It is a well-documented fact that mistreated and unkempt vehicles will lose value at remarketing time.
But it is no point doing a quick check when employees hand back their vehicles in exchange for new models.
The process needs to be an ongoing one and even the basic principle of car washing needs to be drummed home to employees on a regular basis.
A clean vehicle can prevent damage developing later on. For example, bird droppings are acidic, so if left they can erode the paintwork and cause irreparable damage. Jonathan Booth is managing director of arc, which is part of the IMO Car Wash Group.
He claims that not only will dirty vehicles knock pounds off re-sale values but also drivers with unclean vehicles could be putting other road users at risk.
Booth said: ‘The disposal value of a vehicle is significantly higher when the vehicle has been maintained and cleaned throughout its life. Many car manufacturers recommend that vehicles are cleaned regularly to avoid the type of paint damage that can be caused by bird droppings and tree and sap deposits.
‘Driving with a particularly dirty windscreen or a dirt obscured number plate not only contravenes the Highway Code, but represents potential safety hazards to the driver. Company car drivers may be at particular risk, because of the high mileage many of them drive each year.’
Ensuring that drivers keep their company cars clean and tidy is probably a low priority on most fleet managers’ agendas but, if not included as part of a general fleet policy, it could cause problems further down the line.
The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) covers cleaning in its ‘Fair Wear and Tear guide’. It recommends drivers polish their company cars at least once every three months.
The guide states: ‘Regular cleaning of both the interior and exterior of the vehicle will ensure a good cosmetic appearance. Polishing the vehicle exterior around four times a year will help reduce the effects of any stone chip damage, remove traffic grime and make routine washing easier. The vehicle’s exterior should be sufficiently clean to allow a detailed inspection. This inside should have been valeted, cleared of rubbish and the ashtrays emptied.’
Although some drivers will clean their vehicles by hand, those using pressure washers should be reminded not to use the washer on engine parts.
Some drivers have reportedly used pressure washers to clean under the bonnet, a process that should be avoided at all costs according to the AA.
An AA Roadside Services’ spokesman said: ‘Patrols have come across more and more cases where people have used high-pressure washers on the car to get the engine looking clean and shiny. However, the washers can force water into parts of the car and engine where water shouldn’t be.
‘The electrical connectors under the bonnet are highly protected by the manufacturer but they are not designed to withstand being blasted by high-pressure washers.’
The spokesman added: ‘A bit of grime on the engine does the car no harm. It is safer to leave it there than to risk short-circuiting expensive electronic components.’