Workshops battle with abandoned cars issue

Cars left abandoned at repair workshops are an inconvenience workshop owners face around the country.

Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says annually some workshops have over 25 vehicles left abandoned at their workshops.

“As you can imagine having to deal with this issue is onerous on the workshop,” he says. “As with any premises, space is valuable and these cars take up the equivalent of say 15 to 18 square metres each. If you equate that to what you would pay for a storage unit of similar size you are looking at over R1,000 rental fee per day per vehicle. Along with the space issue, there is security to consider, movement costs (such as fuel needed to move the vehicle) and additional insurance costs,” explains Ranft.

He adds that general maintenance has to be done on the vehicles to ensure the workshop doesn’t start looking like a scrap heap. A professional image is important for workshops so ensuring these abandoned cars are not neglected becomes an additional concern for the workshop owners.

So why do car owners abandon their vehicles? Affordability of repairs, is the simple answer, says Ranft.

“We are living in a time of an ever-tightening economy so unfortunately car owners are only repairing their vehicles when something breaks. The problem with this approach is that generally by the time something breaks, it is far more costly to repair than if the vehicle was regularly maintained. Also, there can be a knock-on effect as one broken part affects several others. The reality is that car owners will bring in their vehicles for repairs and then not have the money to pay for them, so leave their cars abandoned at the workshop.”

What the car owners of these abandoned vehicles may not realise is that they may be liable for the storage costs.

“The repair workshop is well within its rights to include a storage fee rate in the contract signed by the vehicle owner, stipulating that a daily charge may accrue if the vehicle is abandoned,” says Ranft. “If the customer does not claim the vehicle and a financial institution repossesses the vehicle, the car owner will be liable to the financial institution for all costs associated with the vehicle – including the storage fees accrued. This can amount to a hefty sum. These are costs that can be avoided.”

Ranft believes that regular maintenance at the required intervals is one way to reduce the amount of abandoned vehicles. Along with that, he urges car owners to request quotes upfront and to speak to their mechanic about communicating clearly should additional work be required once the vehicle is stripped.

“Use a reputable workshop, like a MIWA-accredited workshop, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Discuss your options with the mechanic – there will always be a better solution than abandoning your vehicle,” he concludes.

Look after your car’s brain

When an Electronic Control Unit (ECU) – also known as the ‘computer’ – of a vehicle needs to be repaired or replaced, motorists are often confronted with a hefty repair bill. This makes sense as an ECU is a very powerful control system capable of gathering hundreds of channels of information to control every aspect of your car’s engine management or other important vehicle functions such as handling characteristics, braking systems and climate control.
If you compare a car engine to a human body, the pistons might be the heart, the headlights would be the eyes, and the ECU would be the brain. The ECU controls a series of actuators to make sure things are running smoothly within the engine. Within the engine bay, there are several sensors that provide the ECU with maintenance information. The ECU then uses these sensor readings to adjust engine actuators for optimum efficiency.
“What motorists might not know is that they can contribute to the premature failure of ECUs by being unaware of the damage caused by not adhering to a couple of simple rules,” says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI). “Jumpstarting your car incorrectly is one of the most common ways one can damage an ECU.”

Ranft provides the following useful hints to help motorists extend the ECUs life’s expectancy:

  • Be very aware of the polarity of the jumper leads when jumpstarting a vehicle with a flat battery as many an ECU has been damaged by short circuiting the jumper leads. Always connect the leads positive to positive and negative to negative and although most vehicle manufacturers have equipped their vehicles with overvoltage protector devices, damage may still happen in the split second before the fuse in the system blows.
  • Always connect the positive leads of both batteries first, then the negative leads. This will “soften” the flow of power through the earthing system and prevent power surges or spikes.
  • Never attempt to connect the jump leads with the key in the ignition, only insert the key once the leads have been connected. Failure to adhere to this may lead to the coding between the key and the ECU becoming corrupted and in many instances this corruption is irreversible.

“If you are in doubt on how to jump start your vehicle, seek the advice of your nearest MIWA accredited workshop in your area who will be happy to explain the proper jumpstarting procedures to you,” Ranft concludes.

Apprentices powering ahead in the motor industry

Apprentices are getting first-hand experience, training and mentoring in the independent aftermarket sector thanks to an initiative that has been two years in the making
At the end of 2016, the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) entered into discussions with Bidvest McCarthy regarding training needs and possible solutions for the independent aftermarket.
A year later in 2017, 31 companies and 91 apprentices had applied for funding of which 22 apprentice grants were awarded. To date 16 apprentices are currently in training on the full four-year apprenticeship programme and Nico Grove and Paris Baloyi, MIWA apprentices through Bogner Motor City, will continue their second year starting February 2019, with a further 18 apprentices having just received their grant awards. They will start their four-year apprenticeship programme in January 2019. “There are also five Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning grants that have been awarded,” says Ilze Botha, Group Training Manager, Bidvest McCarthy.
She explains that the Bidvest Automotive Artisans Academy has been assisting MIWA member companies with discretionary grant applications. “In most instances we have been appointed as the Skills Development Facilitator (SDF) for the company. In this capacity, we assist the company with all the administration to apply for the grants. We also assisted one company, Bogner Motors, through a ‘train the trainer’ process so they were able to submit the documents on their own.
This is the longer-term approach for the other companies to get them trained to submit their own grant applications in the future. Where companies already had an appointed SDF they managed the grant application process on their own,” she says.
Dewald Ranft, Chairperson of MIWA, a constituent association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says the aim of this initiative was to address the artisan skills shortage in the country. “It takes four years to train an apprentice so this really is a long-term plan and we are pleased with the progress made this far,” he says.
For many years the industry depended on the larger dealer bodies to train and qualify artisans but this has proved to no longer be sustainable. Less people are entering the industry and at the top-end, qualified artisans are recruited by companies abroad. “Currently there are also many people who have been working in the industry for years without a formal trade certificate. Our aim is to make formal training the norm so we can improve the industry’s credibility and promote it as a professional career, which in turn will attract youngsters to the industry,” says Ranft.
“If we really want to be successful in addressing the skills deficit in SA, all stakeholders in the industry need to participate and create opportunities for youngsters who are passionate about the industry and need to be trained formally,” concludes Botha.