Monthly Archives: September 2013

Top tips to help keep older drivers safe on the road

happy elderly drivingThere are more older drivers out on our roads than ever before, according to a recent study by the RAC Foundation.

It is claimed that there are more than four million people aged 70 and over who hold a full, valid UK driving licence. And the oldest licenced driver is a 107-year-old woman.

Statistics show that drivers aged over 55 are the least likely to be involved in an accident – but the chances of being seriously injured if involved in one increases from the age of 65.

At Trust My Garage, we aim to keep all drivers safe on the road, especially if they are more vulnerable due to aged-related health deterioration.

Obviously, if you have a medical condition or disability that affects your fitness to drive then you must inform the DVLA straight away.

But, if you are still fit and safe to drive, we want to ensure that your car doesn’t let you down.

So, what can you do to help keep you safe on the road?

1)      Check your eyesight. In order to drive safely, you must be able to see properly. This may seem like common sense, but sometimes you may not realise that your eyesight has worsened over time, and if you can’t read a car number plate from 20 metres – with or without corrected vision – then you should consult your optician straight away.

2)      Don’t feel pressurised by other road users. It’s easy to feel intimidated by a driver following too closely behind you, but don’t go any faster than you feel comfortable with doing, and never above the speed limit. If you need to slow down a bit to give yourself that extra bit of time to react when coming up to a junction or other hazard, then you do that. Don’t become a reckless or dangerous driver because of feeling pressured to go that extra bit faster.

3)      Visit your doctor to resolve any niggling health complaints. So, if your neck is giving you discomfort and you may have difficulty in turning your head, visit your doctor who may be able to show you some exercises to ease it a little bit.

4)      Buy accessories and adaptations for your car to make it easier to drive. If you are worried about forgetting directions, then a Satnav will make your navigation considerably easier and can save you from unnecessary worry. If you do suffer with a stiff neck, then you can attach stick-on blind-spot mirrors to your door mirrors, so you know what’s coming up beside you. And, you can use coloured stickers to mark different speeds on your speedometer, so you can clearly see how fast you’re travelling.

There are plenty of tips we can give you on keeping safe on the roads, but nothing beats ensuring your car is properly maintained.

It goes without saying that years ago cars were designed much simpler than they are now. The days are mostly gone where you could tinker about under the bonnet and replace the oil or old spark plugs.

Now, many modern cars’ mechanics are computer controlled and diagnostics and repairs can only be carried out by a trained mechanic using the latest tools and equipment.

So, we want you to know that you can place your faith in Trust My Garage. We have around 2,000 garages signed up to our scheme across the country, all of which are committed to providing the highest quality services and repairs.

And not only will we be able to give your car the thorough inspection it deserves to keep you safe when travelling, all of our garages also adhere to our Customer Charter.

We will only charge you for work completed and parts supplied and fitted – we don’t include any hidden costs, or hike up the prices.

And we use up-to-date technical information, techniques and tooling; always following your vehicle’s service schedule.

This means that you will go home satisfied that we have treated you and your vehicle with respect.

So, if you feel that your car could do with having a good looking over – if only to give you peace of mind when travelling – then just type your postcode into our garage finder to locate your nearest member.

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Why the cheapest MOT is rarely the best

Mot

The cheapest MOT is rarely the best

As Britain’s leading independent garage scheme with almost 2000 members, we pride ourselves on looking after our garage’s customers. This is why we have our Customer Charter, which shows our commitment in providing the best possible care to those who pay for a service, MOT or repair at any of our garages.

Unfortunately, some franchised dealers and other independent garages don’t have the same idea. Let’s take MOT tests as an example.

‘The MOT test checks that your vehicle meets road safety and environmental standards. It isn’t the same as having your vehicle serviced and doesn’t check its general mechanical condition.’

This statement is taken from the government’s own website, and it appears to give a perfectly clear and straightforward message for motorists. Unfortunately, the way we treat the MOT test, both in the motor trade and as private motorists, allows commercial considerations to get in the way of safety.

What this often means is the cheapest MOT test is not necessarily the best. This point should be immediately clear to even the most cost-sensitive motorist. The tests can only be conducted by a trained and qualified individual; he or she will require sophisticated, expensive and regularly calibrated equipment and the test should take around 45 minutes to complete.

Garages charging around £20 for an MOT test – or even less in some cases – are not charities. The result is that the overall bill may be significantly higher than expected as the garage seeks to cover the cost of providing the MOT test at an unrealistic and headline-grabbing price.

And the financial pressure on motorists today means that they are not entirely innocent when it comes to their MOT test, either.

Many motorists today use the MOT as an alternative to regular maintenance and submit a car for testing to “see what it fails on” rather than presenting a properly maintained and safe car in expectation that it will pass. This means that they only deal with the failures rather than ensuring that the entire car is safe and reliable.

As an MOT test is a measure of the minimum mechanical standard of a vehicle at that time, this means cars that are between tests may be in a particularly poor state of repair – or even dangerous.

So, a lot of garages respond to this by offering a “no re-test fee” for failures and the cycle continues.

Franchised dealers, with their high labour rates, have often been known to treat the MOT as a loss-leader to retain customers with older vehicles. They also try to give the impression that their MOT test is somehow superior to ones carried out by an independent garage.

Well, this tactic is clearly not working as more than 80 per cent of MOTs are carried out in independent garages.

The UK has one of the best road-worthiness test regimes in Europe, which is reflected in the high levels of road safety compared to some of our European neighbours. But we, at Trust My Garage, are worried that the downward cost spiral for the MOT test in our ever competitive world means that this situation may not last.

So, where does all that leave you, the motorist?

The obvious answer is to place your faith in Trust My Garage. Even if the price is discounted, a motorist can take comfort in the knowledge that any one of our garages will do a proper job – and charge fairly for only those parts that need to be replaced.

In the longer term, the answer is a fixed, or minimum, price for MOTs and a mandatory re-test fee. After all, fair pricing for MOT tests is not only better for motorists, but for garages too. And it will be great news for other road users because more cars will be safer if the industry overall cleans up its act.

The Independent Garage Association will continue to lobby and campaign for the government to enforce this. It is one of the roles of Trust My Garage to educate people to the reasons behind this stance.

Do you want to know where your nearest Trust My Garage is for an honest and professional MOT? Just type your postcode into our garage finder to find your nearest member.

There’s one of us near you – wherever you are in the UK!

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When we say there’s one of us near you, we mean it! We already have nearly 2,000 independent garages across the UK confirmed as Trust My Garage (TMG) members which means that the decision where to take your vehicle for a service or repair has never been easier.

Whether you are in the busy streets of London or Manchester, or a little farther away from the hustle and bustle of city life in the Yorkshire Moors, a Trust My Garage member will be nearby to provide you with a professional and honest service at the right price. Just type your postcode into our garage finder and we will locate your nearest TMG approved garage.

Take the small village of Bellingham as a case example. It is located north-west of Newcastle, and has a small population of just a few thousand villagers.  You would think that reliable and trustworthy garages would be hard to come by, but they do have a Trust My Garage member nearby!

One of the latest garages to join Trust My Garage, Bellingham Garage Services may seem like just a normal garage to most, but to local residents it has been a remarkable reminder of a much valued community resource.

The Garage has provided the village’s only petrol pump and one of two MOT testing stations for the last 15 years, but it went into decline when the previous owner reached retirement. The garage was at risk of closure and the local community faced losing the only nearby resource keeping their vehicles on the road.  A new owner turned the premises around by investing in a £60,000 refurbishment which transformed it into more modern premises.  Once back on track, the garage was then accepted onto Trust My Garage.

Today the garage is a far cry from the state it was in before being taken over a year ago. The run-down forecourt shop, which operated a manual cash till and produced handwritten receipts, is now a modern community store, equipped with the latest technology. New offices have been built onto the back of the workshop and a new, spacious and attractive reception/MOT viewing area has been built, complete with double glazed sliding doors.  This allows visitors to safely see the work being carried out on their vehicle in the workshop next door. Plans are already place in purchase an additional petrol pump and Bellingham Garage Services has already had an electric car battery charger installed on site. A drive from Manchester to Edinburgh takes 110 miles but electric vehicles only have the capacity to travel 100 miles without a recharge, so this provides another important service to nearby commuters.

We have worked with the new owner throughout the entire regeneration process and have helped him not only restore a vital community service to Bellingham, but to create a garage that local residents are proud of and happy to entrust their vehicles to.

This is just one example of a Trust My Garage member in an isolated location and there are many more. If you type the postcodes for any of the more isolated areas of the UK, such as Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor, Exmoor, North Yorkshire, the Pennines or the Lake District into our postcode finder, we will find you a nearby Trust My Garage member.

So next time a warning light flashes up on your dashboard in the middle of nowhere, your engine starts grumbling in the middle of the countryside, or you breakdown on the moors, remember there is one of us near you. Just type your postcode into our garage finder to find your nearest member.

Ten things you need in your car if you’re stranded

As we wave goodbye to the glorious summer sunshine, and  wake up instead to morning mist and fog-bound roads, it’s time to give some thought to what you would do if you found yourself stranded in your vehicle for several hours as a result of bad weather.

Motorists in the recent 100 plus vehicle pile-up in Kent, which many say was caused by people being caught out by the thick fog, were trapped in their cars for a long period while the carriageway was cleared.  No doubt you will also remember the scenes last winter when motorists found themselves trapped in their vehicles as Britain experienced unusually heavy snow and ice.  Each year, motorists find themselves stranded following vehicle breakdowns.

If you are setting off on a long journey,  imagine yourself being stuck in your car for two hours or more, and ask yourself what you would find really useful in this situation.

Red warning triangle with a broken down carWater – Stay hydrated
If you are stranded in a vehicle for any length of time, you will quickly become dehydrated.  Make sure you take plenty of bottled water with you, and perhaps some fruit juice.  It will be a judgement call on how much you will need to drink as you may not be able to get to a toilet for a number of hours, so it’s better to take small sips regularly rather than gulping down a whole two litre bottle in a short space of time.

BlanketsStay warm
Keep one or two blankets in the boot.  If you are stranded in cold weather, particularly in deep snow, you will only be able to run your car heater for short periods.  Hypothermia can set in very quickly, so it is important that you keep your core body temperature up.  Fleecy blankets will stave off the cold until help arrives.

Umbrella – Stay dry
You may have to wait outside your vehicle for safety reasons.  Always carry a spare umbrella or two in the car, and preferably one of the large golfing ones

Mobile Phone – Keep in touch
Being stranded may make you late, and you will need to let people know where you are so they don’t worry unnecessarily.   Make sure your mobile phone battery is fully charged before setting off on long journeys, or make sure you have an in-car charger with you.  Use travel apps if you have a smartphone to keep up to date on travel news if you are stranded in motorway traffic. Remember, it is illegal to use your mobile phone whilst driving, so only use it when you are completely stationary and it is safe to do so.  In the case of a breakdown, always have the telephone numbers of your breakdown or recovery service to hand if you are a member of one.  You can also see if your nearest Trust My Garage member offers a recovery service from our website. Watch our video to see what to do in the event of a breakdown too, to ensure you are prepared.

Medical Kit and Medicines – Stay healthy
If you, or your passengers, have any medical conditions, it is vital that you take the necessary medicines with you on your journey. This might be inhalers for asthma, medicines for allergy sufferers, or other life-saving medicines.  It is also a good idea to have a basic medical kit in your vehicle comprising bandages, plasters, sterile wipes, scissors, etc – this is a legal requirement in some European countries.

In-Car Entertainment – Keep the kids amused
If you are stranded on the motorway with children, they will need to be kept entertained.  If you carry a selection of portable games, books, DVD player, hand held consoles in a “Travel Bag for Kids”, this will help to keep them occupied for a while.  Remember to keep children well fed and watered, so if you’re on a long journey make sure you pack plenty of nutritious snacks and drinks.

Fire Extinguisher – Put out flames before they take hold
Not every motorist carries a fire extinguisher, but it is an important piece of equipment when you regularly take longer journeys.  There are over 1,000 vehicle fires on UK roads every year.  Being able to extinguish a car fire quickly before it takes hold might mean the difference between having small repairs to your car or having it written off completely.

Torch – Keep it light
If you are stranded at night a torch will be vital.  You can also use this to signal your whereabouts if you are stranded in a remote area.

Breakdown equipment
Most modern cars have equipment so that you can change a wheel.  Familiarise yourself with this equipment and how to use it.  For further information, see our video on changing a wheel (link).

Warning Signs – Alert others
A warning triangle will alert other motorists to the fact that your vehicle has broken down and they need to slow down. Again this is a legal requirement in many European countries.

These are the ten things we think might make your journey more bearable and safe if you are stranded.  Can you think of any more?  Let us know below.

You can find your nearest Trust My Garage member by entering your postcode on the Trust My Garage website, here.

Independent garages have access to the same technical information and training as main dealers and are fully equipped to service any type of vehicle to the highest standard, providing you with outstanding value for money.

Is your car ready for the school run test?

If you are a parent with a child under the age of 16, you may be feeling a little stressed right now. This time of year is difficult and expensive for parents preparing their children for the start of the new school term. There’s such a lot to think about; uniforms, equipment, textbooks, bags, new shoes – and that’s just for starters. The last thing you are going to need is for your car to breakdown on you during the infamous school run!

About one in five cars is driving a child or children to school in rush hour traffic and with the five million primary school children in the UK living on average of one and a half miles from their place of learning, it means there are a lot of cars on the road doing short journeys, five days a week. These driving conditions can cause much more wear and tear on your vehicle than you would imagine and no busy parent wants the stress or expense of a breakdown at this time of year.

Being aware of what causes damage to a vehicle can help reduce the risk of a breakdown or failure during the school run. Here are our top tips to shield you from unexpected repair costs as the kids go back to school.

schoolrunMake sure your engine is properly lubricated.

Most school runs are quite short journeys, which means that the engine on your vehicle does not have enough time to warm up properly. Engine oil has to reach its full operating temperature in order to lubricate properly This is more likely to be achieved over faster, longer journeys.

What’s the solution?                                        

Let your car ‘idle’ for a few minutes before you begin your journey and this will help your engine warm up ahead of your drive. It will also help to warm, your car up once the cold nights start to draw in. Remember though, don’t go back inside your house while your car warms up – it only takes a few seconds for a thief to take advantage of an empty vehicle.

Concentrate on reading the road.                                                 

Hurried braking causes greater wear on the brake pads, which will lead to more frequent trips to the garage.

What’s the solution?

Rather than stopping and starting in traffic, slow down and concentrate on reading the road. By driving more slowly and anticipating when you need to stop, especially around the school environment where young people are likely to be crossing the road, you will apply less pressure to your brakes and gears. This will also help you to save fuel.

Keep an eye on your engine warning and DPF lights

If you drive a diesel vehicle, your are more likely to find your vehicle suffering from engine management problems if you frequently go on short journeys in your car. This is because of the diesel particulate filter (DPF).

The DPF, which traps larger soot particles within the filter and allows smaller particles and gases to escape, can only operate efficiently once your vehicle is driven at 45mph for more than five minutes.

Stop/start driving and motoring at slow speeds means that the soot accumulates and the DPF cannot create sufficient heat to regenerate. Once the soot concentration reaches about 75%, it will need to be looked at by a professional to be regenerated. Don’t ignore the engine warning light if your diesel car is used mainly for short journeys!

What’s the solution?

Make sure you get your car to the nearest Trusted garage if your engine warning or DPF lights start flashing on your dashboard. This is an indication that there is something that needs attention and if ignored, could incur costly repair expenses. In fact, any warning light illuminated on your dashboard is a signal that your vehicle needs some expert attention. If it’s orange you need to contact your local Trust My Garage member as soon as possible – if it’s red, stop the car and call them IMMEDIATELY

You can find your nearest Trust My Garage member by entering your postcode on the Trust My Garage website, here.

Independent garages have access to the same technical information and training as main dealers and are fully equipped to service any type of vehicle to the highest standard, providing you with outstanding value for money.