A worrying 1.3 million drivers say they aren’t confident that they can open a car bonnet, according to the AA.
Despite it being one of the simplest procedures on a car and vital to carry out several basic maintenance tasks, a survey of motorists by the AA Driving School found that four per cent – equivalent to more than a million drivers – lacked the knowledge to access the engine compartment.
The poll of 18,000 people also found significant numbers of motorists who lacked even the most basic of maintenance abilities, apparently baffled by tasks such as checking a tyre’s tread depth, topping up the oil and changing a wiper blade.
Although most drivers said they could carry out various simple tasks, five per cent said they didn’t know how to top up the screenwash, eight per cent couldn’t check a tyre’s pressure and 10 per cent couldn’t use a dipstick to check the oil level. Maintenance ignorance is thought to cost UK drivers an average of £326 a year.
There was a clear age split in respondents, with the under-24s least confident in their abilities and the over-65s most sure that they could carry out various tasks.
When it comes to checking the tread depth on a car’s tyres, one in three (30 per cent) young drivers said they couldn’t do it alone, compared to one in five older drivers (18 per cent).
Should there be a problem with the tyre, even fewer drivers in the 17-24 age bracket said they could change the wheel, with 66 per cent admitting the task was beyond them. In contrast, 66 per cent of the over-65s said they could swap a wheel.
For tips on tasks such as changing a wheel or jump starting a car see our answers to the most common car-related questions.
Drivers from the West Midlands and London were least likely to be able to lift a bonnet on their own (both five per cent) while 19 per cent of Londoners said they couldn’t top up the oil compared to an average of 14 per cent. An embarrassing six per cent of motorists in Northern Ireland were incapable of topping up the car’s screenwash. And Londoners were bottom of the heap again when it came to topping up coolant, with 30 per cent unsure how to do it.
Tasks that drivers were least confident carrying out include changing the oil and oil filter (32 per cent would feel confident doing this), checking that power steering is working (46 per cent), changing a wheel, checking there is a safe level of brake fluid (both 62 per cent), and changing a windscreen wiper blade (73 per cent).
Sarah Rees, AA and BSM managing director, said: “It’s worrying to see so many drivers are not confident with performing basic car safety and maintenance checks when it’s a vital part of learning to drive.
“Being able to check fluid levels and tyre pressures are really important skills for drivers to perform before any long journey to mitigate the chances of a breakdown.”