Why Do We Bother?

Most people will feel happy if they can avoid coming into contact with a Breakdown and Recovery man, it means they have not broken down, But if they ever do they may like to remember one or two things that might help or hinder their cause.

Having been one of these breakdown men for over 40 years, it would not be fitting if I missed the opportunity to point out some of the things that irritate and often upset the 10,000 or so people who work like me, 24 hours a day, 365 days every year and turn out in all weathers to do some of the most difficult and awkward jobs to ensure that people and families are not left stranded. Please, please spare a thought of what would happen to everybody if they did not have the services of the AA and RAC patrols or the independent garages. There would be some very cold and frozen motorists; some perhaps would die at the roadside. So why is it that so many people make our lives so difficult?

It would be unfair to say that this is everybody. Probably 30% are absolutely wonderful, helpful to themselves, helpful to us and an absolute gem to deal with from the moment they call to the moment we part company, whether this is just changing a road wheel or transporting them many hours during the night to get them and their family back home. So to all these people, thank you so much and that is probably why we are all still doing the job.

So now the 60%. Please listen to what I have to say and maybe you can move into the top group. Firstly, please remember it certainly is not our fault that you have broken down and you are going to be late for something which is probably immensely frivolous anyhow. Please also remember that you will only get free service pro rata for what you have paid for. If you pay for local recovery you will enjoy fully local recovery. It is not my fault that you live a hundred miles away. It is no good asking me to telephone for the third time and get the same answer three times. You are not covered and it is not my fault.

Breaking down and knowing exactly where you are is quite difficult, but explaining on the phone that you don’t know is not going to solve the problem. There are many ways to find out and then transfer the information and, quite honestly, I would have thought it is not a lot to ask. So many people travel the same piece of road every single day and then, when the car stops, they haven’t a clue where it is. I often feel that a night’s sleep in the car might sharpen their brain against a similar memory lapse. However, at the end of the day, the golden rule is if you do not provide us with a good location of your broken down car, it will take an awful lot of luck to come to your assistance.

Our number one irritation in this modern day and age is people calling from a mobile phone with a miserable location, asking to be called back, then keeping on “engaged” or a defunct message system and, during this time, calling all their friends until the battery goes flat and we are left helpless to help. So the golden rule here is, without exception, keep your mobile phone clear and well-charged while waiting for breakdown assistance.

Many cars are repaired at the roadside, in fact a reasonably high number, but nobody can work miracles, especially where parts are concerned. Always be realistic as to what repairs you can expect to be carried out. When, for example, a puncture occurs you will be asked if you have a spare wheel. Many times people will say, “Yes, of course I have a spare wheel” but when assistance arrives the spare wheel turns out to be flat and punctured or, worse still “It is on the nearside front” and the nearside front is flat, in the boot, or even: “I have a spare and it is in the garage”.

If you think you have run out of fuel, just say so, not “I know there’s plenty of fuel in the car, I just put £5 worth in an hour ago.” Or, better still: “The instruments say I still have more than a mile left before I’m empty.”

When we ask what the problem is, what we mean is what has happened to the car. Has it stopped, has it turned over, or whatever. The number of times I have asked somebody what the problem is and the reply has been, “If I knew that I wouldn’t have called you.” What a good foot to get off on! It helps immensely if you use best intention when describing the fault. It is odd, really, that some of the best help you can get for finding a fault are some of the old clichés like, “It feels like it’s running on kangaroo petrol”, or “It sounds like a bag of hammers.” It is non-technical and self-explanatory. What we don’t want to know is a 25-minute history of when the car was bought, why it shouldn’t have been bought, how it’s not as good as the last three, why we will never have one like this again, how the wife said all along the car would be a problem, and now it is. What a manifold of useless information when all I want to do is find the fault, put it right and go back to my warm bed.

As a result of many of these situations we have become quite cynical which, I suppose, is understandable but I find when things seem to get impossible two or three people from the 30% suddenly appear, which charge my mental batteries and I am away again, ready to be ground down.

Fred Henderson
Breakdown Doctor
December, 2012