Service Records Check
How to Run an Effective Service History Check
Is that car the genuine article?
“If the car you’re looking at buying doesn’t have a service history or it’s a sparse history with a couple of old receipts and not much more, why buy the car?
If you do it’s a risk, and it could be a costly one down the road. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of similar cars to the one you’re interested in buying, that have a wonderful service history. I’d advise that you buy one of those and leave a dubious or suspicious car for someone else.
Fake Service Histories
It’s incredibly easy for a private owner or dealership to falsify or fabricate a car service history. All you need to do is buy a rubber stamp that has the name, address and phone number of a car workshop (that should cost about £10.) Next, contact the supplying dealers i.e Ford, Vauxhall, Volkswagen etc and order a replacement service book (£25). Finally, fill the book with rubber stamps and fake dates/mileages.
It’s as easy as that, provided the person that buys the car doesn’t carry out the steps below.
A fake service history can mask mileage discrepancies and dramatically increase the profit margin for the existing car owner whether that be a private seller or dealership. These types of scams are going on throughout the UK right now so it’s very important you take precautions.
- When was the car last serviced?
- Was it a major or minor service? (does the car need money spending on it?)
- Who serviced the car? (Main dealers or local garage?)
Jot this information down on a piece of paper as you’ll need it in a moment.
Next, look through the whole service book and the intervals at which the car was serviced. Most cars will hopefully have been serviced every 10,000 miles or annually. The more modern motors (particularly diesels) may have a “long life” service schedule of 18,000 or 24,000 miles.
Has the car been serviced regularly throughout its life?
For example: If a car has missed one or two services and has covered 70,000 miles, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy the car. In most cases the car will be just fine. But if there are more than two services missing you need to start thinking about if the car is suitable or not.
I’m not saying a 70,000-mile car with 3 service stamps missing should not be purchased. I am saying you need to be vigilant and take care. You’ll need to use your best judgement.
- Are other workshop invoices or receipts in the service pack? Do they provide evidence of services that haven’t been stamped in the service book?
- Is the car otherwise in good condition?
- Has it recently been serviced?
- What colour is the oil in the engine? (Black/transparent? – black oil on diesel engines is very common and NOT something to be concerned about, unlike a petrol car)
- Is the car competitively priced?
- Does the engine sound perfect to you? (Also, you’ll want to hear the engine stone cold – see my definitive car buying guide for more information.)
So you shouldn’t base your buying decision on just one element – Look at the whole picture.
If you’re still interested in the car at this point make a note of at least two of the garages/workshops that have claimed to have serviced the car. You’ll find their contact details on the rubber stamps within the book (note, if there are invoices to back up the service stamps there’s no need to carry out this step.)
Telephone at least two different workshops that have serviced the car. Quote the vehicles registration number and ask them if and when they serviced the car. Tell them you are interested in buying the vehicle and what to check that it’s been serviced as stated.
Specifically, ask the date they carried out servicing on the car and the exact mileage. Now compare the information you’ve gathered with that in the service book. Does it all match up perfectly? It must, else there’s an unusual discrepancy you need to look into.
When you call the workshops I advise that one of your calls be to a workshop that claims to have replaced the cam belt on the car.
Not all cars have cam belts (you’ll have to check with the manufacturers for your particular make and model,) but the ones that do will need replacing at certain intervals. This may be 40,000 miles or 4 years or 60,000 miles or every 5 years (whichever is sooner.)
Cam belts easily cost in excess of £300 to supply and fit. If a cam belt snaps because it hasn’t been replaced it can often completely ruin an engine and cost thousands to repair.
So, when ringing a workshop about a cam belt be sure to get all the details you can about when it was done, the exact mileage and the cost involved (so you know how much it will cost you in the future.)
Any cam belt discrepancies and I’d seriously think twice before buying the car, or at least getting £500 off of the price to cover the parts and labour cost of a replacement.
A car service history check takes just ten minutes to carry out and it can save you so much stress, problems and money. There are no excuses here so I urge you to pick up the telephone and make a few calls.
The Used Car Guy