Well we did it, or rather Paul did it – ran our first ever Pit Stop Workshop on Saturday. A group of 12 women arrived to learn the basics of car maintenance, from checking oil levels and tyre pressures to changing a wheel. Everyone knew before they arrived that audience participation was what the day was about, and we all had an opportunity to get stuck in.
Jenny and Emily are at Sixth Form College and will soon be taking driving lessons. They definitely want the best start and the workshop provided them with first-hand experience. Their initial task was to check the oil level in an Audi A5. Of course they couldn’t find the dipstick, because that model doesn’t have one, as the oil level is monitored electronically.
It’s obvious that some of some of us have never checked our oil levels because another ‘workshopper’ discovered she didn’t have a dipstick either. Still we eventually found one in a VW Passat so the day was saved!
Jill has been a loyal John Austin customer for 14 years and decided now was the time to stop asking someone else for help and do it herself. She had an ally in Bridget, who has never been to the garage before, but wanted to be more self-sufficient and, by the end of the morning, she was.
Emily already knew about tyre pressures and oil levels, but hadn’t changed a wheel. She might never need to, but at least she now knows how!
We were also delighted when Priti Patel, Member of Parliament for Witham, also took some time out to join us, even though she had to return to work that afternoon. Sadly it meant she wasn’t able to sample the wonderful coffee and cakes at The Food Company next door, which is where we all trooped after a thoroughly useful and really enjoyable morning.
Everyone in the John Austin team loves cars; we take pride in our work but the one thing that really gets us is when we can’t take care of our customers’ cars as quickly as we’d like to. It disappoints us and it disappoints you. It’s not that we don’t have enough man power, we do; we just need extra space for ramps.
The good news is that the problem has just been resolved. A few weeks ago we moved into the unit right next door to the garage, and kept the original workshop too, which means we’ve doubled our space and can install two more ramps. Two more ramps will allow us to service and repair another 30 cars a week, so waiting times will be reduced as will the inconvenience of being without your own car.
We’re getting everything ready so we’ll be fully operational by the end of this month. Of course we wouldn’t dream of doing something like this without marking the occasion, but we also wanted to do something a little different. So, on Saturday 9 October at 10.00am we’re running a Pit Stop Workshop. This workshop will give our customers, their families and friends a hands-on opportunity to learn how to change a wheel (if they’ve got one), check tyre pressures and oil and water levels. The aim is to develop familiarity and reduce fear through active participation. Yes, anyone coming along will have a chance to literally change a wheel or put air into a tyre if they want to. If they don’t, they can watch. It’s all god experience. Year 12 and 13 students, who are just starting driving lessons, are also being invited to get involved.
Basic car maintenance seems to be a forgotten art these, so it’s quite easy for simple problems to take on sinister proportions or be ignored altogether. This workshop is designed to give you the skills to help yourself, because one day you might need to.
When the workshop’s finished, we can all go next door to The Food Company for a little coffee and cake, compliments of John Austin. If you’d like to come along to the Pit Stop Workshop, just email Sharon on: to reserve your place, or call 07811 439269.
Let’s face it, if we could put a man on the moon in 1969, there was no excuse for the overuse of explosives in Rome the same year was there? They obviously didn’t read their manual thoroughly – if they read it at all.
Taking a leaf from that particular book, some of us are just as guilty when it comes to reading our own car manual. Recently one customer confused the ‘oil pressure too low’ warning light with the one for ‘oil level too low’. As there was plenty of oil in the sump the problem was forgotten, so less and less oil was being pumped around the engine, which eventually seized up. What should have been a couple of hours’ work and a replacement pump costing £220, became a major £1,500 repair.
If you want to stay safe on the road and save time, money and a lot of hassle, here are five steps you can take right now:
- Read your manual and get to know all the benefits your vehicle already has built in; then make sure you recognise what the warning symbols really mean. It’s not a two-minute job, but I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you learn
- Check that your lights work; don’t wait until someone flashes you or you get pulled over by the police. If you need two lights over your rear registration plate and one’s out, you’re not ‘legal’
- Open up the bonnet and make sure you’ve got enough screen wash, coolant and oil. Your manual will tell you what to look for and how to top up; if you’re unsure, go to your local garage for help and advice
- Investigate any strange noise as soon as it happens. The majority of garages will give your vehicle a free health check so, if it’s nothing, it’s cost you nothing and you have peace of mind
- Make sure you have the correct tyre pressure; you’ll have a more comfortable ride and you’ll save fuel. Don’t know how? One supermarket chain has a system which puts the correct amount of air into each tyre; you just need to know what that pressure is (it’s in your manual), input the information and the air hose does the rest
With modern cars there’s a misconception that there’s very little you can do without resorting to the expense of a garage. Once something’s gone wrong, yes you will need to bring your car in, but there’s so much you can do to prevent a minor irritation turning into a serious problem.
Not a lot of people know that.