Driving out of lockdown…
By Melanie Wooding Jones – Redbourn Auto Solutions, caring for you and your car
We’re all entitled to get a little excited as the end of lock down is in sight. It has been an arduous long battle, but as we start embracing the new normal in it’s varying stages, we are allowed to get enthusiastic about venturing further to see loved ones or those we haven’t seen for a while. So, its time to ensure we can travel safely… but according to the experts, although we’re ready for the freedom, our cars are not…
What stats are worrying Highways England?
A Highways England survey revealed that more than half (54%) of drivers did not know when their next service is due and 32% admitted they only carry out basic vehicle maintenance (checking tyre pressures or oil levels) at best every few months or never. Oil changes and dashboard warning lights were also likely to be ignored.
In another new survey of over 2,000 motorists aged between 18 to 65, just under a third confessed that their car was displaying a warning light, or that they were driving it perfectly aware that it had mechanical issues.
This lack of attention to car maintenance could even be putting lives at risk. With 68% of respondents admitting they hadn’t checked their tyres, which is their only contact with the road. A quarter of those who did check them, admitted they knew their tyres needed replacing, but cost prevented them from doing so.
Understandably, the use of cars plummeted in 2020, with vehicles expected to cover just 3,500 miles compared to 8,000 the previous year. 40 per cent of drivers blamed how seldom they were using their cars for not checking mechanical issues – other reasons included tighter finances and delayed MOTs.
Because of the 6-month MOT extension (30 March 2020 until 31 July 2020), it has been difficult for people to remember when their MOT is actually due. It also created artificial peaks in the industry (September – January) making it difficult to get a booking.
What’s the difference between a service and MOT?
Many confuse the two, but both are crucial in keeping you and those around you safe, legally compliant and ensure you don’t invalidate your insurance.
An MOT is a visual safety check and is a legal requirement to certify the vehicle as roadworthy on the date of inspection. An MOT tester is not allowed to strip down or dismantle parts for an in-depth check, and they shouldn’t need to as the vehicle should sail through its MOT without any additional work being required if it is regularly serviced.
The inspection criteria are the same for all vehicles and is set by a government agency. All MOT testers are licensed and tested regularly on their ability to accurately conduct the test. The Government recommendation is £54.85 for an MOT on an average car.
An annual service follows detailed manufacturer guidelines to keep your car in a safe and peak condition. This is an essential part of car maintenance as components maybe starting to weaken mechanically, the oil may need changing, or the air filter, fuel filter, spark plugs may have to be replaced helping the vehicle run smoothly. It also makes the car more economical to run, keeps running costs down and increases its lifespan.
If a car’s servicing schedule is maintained, it should be relatively painless with any niggles being addressed before they become an issue and threaten the long-term health of your car. If your car has not been serviced for years, however, the safe and healthy running of your car may be compromised. So, don’t be tempted to miss or delay a service to save money – it could cost you in the long run. A poorly maintained car can result in poor fuel economy in the short term and in big repair bills further down the road.
It is hard to compare prices for servicing as it is run differently at every garage according to the quality of the parts used, level of expertise, technical equipment used, and what they consider to be an intermediate, main or full service, etc. If the garage uses servicing based on guidelines from car manufacturer, it will also vary from car to car and year to year!
Unlike MOT’s, this is an unregulated area of the motor trade, so unbelievably anyone can set up as a ‘mechanic’ and work on cars! The key here is to ensure that you look for quality marks which ensure those working on your car are qualified to do so.
What the experts say…
Listening to surveys is one thing, but what are the views of the experts?
Jeremy Phillips, Head of Road User Safety (Highways England) said: “While the country is in still in lockdown, we want to remind drivers to act now and carry out those important basic checks. Doing regular maintenance, rather than waiting until the end of lockdown is in sight, will ensure their vehicles still work and preventable breakdowns are avoided when restrictions are lifted and the nation gets back on the road.”
Mark Newberry, Commercial Director at Green Flag, said: “Cars are designed to be driven regularly and the components rely on regular use to stay in tip-top condition. A period of lockdown means many vehicles that may have been running every day could now be used less, which can lead to a number of complications”.
Jack Cousens, Head of Roads Policy at the AA warned motorists that cars sat around for long periods of time “can lead to issues”. He said, “With many people either working from home or furloughed, some drivers may be tempted to just let their vehicle bypass the MOT date and only arrange it when they think lockdown restrictions will be eased. However, cars sat parked up for long periods of time can lead to issues such as; battery faults, seized brakes and flat tyres. These are just some of the reasons why it is just as important, if not more so, to keep your car regularly maintained”.
Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert for Money.co.uk warned: “With most regular drivers making smaller, more infrequent journeys, it’s easy to see why some might be tempted to put off repairs and maintenance, especially particularly expensive work. However, doing so could have serious consequences to the safety of your journey, and even invalidate your insurance”.
In response to the survey, Highways England and partner Green Flag, are now highlighting the importance of basic maintenance and checks in helping road users to avoid breakdowns or endangering themselves and other drivers.
Highways England, AA, RAC, Manufacturers and dealerships all advising that it is important to perform regular vehicle maintenance, even when the vehicle is not in regular use.
It will be great when we eventually get our freedom back and are able to travel a little further, but the overwhelming evidence is that many of us haven’t considered if our cars are safe and ready for us to use. At worst, some have considered it and ignored it! Next time you are out, take a look at how many cars are on the road – around 30% of the drivers are looking at a warning lights on their dashboard or driving knowing they have a mechanical defect. Their insurance will not cover them in the event of an accident.
Car Garages were considered an ‘essential service’ with good reason. Please check when your MOT and Service is due. At the very least, get a Safety Health Check booked and keep yourself, and others, safe when we are allowed to venture out.
If you’re unsure, give us a call! We’re here to help.