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RAC

Improved reliability

Cars have become more reliable over time. But do people really understand what goes on under the bonnet and how many people still do their own servicing?

Basic checks

Most people are confident about checking the basics of oil, water, tyres and lights.

Almost three quarters of motorists are confident of checking their oil, but when the work gets slightly more technical, for example changing spark plugs, this confidence falls dramatically to only a quarter.

Women are generally less confident about doing this than men. Whereas 86% of men do the checks themselves, 45% of female motorists either get their partner/husband or other family member to do it for them.

But the increased computerisation hasn't made motorists complacent, with nearly half disagreeing that 'the sophistication of in-car technology meant they did not have to worry about knowing how to do basic checks themselves'. This view was stronger amongst the 65+ age group, at 57%, than those who are younger.

Servicing

Increases in technology do not appear to have diminished people's understanding of the need to properly maintain a car. But trying to service a modern car without the correct diagnostic equipment is now virtually impossible.

Where a car is serviced is heavily dependent on who owns the car - company cars are more likely to be serviced in a franchised dealer, private in non-franchised.

DIY or done by a friend/relative is almost exclusively the preserve of the private buyer (12%) and has shown a significant decline from 1988, when 23% of respondents stated that they serviced their cars themselves with another 15% getting a friend or acquaintance to do it for them.

The nature of car servicing is also changing.

Service intervals have been getting longer.

20 years ago the average interval was 6 months or 5,000 miles, now 12 months and 10,000 is standard. Variable service intervals are increasingly being introduced. Advances in oil technology giving it longer life, combined with on-board computers that assess how the car has been used and driven, enable the car to determine when it needs its next service.

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