent check by the AA, the RAC or a similar such organisation. Links as follows:
    There’s a fee, but if it saves you paying for unnecessary stuff then you’re not losing out.
    If there are major discrepancies, tell Watchdog and let the fur fly!

    Which Skoda is it, PW? I have an 2003 Octavia vRS turbo, ~50k miles, still on the original rear tyres, turbo still fine, no cam-belt change required yet, still on original brake pads and discs, and it’s just sailed through the MOT.

    Maybe the peeps that have assessed your car have played the “it’s a woman, she’ll know nowt about cars and prices” game?

  2. BG! says:

    In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m bothered by what you say they claim…
    For instance, AFAIK there’s no oil involved with a turbo, it just uses exhaust gases to augment the air input to the engine. If there’s no oil, how can it leak?
    As to the suspension bushes, if these are shot then you’d prolly hear a clunking/thudding sound on heavy braking. Even so, they’re cheap as chips and easy to replace, hardly a “big deal”.
    3 new tyres? Usually it’s wise to replace them in pairs… maybe you need 2, but if they convince you that it’s 3 then they can recommend all 4, crafty, eh? Fronts wear faster than rears. If they are saying that the tread’s worn, that’s easy to check as each tyre will have wear-indicators moulded into the tread – Google for pics if unsure what to look for. Uneven tyre wear is a different matter and is usually a problem with wheel-alignment and/or tracking. For a paltry fee (or even free if you smile nicely) a tyre-fitting place will check these things for you, takes about 10 minutes.

    • peewiglet says:

      Hi BG, and many thanks for your help ♥

      It’s a 2006 Fabia Estate 1.9 TDI. They’re supposed to be a very reliable car with a good engine, which is why I bought it.

      Unfortunately, I know virtually nothing about cars, and it’s possible that the garage is trying it on. My instinct, though, is that the work does need doing, and if that’s the case then I don’t understand why none of this was apparent when I bought it.

      It’s very interesting to hear that you’ve had to have virtually nothing done to your Octavia. I was told when I rang to book the service that the car has to have a new cam belt at either 4 years old or 80k miles. That might be true of my model, though, of course.

      What they said about the oil leak (I made notes as he gave me the bad news) was “quite a bad oil leak from the turbo area”. When I spoke later to the salesman who sold me the car at the other dealership he said, reading between the lines, that it sounded to him as though the first dealership was implying that the turbo might need to be replaced. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage because I don’t understand the terminology, but that’s what they said. I’ve checked the drive where the car is always parked, and I can see no sign whatsoever of any oil stains. Perhaps there’s a reasonable explanation for that, but I’ve seen oil leak stains in the past and they were black.

      I don’t do much heavy braking, but I’ve not noticed any clunking/thudding sounds at all.

      I realised I’d need 4 tyres if 3 need replacing. I’ll go out and have a look at the tread shortly, thanks. They did say that there’s an ‘egg’ in one of the front ones. I’ll see whether I can spot that too. I didn’t see anything when I thoroughly cleaned it at the weekend, but I suppose I wasn’t focussing on the tyres.

      The sums they’ve quoted for the more expensive things are as follows (taken from the documentation they sent back with the car).

      – Clutch worn/crunch gears £523.87
      – Front arm bushes split £199.53
      – Front discs worn and pitted £235.67
      – Rear discs and pads 90% worn £206.59

      They also charged £51.71 for “bulk oil” on the service. That sounds a lot to me but I know oil can be expensive, and perhaps it’s normal.

      It’s all very depressing. I’ve followed those useful links for independent reports, but (assuming it would require a comprehensive rather than a basic inspection) that would be another £200, which feels like too much on top of what I’m pretty sure is going to be a hefty bill, even if the second dealership suggests that not all the work needs doing.

      I’m wondering what to do for the best. Assuming that the jobs do really need doing, I’m wondering whether it’s worth spending the money and knowing that all those things are new, and unlikely to need replacing for a while, or whether I’d be better off trying to swap this in for another used car. I’m afraid that if I take the latter course, though, then I could find myself in a similar position in 12-18 months time 😦

    • Turbos have an oil line running to them for lubrication.

  3. Byeways says:

    Some of the items on that list shouldn’t be immediate. VW clutches are generally pretty robust and 55,000 miles sounds a bit early for one to need replacing; is it proving difficult to change/select gears? Brake pads are a consumable and will need to be replaced from time to time; it will vary with the type of motoring you do and your particular style of driving.

    The tyres you can probably check for yourself: there are tread depth ‘lugs’ on modern tyres; when these are flush with the surface your tread is down to replacement level. There are recommended cam belt change intervals – time or mileage, whichever comes first. It should tell you the ones for your car in the vehicle handbook.

    as BG says, I’d consider a second opinion, either from one of the motoring organisations or a trustworthy independent workshop. For what it’s worth, I drive a VW and would never take it to my local VW dealership. Ask around to see if anyone knows of a reputable independent in your area.

    • peewiglet says:

      Thank you very much for your advice ♥

      Most of my driving since I bought the car has been around town, though there have been a couple of journeys across country, a few to the Lakes and one (two?) to Scotland. I’ve only done about 13,000 miles in 18 months, so I think it’s below average. I don’t treat the car harshly, either.

      I’ll go out and check the tyre treads, thanks. I’m definitely going to seek out a good independent workshop locally. Even the bloke at the second dealership pointed out that it would be cheaper for me to get discs, pads and tyres done elsewhere.

      (I’ve written and attempted to post this reply twice, now, btw. I hope it shows up this time! I first tried to post it about 10 minutes ago. Doh…)

  4. BG! says:

    PW, tomorrow morning I’ll take your price list to my buddy at the garage up the road and see what he says. I’ll need to know if those prices inclusive of labour and VAT.

    • peewiglet says:

      Thanks, BG. You’re a star! ♥

      I’ve just rung the dealership. The service department is closed, but the bloke I spoke to said he’s almost certain that those figures will include labour and VAT, as they like to quote in a way that isn’t misleading.

      • BG! says:

        No probs, PW. Depending on how busy they are, a reply could take between an hour and a day, I’ll see if I can chivvy them along a bit quicker.

        If the “documentation” that you have is worth the paper it’s written on, it must state whether or not the lab/VAT is included. ‘Tis the law, IIRC.

        • peewiglet says:

          If the “documentation” that you have is worth the paper it’s written on, it must state whether or not the lab/VAT is included. ‘Tis the law, IIRC.

          Hmmm… Well, it doesn’t re: the quote part, though of course it does for the work they’ve carried out today.

          Thanks again ♥ No hurry–I think I’m going to look out a good independent workshop locally and take it there for whatever needs doing.

  5. BG’s advice is good, particularly the independent check. It’s true that if a cambelt does go, it will most likely cause significant and expensive engine damage and the best bet is to find out what the official Skoda advice is on when to have it changed.

    Main dealers are always expensive, and often they farm out the actual work to one of the back-street guys whose labour rates are far lower and who doesn’t put the same mark-up on parts. I know it’s not an easy quick fix, but ask around friends and neighbours to try and find one of those back-street places – for 20 years I’ve had all my motor services/repairs done in a place that has no shiny reception and indeed you tend to get a bit oily after visiting, but have paid very reasonable amounts for reliable work. And ‘Mick’ always collects and brings the car back, sometimes at what must be inconvenient times for him.

    • peewiglet says:

      Thank you ♥

      I’ll definitely do that. I’ve got a Which subscription, and it includes a website where it’s possible to find local recommedations for all sorts of services. I’ll start there right now.

      Thanks again, all of you! Your help is *very* much appreciated.

  6. peewiglet says:

    A supplementary question which I suspect may fall into the ‘daft’ category.

    When I’ve found a reliable independent workshop locally, how does it work with obtaining a quote? Presumably they’d need to spend some time checking the car in order to know what needed doing. What if they spend time doing that but for some reason I don’t like the sound of their quote? Is it considered unfair for me to just say “Thanks, but no thanks”?

    • BG! says:

      Treat the investigation and the repairs as separate things. Your independent will know the true price of these things, if (s)he values your business (s)he’ll be honest and quote accordingly, you’ll go back there next time and it’ll be happiness all around.

      Stay there while they do the investigation. If possible take a chaperone, somebody that either knows or seems to know about cars, somebody who’ll ask to be shown what’s wrong. A good indie will be happy to let you into the workshop to look at your car’s gubbins (subject to H&S restrictions). Take pics of the bits that they say are duff before agreeing to having the work done, say you’re going to put the pics on t’internet. Keeps the spanner-tramps on their toes 🙂

      When you have your quote, search t’internet for prices that others have paid, you’ll soon get a feel for what things cost. There are a few Skoda forums out there, a bit of lurking can reveal a lot of info.

  7. Byeways says:

    To kick the relationship off on a decent footing it might be best to let them have the service which is due (provided that they come well recommended) and ask them to generally have a look around the car while they’re working on it.

    Even if they give you a list of things which may need looking at in the near future, that’s still a better outcome than a list which needs to be sorted immediately at main dealer prices.

    Good luck. For what it’s worth there are some decent small independents out there and they’ll probably have seen plenty of Sk*da/Seat/VW engine bays in their time.

  8. Byeways says:

    Apologies; re-reading your original post suggests that the service may already have been done.

    Possibly asking them to check your brake pads might be one way of trying them out. It would give you a second opinion on one of the items on the list.

    • peewiglet says:

      Many thanks ♥ Yes, the service was done yesterday, but I suppose I now have a long list of jobs with which to try out the local garages. Pads sound like a good start.

  9. DodgeyKnee says:

    I’d go with BG’s advice. 13,000 miles seems a rather short time for all those things to wear at once, and I think you would have noticed some noise – a grinding noise when cornering or breaking for worn pads for instance.

    When was the MOT done? Some of these things, for instance a worn (slipping?) clutch or worn suspension bushes I would imagine should have shown up then. If they are at fault they are obliged to rectify everything for free!

    Definately get a second opinion.

    • peewiglet says:

      Many thanks, DK.

      I had wondered recently whether the brake pads might need doing–I’ve noticed that slight ‘grindy’ feel occasionally when braking. I wasn’t surprised to hear that something there needed replacing, though it’s a bit of a blow that they need doing all round.

      The MOT was done at the end of November, and the only problem identified was that a headlight bulb needed replacing. No mention of anything else at all.

      • Just a little aside on the MOT point – it only assesses your car for safety rather than reliability, as in whether it might break down on you soon. Clearly as DK above says major existing defects in the braking or suspension systems should show up on the MOT, but it won’t, for example, give you any insight as to whether or not to change the cambelt.

  10. BG! says:

    Leaving aside my obvious lack of knowledge about turbos 😦 …

    Just got back from the garage, my mucker was surprised at the amount of work “needed” bearing in mind the age and mileage, he also recommends an independent check by the RAC, AA or similar. In his opinion, the clutch should be fine for many more years and miles, the brake discs usually last a lot longer too.

    Regardless, he’s got me some prices. I’m just copying them here, if the maths is wrong it’s his fault:

    Lower front arm bushes: there was a bit of confusion here, he wasn’t sure which bushes so maybe we’re not talking about the same bits. However, if it’s the bushes that he’s thinking of, they’re £55 each, whereas replacing the full arms (which have new bushes on them) is quicker, cheaper and easier than replacing the bushes alone. 1 pair new arms £78, labour £108, VAT £37.20 TOTAL £223.20

    1 pair new front discs £66, 1 set new front pads £25.75, labour £54, VAT £29.15, TOTAL £174.90

    1 pair new rear discs £34.90, 1 set new rear pads £15.75, labour £54, VAT £20.93, TOTAL £125.58

    New clutch £200.00, fluid £27, labour 162.00, VAT £77.80, TOTAL £466.80

    Labour has been calculated on the basis that each job is an individual affair. There would be significant reductions for having the lot done together as the front-end work (front discs & pads, arms and clutch) entails removing bits that are common to more than one job, he estimated a discount of 50% of the labour costs for the front-end work if done in one hit. Obviously if the labour costs are reduced then the VAT costs are reduced accordingly.

    Hope that helps.

    • peewiglet says:

      That’s great thanks! Thank you (and your pal) very much indeed for taking the time and trouble to find all of that out for me ♥ ♥ It’s very helpful indeed!

      Update is that I’ve just spoken to the bloke who did the MOT 6 months ago. He struck me as very genuine at the time, though of course it’s difficult for me to judge. Anyway, he was very surprised indeed to hear of the long list of things that apparently need doing, and he said that if I take the car over to him later this afternoon he’ll put it on the ramp and take a look at it for me 🙂 I feel better now…

      Thanks again, BG 🙂

  11. John J says:

    Any car with a turbo MUST have it’s oil and filter changed on time. These things whizz round at around 20,000rpm in a rather unpleasant environment – hot gases on one side, cold air on t’other. They rely absolutely on decent oil.


  12. steve says:

    its also worth noting that cars with turbos are best left idiling for a few moments after you reach a destination to allow oil to circulate throough the turbo bearings otherwise it can carbonise, which then leads to turbo failure. a bloke at the place i used to work never did this despite comming off the motorway full blast straight into the carpark and engine off. result 3 new turbo’s in 14 months.

    hope you get it sorted out, look for a local independant, who is recommended by ppl you know would be my advise

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