At your service?
I can still remember my first lecture as a medical student back in 1976.
The elderly physiology professor had some very good advice for us which we might just put into action when we would (hopefully) graduate six years later.
He said: “There is only one thing you need to remember about medicine. That is, if you can’t make the patient better, don’t make them worse.”
That statement has stuck with me throughout my career and I regret that there have been times that I haven’t always lived up to it.
Indeed the very first real live patient that I met had suffered a terrible stroke after having a carotid angiogram for what were simply tension headaches.
Nevertheless the longevity of people will usually be extended by good quality medical care with a focus on prevention.
I treat my car the same way and I am not afraid to say that I try to do as much of the maintenance myself.
With service intervals now being annual and after 15,000 kilometres, that is a long time between inspections for tyres and brakes etc.
As a student I worked as a bowser boy in a service station.
Yes, I did pump petrol back then because customers weren’t allowed to do so.
But I also checked tyre pressures and fluid levels every time the customer’s car fuelled up.
Fast forward to 2018 and we only check some of those things once a year and we pay handsomely for the privilege.
Perhaps the worst car servicing experiences I have had have been at dealerships.
There was my Ford where I was charged for new spark plugs even though the original ones were still in situ.
There was my Mercedes where it left the dealership with less oil than it went in with.
When I went back and complained that there seemed to be something amiss with the oil transfusion I was told that all was in order.
Somehow, miraculously, the oil level had crept up to normal even though I was told that they did not need to add any oil on my second visit a day later after my service.
Did they think I was an idiot?
Worse still was that I had paid in ‘units’ and not in ‘hours or minutes’ for my car to leave their dealership with its oil level on the add mark.
But, my worst experience was with a car that sports a propeller on its emblem and was made in Munich.
It was at the dealer for another simple oil and filter change.
Travelling back on the Bruce Highway the cacophony of noise coming from under the bonnet led my partner to pull over and call the RACQ.
Only to find that the cover over the motor was unsecured, and easily fixed.
Once again, 12 months later the car was back at the BMW dealer for another oil and filter change.
This time after the ‘service’ my partner noticed that the bonnet wasn’t sitting right.
It wouldn’t go down, but even worse it wouldn’t go up.
As the car was still driveable there was no need to call the RACQ and after an hour-long struggle I managed to lift the bonnet upwards.
Sitting on top of the motor I found an expensive re-chargeable torch.
My car had gone into the dealership without a problem, only to leave with one.
Not one to complain, I rang the dealership the next day about the torch and they apologised profusely.
In particular, they wanted me to bring the car back to them the next day (100 kilometres each way) to fix the problem that I had already solved.
This is called out-boarding of quality control and mentioning it will lead to a barrage of threatening litigation for me for having said so.
Either way, I was not inclined to complain about my car just going in for a service and leaving the dealership with a problem that they had created.
I simply asked them to leave the charger for the re-chargeable torch under the bonnet the next time the car was serviced as the torch wasn’t of any use to me without it.
Suffice to say I have never been back.
Doctor Clive Fraser
Published: 14 May 2018