Small business vehicle problems – and how to avoid them
The most common breakdown causes
The other day, I was pleased to get my car through its annual MOT.
I knew it would pass because I look after it well, had checked it over thoroughly and sorted out the two minor problems that could have caused it to fail – a broken bulb in the light that illuminates the rear registration plate, plus a dodgy windscreen wiper that started to split at the end of last week.
Over the next 12 months, I expect to replace the front tyres and replace a (currently) slightly worn ball joint on the front suspension. But because I keep on top of the maintenance (and don’t drive a huge number of miles), the car should remain reliable for many years to come.
It’s one thing finding time to keep your own car in good condition and another maintaining company vehicles to the same standard. Indeed, data released by the RAC suggests that there’s a three in ten chance that one of an SME’s vehicles will break down every year.
Of course, the RAC has an interest in selling breakdown cover. And while breakdown cover is important for when things unexpectedly go wrong, a few simple measures can help ensure that you don’t lose valuable time or get hit by hefty repair bills.
The RAC’s own statistics support this, showing us that the most common reasons for breakdown call-outs are:
- Flat batteries (18%)
- Tyres (13%)
- Clutch problems (5%)
With batteries, it’s important to remember that these last an average of 5 to 7 years. Even so, it’s a good idea to look for signs that a battery might be failing.
If the engine starts to turn over more slowly when you start the vehicle, or your dashboard lights dim or flicker, then it could be time for a replacement. Some garages offer free battery testing and will be able to check whether or not it is on its way out. If it is, it’s better to replace it immediately rather than waiting for it to fail at the roadside.
Tyre problems are getting more common because it’s no longer a legal requirement to carry a spare wheel. Instead, vehicles tend to come equipped with a puncture repair kit. That’s all very well but if your tyre blows out completely or you damage your rims, then you’re stuck. To avoid this, make sure you or your employees keep tyres inflated to the right pressure and check them for faults such as splits or bulges. Under-inflated tyres are a frequent cause of major tyre failure, so visit the air pump often!
Clutch problems tend to announce themselves before they result in failure. Often you’ll get early warning that the clutch is going when the ‘biting point’ – the point where the clutch pedal engages the transmission – gets higher. If you get to the stage where the clutch is beginning to slip, get it replaced immediately – this means that it is so worn that it is probably damaging your flywheel (which will also need repairing). A clutch in this condition could also fail at any time.
If you find it very difficult to find time for maintaining your business’s vehicles, then there is one other option that could solve your problem.
If you lease your cars or vans instead of owning them outright, you can choose a company that offers maintenance and breakdown recovery as part of the contract. That way, you’ll experience fewer breakdowns with minimal hassle – meaning you can use your time to concentrate on more important things, such as growing your business and making sure your personal cars are in tip-top condition!
Business Advice with THP
Here at THP Chartered Accountants we can provide your SME with everyday assistance from bookkeeping, payroll solutions auditing and cloud accounting (Xero and FreeAgent) or company restructures and acquisitions. We offer everything you need to take your start-up or SME forward, with offices in Chelmsford, Cheam, Wanstead, Saffron Walden and London City.
About Ben Locker
Ben Locker is a copywriter who specialises in business-to-business marketing, writing about everything from software and accountancy to construction and power tools. He co-founded the Professional Copywriters’ Network, the UK’s association for commercial writers, and is named in Direct Marketing Association research as ‘one of the copywriters who copywriters rate’.