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Is non-dealer bike servicing risky?

Should you get a non-dealer mechanic to do your motorcycle servicing?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Act 2010 prevents automotive dealers from tying you into servicing or voiding your warranty if you service it yourself or have it done by a mechanic.

Similar laws protecting consumers against restrictive trade practices, such as this, exist in many countries.

However, your warranty can still be voided if you or your mechanic use inferior consumables (such as oils) or parts, or if the servicing isn’t as regular as prescribed in the manual, or if you don’t follow proper servicing procedures.

So, should you take your bike to a non-dealer mechanic?

There are many very competent motorcycle mechanics out there, but there are some dodgy ones, too. Knowing the difference can be difficult.

Be careful to choose a mechanic with the right credentials and tools to service and repair your model. Not all mechanics are able to do all bikes.

Ask to see their credentials. Those who have them will gladly show you while those who don’t may get upset. Walk away if they get upset.

If you trust your mechanic’s abilities, by all means get your bike serviced by them as often they will go the extra mile to do the right thing, personalise your experience and reward your customer loyalty.

One such mechanic is Doctorate of Engineering Ozzy Graf, of Oz-Racing in Brisbane.

The BMW Group University has recognised Ozzy as a Master Certified Technician and highly esteemed member of the BMW Motorrad Germany Service Organization.

Obviously, he is an expert in BMW motorcycles, but he also works on other brands, excluding scooters, dirt bikes, Harley-Davidson.

He says he can also do warranty work and rectification after manufacturer safety recalls.

“They cannot prevent you if you are qualified,” he says.

“Because I’m a mechanical engineer I’m well and truly qualified. Engines are engines and it’s only the electronics that differs.”

He says it can be difficult and expensive to get technical support from some manufacturers  without a “special relationship”.

“I had to invest $80,000 in the software which costs $2500 a year to update and that does everything except Hyosung and Harley-Davidson,” he says.

The special software just to service Harleys is an extra $60,000. He also doesn’t do scooters and dirt bikes which need different software.

So ask your mechanic if they have suitable and the most recently updated software.

Ozzy says some manufacturers are quite specific about parts and consumables while others aren’t.

“For example, there are no restrictions on oil and air filters, but when you are using oil, it has to meet or exceed the manufacturer’s requirements,” he says.

“I use Mobil 1 Race 4T fully synthetic oil and I won’t accept people bringing their own in as I can’t control what is in a bottle and if something goes wrong I’m liable for it.”

He says he also won’t except spark plugs or other items customers have bought on the internet.

“They sell spark plugs that are fakes, but they look the same and then when they fail they blame me,” he says.

Ozzy says he used to have a lot of customers tell him that dealers had threatened them that they will void their warranty if it’s not serviced by them.

“I point customers to Fair Trading and the Department of Consumer Affairs,” he says.

“They seem to have stopped now because like me are making a big noise about it.”

Ozzy also does all the work himself and doesn’t employ any apprentices which he says are too risky.

“It’s too dangerous to let an apprentice loose on a motorcycle. One crucial bolt not done up and you could kill someone. Insurance cost is also phenomenal.”

So, if you are going to get a non-dealer mechanic to do the job, check their credentials, their software, their equipment, the consumables and parts they use, and who will actually do the work.

Also ask them whether they guarantee their work.

It’s a lot to worry about and it may be easier just to go to your dealer, anyway.

Some manufacturers and dealers are now adding free services as a deal-sweetener when you buy your bike.

And some manufacturers are now so aware that many riders now turn their bikes over every couple of years and are keen to gain your loyalty.

To attract customer loyalty, some offer “goodwill assistance” above and beyond the terms of the warranty.

Read about DIY servicing here and read about servicing at a DIY garage here.