COVID-19: Car-servicing rule change a boon for safety

Mechanic holds note pad while looking at car.

Sue Hewitt

Posted September 25, 2020

Victorian government has eased COVID-19 restrictions on routine car servicing.

Victorian motorists can once again have their cars serviced following easing of COVID-19 restrictions, which saw almost 250,000 cars miss their routine service checks.  

The state’s peak automotive body, the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce welcomed the change in government COVID-19 rules, in order to allow routine vehicle maintenance “to maintain the health and safety of Victorians at home or work.”

The VACC had raised concerns that the ban on routine vehicle servicing under stage-3 and 4 COVID restrictions posed serious safety risks for Victorian motorists and cast doubt over the validity of new car warranties for vehicles that had missed scheduled servicing. 

VACC chief executive Geoff Gwilym says the ban which came in with stage-3 restrictions in early July meant almost 250,000 vehicles had not been serviced on time. 

“When factoring in motorcycles and trucks, this could have led to half a million vehicles missing their regular service window by December – if the government had not listened to industry feedback and insight,” he says.

“Critical repairs may have been missed. This is not only dangerous but would have produced a backlog that was unlikely to be cleared in time for the end-of-year holiday period.” 

RACV senior engineer – vehicles, Nicholas Platt, also welcomed the car servicing rule change as a boost for safety. He says missing routine servicing could mean that serious safety issues such as worn or damaged brake pads were overlooked.   

“While oil and filter changes done during a normal service could be stretched without too much short-term detriment, items like brake pads and rotors which are hidden in away on the car cannot,” he says. “The only time most people are realistically able to have these inspected is at a service.”

He says although Melburnians in stage-4 lockdown have not been able to drive long distances, the increased braking and accelerating involved with short drives could actually increase wear on critical brake components and tyres, of which an owner may not be aware. 

Delays in routine servicing could also mean some car owners are unwittingly driving unroadworthy cars, he says. While roadworthiness is always the responsibility of the motorist, most rely on mechanics to check their vehicle meets the standard during a scheduled service.

The servicing ban could also have implications for new car warranties, warns Nicholas.

While some car manufacturers have indicated they will exercise leeway on warranties where scheduled servicing has been missed due to the covid-19 restriction, Nicholas recommends motorists check directly with the vehicle manufacture to check the warranty has not been voided. 

He says third-party extended warranties, provided by companies other than the car manufacturer, are a grey area. 

“These can have very tight terms and conditions including how often and by whom the car is serviced.”