Monthly Archives: February 2014

Five ways roadworks can ruin your day

Roadworks are the bane of any motorist’s life, ranking up there with drivers who fail to indicate, and rush hour traffic. While roadworks are necessary, as councils and the Highways Agency maintain the undoubtedly complex infrastructure of our roads,  they are at best a bit of a nuisance and at worst, capable of ruining your whole day.

We’ve rounded up some of the main issues that motorists face when it comes to the dreaded ‘R’ word.

British road closed and diversion signs.

5. You’re left wondering why no work is being done…

There’s nothing more frustrating than crawling through a maze of traffic cones and temporary traffic lights when absolutely no work is being carried out. ‘Where are all the workers?’ ‘Where are all the hard hats?’ ‘Why is that digger not being used?’ These are all unanswerable questions that you’ll ask yourself fruitlessly. It’s incredibly annoying when your journey is disrupted for seemingly no reason, especially when you know that these problems won’t disappear anytime soon because the roadworks are scheduled to drag on, month after month.

What should I do?: Just grin and bear it, and remember that it probably isn’t the workers simply deciding not to turn up to work, it’s more likely to be a case of poor management and planning.

4. You’re sent down an unfamiliar route

Diversion signs are likely to send an anxious shiver down your spine as you prepare to embark on a potentially alien route, particularly if you’re in an unfamiliar area. This feeling of panic can be alleviated if you have a sat-nav but if you haven’t got one and you haven’t got time to pull over and look at a map, then you might find yourself entering a world of the unknown – a world full of nightmarish traffic cones, flashing lights and empty portable buildings.

What should I do?: It’s a good idea to do some research ahead of your journey to see if any roadworks are in place or planned, and which diversions are available. You should also invest in a sat-nav or an up-to-date map, especially if you’re driving around an area you’ve never been to before.

3. Your journey grinds down to a halt

Roadwork traffic jams are like normal traffic jams, except that you’ve something obvious to aim your anger towards instead of sitting, slowly fuming as you wonder what stupid thing someone has done up ahead to cause the tailbacks.

What should I do?: Again, research your route to see if there are any roadworks, and if there are,  leave early so you can reach your destination on time. Try to make the most of your unavoidable snail’s pace by listening to an interesting podcast or audiobook or even a CD that you haven’t listened to in years. It’s vital to keep your cool in these situations and whatever you do, don’t take your frustration out on other drivers, who are in the same boat as you, or the people carrying out the works, who are simply doing their job.

2. Damage to exterior

Loose stones and other debris are unavoidable when roadworks are being carried out, and while they might seem small and insignificant, these small fragments can cause serious damage to the exterior of your car, including the windscreen and paintwork.

What should I do?: Check your vehicle’s exterior regularly to identify any chips or cracks – they might appear to be minor problems at first but if they’re not looked at and fixed they’re likely to worsen and result in costly repairs down the line.

1. Damage to steering and suspension

As you drive through roadworks you may encounter ramps where the Tarmac or upper layer of the road surface has been removed. This can damage both your vehicle’s steering and suspension systems, and the alignment of your tyres. Symptoms of steering and suspension or wheel alignment problems include uneven tyre wear, your vehicle pulling to one side as you’re driving, noise and vibration while cornering, and even loss of control of your vehicle.

What should I do?: Steering and suspension systems are key safety-related components of a vehicle and largely determine its handling. Regardless of road conditions, these systems should be checked regularly, while wheel alignment should be checked every 6,000 miles or six months.

Visit the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest independent member. Each Trust My Garage member has all the skills and technical expertise required to give your vehicle a thorough service. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals, complying with a strictly code of practice. What more, all members of Trust My Garage are independent garages – local independent businesses which are part of the community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.

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Spotlight on: Petrol (fuel)

All motorists know that petrol or diesel are the energy supplies to their car and that without one or the other, their vehicle will quite simply not move.

Gas Station Refill Hand and Nozzle

Petrol and diesel both fundamentally work the same way by burning inside the combustion chamber of the car’s engine. This explosion pushes the pistons down , which results in motion – in other words, the car moves. The only real difference is how the fuel is ignited – in a petrol engine the spark plugs start the combustion process and in a diesel, the compression of the fuel creates the heat which causes the combustion.

The fuel level detection in almost all cars is automatic. Whether it’s a flashing light or a persistent beep every time the car’s engine is switched on, all cars alert, (or annoy) their owner to the fact that more fuel is required.

While most motorists experience low fuel levels, there is a great deal of uncertainty over just how much petrol there is left and how many miles that equates to. The response to how we react to the low fuel light/beep also divides us; there are those who head straight for the nearest petrol station as soon as they are alerted to the low fuel situation, convinced that their car is working on fumes alone. At the other end of the spectrum is the driver who sees the low fuel warning sign as a challenge – a challenge to stretch the last drops of fuel as far as they will possibly go, perhaps for that one last trip to the shops, or to work.

So, just how much fuel is left when the low fuel light or beep comes on? The answer to this is specific to your model of car, and how you drive it.

Most car manufacturers’ handbooks state that once the low  fuel alert has come on, there are typically between 1 to 2 gallons remaining. Of course, translating this into miles depends on your car’s fuel efficiency, but if your car gets on average 40 miles to the gallon, then you have 40 miles left, providing you drive sensibly.

You should be checking your fuel levels regularly and making sure that you have enough fuel for any journey you are about to embark on. An empty fuel tank can end up picking up all the crud which accumulates in there increasing the chance of a blocked filter and leading to potentially costly repairs.

If you do notice you are low on fuel while in the middle of a journey, make sure you visit your nearest petrol station. When you arrive at the petrol station – do be careful because there are some important issues to be noted if you ‘miss-fuel’ your car, which means accidentally adding diesel to your petrol engine, or vice versa.

Should you fall victim to ‘miss-fuelling’, you won’t be alone: the AA reports that every year in the UK, 150,000 people ‘miss-fuel’ –that’s one driver every 3½ minutes. And many of them will end up having to fork out for costly repairs.

You may not realise that filling a petrol engine with diesel is more difficult to do than the other way round because diesel nozzles are bigger than their petrol counterparts. However, it’s not impossible.

Adding the wrong fuel to your car causes a range of damage, including affecting fuel injectors, pistons, fuel pumps and engine filters. All of these can be expensive to repair or replace.

So, what should you do if you realise that you have ‘miss-fuelled’?

It is absolutely vital that you DO NOT start your engine. If you do this the fuel circulates around the car’s engine system, making it far more difficult to remove easily and cheaply.

However, if you have started the engine, it is important to stop as soon as possible, pull over safely into a suitable spot, and turn off your engine.

You should then call a trained mechanic, who can help you by draining the incorrect fuel, repairing the damage and refilling with the correct fuel.  You can find the nearest Trust My Garage approved workshops which do offer roadside maintenance, at our website at www.trustmygarage.co.uk.

Petrol is just one element of your car that you should be checking at regular intervals. An easy way to remember what maintenance checks you should carry out on your car, is the acronym POWER. In this acronym, P stands for petrol, O stands for oil, W means water, or coolant levels, E is for electrics and R stands for rubber, or in other words, your tyres.

Five ways to ensure your half-term road trip runs smoothly

The half-term school holiday gives you a great chance to go on a well needed and well deserved family break, away from the stresses and troubles of work and 21st modern life – and for some, a break abroad provides a short term escape from the UK’s recent torrential weather conditions. However, with any long car journey there are always going to be problems and challenges for you to overcome, from mechanical faults on your vehicle to the stress of always having to respond to ‘are we nearly there yet’ from the kids in the back seat. We know what it can be like so we’re offering you five top tips on how to achieve a smooth trip this half term, whether you choose to holiday in the UK or abroad.

Yorkshire country road

5. Patience!

The roads during half-term are going to be a nightmare as motorists with the same idea as you look to make the most of schools being off for the week. It’s important to remember that other drivers are in the same boat as you, and there’s no point in being aggressive towards them. Other drivers aren’t there to annoy you and all they want to do is get from A to B, just like you.

So how can you stay calm and collected? Ensure you’re comfortable in your seated position and take breaks every two hours to prevent yourself from becoming tired, stressed and wound up.

Being courteous will go a long way and you should always acknowledge other drivers letting you pass and apologise if you’ve made a mistake – this will make you feel better as well. Remember, we’re all human and we all make mistakes.

By staying positive in your car you’ll notice the effect it has on the rest of your holiday – you’ll know how uncomfortable it is when you’re in a car being driven by someone who has lost their tether – don’t be the one who ruins your family holiday before it’s even started!

4. Invest in a Sat-Nav

Whilst some will be travelling to loved ones this half-term, many others will be driving down unfamiliar routes to places they’ve never been before. Whilst you might think you have the navigational skills of a homing pigeon, there’s always the chance that you’ll get hopelessly lost, and so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t invest in a Sat-Nav, or at least an up-to-date map. Just remember that a Sat-Nav is not infallible – and is certainly not a substitute for concentration, awareness and common sense.

3. Prepare yourself and your car for driving abroad

If you’re travelling abroad this half-term and are expecting to be driving then you need to be aware of the various laws. According to recent figures, of the two million Brits that travelled abroad last year, 76% (3/4) of them felt nervous about driving, but with this doesn’t need to be the case.

It’s important to note that there’s more to consider than just driving on the right hand side of the road. Remember if you’re driving a hire car then the speedometer will be in km/h, and if you’re driving your own car you should familiarise yourself with the km/h markings. You may find it handy to put a small label on your dashboard showing the equivalent mph speeds for common limits. If you have a car with an electronic speedometer you will probably be able to switch it to km/h (although if you have one, your trip computer will also display in metric units which may be an inconvenience).

In Europe, or any country that drives on the right, you need to adjust your headlight beam so that the dipped beam does not dazzle oncoming drivers. For more information and advice on driving abroad please head to our driving abroad blog post.

If you’re driving in another country the likelihood is that you’re going to be embarking on incredibly long drives. It’s very easy to drive much further than you would in the UK and it’s so important to bear in mind the effect this will have on your tiredness.

2. Check your car before you go

If you’re embarking on a long journey in your car then it’s vital you carry out a number of checks on it to ensure it’ll last the distance. The acronym POWER will help you remember what checks to carry out.

Fill your tank up with Petrol (or diesel) because there’s a chance you’ll drive many miles without seeing a station, and the last thing you’ll want is to run low on fuel.

Oil is your car’s bloodstream and helps lubricate the moving parts in your engine. Without enough oil your engine might seize, causing costly damage.

Most modern cars require a special engine coolant but in an emergency you can top up with Water, though this isn’t ideal as modern coolant contains additives to prevent corrosion to maintain the waterways in the engine. It is of paramount importance that the engine is cool before removing the cap so let your engine fully cool down before you touch it.

You need to ensure the Electrics (lights) on your car – indicators, brake lights and headlights – are all working properly before setting off or you’ll be at risk of having to call out a mechanic.

Ensure your tyres (Rubber) are in good condition ahead of your trip to prevent having problems further down the line. Check to see if they’re properly inflated, have the correct tyre tread (a minimum of 3mm is recommended ) and are in good condition.

All of those bold letters make the acronym POWER, an easy checklist you can follow to ensure your car will drive smoothly and safely. It’s important you get into the routine of carrying out these checks throughout the year, as they will help reduce breakdowns and expensive repair costs.

1. Get your car serviced at your local trusted independent garage

Whilst you can carry out the checks mentioned above yourself, it’s always best to put your car into the hands of experts, who will be able to detect problems at an early stage before they result in costly damage. Remember that by choosing an independent garage you’ll receive the same quality of service as you would at a main dealer, but at a more reasonable price.

Visit the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest independent member. Each Trust My Garage member has all the skills and technical expertise required to give your vehicle a thorough service. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals, complying with a strictly code of practice. What more, all members of Trust My Garage are independent garages – local independent businesses which are part of the community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.

Don’t blow a gasket over the annual MOT test

For many drivers the annual M.O.T test is enough to send even the most seasoned of drivers into a state of deep shock. The uncertainty of will it, won’t it pass? And for diesel drivers, it just got a lot more complicated.

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In December last year the UK government announced that Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) will form part of the MOT test from February 2014. Tests for diesel cars and lorries have been tightened up to ensure vehicles have a critical exhaust filter if one had originally been fitted as standard.

Garages and testing stations are now required to check for a diesel particulate filter (DPF) in the inspection of the exhaust system as part of the MOT test. Your vehicle will automatically fail the MOT test if the filter had been fitted as standard but is found to be no longer present. You may have had the DPF removed in the past following claims that it will improve the economy, but it is an offence to drive a vehicle that has been modified this way, as it will no longer meet the emissions standards the car achieved when it was approved for sale in the UK.

A DPF works by trapping solid particulate matter from exhaust gases. This type of filter has been in use for more than 20 years and helps meet European emission standards, improving air quality and health standards.

It’s just one more thing for drivers of diesel vehicles to consider when preparing their car for an MOT test. With so much to think about, how do you prepare your car for an MOT to give it the greatest chance of passing?

We spoke to Trust My Garage member Falcon Motors in Warwick about M.O.T testing and asked if there was anything vehicle owners could do at home prior to their M.O.T test. Garage owner Roy Wall, who has over 20 years’ experience in the motor trade, had this advice to give.

“We get a lot of drivers coming to us who are worried about their M.O.T test, but they don’t need to be. Not many people understand the test and it’s the unknown which causes fear amongst drivers. What many people don’t know is there are actually a few things that drivers can check themselves (or with the help of a friend) before they bring their vehicle to us for an MOT. Checking vital parts regularly may increase the chances of passing your M.O.T.

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Lights

Start your engine and get a friend to check the outside of your vehicle. Are all your lights working? Including the one that lights your number plate? Remember also to check the reservoir of your windscreen wipers to ensure fluid levels are correct and not empty.

Number plate

Did you know an illegible number plate could cause you to fail your M.O.T test? Make sure this doesn’t happen to you and give your number plate a quick clean. If its illegible, it’s illegal.

Wipers

You will fail an MOT if you do not clear your windscreen, so make sure you wash it before hand. Chips need to be repaired and if cracks are apparent, you may need to replace the entire windscreen.

Horn

Make sure your horn sounds when pressed.

Brake fluid and Oil

Like with windscreen washer fluid, make sure the oil and brake fluid are regularly checked and topped up to the correct level.

Tyres

Make sure the pressure of your tyres is correct to the manufacturer’s handbook and that the tread of each tyre is at least 1.6mm

“You should also check to ensure there are no visible signs of corrosion, all mirrors are intact and the vehicle’s seatbelts operate correctly. While the above tests are outlined in regard to the M.O.T test, it is recommended, and good driving practice, to check your vehicle frequently and ensure it is regularly serviced.”

And finally, you should also ensure you book your test with a registered test centre or a trusted garage (look for the blue logo with white triangles which details centres approved to carry out M.O.Ts).

Regular servicing and frequent maintenance checks are always the best chance you can give your vehicle of passing its MOT. Make sure you find a garage you can trust by entering your postcode into our website.

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Five ways to show your car some love this Valentine’s Day

February 14th will see Cupid’s arrow firing around the UK as romantics devote time to their better halves, supplying them with gifts, affection and…valeting? Valentine’s Day is all about showing your loved one how much you care, and why shouldn’t that stretch to your trusted vehicle?

TMG Valentine's Day

Whilst it might be natural to sometimes take your car for granted, Valentine’s Day will give you the chance to show it the TLC it well and truly deserves ❤

Make it feel beautiful on the outside…

You want both your car’s bodywork and your pride to be absolutely gleaming, whether you’re travelling around together or it’s parked up snugly on your driveway. It simply won’t do to allow your car to look dirty and grubby, with month-old mud still caked on the rear bumper. Treat your car to a steamy day at your local car wash, pampering and massaging it until it looks as young as the day you first met. If you’re really trying to impress it then you can even book it in for a hot wax and valeting service.

…but remember that it’s all about what’s on the inside

Looking beautiful on the outside is undoubtedly important, but it’s really just all for show, isn’t it? The most important thing is what’s on the inside; the beauty that you’ll both share only when you’re together. Ahead of Valentine’s Day spend a good few hours making sure the interior of your car is spick and span, hovering, scrubbing, dusting and chucking out all those empty drinks bottles and fast food takeaway bags. To really spice things up you can even buy a brand new air freshener or some new mats. Racy.

Reignite your spark

Do you remember the early days between you and your car? Those long, romantic drives, free from the stresses of the world? Since then you might’ve found those experiences become few and far between, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reignite that spark! Dedicate a few hours to your car and just drive. Maybe try out one of these glorious roads as you spend some much needed quality time with your better half. You’ll come back once again well and truly smitten with your car.

Take care of it by checking for problems

Show your car how much you care for it by spending a bit of time checking it out for problems, such as low tyre pressure, tread and overall condition. Be sure to check the fluid levels, including oil, water and anti-freeze, to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible.

This might all sound very obvious but in a survey we recently conducted we found that a whopping 84% of motorists failed to carry out these sort of checks. You might hit a rough patch in the future, that’s only natural with relationships, and there will be times when things will be emotionally hard for both of you – prepare for this by regularly checking your car’s wipers.

Take it out on a romantic date to a local Trust My Garage member

The ultimate gift for your loved one. Send your car to a spa day at a local Trust My Garage member and let it receive the full works in the way of a servicing. Whilst you can carry out a number of checks yourself, as mentioned above, you need to regularly put your car into the hands of professionals. You might be hesitant to part with your loving car but you know what they say – absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Show your car some Valentine’s Day love by booking a service at your local independent garage. Visit the Trust My Garage website and insert your postcode into our garage finder.