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Electronic gadgets drive up maintenance costs

For years our cars have been getting more complex, with computers now apparently controlling just about every system in our motors. This added complexity has already had knock-on effects, chief among them the complete inability of any driver to service his own car. It seems the days of pottering in the garage with a Haynes workshop manual are long gone.

For years our cars have been getting more complex, with computers now apparently controlling just about every system in our motors. This added complexity has already had knock-on effects, chief among them the complete inability of any driver to service his own car. It seems the days of pottering in the garage with a Haynes workshop manual are long gone. Instead, cars must now be hooked up to specialist diagnosis machines if anything goes wrong with them and this complexity is causing a rising number of faults and increasing garage bills.

It has long been assumed that cars get more reliable with advancing technology but new data suggests that this may not be the case. One warranty company has completed a survey of 50,000 insurance policies and the results show that the number of cars experiencing electrical faults has risen by an astonishing two thirds in the past five years. At the same time, repair bills have increased by around one third. Ironically, high-end and expensive cars like Porsche and Bentley are among the worst offenders when it comes to electrical faults, probably because makers tend to install the very latest technologies in an attempt to leave their competitors behind.

The survey showed that the proportion of motorists suffering an electrical fault in 2013 was around 25%, rising from only 10% in 2008. These electrical faults are also causing an increase in repair bills. The survey highlighted that the cost for fixing a fault had risen from an average of £221 in 2008 to £291 in 2013. These costs were greatly increased in the case of luxury cars, with an electrical fault on a Porsche costing an average of £757 to fix and £670 in a Bentley. Modern gadgets such as parking sensors are now among the most common causes of failure.

Newer cars often now require specialist diagnostic tools to identify and fix problems and such equipment is often only available at a franchised dealer. This makes it impossible for smaller local garages to compete and more difficult for the motorist to shop around for a better servicing deal. David Gerrans, managing director of Warranty Direct, the firm who carried out the survey, commented: “As automotive technology continues to advance, cars get more and more complex. Nowhere is that more so than in the field of computer technology and other electronics. These advances can undoubtedly improve the performance and safety of cars, but they also have a knock-on effect on how often they fail and how much it costs to repair them.”

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