27 August 2021

Is your car essential during lockdown? Mechanics are open for urgent repairs

| James Coleman
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Car on hoist being serviced at workshop

Emergency repair or just a regular service? If you need your car, both are legitimate reasons to leave home during COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

UPDATED: From midnight tonight, 27 August, car sales are not regarded as an essential service and therefore click and collect or delivery of vehicles is no longer permitted.

6:00 am: COVID-19 lockdown means your car might be doing nothing more than collecting dust in the garage, but there are plenty of essential workers out there who require wheels that work.

If you’re one such person, don’t despair. Taking your car to the mechanic for either an emergency repair or a scheduled service are both valid reasons for you to leave home and mechanics are listed by ACT Health as an essential business/ provider.

Mirko Milic, dealer principal at Canberra Toyota and Lexus of Canberra, says the local car industry is sticking to ACT Health guidelines for vehicle mechanical repair services.

“It is regarded as essential to keep the people who need to be on the road, on the road,” he says.

The car industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 – from factory shutdowns to freight delays – but mechanical repair shops are still open and operating even if its workforce is somewhat scaled back.

“Many of our staff have been affected by ACT-listed exposure sites, but we’re managing as best we can,” says Mirko.

Car service centre

Car service centres across the ACT are still operating, albeit at a lower capacity. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The exact rules are vague regarding which repairs are allowed – from emergencies to scheduled servicing – but Mirko says there’s really no way of making a judgement call until the car is in the workshop.

“We may just be doing a regular service and realise the tyres and brakes are shot,” he says. “What if that person caused an accident by not coming in? We simply won’t know until the vehicle is up on the hoist.

“We have also had cars come on the back of tow trucks needing urgent repairs, including cars for essential workers.”

Justifying the appointment is not a problem, says Mirko, and certainly for the lockdown veterans of NSW and Victoria, car service centres have never missed a beat.

The best bet is to check with your service centre to see what repairs they are currently offering.

Mirko says the industry has moved fast to make nearly everything possible while also being COVID-19 safe.

“All payments are done prior to picking up the vehicle,” he says. “We’re sanitising the car inside and out, as well as wiping down the keys with sanitiser. And we place plastic covers on all the touch points.

“The way we do it is safer than going into Coles.”

Canberra Toyota showroom

Vehicle showrooms are closed, but that doesn’t rule out buying a new car. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Compounding the need for cars are people who are refusing to catch public transport for fear of catching COVID-19.

“It’s too risky,” says Mirko. “We’ve had some major exposures on tram lines and bus routes in the past few days and that has spooked a lot of people.”

Many of the combined showroom/servicing-type businesses are offering courtesy cars for people who need to get around during the repairs, even if courtesy bus services have been canned. Again, these cars are sanitised before every use.

Necessity has once again swooped in as the mother of invention for people needing a new or used car, too, with many car dealerships now offering a ‘click and deliver’ option.

“If someone needs to replace their car, they still can,” says Mirko. “There’s no access to any of our showrooms, and no browsing is allowed, but you can still negotiate and buy online, and the car will be delivered to your home on the back of a truck. Again, all contactless.”

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You’ll even be able to virtually kick its tyres, as if you were on the dealership forecourt itself.

“We then send the customer a video of a sales person walking around the car and explaining all the bits and pieces as if the buyer is there,” says Mirko.

If you’re still left flummoxed by the Bluetooth connection or that button with the weird symbol on it, Mirko says Canberra Toyota is encouraging customers to come back once lockdown is over for an in-person ‘second delivery’.

“It’s quite common in the car industry, especially for luxury cars,” he says. “Someone has had the car for a bit, but they’re still unsure about how to get their phone to connect, things like that. So we invite them back in.”

Mirko says Canberra Toyota has had a few orders since lockdown began, and their trucks are busily running around Canberra making contactless deliveries.

“It’s a very safe, COVID-19-free way of doing it, and it may even lead to something in the future.”

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