Testing my patience

Mechanic InspectionMy name is Matt Joy, and I’m a neglectful car owner. It’s been three months since my last oil check.

I’ve got no excuses for behaviour like this, but I’m going to try and come up with some anyway. Unlike some motoring journalists I do actually own my own car, even if it tends to be family transport rather than the car I spend most of my time in. But I see enough of my Honda Civic to know what’s working and what isn’t, and when I really should get around to doing something about it.

My other excuse is that the Honda has been utterly reliable in the four years that I’ve owned it. A 12-year old car has every right to throw a wobbly once in a while, but apart from someone attacking the fuel tank and stuff like brake pads and a clutch wearing out, the only thing that has failed in that time was an ABS sensor. It never cries out for attention, so regretfully it doesn’t get any.

I’m no paragon of car maintenance but I bet I’m not the worst offender either. Which is why the mooted decision to change the MOT test (MOT stands for Ministry of Transport, fact fans) from an annual exam to a biennial one sounds like a really poor idea.

The government are using the phrase ‘reducing the burden’ to explain the potential change, but who exactly the burden is being relieved from isn’t exactly clear. It seems unlikely that the garages and test centres performing the annual exam would like to see their workload halved, never mind the remedial work that needs to be carried out subsequently.

Yes, us motorists could probably do with having our running costs cut, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out the easiest way of doing that. What we can’t do with is unsafe or unroadworthy cars running around for another 12 months, with faults getting progressively worse.

Just five minutes wandering around a nearby car park will turn up several vehicles with illegal tyres, cracked windscreens, failed bulbs and even little things like damaged wiper blades – they may seem like small details but in an emergency situation they could make all the difference.

We’ve also become relatively inept at taking care of our cars. 20 or 30 years ago when your average motor needed plenty of attention just to get going in the morning it was essential to have a decent socket set and a few spares lurking in the back of the garage. Now we’re all far too comfortable with cars that blink warning lights at us when they need attention and are happy to let a boffin with a laptop chat to our cars about their problems.

If we could all be trusted to be attentive and vigilant car owners then the government’s plans might make sense. Given that we’re actually neglectful, lazy and inept on the whole, an MOT every other year might well be 12 months too late.

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