Toolbox Tales: Why FSH can sometimes equal FA.

Mike Humble

Full Service History – how I sigh at the hearing of the phrase. Here I share a nugget of nostalgia about this subject and about how a beautifully stamped book means very little without the sheets of paperwork too…

oil change

When there is nothing on the box I love nothing more than to trawl through the on-line car adverts with a big mug of hot sweet tea. The female of the species call this “window shopping” and for me anyway – my favourite part of the adverts are the long and never exhausting abbreviations. ESR PAS RCL BBC ERF B&Q – the list is endless but of course the one that catches the eye is our old friend – FSH. Those three magic letters that promise you a tip top car as good as new for second hand money – grab that phone you cant go wrong… or can you?

Well after recently hearing a distant friend recount his tales of woe regarding a used Volvo estate that’s going through his bank account as quickly as a bad pint, its a sad fact that the magical abbreviation – FSH can in fact mean FA. Within a few months of ownership the chap has forked out for a new centre silencer, rear brakes, wiper blades, front wheel bearing and the air-con compressor moaned like… in his words not mine – a bored eight year old. Clearly what he had bought was a tired and worn out Swedish suitcase that was far from factory fresh – he’d well and truly shot himself in the foot!

One of the problems with the aforementioned contact is his laziness when it comes to his car purchasing. He’s the sort of chap who unless the ideal car is located within a 20 yard radius of his armchair he just simply doesn’t want to know and after further probing told me the car was sourced from “some mush who sells cars from his property” – all the boxes ticked for some serious motoring misery. Feeling like an agony Aunt he solemnly told me how the service book was all stamped up to date and how pristine the car looked when he parted with the folding stuff.


I once witnessed a couple who were literally as thick as pigs viewing a Citroen ZX. When the husband queried the missing service book, the home trader / vendor offered to supply one… at extra cost. Amazingly, the couple seemed happy with the solution.


…the husband of the dippy duo asked about the missing service history and the vendor glibly replied; “not a problem Sir… I can sort one out for you for an extra £50″

Of course, valeting a car is the easy part but there again, so is stamping the service book… as I shall explain. One of my contacts I knew sold used clunkers from his driveway in a village just outside Bedford. Most of his stuff bordered on being mobile death-traps but every now and again he would have something half decent. I once witnessed Mr and Mrs Gullible looking round a used Citroen ZX (it was a few years back) and when the husband of the dippy duo asked about the missing service history and the vendor glibly replied with a smile; “not a problem Sir… I can sort one out for you for an extra £50”

In his kitchen drawer was a varied selection of rubber stamps and wherever a service book was missing one or seven entries, he would simply thump the book with a carefully selected seal of approval – there was a choice of black, blue or red ink pads too. With all the best will in the world, a car with a full service history is NOTHING without a bundle of bills in the old A4 sized brown envelope to back up the proof. But equally be aware of a service book full of Fast-Fit centre stamps as quite often fitting the seat cover and driving it into the workshop accounts for the Lions share of their Multi-Point Service Check programme.

“The sharks of today however, swim in different waters. Where once it was crumby second hand forecourts, nowadays its internet sites and creepy looking lay-by’s”

The problem with fast fit centres is that most of the items on the list you can do yourself in under five minutes. Criteria like tyre pressures, washer fluid, battery security and so on is the stuff that anyone can do. Proper car servicing involves a hoist up on the ramp and quite often – the brakes being properly inspected and tested too. The sharks of today however, swim in different waters. Where once it was crumby second hand forecourts, nowadays its internet sites and creepy looking lay-by’s. Even the typical car wash emporiums are getting in on the act of selling used cars. Once these guys make enough money and the authorities are snapping at their heels, they often pack up and head off back to Eastern Europe while things cools down.


Does this look like your reliable purveyor of used cars? No… its a layby


For those who are not so brave, rubber stamps can be purchased on-line for a few quid – even your High Street stationer sells the type you can make yourself. I too had one made up for when I worked as a mobile mechanic. But at the end of the day there is no substitute for a pile of paperwork to accompany the service book – as dog eared and tatty it all may look spread over the kitchen table so far as used car peace of mind goes… its priceless!


  1. PMSL your turn of phrase never fails to make me chuckle. Seriously though, its a thought thats never crossed my mind. Ive always taken a stamped up book to be gospel

    clearly not.

  2. Just put “Garage Service Stamp” into a well known auction website and got 3,249 results – apparently quite a substantial demand….

  3. I once had a Suzuki van that was passed down to me, A 2001 SUPERCARRY with only 54000 miles and a almost fully stamped service book from the main dealer for the first few years then an independent from then on.

    Apart from oil changes and plugs very little else seem to have been done, the brake pads were rotten and the discs looked like there were kept in salt water, the exhaust resembled a rusty scaffold pipe and every metal brake pipe looked like those licorice sticks you can buy from a health shop, plus there was rotten floor pans galore.

    But it had FSH!!, i replaced all of the safety items and the van was sold on, and yes the buyer was aware of any other issues and the van is still on the road to this day

  4. “The sharks of today however, swim in different waters”

    What a brilliant way of putting it. Another really entertaining read Mike well done

  5. What about that steam powered Saab93 I brought from Manchester. As I went round the corner and realised it was a wrongen the vendor had long gone. He had paid some single mum £20 just to sell from that address. Priceless

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