The true cost of a cheap price...

Firstly, apologies for the lengthy post but this is something that I feel is worth saying!

Cleaning up the mess other garages leave behind is something we do a lot, but the job we completed recently allows us to highlight a problem we encounter regularly at Northwood Hills Service Station.

Earlier this week, a Mr. Alexander phoned our tyre department, asking for a quote for two tyres for his Mercedes, which we happily provided.

A few days later, he rang back asking for some advice, explaining that he was quoted a cheaper price at another garage, and had the tyres fitted there, but his car was now vibrating when he drove.

He asked if he could pop by the garage so we could take a look, and we're very glad he did!

The photo on the right, shows his wheel after we took it off his car. Those lead weights you can see dotted all over the place are for balancing the wheel so it doesn’t shake at speed. Whilst I don’t expect many of you are fully acquainted with the process of dynamic wheel balancing, let me assure you, this is about as bad as it gets!

The garage Mr. Alexander visited neglected to remove the old weights, and the new ones have been squeezed between them. In addition, they have affixed several weights opposite each other which – essentially – cancel out the benefits of having them fitted at all.

The photo on the left shows the same wheel after we’d re balanced it, removing around 285g of surplus weight. Why is that worth mentioning? Well, at 70mph, an imbalance of just 25g has the same effect on a car’s suspension components as a sledge hammer blow. So, imagine how much of an impact a 285g excess would have. Bear in mind also, that was just one of his wheels, the other side wasn't much better!

Buy cheap, buy twice

During the job, Mr Alexander told me – after considering our quote – he decided to go to a competitor of ours in Harrow because they quoted him £3.80 less per tyre – resulting in an overall saving of £7.60.

Now, by this point many of you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. If I’m honest, I’ve lost track of the amount of times we’ve re balanced the wheels of cars that have gone elsewhere to get ‘cheap’ tyres. It’s part of the job for us and whilst annoying for the customer to have to pay for the job to be done again properly, not exactly the end of the world.

However, that’s not the reason why I decided to blog about this job.

When we removed the passenger's front wheel, we noticed something rather worrying about the five wheel nuts that attach it to the car - one was missing completely and the remaining four were only finger-tight. In other words, the wheel was very close to falling off.

This would be dangerous at any speed but if it were to happen while the car was travelling on a motorway for example, there is a very high chance Mr. Alexander would end up dead, along with any passengers he might be carrying. Depending on how busy the road may be, the lives of other drivers could be under threat too. People like me. People like you.

That may sound a little dramatic, but you only have to Google 'survival rates for high speed impacts' to realise just how high the stakes are.

We don’t know how this happened. Perhaps the guy doing it was new. Perhaps he got distracted. Perhaps he just simply forgot to finish the job. It doesn’t really matter how it happened though, the fact is – letting Mr. Alexander drive off their premises in that car was unforgivable and represents an appalling oversight in their duty of care towards him and his passengers, as far as we’re concerned.

Three is a magic number

At Northwood Hills Service Station, every member of our team adheres to our strict three-stage safety process to ensure no vehicle leaves our forecourt without being rigorously checked first. Any of you that have watched us fit tyres will have seen us tightening the wheel nuts using the impact wrench, then checking all nuts by hand and finally confirming with the other team members that it’s been done.

The importance of completing this process is drummed into everyone who works here from day one, and is the most important thing about any job we undertake, as far as I’m concerned.

Now, I’m not saying your wheels will fall off or your car will catch fire if you don’t use our garage, there are plenty of other good garages around. Unfortunately, there are plenty of bad ones too.

How we’re different

We work hard to keep our prices competitive, but – at the same time – we’re committed to reinvesting in state-of-the-art equipment, staff training and ensuring our premises remain safe and secure for both our customers and employees to use each day.

We also pride ourselves on sourcing any parts we use from reputable, high-quality suppliers. Our workmanship is fully-insured, as is any car that is under our care.

All these things cost our business money, but we gladly pay it because the safety and peace of mind of our customers is a top priority of us.

So, while some, less scrupulous garages might be able shave a bit off the price here and there, our commitment to delivering top-quality service means we might sometimes end up being a little more expensive.

But, when you look at the potential for problems, is saving a few quid (and that’s all it ever really amounts to) really worth it? Luckily for Mr. Alexander, he found out it wasn’t before it was too late.

All we’re asking is, when it comes to your car (or in fact any situation where you are employing someone to do a job for you) don’t just look at what you get for your money, look at what you don’t get too.

Thanks for reading,


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