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The vital jolt

By autotech-nath on May 19, 2024

Reacting to recent research indicating that consumers are targeting car servicing as a means of saving cash, Rob Marshall asks renowned ignition system manufacturers and sellers about the implications and the training they offer to support effective diagnosis.

I do not like the C-word. Yet, it appears everywhere. Virtually everything is a ‘Crisis’ currently, from constitutional, through to the climate and, of course, cost of living. The net result is that it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate a genuine crisis from those designed to generate headlines and clicks for lazy journalists and feckless publishers.

Feeling the pinch…

Not that we are accusing Volkswagen Financial Services of exaggerating, of course. Yet, its survey from last summer showed just under half (43%) of 18–34 year-olds said that they were likely to miss vehicle maintenance to save money and only 40% of respondents felt prepared to pay for essential work.

In isolation, we did not think too much of this research. Then, three months later, the RAC found that the cost of living crisis was causing young drivers, in particular, not to maintain their cars properly.


When replacing spark plugs, the most common error is over-tightening. Check your data sources for torque and angle values, the latter being especially important for modern GDI engines.

In brief, almost 30% of 17-24 year-olds put off servicing to save cash, with 9% simply not bothering altogether. The RAC also found that almost 70% of drivers have found that the cost of repairing and servicing their cars has risen in the last year. In February 2024, the RAC followed up its findings, reporting that almost 60% of respondents would not have sufficient money to cover a £1,000 repair invoice.

Maybe they are both onto something? The interesting thing with these statistics is that, surely garages would be struggling for work. Yet, without exception (admittedly those who read AT) seem as busy as ever. Maybe workshops are being kept full by mechanical failures, caused by a lack
of maintenance – especially as the average UK car age continues to rise?


Research your tools requirements. Pictured is a Sealey reaming tool (part VS312), which cleans carbon from glow plug threads, before you fit new replacements.

In brief, almost 30% of 17-24 year-olds put off servicing to save cash, with 9% simply not bothering altogether. The RAC also found that almost 70% of drivers have found that the cost of repairing and servicing their cars has risen in the last year. In February 2024, the RAC followed up its findings, reporting that almost 60% of respondents would not have sufficient money to cover a £1,000 repair invoice. Maybe they are both onto something? The interesting thing with these statistics is that, surely garages would be struggling for work. Yet, without exception (admittedly those who read AT) seem as busy as ever. Maybe workshops are being kept full by mechanical failures, caused by a lack
of maintenance – especially as the average UK car age continues to rise?

Penny pinching parts…

One method that some customers employ to shave costs is to supply garages with parts for them to fit. While Bosch argues that OEM parts and aftermarket OEM equivalents are high- quality, it is the lower-cost generic aftermarket options that cause worries.

LKQ Euro Car Parts reasons that a first step is to ensure that the customer has made the correct diagnosis, because the replacement part provided might not solve the problem. Naturally, it is possible that said customer may have bought non-OE parts, or worse. LKQ Euro Car Parts admits that the market is home to many counterfeit and mislabelled products. Denso elaborates that such parts tend to be found online, advertised especially via online marketplaces. Therefore, it is important to double-check that the replacement part has been correctly identified and sourced. As a member of the Original Equipment Suppliers Aftermarket Association

(OESAA), Denso reasons that, should the supplied part be counterfeit and fail, the garage is liable under the terms of its insurance.

Delphi says that garages, which source their parts through an authorised supply network, can be assured of genuine, high-quality components that fit first-time. LKQ Euro Car Parts advises that it chooses extensively tested products from well- known and trusted brands, which offer high-quality standards backed by extensive warranties. This gives garages that order via its Omnipart online platform full confidence. LKQ Euro Car Parts reasons that this approach offers optimum value for money, a stance with which Denso agrees, emphasising that it is false economy to fit inferior quality parts.

Even so, LKQ Euro Car Parts finds that the engine management parts market is home to certain manufacturers aiming to win business by offering the lowest specification parts, produced from the cheapest materials. With ignition and engine management electrical components subject
to constant stresses, including elevated temperatures, high voltages and extreme vibrations, cheap products pose a high risk of premature failure. So, when garages source parts, it can be tempting to reduce costs by prioritising price alone. Avoid the temptation. A reasonable strategy is to account for build specification as well as value for money.

Bosch explains that, while choosing lower-quality parts may offer a short-term cost advantage, the long-term consequences can be significant. It says that using quality parts not only enhances the reputation of the garage but also contributes to customer satisfaction. Happy customers are more likely to return, fostering a positive and sustainable business relationship.

The cost of (not) learning…

Aside from the parts themselves, even well-intentioned technicians can also cost their customers money needlessly. Bosch emphasises the importance of keeping up-to-date with not just vehicle technology but also diagnostic equipment development and the possibilities they can offer. To avoid parts being replaced blindly, all technicians should have a training plan. Up-to-date training will help workshops be far more productive and is an investment worth making.

Delphi agrees, emphasising that an effective diagnostic process is a topic that it covers at its IMI-approved training centre in Warwickshire. Furthermore, it highlights its e-learning program Delphi Academy and its Masters of Motion hub for useful tips and advice, which technicians can access at any time. LKQ Euro Cars Parts’ ‘Diagnostics Road to Success’ includes more than 80 different courses across 25 sites across the UK. Specifically, an eight-part course focusses on electrics and engine management, for technicians wanting to boost their knowledge in these areas.

Back to Earth…

While most ignition systems require relatively infrequent maintenance, with spark and glow plugs being the main service items, this does not mean that they are the only consumables. Bosch and Delphi highlight ignition coils, starter motors, alternators and even engine management sensors as popular replacement items, all of which must be diagnosed correctly before being dismounted. Again, upping your training game, so you not only can pinpoint the fault to particular components but also replace the part correctly, is just as important as selecting a decent quality part in the first place. Only then can we, as a trade, avoid the race to the bottom, a situation that does not do our industry any favours, whatsoever.


The differences between a counterfeit coil and OE-quality items are not always easy to spot. Delphi reports that its coils use high-quality, tightly wound wires, insulated by a special epoxy, which keeps them separated. The coatings also resist the cracks, pin holes and imperfections that might cause other ignition coils to fail. The manufacturing process employs a specialist vacuum technique to remove any air bubbles and imperfections, helping to prevent internal short-circuiting.
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