Blog posts tagged in Value for money

It’s fairly safe to say that, given a healthy lottery win, we’d buy a new car (to go with the new house) and we’d probably choose a car that came from Germany or Italy. Agree?  Something that has a satisfying clunk when you close the doors; that purrs along but can turn into a panther if you need the speed? Well just in case you don’t get that lottery win, and that you have to watch your pennies because money’s tight these days, you really ought to know what kind of car will get you from A to B reliably all the time.  And it doesn’t come from Germany or Italy or even England; it comes from Japan.  In a survey conducted by What Car? and Warranty Direct, experts examined the warranty claims of 50,000 three- to eight-year-old vehicles across 38 car marques.

For the eighth year running Honda is at the top of the list of ten most reliable cars on the road; it’s also the cheapest to fix if one did break down.  In fact seven of the top ten are Japanese, Hyundai’s from South Korea, and Ford and Chevrolet are the only two to break the dominance of the Far East.

Top 10 

1. Honda                            
2. Suzuki                            
3. Hyundai         
4. Subaru                           
5. Toyota 
6. Lexus                                              
7. Chevrolet                     
8. Mitsubishi                    
9. Ford
10. Mazda

The highest polling British brand, coming in at 24, is Rover, which went bust in 2005! Luxury brands Bentley and Land Rover are the least reliable, so you could save yourself even more money by avoiding them.  Mind you if you can afford a Bentley, you probably aren’t too worried about the running costs involved.

Chas Hallett, editor-in-chief of What Car?, said: “Honda’s success is down to low failure rates. Manufacturers at the bottom of the table could learn from their Japanese counterparts.”

Here are ten good reasons why you should park your car at our garage for a service, MOT or repair:

  1. Over 40 years’ experience repairing and servicing vehicles
  2. No-fuss reception area means you pay for our skills not the frills
  3. ‘Buy with Confidence’ accreditation from Essex County Council Trading Standards
  4. Our customer loyalty schemes (‘Pass it on’ and ‘Rewarding Service’) will save you money
  5. Free pick up and drop off service for local customers
  6. Courtesy cars available – including our very popular Audi TT!
  7. Pop in any time for a FREE health check.
  8. If you have a car related question or query, or just want a price, just call and email us; we’re here to help
  9. We welcome all makes and models
  10. We can help you save money, stay safe and keep your car on the road

Posted by in Uncategorized

It’s not just the TV that breaks down at Christmas, but please make sure it’s not your car.

Here are three actions you can take now to make sure you and your family can enjoy the festive season:

1.  Cover the bases.  If the weather forecast is looking bad or just uncertain and you need to drive, then make sure your tank’s full; if you get stuck in bad weather you can keep the engine running and stay warm until help arrives or conditions become less severe.  Having the right tyre pressure is vital whatever the weather, but in wintry conditions check the tread: the legal minimum is 1.6mm, but it’s better to have a deeper tread of at least 3mm, as it will be more effective at clearing water.  If you haven’t put antifreeze in your car since the summer, now’s the time to do it.

2.  See and be seen.  The combination of icy conditions and grit on the roads means you’ll use more screen wash than normal, so put a spare bottle in the boot with a can of de-icer and a plastic scraper.  Keep a second can of de-icer at home and you’ll be able to deal with frozen locks quickly first thing in the morning.  Windscreen wipers should also be checked now because worn ones won’t be effective against sleet and snow and you can’t drive blind.  If it gets misty outside, keep dipped headlights on, if it gets foggy, then turn your fog lights on; you’ll be more visible and you’ll see more too.

3.  Put the right equipment in the boot.  Take an old sleeping bag (which makes a great duvet), a hoodie and a pair of gloves; shove them in a dustbin liner, put the lot in the boot and forget about it. You may never need to use them over the winter period, but you’ve got the kit just in case.  You probably already have a torch in the glove compartment, right?  If you haven’t, put one in now.  Should the weather forecast indicate that snow is a possibility, it makes sense to keep a shovel and a couple of pieces of cardboard or old carpet in the boot too; it could help you or another motorist out of a tricky situation.

If you do set off on a journey, run out of petrol, a snow storm starts and you’ve forgotten to put warm clothing in the boot, at least you’ll be able to call for help, because you’ve kept your mobile phone fully charged.  Yes?

If you’d like more advice on making sure your vehicle is ready for winter conditions, please call us on 01206 211483 or call in: Unit 4 Prince of Wales Industrial Estate, London Road, Marks Tey, Colchester, Essex CO6 1ED.

Merry Christmas and drive safely!

Posted by in Uncategorized

Four times a year for the last three years, Paul Miller, manager at the Marks Tey based John Austin garage, has been successfully running free Pit Stop Workshops on Saturday mornings to help people learn about car maintenance using a practical, hands on approach.  The third one of this year was held on Saturday 11 August.

“Cars are so complex these days, there is very little we can to do if something goes wrong, so it’s easy to become a bit complacent with more general maintenance.  This inevitably leads to problems which could have been avoided, not to mention higher repair bills,” said Paul.

The Pit Stop Workshop is designed to reduce the fear of basic car maintenance through familiarity.  It gives people the confidence to know that if they are stranded with a flat tyre and the phone’s dead or there’s no signal, they can handle the situation.  As this is not covered as part of the driving test, it’s a good opportunity for those learning to drive to come along and give themselves a head start.

After Paul had put everyone through their paces, it was time for a rest and free coffee and cake at The Food Company!

The John Austin final Pit Stop Workshop  of the year will be held on Saturday 17 November.

Posted by in Uncategorized

We know from our customer surveys that over 95% of our customers have come to us through referral.  We really appreciate that, and we’d like to encourage and reward those referrals starting right now.  We are therefore delighted to announce the launch of Pass it on.  As the name suggests, this scheme will reward John Austin customers with a discount of 20% off their next service or repair and the person referred to us will receive a 10% discount.  Technically, the referred person will now be a John Austin customer, so once they refer a new customer to us, they too will be eligible for a 20% discount.

To get started, all our customers have to do is call in to the garage and pick up a Pass it on card.  They complete their details and hand the whole card to a friend, colleague or relative who isn’t currently a John Austin customer; they add their details, book their vehicle in and then hand the card to us when collecting it to receive their discount.  Our customers have up to 36 months to redeem their 20% discount and, as it CAN be used in conjunction with any other promotional scheme we may be operating, that discount could be even bigger.  There is no downside to this scheme; it really is a win-win situation!

In March this year we launched our loyalty scheme Rewarding Service, where customers receive a stamp for every £20 spent at the garage (on a service, repair, MOT and products).  Once 20 stamps are collected, they, or someone they give the car to, can have their vehicle’s air conditioning serviced for FREE.  So far we’ve had an amazing response; it’s just really sad that most of us haven’t needed to keep cool.  Here’s hoping the summer comes soon.

Colchester will be welcoming the Olympic Torch this Friday as part of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. It is a real once in a lifetime experience where members of the local community will be running with the torch through the town.  The team at John Austin are looking forward to being there to witness the event themselves, even if it is very early in the morning!

Now we all know when the Torch will be arriving, but what route will it travel along? And where can you park? John Austin has the answers!

The Torch will arrive on Ipswich Road at approximately 7:28am. It will travel down East Street, East Hill and the High Street, then on to North Hill. At the bottom of North Hill the Torch will turn left on to Middleborough where it will leave Colchester at approximately 8:16am and continue on the next leg of its’ journey to Hatfield Peverel.

Anyone who wishes to see the Torch is advised to get there in plenty of time – the streets will fill up pretty quickly! Any traffic waiting to use the roads will be delayed for a short time and the Essex Police are asking for your patience in this matter.

So how do you get there? Of course the best plan of action would be walking or cycling, or arranging something called a ‘walking bus’ where a group of you get together and walk to your chosen viewing point. However if you live that little bit further away you can drive and take advantage of the free parking that the University of Essex are offering on their Colchester campus. From here the closest point on the Torch Relay route is East Hill – about 30 minutes’ walk from the campus, where you can see the Torch on its journey through the town. It is recommended that you arrive at the campus early to secure a parking spot, as these will fill up very quickly too!

We hope this information has helped you plan for the journey. If you want any further information you can visit the  Colchester Council website at; http://www.colchester.gov.uk/article/6300/Olympic-Torch-Relay—Travel-Advice-for-Colchester where you can also find a list of different activities that are happening on the day, including a bouncy castle, Zumba class and face painting.

On Friday 27 April our manager Paul, and his new wife Gemma, completed a skydive to raise money for charity Help for Heroes in the name of Courtney Fraser, whose father was seriously injured in Afghanistan and is now unable to serve.

They were up bright and early for an 8:30 start at Beccles Airfield, where they received training and some health and safety guidance.  Then they were strapped to their instructors and ready to go; in fact Paul and Gemma had the skies to themselves that day because of the unfavourable weather conditions.

The couple decided on a tandem skydive instead of an expensive honeymoon, as it would have meant leaving their 16-month old son Zaviar behind.  Gemma said, “We decided to do it because it’s a once in a lifetime experience and it was for a very good cause.  It was strange because after you jump out of the plane, you don’t feel like you’re moving at all. You would have thought being strapped to a complete stranger then jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet would be really scary, but it wasn’t too bad. What stuck in my head was the eerie silence, and the fact that it was freezing cold!”

They were given the chance to steer their own parachutes, which Gemma aptly described as “trying to hold on to an umbrella in the wind.”  She landed safely in the field, but there was no sign of Paul. It turns out he had landed in a completely different field – and men say women are bad drivers!

The couple raised £215 for Help for Heroes and adrenaline junkie Paul wants to do a bungee jump for their next fundraising event.  Lucky Gemma.

We’re delighted to announce that we have been short-listed as one of the nine finalists in the Colchester Business Awards for Excellent Customer Service.

Speaking about the news, Marc Linch, managing director, said: “Without our loyal customers we wouldn’t have a business and we really appreciate it that many have been using the garage for years, some for decades.  We always do our very best when servicing or repairing their vehicles, but never take their custom for granted and are constantly looking at ways of giving something back and improving the whole customer experience.  To win in this category would be brilliant, but to get this far means a lot to the whole team.”

We know our customers are spoiled for choice when it comes to garages in the area; some have lower price structures than ours too, however our company ethos is based on trust, excellence and putting our customers at the heart of every development within the company.

The vast majority of our customers use us because we provide a highly professional service, at less than dealership prices – important at any time, but more especially in these straitened times.  We are able to control our costs by keeping our overheads deliberately low; we pride ourselves on providing  “skills not frills”, something we know our customers appreciate, as many have been using us for decades.  Although “we don’t do the frills” we do, of course, have a free local pick-up and delivery service and a pool of courtesy cars.

Last year we received the “Buy with Confidence” accreditation from Essex County Council Trading Standards and are one of only four garages in the Colchester area to receive the award.  We also run schemes which give our customers added value too.  For example, all returning customers receive a 5% discount on their next service and, with our loyalty scheme “Rewarding Service” they – or someone they nominate – can have a free air conditioning service.

Our referral scheme “Pass it on” gives a new customer 10% off their first service or repair with us, and the customer who recommended them receives a further 20% off their next service or repair.  Importantly the 20% discount CAN be used in conjunction with any of our promotional offers.

For customers who want to get as much performance out of their vehicle, without increasing their fuel costs, we’ve introduced a tuning service.  And, finally, we run free Pit Stop Workshops throughout the year to help motorists gain skills in basic car maintenance.

We’re looking forward to the new year when we’ve got even more planned!

Nowadays any new car will probably come with air conditioning as standard. We assume that it is only useful to keep us cool on a hot day. So why is it standard here in England; we don’t enjoy the hottest of temperatures do we?

Well air conditioning can help in other ways too. It quickly demists your windscreen, filters out airborne particles (like dust and pollen) to make the air ‘purer’ and, on that elusive hot day, helps to keep the temperature in your car down and the aerodynamics unaffected (which wouldn’t be the case if you had to open your window).

Like everything else under the bonnet, the air conditioning system needs servicing to keep it working effectively and efficiently. Although the technology has come a long way since the original system which was first used in the 1940s, it still needs to be maintained. Air conditioning repairs can be very costly, so having your system serviced regularly can help you avoid large bills later on.

It is a very complicated system with quite a few components: a compressor, condenser, evaporator, orifice tube, expansion valve and accumulator (amongst other things) – so don’t try a DIY service at home!

All air conditioning systems will leak refrigerant over a period of time, and if this is allowed to continue, can seriously affect the compressor (the main and most costly part of your system). If it is not repaired by an expert it could cause further damage and, in extreme cases, lead to your car breaking down.

Despite the lack of hot weather, you should use your air conditioning all year to ensure the refrigerant and oil are circulated round the system; this makes it harder for bacteria to grow and keeps the seals lubricated.  That musty odour you can get is a common complaint – it can smell of anything, from stale air to babies’ nappies. It’s caused by the mould which can build up in the evaporator, a perfect home for bacteria, but can easily be remedied during the air conditioning service.

The John Austin air conditioning service costs £78, but we’ve just launched a new loyalty scheme where you could get this for FREE*. If you’re one of the unlucky few who doesn’t have air conditioning, then you can give it to a friend or relative to use – I’m sure they’ll be pleased to have their system serviced for free.  You can collect your loyalty card from the garage today.

If you would like to find out more about car air conditioning or have any questions about the loyalty scheme,  you can contact the John Austin team on 01206 411283 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

*Terms and conditions apply.

Paul Miller, manager at John Austin, has done it again!

On a blustery February morning, we abandoned our Saturday morning lie-ins to attend his Pit Stop Workshop.

The Pit Stop Workshop is designed to reduce the fear of basic  maintenance through familiarity.  It gives people the confidence to know that if they are stranded with a flat tyre and the phone’s dead or there’s no signal, they can handle the situation.  As this is not covered in driving lessons, it’s a good opportunity for those learning to drive to come along and give themselves a head start.  On this occasion most of us were seasoned drivers, but we all found we had something to learn!

With the complexity of cars these days, fiddling about under the hood, unless you really know what you’re doing, is to be discouraged.  This has, inevitably, led to many of us becoming complacent about dealing with the most simple of car care basics, relying instead on the annual service.   But often it’s those simple things that we can all do something about but don’t, that can help us avoid expensive repair bills later on.

Our reliance on breakdown services means we could sit on the side of the road for hours with a flat tyre too waiting for help which, if it was a lovely sunny day might not be so bad.  But if it was like a day like today, you’d want to be able to do something about it, and we all felt after two hours’ ‘training’ we could.

Not only did we all gain knowledge and insight, but we were able to relax and chat about our experiences afterwards over coffee and cake at The Food Company next door.

The team at John Austin have three more Pit Stop Workshops lined up this year:  Saturday 12th May, Saturday 11th August and Saturday 17th November.  If you’d like to come along or have a question, call Paul on 01206 211483 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

As of 1st January 2012, the MOT test has been changed to comply with the revised European testing directive.  The new test will reflect the growing electronical complexity of modern cars.

You can see all of the new test criteria below – it’s a pretty substantial list!

Instead of getting a ‘fail’ straight away with these new criteria, you will get an ‘advisory’ notice up until the end of March 2012, so you have a bit of time to get them fixed.  But if your MOT isn’t due until this April, then your car will immediately be classed as a ‘fail’ if any it doesn’t pass all of the criteria below:

List of New Testable Components

  • Headlamp levelling and cleaning devices when fitted for HID or LED headlamps
  • Main beam ‘tell-tale’
  • Battery (including batteries for electric or hybrid vehicles)
  • Electrical wiring and connectors
  • Trailer electrical socket security and damage
  • Operation of 13-pin trailer electrical sockets using an approved trailer socket tester
  • Operation of the steering lock (where fitted) including that malfunction warning is not displayed for an electronic steering lock
  • Electronic power steering malfunction warning indicating a fault
  • Electronic parking brake control and malfunction indicator lamp
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC) components, including the switch (if fitted) and malfunction warning
  • Brake fluid warning lamp illuminated or inoperative
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS)
  • Supplementary Restraint System (SRS) components including airbags, seat belt pre-tensioners, seat belt load limiters and SRS malfunction warning lamp
  • Engine mountings
  • Speedometer
  • Indirect vision devices (where they replace obligatory mirrors)

For Class 5 vehicles, there are also the following new components:

  • Electronic Braking System warning device
  • Entrance/exit steps and doors
  • Door remote and emergency controls
  • Door open warning devices
  • Stairs
  • Emergency exit signs, windows and ‘break glass’ hammers

For more detail on the new test criteria, visit the VOSA website at:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/vosa/repository/Special%20Notice%2009-11.pdf

John Austin Volkswagen & Audi Specialists Ltd has been awarded the prestigious Buy with Confidence accreditation by Essex County Council Trading Standards.  This means that the garage, based in Marks Tey, has joined an exclusive group of Approved Traders.  The Buy with Confidence scheme was established to help residents and businesses find reputable companies locally, and avoid being ripped off by rogue traders.  There are 209 businesses across Essex approved under this scheme, but John Austin is one of only three garages in the Colchester area, offering vehicle repairs and servicing, with this accreditation.

To become a member of the Buy with Confidence scheme, the garage and its quality management systems were fully audited and a random list of current and past customers contacted for their feedback.

Commenting on the company’s award, Marc Linch, Managing Director at John Austin, said:  “The garage industry is full of reputable tradespeople who provide a first class service.  Sadly the inexperienced and the unscrupulous few, who fall well below the standards expected, tarnish the reputation of many.  The Buy with Confidence scheme gives the most practical help to every vehicle owner in the county:  trust that the tradesperson has been vetted and peace of mind that the work will be done to a high standard at a fair price.”

To find a local Buy with Confidence business, visit www.essex.gov.uk/buywithconfidence or call0845 603 7626. Anyone who uses a Buy with Confidence trader can fill in an online feedback form about the service they receive.  Feedback is constantly monitored by Trading Standards, and any businesses that fall below expectations can be expelled from the scheme.

  • featureAccreditation
  • featureOffers
  • featureTwitter