THE SHIFT IN SERVICING RESPONSIBILITY
Over the years we have watched the car servicing industry change massively, shifting from owner-based responsibility with direct payment to service providers by owners even under a new vehicle warranty, to the modern-day Service plans built into the purchase of a car. Along with that has come a certain blurring of that line of responsibility and in addition to not being too sure of the value afforded in these processes, when vehicles leave the warmth and comfort of the service plan, many folk question the need for the full servicing package as laid out by the manufacturers thereafter.
One thing is cast in stone however and that is that if you have any intention of keeping a vehicle for a fair period of time after the service plan or if you purchase a used vehicle at that critical point… beware.
I say this because if you are in the mindset of conventional wisdom which considers an engine oil change as the ‘driver’ of servicing musts and schedules…which I agree is important…you need, particularly in the light of new technology, to consider an activity just as critical and that is gearbox oil servicing.
I have always regarded vehicle transmissions (particularly Auto boxes) as the silent assassins in the list of things that can go wrong in the ownership cycle…why?…well because taking that conventional wisdom spoken about earlier, gearboxes have been that forgotten component that seems to just go on ‘gearboxing’… until an unexpected failure…
SOUTH AFRICAN OPERATING CONDITIONS
Whilst I do not have comparative statistics to prove my next comment, involvement in the tech side of the industry at manufacturer engineering level over many years can attest to the fact that South Africa has one of the highest, if not the highest, attrition rates in vehicle mechanical failures anywhere in the world. Believe it or not, the reason for this is straightforward… no other country has the combination of High Altitude, High Temperatures and sustained High speeds affecting the majority of vehicles on the roads. When you add to that the very loose traffic policing, just ask the question… where else in the world, for example as happens over our December holiday period, do you see cars and pick-ups towing boats, caravans and trailers in temperatures of between 35 & 40C at sustained high speeds (some up to 140Km/h) for long distances? A 1000Km trip in a day for a South African is a walk in the park.
Over the years, I have repeatedly had the experience of working with source plant engineers (from Japan/Germany) requesting design upgrades to improve reliability on all manner of issues affecting product locally. The sequence is always the same. The engineers arrive, spend about a week or so gathering data with you and initially at any rate work out that because the particular problem only occurs at a high incidence in South Africa …the fault must be with the local activity…and that is where the initial investigation is normally focused. It is probably on the second visit by these engineers or when all avenues of possible local blame are exhausted that the penny drops and the engineers concerned realise the severity and or uniqueness of our operating conditions…Only then are design changes introduced or field campaigns initiated to upgrade customer vehicles. I call the sequence ‘obfuscating the obvious’.
I mention this only to illustrate the fact that as a consequence of the way we drive and the conditions under which we operate, servicing is critical to the long-term well-being of our cars in this country. The arrival of multi-gear modern auto transmissions could therefore be seen as just another advance in technology with ‘service as usual’…but for those subscribing to that thinking, either as a vehicle owner or in the service and repair industry… you do so at your own risk.