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Tips for ensuring your car remains COVID-19-free

Filum Ho is the CEO of South African auto parts and glass specialists Autoboys. Born in Taiwan but now living in South Africa, Filum transitioned from a top career in investment banking at the likes of Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch to shaking up SA’s auto parts and glass markets. In 2017, African Rainbow Capital (ARC) acquired a 51% stake in Autoboys, making it SA’s first black-owned national glass and collision parts provider. Autoboys is rated at a BBBEE Level 1. Filum is also the Vice Chairman of Right to Repair SA (R2RSA).

More South Africans are climbing back into their cars to return to work as the lockdown restrictions are steadily lifted.

With a new normal setting in, many car owners who put off service or repairs in the last two months will now start slowly attending to these again.

However, everything in a COVID-19 world has changed — including the way your car is cleaned after being in a workshop or service centre.

Workshops and service centres are increasingly being expected to take much greater care when it comes to sanitising your vehicle.

This is especially the case when considering that South Africa finds itself in a situation where the COVID-19 infection rate is still rapidly rising.

Several major insurers have already put the sanitisation of serviced and repaired vehicles at the top of their priority lists.

And car owners should be also asking the right questions of their service centres and workshops to ensure that this is done properly.

As a starting point, it’s worth checking with your workshop or service centre that their vehicle cleaning teams are wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) as well as using disposable gloves. As a consumer, you can also ask about what processes they have in place when it comes to washing hands in between cleaning shifts as well.

The likes of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US even recommend that vehicle cleaning teams use disposable gowns.

It’s also important to ask what product your provider is using to clean your car and the type of ingredients that it contains.

Scientists are still learning a lot about COVID-19, but the likes of the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that the virus can live on surfaces for several hours and even days.

Ideally, you want your workshop or service centre to use a product that kills viruses and germs on surfaces, and a solution that contains 70% alcohol is typically fit for this purpose.

But even here, it’s important to bear in mind that many products contain additional substances, such as glycerin, which can damage the interior of your car.

You should also ask your service centre or workshop to make sure that they are using a product that is, ideally, SANS-approved or SABS-approved.

Interestingly, there are already many antimicrobial products for use against SARS-CoV-2 that are in circulation around the world.

Here in South Africa, we at Autoboys have just started distributing one such product called CV1Shot which is designed specifically to neutralise the Coronavirus. Using a spray mechanism, it takes 7 minutes to disinfect a vehicle. CV1Shot was developed by a SANS-approved manufacturer, and workshops and service centres can buy it directly from us.

Individuals, or even taxi and Uber drivers, can also purchase it directly from Autoboys’ parts outlets.

In closing, it’s clear that the topic of sanitising vehicles is going to become more front-and-centre for car owners in the months to come.

Currently, there is a lack of legislation in South Africa regarding requirements for sanitising products, with many foggers and spray cans out there not even fully disclosing all their ingredients.

This could change quickly though as government starts taking a closer look at the sanitisation of vehicles. Just last month, government gazetted laws stating that all new cars must go through a rigorous process of sanitisation before being delivered to new owners.

It could only be a matter of time before these same rules apply to the entire market of owned and second-hand vehicles as well. In these interesting times, the world of cleaning cars will never be the same again.