Snow has hit the roads today and for many drivers it will prove difficult to make progress as their lack of maintenance checks exposes their car to an increased risk of breakdown. Here’s more from the RAC.
Research conducted by the RAC among 2,000 motorists found that more than a third (38%) said they check their car’s oil at best every two months with 7% saying they wait until a warning light comes on before they do anything – despite too little oil risking causing dangerous and expensive engine damage. Less than a quarter (24%) check their oil as often as the RAC recommends, which is at the least every two weeks and before long journeys.
When it comes to tyres, a car’s only contact with the road, things are no better. Fifty-eight per cent check the condition of their vehicle’s tyres – including tread levels – at least once a month, with the RAC advising rubber is looked at least this often and possibly even more frequently in case of damage from potholes, and prior to long road trips. But 37% do it at best once every two months, and at worst less than once a year.
Tyres that are damaged or are low on tread can make driving extremely unsafe, especially on icy and snowy roads.
Insurance Edge would like to add that if you have an accident and make a claim on your insurance, then the condition of your tyres may be a factor in the settlement. You need to check the T&Cs of your policy, but most insurers reserve the right not to pay out on a claim if your vehicle is in a dangerous, or unroadworthy condition, so it is worth thinking about that risk when you come to skipping car maintenance.
It is a similar picture with tyre pressure – unless a car is fitted with a pressure monitoring system, tyres should be checked every fortnight and before long journeys. But only a third of respondents (32%) checked them that often, with a similar number (29%) doing it once a month and a fifth (18%) leaving it until at best every three months, and at worst less than once a year. Correctly inflated tyres can reduce the chance of a blow-out and significantly improves fuel efficiency.
But it is the other form of rubber on vehicles – windscreen wipers – that appear to be most neglected despite the crucial job they do in keeping a driver’s view clear, especially when the weather is cold and roads much dirtier. While a third of respondents (33%) look at them at least monthly, a remarkable 30% said that they wait until the wipers stop clearing the windscreen properly before checking them. This represents a genuine road safety risk as drivers are unlikely to carry spare wiper blades in the car should one fail.
The other vital thing to check under the bonnet is the level of engine coolant. Modern vehicles should not need topping up between services, but a drop in the level of coolant could indicate a problem and lead to engine overheating. Only 26% of drivers said they looked at the coolant level at the recommended interval of every two weeks, with 24% checking it every month and the remainder checking it less frequently or even waiting for a warning light to appear on the dashboard.
RAC patrol of the year Chris Burgess said: “While there are no hard-and-fast rules on exactly how often drivers should check basic things like oil, windscreen wipers and tyres, our research suggests a sizeable proportion are chancing it and hoping their car won’t fail them – which is a worry given the current sub-zero temperatures.
“The prolonged cold snap now gripping the country means that the risks of vehicles breaking down increases significantly. During the snowy conditions in December we saw breakdown volumes increase by around a fifth (20%) in some parts of the country so it really does pay to make sure your car is prepared before setting out.
Commenting on the road conditions drivers will be facing, Richard Leonard, Highways England Head of Road Safety said: “Gritters will be out treating our roads around the clock, but it is still important to drive to the conditions when snow is forecast.
“Drivers should plan their journeys, monitor weather reports and pack a snow kit of blankets, food, water and a shovel.”