top of page

Car Talk By Jack Biddle

Delays and holdups becoming the norm

While there’s never been a good time to have the family or business vehicle off the road for long periods for any sort of repair, there has never been a better time to take extra steps to help avoid the possibility of it ever happening.

Mechanical breakdowns are often unavoidable but checking or learning to keep an eye on oil and water levels as well as tyre pressures can sometimes help reduce the risk of an expensive repair.

Accidents that inflict panel damage are often taken out of our hands, but we can all adopt an attitude of considering what steps can be taken to avoid someone else’s mistakes and try and drive a bit smarter – much like a road safety slogan I saw recently that read, ‘expect the unexpected’. That includes finding parking spaces at the supermarket that have clear space around them to help avoid the bumps and bruises inflicted from fellow shopper’s poor attempts to enter or exit their chosen spot and also trying to avoid runaway shopping trolleys. If any resultant panel damage from an impact involves your insurance company, then be warned; your frustrations at having the vehicle off the road may increase considerably before repairs have even started.

With all respect to the polite and friendly call centre staff around the country, have you tried calling one recently? The one I phoned a week or so ago had a pre-recorded message up front to say, due to Covid and high staff illness, higher than normal wait times could be expected. There was no option to leave my contact details and wait for a call back, and I’m sure the music they played was selected to eventually force me to give up and end the call before speaking to a human being. If you do hang in there patiently, then make sure you tick all the required boxes on your first attempt, as a follow-up call will only inflict extra pain as I also discovered.

But currently, you are only part way down a potential very long pathway once the claim details are lodged and you head off to your preferred panel beater/painter to have the damage inspected, the claim hopefully accepted, and repairs are finally underway. Some of those repairers have also had staffing issues due to Covid, general sickness and lack of quality staff, so you may be asked to join a long waiting list there as well.

And just when you may have thought there was light at the end of a very long tunnel, you could easily find it’s really just another set of bright lights holding up the process. Long delays in getting the required parts onto the shop floor to complete repairs have become the norm in recent times and can hold up repairs for months rather than weeks. This was confirmed recently by local Whitianga Panel Beater, Glenn McLaughlin, the owner/operator of RDP Panel and Paint who has had around 35 years of experience in the trade. “Even some of the smallest of repairs, are often taking months rather than weeks at the moment, especially if shipping of parts is involved.”

And it’s not just one particular make or model of vehicle either, as the delays seem pretty much across the board and even stretch to the electrified fleet as well. Glenn adds, “I currently have vehicles that have been sitting in the corner of the workshop for several months waiting for parts to arrive to complete repairs, and there is little anyone can do. Even second-hand parts are often impossible to find for some of the older fleet; it’s definitely becoming very frustrating for all concerned.” What doesn’t help at times either is the amount of safety and entertainment features which has now become the norm in all modern vehicles. “There are often more parts involved these days in the repair process as a result of an accident, which not only drives the cost of the repair up, but potentially they can be the bits stalling completion, due to their unavailability. Even what looks like superficial damage to a vehicle can lead to fairly major repairs when we take a close look at what the repairs actually involve,” adds Glenn. While used car prices have held reasonably steady in recent years, there is sometimes a fine balance between repairing or declaring a vehicle a total write off. Take into account the high fuel prices currently, and the value of the bigger less fuel efficient vehicles is bound to drop, which could easily sway insurance assessors to send a damaged vehicle to the scrap yard rather than the repair shop.

So take care out there and try and avoid contact with objects that create mechanical and panel damage. If it’s unavoidable and you do go down the pathway of making contact with a call centre, be patient and try not to take your frustrations out on the people at the end of the phone who are trying their best to deliver the best customer service possible in what are very challenging times. The choice of the on-hold music is probably not their fault either. The same scenario applies for the repairers. They often have their hands tied by circumstances that are completely out of their control.


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page