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A Mini mystery

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 16:55 UK time, Monday, 17 October 2011

Sytner Mini Garage

The Sytner Mini Garage

When you hand your car over to a garage you expect them to take good care of it, but that’s not what happened when Catherine and Bill Lewis from Magor wanted their Mini fixed.

For Catherine the car was her pride and joy when she bought it new nearly eighteen months ago.
The family had been through a tough time and hoped the car might lift their spirits.

Everything was fine until they noticed a tapping noise when they started the car first thing in the morning.

The Lewis’ booked the Mini into the Sytner garage in Newport in March. It seemed like a quick fix.

The garage said a lack of oil was causing the problem - but the noise returned in May and the car went back for testing.

Sytner asked permission for one of their staff to take the car home overnight but Mr Lewis refused, although he did agree for it to be driven in moderation.

When the Lewis’ finally got their car back, the garage told them there was no fault and that the noise was just a characteristic.

But that wasn't the end of the story - three days later a speeding notice arrived in the post addressed to Mrs Lewis. It was dated at exactly the time her car was with the garage.

"My first thought was that they had the wrong car,” said Catherine. “The next thought was that my son had been driving the car, but when I showed it to Bill, he said it was when it was with the garage."

The speeding offence happened near Ystrad Mynach - around fifteen miles from the Sytner garage in Newport. The Mini was caught on camera doing 55 miles per hour on a road where the limit is 40.
 
"The speeding fine provides evidence of their lack of regard for the car and their total contempt for my instructions,” said Bill.

Tim Shallcross from the Institute of Advanced Motorists told X-Ray that garages using customer cars is nothing new, "There are garages who use customer cars as runabouts, and that's totally wrong,” said Tim.

“This is a valuable possession that the customer has entrusted to the garage." He also pointed out that a lot of garages are responsible and do look after their customer’s cars. 

So how can customers make sure their car doesn’t get used in this way?

Tim says, "The first thing we can all do is make a note of our mileage when the car goes into the garage. If it seems excessive, more than five or six miles, challenge the garage and make a note of it, so if a speeding ticket does come through, you've got a note of it."

Sytner admitted that one of their staff was at the wheel when the car was caught speeding. They paid the fine and the points have gone on their driver's licence.

The company told X-Ray they have reviewed their internal controls on the use of customer's vehicles, and have offered to pay the Lewis’ more than £500 as a gesture of goodwill.

However, Mrs Lewis says the experience has changed the way she feels about her car.

"I loved it when I first had it,” she added. “With every car I've ever had I become attached to it, but now it's nothing. It's just something I drive."

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