x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The Air Bag: Horror stories at UAE mechanics

Far too many people come here for a job they have no qualifications for, working for car repair shops that don't care about quality as much as others do.

Oh, did I ever cringe this past week. Just thinking about it makes me cringe even more.

A friend of mine owns a lovely 1985 Mercedes 280SL, dark blue in colour with a bone interior and in very nice shape. But let's just say she's had a few mechanical difficulties with it in the past. After a long while of trouble-free motoring, her ignition suddenly locked up - she couldn't turn the key. So, she put in a call to her insurance company for a flatbed lorry to take it to her trusty mechanic.

The trouble is, while the mechanic is good, these guys with the lorry were not. In trying to get the car onto the flatbed, they completely shredded one of the tyres in the process; she was lucky there was no other damage done.

There's an old saying that goes, "you just can't get good help these days". That's not entirely true, but, especially here in the UAE, you just can't be sure that the help you get is going to be good. The thing is, far too many people come here for a job they have no qualifications for, working for some shops that don't care about quality as much as others do. At best, you could just come away extremely dissatisfied; at worst, you could have catastrophic failure of the repair that puts your life at risk.

Take, for example, another horror story I have, but this time it involves my beloved Alfa. I wanted a different radio and speakers, and I got a good price on a set at LuLu. The salesman said he had a good guy to install them, and for just Dh150. Wow, what a deal, I thought. I was wrong.

After four hours, the two men still hadn't finished installing the system. In the process, they blew the fuse for the power windows while setting off the air bag warning light on my dashboard. I even had to bring it back to them the next night because the radio completely cut out - they had not wrapped the connections in tape and it short-circuited. I soon realised that, though these men were working in a car stereo shop on Defence Road, they had no experience and no training in the craft. In short, they were teaching themselves with my car.

So I brought the Alfa to my trusted mechanic and he made everything right. It cost me a bit more than Dh150, but it was more than worth it for my peace of mind and my time. I almost hugged him; almost.

In fact, the whole experience made me more adamant about supporting my mechanic and sticking with him - and referring him on to others. In this country, with few regulations to protect an unsuspecting client from shoddy work, word of mouth goes a long way; think of it as power to the people.

The only problem with referring your favourite mechanic to friends, of course, is you might have to wait in line for service behind them the next time.

Do you have any nightmare situations with a mechanic? Or, do you have a talented grease monkey that takes care of your car? Email us at motoring@thenational.ae