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Italian Specialists

Is it worth sending your car to an "Italian" specialist?

I have had my Italian cars maintained by several "Specialists" and feel that the quality of work I have received does not justify the significance of their reputation. Unfortunately I have had issues with every single one of the specialists I have used and for me the final straw is the demise of my 166. An Alfa specialist replaced my cam belt and tensioners in early 2012 but I have just discovered that its recent engine demise is due to a tensioner bolt falling out.

I qualified many years ago as a mechanic, mainly on a HGVs but I also attended Mercedes and VW training schools in Germany to obtain car mechanic "Master" status. I used to maintain all my cars myself but due to being lazy and no longer having the space or equipment I have tended to use specialists. I chose specialists often based upon Forum recommendations and feedback.

My Italian cars have been quite reliable but I am concerned that almost all of the issues I've endured have been at the hands of specialists. Here is just a brief outline of what I mean.
  1. I had a clutch fitted to my Coupé which has juddered from the moment it was collected. When I returned to complain I was then told I should have had the flywheel turned! At no point was this suggested before they started the work!
  2. During an A/C compressor change the mechanic broke a plastic water pipe fitting. He glued it back together but it failed. As I arrived home there was water and steam everywhere. When I complained I was told that I had broken the pipe and they had noticed it glued Yes I did have this pipe off a few days before but did not and would not have put it back broken. Secondly if they had "Noticed" it why not mention it and replace it? I guess that was because the item is no longer available. Pro alloy knocked me up an alloy replacement in ten minutes.
  3. After a cam belt change the cap was left off my expansion tank. On the way home I stopped in traffic on the M25 to be greeted by clouds of steam.... AGAIN
  4. After several jobs I discovered bolts & cable clips missing. Items not fitted back correctly and covers and plastic items broken. I've had this from several specialists.
  5. A cam belt incorrectly fitted (White marks used instead of cam locks!). I'm sure I'll also discover similar evidence when I do my next Fiat Coupé belt change. My reason for suspecting this is that my cam cover was not removed when the last cam belt was fitted!
  6. I've had three MOT failures immediately after having a service and pre - mot. One was two drive shaft boots split, the second a broken road spring and the third a seized handbrake cable.
  7. Two front wheels damaged. Both had impact socket damage around the bolt holes. When I collected my car the fellow said "I don't know who fitted your tyres but they've damaged your wheels." The wheels were fine when I took the car in and I had even left my plastic coated wheel socket in the car with the locking bolts.
  8. I had new brakes fitted that squealed like crazy on collection. I was told it was "Normal" I've since done all my brake changes and had noise free brakes ever since.

It annoys me that forum accolades are so easily awarded to specialists through the pages of owners forums. Such accolades tempt people into thinking that work being done by specialists will be of a higher standard than that of anyone else. Unfortunately despite wishing otherwise I don't agree. I suspect a lot of praise is written with the intent desire that it may induce and benefit the person praising with favour or discount on any future visit. I urge my fellow owners to view praise and feedback as nothing more than platitude and use any garage with your eyes wide open. I've lost a car I loved, my 166, due to poor workmanship and my Coupé could have oh so nearly gone the same way.
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I have only ever used one Italian car specialist personally and I agree with you.

Although like official dealers I am sure there are both good and bad ones.
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Well I have to disagree, this condemnation is far too general. The Alfa Romeo specialists who look after our two cars are so good, I would buy an Alfa Romeo even if I didnt like them, just so they would be my chosen repairer!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barmybob View Post
Is it worth sending your car to an "Italian" specialist?

I have had my Italian cars maintained by several "Specialists" and feel that the quality of work I have received does not justify the significance of their reputation. Unfortunately I have had issues with every single one of the specialists I have used and for me the final straw is the demise of my 166. An Alfa specialist replaced my cam belt and tensioners in early 2012 but I have just discovered that its recent engine demise is due to a tensioner bolt falling out.

I qualified many years ago as a mechanic, mainly on a HGVs but I also attended Mercedes and VW training schools in Germany to obtain car mechanic "Master" status. I used to maintain all my cars myself but due to being lazy and no longer having the space or equipment I have tended to use specialists. I chose specialists often based upon Forum recommendations and feedback.

My Italian cars have been quite reliable but I am concerned that almost all of the issues I've endured have been at the hands of specialists. Here is just a brief outline of what I mean.
  1. I had a clutch fitted to my Coupé which has juddered from the moment it was collected. When I returned to complain I was then told I should have had the flywheel turned! At no point was this suggested before they started the work!
  2. During an A/C compressor change the mechanic broke a plastic water pipe fitting. He glued it back together but it failed. As I arrived home there was water and steam everywhere. When I complained I was told that I had broken the pipe and they had noticed it glued Yes I did have this pipe off a few days before but did not and would not have put it back broken. Secondly if they had "Noticed" it why not mention it and replace it? I guess that was because the item is no longer available. Pro alloy knocked me up an alloy replacement in ten minutes.
  3. After a cam belt change the cap was left off my expansion tank. On the way home I stopped in traffic on the M25 to be greeted by clouds of steam.... AGAIN
  4. After several jobs I discovered bolts & cable clips missing. Items not fitted back correctly and covers and plastic items broken. I've had this from several specialists.
  5. A cam belt incorrectly fitted (White marks used instead of cam locks!). I'm sure I'll also discover similar evidence when I do my next Fiat Coupé belt change. My reason for suspecting this is that my cam cover was not removed when the last cam belt was fitted!
  6. I've had three MOT failures immediately after having a service and pre - mot. One was two drive shaft boots split, the second a broken road spring and the third a seized handbrake cable.
  7. Two front wheels damaged. Both had impact socket damage around the bolt holes. When I collected my car the fellow said "I don't know who fitted your tyres but they've damaged your wheels." The wheels were fine when I took the car in and I had even left my plastic coated wheel socket in the car with the locking bolts.
  8. I had new brakes fitted that squealed like crazy on collection. I was told it was "Normal" I've since done all my brake changes and had noise free brakes ever since.

It annoys me that forum accolades are so easily awarded to specialists through the pages of owners forums. Such accolades tempt people into thinking that work being done by specialists will be of a higher standard than that of anyone else. Unfortunately despite wishing otherwise I don't agree. I suspect a lot of praise is written with the intent desire that it may induce and benefit the person praising with favour or discount on any future visit. I urge my fellow owners to view praise and feedback as nothing more than platitude and use any garage with your eyes wide open. I've lost a car I loved, my 166, due to poor workmanship and my Coupé could have oh so nearly gone the same way.
+1

Gotta be careful whom you deal with. I prefer to do my own work, and have a trusted garage down the road if it all goes pear-shaped.
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You make a fair point, Barmybob (and v sorry to hear about your 166). For me, there are two main aspects for the garage: being able and willing to do a decent job and knowing a bit more than usual about Alfas. When you say, "... and use any garage with your eyes wide open" I am sure you are correct but at some point I feel I have to take on trust the standard of workmanship and care. I use a local independent who was recommended on here and by the people from whom I bought the car but I have no real way of knowing how good he is. So far so good, though.

For me there are also secondary indicators of quality (or is this wishful thinking?): if the mechanic takes time to talk about the car and explain what he has done then I tend to feel that he has probably done a good job.

Interesting post.
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