AA Bans "Motorspeak"

Patrols trained in plain English communication

29 June 2007

Do you know what's happened to your car if you're told that the Lambda sensor is contaminated? Or if you've damaged your CV joint boots?

With cars getting more complex and owners less familiar with their workings, technical problems are becoming harder for motorists to understand according to the AA.

This has led the UK's largest motoring organisation to team up with plain speaking motoring guru Jon Bentley to kickstart a drive to limit the use of 'motorspeak' and instead use no-nonsense English.

A plain English guide to car complaints has been drawn up. To compile the guide, AA patrols identified the most common, but hard to explain motor problems. Jon Bentley – who regularly makes the complicated understandable on The Gadget Show – then used his way with words to prepare plain English explanations for each of the problems. These include:

Your Lambda sensor is contaminated

The sensor which measures oxygen in the exhaust has got covered in soot. The sensor now thinks the engine is running with too much petrol and passes on an instruction to cut fuel. You've lost power.

You've damaged your CV joint boots

On front wheel drive cars the driveshafts have to power the wheels while they're steering round corners. So, rather than the driveshaft going straight into the wheel at right angles it has to have a bendy bit at the end. This is called a constant velocity (or CV) joint. The CV joints are protected by rubber 'boots'. If the boots split then water and dirt get in to the joint causing it to seize.

The gear mechanism on the flywheel is worn

When you start you car, it's the starter motor's job to turn the main engine over in order to get it going. It does this with its gear teeth, which match a set of teeth on the flywheel of the engine – think of them like cogs. If either set gets damaged the gears may not engage, meaning the engine can' t turn over.

Your transponder open circuit is not received

The electronic coded chip in your key is 'read' by the immobiliser when you turn on the ignition. If there is a faulty connection this causes a break in the circuit. The immobiliser can't read the chip in your key. Your car won't start.

Your EGR valve is jammed

Modern cars re-circulate some of the gases going down the exhaust and send them back through the engine again. This is a good thing because it means the engine produces less nitrogen oxide – a substance that can harm the environment. The Exhaust Gas Recirculation valve determines how much exhaust gas is sent back through the engine's air intake. It's controlled electronically and the accuracy of this control is very important. If the valve jams open and sends back too much exhaust then the engine won't run properly. If the valve jams closed then the car will produce more pollution than it should.

The guide is designed to help motorists understand exactly what's wrong with their vehicles and foresees the questions they may be too afraid to ask.

Scott Illman, former AA Patrol of the Year, explains: "We're constantly speaking to motorists about their car problems and have noticed that, as cars are getting more complicated, owners are able to understand less about their workings. Despite this, motorists often want to know exactly what's gone wrong with their car and we want to make this as easy as possible for them.

Donald MacSporran, Head of Patrol Training at the AA, adds: "While much of an AA Patrol's training is devoted to technical matters, it's vital that they are able to communicate any problems to members in a clear and meaningful way. That's why the guide is a good way to allow our patrols to explain a problem in plain English."

Notes to Editors

The AA

  • The AA has invested 60% more in training – equating to 7,000 training hours – in 2007
  • The AA has had the highest repair rate for three-years – 8 out of 10 vehicles fixed at the side of the road
  • Over 90% of breakdowns are repaired by the first attending patrol
  • 98% of members who have used the service in the last two years would recommend us to a friend or family member

Media Contacts
The Red Consultancy: Rhiannon Prince 020 7025 6585
AA Press Office on 01256 495969
AA spokespersons are available for interview on request


29 June 2007