Record high fuel prices

Drivers putting safety at risk by scrimping on essential maintenance

5 March 2012

Many drivers putting their safety at risk by scrimping on essential maintenance

Many drivers putting their safety at risk by scrimping on essential maintenance

With the price of diesel and petrol recently hitting record highs, many drivers are putting off essential maintenance and servicing on their vehicles leading to an increase in some breakdowns.

According to the AA/Populus panel, more than one in ten (11%) drivers are cutting back on car servicing; and 69% are using their car less or reducing spending in other areas or both, rising to 79% in the lowest socio-economic group.

As a result, AA patrols are attending increasing numbers of preventable breakdowns including a 12% increase in tyre failures since 2009 and around a 20% rise in the number of out-of-fuel call-outs over the same period.

  • Record fuel prices continue to directly affect consumer spending
  • Many drivers putting their safety at risk by scrimping on essential maintenance
  • 12% increase in tyre failures; and out-of-fuels up a fifth
  • 69% of drivers cutting back on car use, non-fuel spending or both

Feeling flat

AA patrols regularly report seeing cars with barely any tread on the tyres with many members blaming money worries. As well as being illegal and potentially dangerous, minimal tread means the tyre is much more likely to puncture.

Don’t put off filling up as fuel gauges aren’t always accurate

Keith Miller, AA patrol of the year

Running on fumes

High fuel prices also leads to the temptation to fill up as infrequently as possible.

Keith Miller, AA patrol of the year, says: “Don’t put off filling up as fuel gauges aren’t always accurate and the last thing you want is to be running on vapours and risk cutting out in a dangerous position.

“When the low fuel light comes on, you typically have around a gallon of fuel left, which might get you say around 30 miles but don’t rely on this as the gauge is just an indication. If you run out and don’t have breakdown cover, it could cost you more than £150 to get recovered off the motorway.

“Also, on some diesels, if you run out it’s not just as simple as topping up as the fuel lines need to be primed to remove air from the fuel lines.”

Longer-term issues

We also expect to see more call-outs to worn brake pads, broken drive belts, damaged engines following cam belt failure, warning lights e.g. low fluid levels, overdue service indictors and long-term damage to engines caused by deterioration in oil quality.

It's important not to cut back on major services, especially oil changes and timing belts(cam belts). A timing belt may cost £150 to repair but a new engine as a result of neglect could cost £3,000.

Keith says: “Although we’re all feeling the pain of high pump prices, cutting back on servicing could cost you more in the long term. Not having a full service record is likely to affect your car’s resale value and you’re also potentially storing up bigger and more expensive problems down the line.

“You not only risk your safety by having a breakdown or accident but if your car isn’t roadworthy, you may not be fully covered by your insurance either."

The Government has to listen before many families and businesses are driven off the road by the relentless burden of record fuel prices

Edmund King, AA president

Impact of high fuel prices

Family budgets have been the main focus of the impact of high fuel prices but AA evidence shows that road safety is now being significantly compromised.

Edmund King, AA president, says: “For a long time now, the high price of fuel has directly affected spending in many other areas. However, while eating out less or not seeing the latest blockbuster is one thing, it’s quite another matter when safety is put on the line by cutting back on essential servicing.

“The Government has to listen before many families and businesses are driven off the road by the relentless burden of record fuel prices.”

(13 March 2012)

AA/Populus online poll of 20,659 AA members conducted between 19-25 January 2012. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.