Time may be up for DIY car fixes
How long does it take to change a light bulb? A very long time indeed if you're a DIY home mechanic. In fact, you might struggle to change it at all, according to research by Warranty Direct.
The independent warranty provider has analysed the length of time required for various maintenance tasks using information from Autodata, a publisher of technical manuals.
Warranty Direct found that replacing a Renault Clio Mk3's headlamp could take as long as 96 minutes. Changing a front light cluster in an Audi A4 takes a professional mechanic 45 minutes, when a simple bulb change would have taken 10 minutes in 1994. Warranty Direct says a timing belt change on a 1980s Ford Escort would take "less than an hour" but the same job on a modern Ford Focus would require "almost three hours in a garage".
Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warranty Direct, argues that the increased difficulty of performing simple maintenance is pushing the DIY mechanic towards his or her local garage for work that could once have been performed at home by anyone with basic mechanical knowledge and a few tools.
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He said: "The days of changing oil, filters and replacing light bulbs on the driveway are fast becoming a thing of the past – in some cases, they already are.
"New, more complicated technologies on cars are placing even more pressure on already strained household budgets."
Not all manufacturers accept the detail of Warranty Direct's findings. Renault says that replacing a headlamp bulb takes as little as 12 minutes on the post-facelift Clio Mk3. On earlier versions, the bumper had to be removed to replace the bulb, pushing the time up to 54 minutes.
Warranty Direct told us the discrepancy between these times and the 96 minutes stated in its press release was because it quoted the time for replacing the full headlamp unit rather than a single bulb.
Audi also questioned the findings, saying that a replacement bulb for an A4 cost the same – £13.25 – as in 1994 and that an individual bulb rather than a full lamp cluster can be replaced, taking 25 minutes rather than 45. Ford argues that any comparison of the time to change timing belts should take account of the longer life of modern belts, which need to be changed once every 100,000 miles on most Ford models.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) argues that less opportunity for home maintenance is a reasonable price to pay for greater safety, higher levels of technology, and improved reliability: "Manufacturers continually redesign their vehicles in response to customer demand for technological advances and ever greater safety, comfort and efficiency. A consequence is that some historical DIY tasks may require the expert attention of a manufacturer main dealer."
Announcing the death of the home mechanic could be premature but it's fair to say that as well as screwdrivers, sockets and a set of wrenches, today's DIY enthusiast needs a fault code reader and a laptop.