Mechanical Malfunctions and Misadventures – Insurance Advice

By Bill Crowley, Chubb & Son

Voisin C27 Aerosport While insurance does not cover a prized vehicle’s sudden or gradual mechanical breakdown, it does address a mechanical failure that causes or results in a collision. Such claims tend to fall into three categories—breakdowns in the car’s braking, steering or suspension systems.

Face it—older cars have older mechanical and braking systems. Chubb recently received a claim for a 1950s-era Mercedes-Benz that hit a tree outside the owner’s driveway after the hydraulic brakes failed. It wasn’t until 1968 that automobiles were required by law to have dual master cylinders so if the front tires’ hydraulic brakes failed, the rear brakes (and vice versa) wouldn’t. With older braking systems, if a single hydraulic braking line was punctured, the brake pedal hit the metal—in a bad way. Chubb has also confronted collision claims emanating from brakes that failed because of corroded steel components in the master cylinders, brake calipers and brake lines.

Just like brakes, steering systems can leak and fail, with both hard metal and soft rubber lines susceptible to puncturing, corrosion and wear.

A car’s suspension system is equally vulnerable to wear and tear. Owners of vintage race cars have probably had the vehicles’ suspension systems upgraded, given the demands of the track. Still, welded and casted components can fissure from the enormous stresses, from sudden accelerations and decelerations to abrupt turns, placed upon the suspension system.

Mechanical failure is—in a word—guaranteed. This doesn’t mean that it cannot be corrected or mitigated. Routine “crack” testing of suspension systems by licensed restoration specialists will divulge the tiniest fractures. Such testing would be critical and possibly required on any race car. Similar periodic inspections of brake and steering systems will shed a light on dry rotting and other forms of deterioration, in addition to pin-sized holes.

Inspections, of course, precede necessary repairs by trusted, professional mechanics. While sports car owners cannot eliminate the threat of collision, they can at least reduce the mechanical failures that contribute to this risk.


Bill Crowley, Chubb InsuranceAbout the Author – Bill Crowley has been racing cars since his late teens and has restored several vintage British automobiles. Today, he owns an open-cockpit D Sports Racer and regularly competes at Watkins Glen International and other tracks. For the past 34 years, Bill’s “day job” has been at Chubb & Son, a leading insurer of valuable vintage vehicles and other collectible cars for more than four decades. As its worldwide automobile claim manager, he has seen his share of unusual losses—insured and uninsured. As someone who knows cars inside out, he has unique insight and singular wisdom on how to avoid them. Visit www.chubbcollectorcar.com for more information about classic car insurance.