Monthly Archives: June 2016
Driving in wet weather
Over the past few weeks, Britain has experienced heavy out-of-season showers. In some cities, these downfalls have proven too much for drainage systems, as flooding has been seen throughout the country. Although 20 June marked the official first day of summer, weather reports suggest that it may not be time to pack away the umbrellas and wellies just yet. When it comes to driving, too, extra precautions ought to be taken.
As most will remember from the theory driving test, rain can severely impair driving conditions. Aside from the splutters and splats of raindrops obscuring windscreens, stopping distances and visibility are also affected. Lack of care, when driving in the rain, can lead to lack of control, collision, and, in extreme cases, fatalities – so keeping safe during downfalls is essential. Acting as further solution, it has been suggested that drivers ought to avoid driving during extreme weather conditions, if possible.
Richard Gladman, Head of Driving Standards, said: “Only travel in extreme adverse weather conditions if it is really necessary.”
For most, avoiding the weather can be impractical, but there are easy ways to ensure greater safety when driving during the current weather conditions.
Here’s a list of things to consider during your summer downpour driving:
The last thing you want, when caught up in a spell of heavy rains, is to have your vision restricted due to damaged or dirty windscreen wipers. With the current unforgiving conditions, it is important to make sure that your senses, as well as your motor, are fully functional. During extreme downfall, it can become near impossible to see more than the stampede of raindrops on your windscreen, which makes it increasingly difficult to spot a potential hazard. What’s more, excess water decreases the amount of grip your tyres have on the road, which could lead to slipping and sliding, should your breaks be pressed too abruptly. Avoid potential casualties by ensuring your lights, windscreen wipers and tyre pressures are all present and correct, and be sure to stay attentive. Contact your local Trust My Garage to carry out all your essential car checks.
Planning is key when it comes to driving in extreme weather conditions. Where it is best to avoid travelling altogether, if this is unavoidable, forward-thinking is important. Gladman said: “Before setting off, check for any weather alerts, traffic updates or planned road closures that may affect your journey.” It is beneficial to clue yourself up on any roads in your area that are prone to flooding; this will allow you to avoid potentially dangerous routes. What’s more, it is best to allow more time to reach your destination, as the current weather can lead to longer routes, more diversions and lengthier traffic queues. These circumstances could lead to stress behind the wheel which can poorly affect your driving. Stay safe by planning your journey in advance, and leaving out earlier than usual.
It’s no secret that some road surfaces around the country are a little worse for wear; what’s more, heavy rains often lead to them becoming even more damaged. As well as leading to a slightly bumpier journey, damaged road surfaces can also be detrimental to your tyres, causing excessive wear and tear. In clear weathers, it is far easier to avoid potholes or chips in the road; however, during the rain, puddles make them increasingly difficult to spot. A tip for spotting potentially impaired surfaces is to look out for any loose chunks of tarmac, as these are signs of damaged road surfaces.
With heavy rains deterring vision, it is important for motorists to stay visible. Switching on your dipped headlights will allow other drivers to see you easily – without overwhelming them with the glare of your full beams. When driving an unfamiliar car, it is important to make sure you are aware of how buttons and switches work before setting off on your journey. In extreme weather conditions, familiarise yourself with the light switches and settings before revving off.
It is a fact that stopping distance increases during wet weather. Due to the excess water on the roads, your tyres grip is far less efficient, so slips and skids can be unavoidable. During extreme weathers, it is essential to consider your speed, as the physics of driving in the rain dictates that the higher the speed, the greater the stopping distance. Stay safe by sticking to the speed limit and keeping a safe space between you and the car ahead.
Reduced speed will also provide a smoother ride when driving through large puddles. When driving through excess waters, or at high speeds on wet roads, your car faces the risk of building up a layer of water between the vehicle’s wheels and the road which cannot be cleared by the tread on the tyres. If this becomes too much for the car to handle, your vehicle could lose traction which prevents the car from responding to your controls, and gaining a mind of its own. This is called aquaplaning, and gives you the feeling that your car is on water-skis. You may also notice the car becoming much quieter, as the noise of tyres on tarmac will disappear.
In this event, although instinct may dictate it, it’s best to avoid slamming on the brakes or jerking as these can lead to skidding. Should this happen, allow the vehicle to follow the path that it wants to and ease your foot off the accelerator until you can feel friction and traction coming back to your wheels. At this point, it is safe for you to gently nudge your steering wheel and use your brakes lightly (if your car has ABS, at this point, you can brake normally). More preventatively, keeping a steady pace will allow for a more streamlined approach to the water, decreasing your chances of aquaplaning, or spraying other road users.
Aquaplaning is much more likely if your tyres are worn, so be sure to check your tread depth regularly.
In extreme circumstances, torrential rain can interfere with the electrics of your vehicle, leading to a breakdown. Plan ahead for any emergencies by keeping your mobile phone charged, so you can call for recovery. It is also recommended that you are familiar with your local garage for any repairs that may be needed. Be sure to download the Trust My Garage app or head to the website to locate your nearest trusted garage. While you wait for your recovery service, ensure your bonnet is closed to avoid further complications.
Most importantly, during the extreme weather conditions, it’s important to stay warm and dry – ensure your car is kitted out with emergency supplies such as blankets, first-aid kits and extra food and drink.
For more information on how to keep you and your car safe during the summer flooding, seek advice from your local Trust My Garage member.
Vehicle technology is evolving at a rapid pace. Modern cars are more sophisticated, intelligent and responsive than ever. As a result, vehicle technicians who are a part of Trust My Garage have to continue to complete training courses and invest in the latest equipment in order to successfully service and maintain your car to the highest standards. But where does that leave you as the owner?
Decades ago if your car had a problem and money was tight you’d probably invest in a cheap manual and socket set, and patch over the cracks yourself. But with vehicles becoming more and more complicated, largely through having a lot more on-board technology, this isn’t an easy thing to do. Indeed, the AA recently stated that half of the 3.4 million call-outs it attends every year are caused by poor maintenance. Of course, there are still some basic maintenance tasks you can carry out yourself, such as checking fluid levels, tyres, mirrors, etc, but many of the maintenance tasks we performed ourselves a few decades ago have been consigned to the toolboxes of history. To illustrate how the modern vehicle is evolving, we look at a few of the maintenance tasks that have become a thing of the past.
Hands up if you remember standing outside, wearing more layers than the Michelin man on a cold, frosty winter night, and pouring antifreeze into the car to ensure that the water in your engine was not frozen the next morning? These days are long gone now, because most cars manufactured post-1998 use organic acid technology – or OAT – which acts as an extended life coolant. OAT consists of different chemicals than traditional engine coolants, meaning that antifreeze only has to be replaced every six years or 600,000 miles, negating the need to check levels every single winter night.
Remember having to top up the water levels in your car battery? Vehicle batteries were not as sophisticated years ago as they are today, and had to have their water levels checked regularly to reduce the risk of them overheating. Drivers used to have remove the vent cap and look down into individual cells to check water levels, topping them up with distilled water when necessary. For modern cars this is no longer necessary. Batteries are now sealed units and in most cases are maintenance free, meaning that any battery issues are best left to highly trained professionals, such as the vehicle technicians who are a part of Trust My Garage.
If you own a vintage car, or an electric lawnmower, there’s a chance you’ll be purchasing non-alcohol fuel stabiliser, to protect replace the lead that’s no longer in the fuel and protect it from the ethanol that’s now in modern fuels. However, if you own a modern car (and live nowhere near grass), you probably haven’t even heard of the stuff. That’s because vehicle engines are a lot more robust, durable and rust-free today than they used to be, brought about largely by the availability of new materials that can be used to manufacture engines. Engines today live a lot longer than they used to, and engine maintenance is always best left to a qualified expert.
Keep on motoring
Ever wondered why, when driving down a country road on a hot summer day, there’s always someone taking their vintage car out for a drive? Not only does it look good, but it’s also an essential part of maintenance. Many years ago cars had to be driven regularly in order to keep them in tip-top condition. Of course, it still helps to use your car regularly now; keeping it dormant still runs down the battery a very low level as there are so many systems in the car that are “live” and protecting the car when switched off – even though they draw very small amounts of electrical current. But modern cars are more robust than their predecessors and do not require quite as much driving to stay in shape.
Confused by your motor?
Put down that spanner, and get your car maintained in a professional manner. The best way to keep your car in tip top condition is by having it regularly serviced and maintained with your local Trust My Garage member. Our members can service all types of vehicle to the highest standard and can even advise you on some of the checks that you can still carry out yourself today.
And just like the motor vehicle, Trust My Garage has come a long way over the last few years. Today, we are the only truly independent code exclusively for independent garages. Want to find your nearest member? Enter your details in our postcode finder.