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Delaying tactics: how long can I put off car repairs?

Motoring is a costly business. However, maintaining your pride and joy is necessary for both your car’s well-being and safety.

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Wonderful as it is, there’s no doubting motoring is costly business. Nothing is free in this world, including keeping your car on the road and in good condition. However, maintaining your pride and joy and keeping it in good order are necessary – not just for your car’s well-being, but for your safety too.

Certainly a scuffed wheel, small dent or penny-sized windscreen chip might not need immediate attention if you don’t fancy shelling out for the repair yet. But how long can you safely or sensibly wait before you take your car in for a fix? Here are seven of the most common repairs.

Chipped windscreen

There’s nothing worse than that tell-tale ‘bang’ as a stone hits your screen at speed. You look for the chip, praying it’s not in your line of sight and discover that, actually, it’s small and tucked away up in the corner.

OK, so it’s not an urgent job just yet. As long as the weather stays fine and you keep the chip clean, you could get a month out of it. But for most drivers it’s probably a fortnight because, as water and rain gets into the crack, it worsens quickly. Keep a close eye on the damage as the bigger the original chip, the faster it’s likely to deteriorate and spread.

Any chip that you can actually measure – a few millimetres – will require a repair or replacement within a week, although if the chip becomes a crack, get it seen to immediately as it’s not going away.

Scuffed wheel

Almost anyone whose car has alloy wheels will have heard the depressing sound of one or more scuffing against a kerb stone. It’s a horrible noise and an even worse sight, especially if the score is a big one.

For many drivers, just the look of a scuffed alloy is too much to bear. But actually it can mean more than just looks. A kerb scrape probably won’t affect the wheel, but damage from a pothole can actually be a dent in the wheel itself and this can affect its performance. It makes the wheel more susceptible to warping, which can be dangerous especially at speed.

It’s worth checking the tyre of a scuffed wheel too – this can create damage even if you can’t see it.

Blown bulb

It’s illegal to drive your car with a blown headlamp, rear or brake light so it makes sense to get any faulty bulbs replaced as soon as possible.

It’s not only dangerous to drive without the correct lighting, but you are massively increasing your chances of being stopped by the police, and you certainly won’t pass an MOT test without the right level of lighting on show. Most bulbs can be bought and fitted easily, but ask an expert if you have any doubts.


No matter how carefully you drive, you will probably end up with a dent on your car eventually. It’s not always your fault – other drivers opening their car door on to yours can cause a small blemish for example.

Dents don’t just look unsightly, they can also be quite damaging to your car’s paintwork. If the surface paint has been cracked by the dent, even slightly, water can seep in behind and start to attack the metal. This turns into rust and a discoloured patch of paint which, by the time you really notice it, could have really taken a hold.

Have the dent repaired as soon as you can – certainly before any paint starts to peel off.

Scratched paintwork

Just as with dents, scratches in your paintwork are more than just cosmetic. They can slowly but surely get worse, with dirt and water attacking your car’s ‘skin’ the paint and lacquer, and then the metal underneath.

There are many DIY products to help you cover up small scratches and you should do these each time to see a new one. For larger or deeper gashes, consult an expert and get them seen to as soon as you can.

Torn seat fabric

While there’s little chance of a torn seat affecting the safety of your car, there’s no doubt a rip in the seat, or worse still – though less common – a cigarette burn, looks awful and completely ruins the appearance of any car’s interior.

It’s worth getting repaired quickly because most tears tend to get worse with time and use, and they certainly collect dirt so it’s unhygienic. So put it on your list of repairs to do.

If you ever come to sell your car, you’re not going attract buyers with a torn seat, so get it done sooner rather than later. Anything that is safety related – such as a damaged seat belt, should be seen to by an expert.

Noisy exhaust

A car’s exhaust system is not top of the list when it comes to components that drivers worry about. For a start, they are tucked away out of sight and that usually means out of mind too. As long as there’s no noise or vibrating you leave well alone, right?

Poor old exhausts have a tough time – stuck under the car at the mercy of mud, water and road salt. At least when they start to go, you usually know about it, thanks to a change of tone or sound level.

Blown exhausts can be repaired if you’re quick, so do it immediately. Leave it too long and you face having to buy a whole new system, a failed MOT test or a roadside visit by the traffic police.

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Tom Johnston
Tom Johnstonhttp://johnstonmedia.com/
Tom Johnston was the first-ever reporter on national motoring magazine Auto Express. He went on to become that magazine’s News Editor and Assistant Editor, and has also been Motoring Correspondent for the Daily Star and contributor to the Daily and Sunday Express. Today, as a freelance writer, content creator and copy editor, Tom works with exciting and interesting websites and magazines on varied projects.