Category Archives: driving tips

Help your motor beat the frost this winter with Trust My Garage

With frost now starting to creep across the UK, drivers should be taking steps to ensure their vehicles are safe, roadworthy and winter ready. Trust My Garage has some top tips for looking after your motor in the winter weather – read on to find out what you can do to keep rolling through the chilly season!

Do I need Antifreeze?

In short; yes! Antifreeze is clever stuff that stops the water in your engine’s cooling system from freezing! It also does several other important jobs, making it a vital car fluid to keep your engine running smoothly.

As well as preventing water from freezing, antifreeze raises the boiling point of engine coolant to prevent overheating. The stuff also protects your engine from internal corrosion, aids heat transfer, and prevents scale from building up internally.

How do you use it?

There’s the concentrated form, or the ready mixed with water kind. The latter version is commonly referred to as engine coolant and can normally be used straightaway for top-ups and replacements. The concentrated form needs to be diluted with water, usually at a level of around 50% antifreeze and 50% water. Always check the pack’s instructions for the right ratio to use, as well your vehicle’s Owner’s Manual to make sure you use the correct variety for your car, as recommended by the manufacturer.

Braking

Brakes are an essential part of any car and therefore should be regularly checked and well maintained. This is especially important during winter months, but how can you tell your brakes are in tip top condition?

It’s a case of making sure you have them checked regularly, as the winter months can be very wet and sometimes puddles can be difficult to avoid. When driving through a puddle, make sure you test your brakes afterwards by driving at a slow speed and gently applying pressure.

Listen out for warning signs, as brakes will let you know when there is a problem – whether this is through grinding or squeaking. Sometimes your car will act like it has a mind of its own and pull you to one side while driving, which could indicate a fault or imbalance with the braking system. Vibrations and temperamental pedals are also a sign you need to take give your car some attention – so look out for the signs and don’t ignore them.

Don’t ignore any warning lights that may appear on your dashboard! If you are unsure of their meaning either consult your Owner’s Manual or visit your local Trust My Garage member, who will be able to advise of any issues with your car.

Heading on a trip? Plan your route

The further the distance you’re travelling, the more chance there is for issues such as traffic to occur. We’re getting close to Christmas, which is a peak time for driving as many people visit their families over the festive period, so try and ensure you give yourself adequate travelling time.

Here are some of the routes identified by motoring organisations as traffic hotspots over Christmas:

  • The M1, A1 and A1(M) northbound
  • The M4 westbound to Wales and around Heathrow
  • The M3, A303 and M5 heading to the West Country
  • The M23 to Gatwick and the M11 to Stansted
  • The M62 over the Pennines is often affected by snow, as is the A1079 between Hull and York

It’s also worth noting that many main roads and motorways will be gritted in the case of snow and ice, but this won’t necessarily happen in areas that don’t see as much traffic. It’s worth taking some extra time by using main roads to get to your destination instead of taking shortcuts that often require drivers to travel on country lanes, as these may be more dangerous in poor weather.

With the onset of dark evenings after the clock’s go back an hour it’s important to make sure all your lights are working properly. With poorer weather conditions it’s also wise to make sure your motor’s wiper blades are in good condition and your screen wash level is topped up with a good quality fluid – this will help prevent your washers from freezing in the lower temperatures.

Check your tyres

To learn all you need to know about ensuring your vehicle’s tyre are ready for the road, regardless of the time of year, read our “What to do when… you need to check your vehicle’s tyres” post. In winter, it can also be advisable to equip winter tyres to your vehicle – but how are they beneficial to you?

Winter tyres are designed to offer optimum traction and grip in cold conditions. They have a softer compound, along with deeper grooves and narrow cuts – called sipes – built into the tread. These features help disperse water and snow, and allow the rubber to move around, which improves contact with the road. You can identify a winter tyre by the snowflake symbol on the sidewall. Tyres without the snowflake symbol but marked ‘M+S’ (Mud and Snow) are not necessarily proper winter tyres.

Winter tyres work best at temperatures below 7°C. Indeed, they outperform conventional ‘summer’ tyres for traction, cornering grip and braking in such conditions – regardless of whether there is snow or ice.

Winter tyres aren’t mandatory in the UK. Only a small percentage of drivers choose to fit them, many of whom live in more remote areas – such as the Scottish Highlands – however, it’s a different story in much of mainland Europe. If you travel abroad with your car over the winter season, check the requirements and laws for each country you visit to avoid a fine.

The price of winter tyres varies widely, dependent on your car and wheel size. On average, they are slightly more expensive than an equivalent summer tyre in the UK.

However, while the cost of four winter tyres is significant, remember that your summer tyres will last longer as a result. Thus, while you may have a fairly high initial outlay, the longer-term cost of winter tyres is relatively low.

Lights

Before setting off on a journey, turn on your vehicle’s lights and either walk around the vehicle to conduct a check or ask a passenger to check all your lights are working correctly – be sure to press the brake too and check that all three lights are working.

If any lights are dim or aren’t working, including fog lights and number plate lights, you should get them replaced as soon as possible.

Breakdown Essentials

If you do suffer the unfortunate experience of a breakdown it’s important to keep some essentials in the car – a fully charged mobile phone, a torch, warm clothes, comfortable and waterproof shoes, hot drinks and snacks (Telegraph). That way, when you’re waiting for some roadside assistance or a recovery vehicle you can stay warm, full and safe while trying to stave off the boredom.

If you’re on the motorway in the event of your vehicle developing a problem, the Highway Code says to leave at the next exit or pull into a service area. If you can’t do so, you should pull onto the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as possible, with your vehicle’s wheels turned to the left.

Once you have safely pulled over, switched off the engine and removed the key from the vehicle, exit it as soon as possible. You should leave the vehicle by the passenger side doors if at all possible, so that you’re not at risk of oncoming traffic. Make sure all passengers do the same, and that they keep far away from the carriageway – be sure to stay behind the roadside barriers where possible.

Put the hazard lights on, and, if it’s dark, put your side lights on too. If it’s foggy, put the fog lights on if you can do so with the vehicle switched off. Generally, if you can’t see for more than 100 metres, the visibility is poor and that’s when your fog lights should be used.

Emergency snow kit

  • Warning triangle – let other drivers know your situation to avoid stress and confusion
  • Cat litter or sand – to put under the wheel to help traction in slippery conditions
  • Snow shovel or spade
  • Ice scraper
  • Warm clothes and footwear
  • Snacks and water
  • Torch
  • Mobile phone
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Jump leads
  • High visibility jacket
  • First aid kit
  • Heat pad – If you are stranded in the snow and the exhaust pipe is covered, it can be dangerous to run the engine. These help you stay warm.

TMG member garages are located all over the UK, so no matter where you are, we’re here to help you. If you want to see where your nearest garage is, pop in your post code and take a look!

Remember, you’re never far from a Trust My Garage member who can help you out with any problems that you might experience on the road. All of our members are Trading Standards approved and are here to get you back on track quickly and safely.

What is Trust My Garage?

Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s best local garages – every one different and every one dedicated to the highest standards of skill and personal service. All the garages in Trust My Garage are members of the Independent Garage Association – which is part of the RMI, one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations. IGA members are true professionals who have to comply with a strict code of practice.

Each and every customer of all Trust My Garage members can rely on using a nationally recognised brand.

For more information about Trust My Garage or to locate your nearest TMG member visit www.trustmygarage.co.uk.

Don’t get spooked about vehicle maintenance this Halloween with Trust My Garage

October 31st is coming and it’s the spookiest day of the year – Halloween! Not only is it time for ghouls and ghosts to make an appearance, it’s also time to prepare your vehicle for the upcoming cold winter months. Want to know how? Find out with the Trust My Garage blog by reading on – and for a little bit of fun, don’t forget to count up our spooky puns throughout this post and leave us a comment with how many you can find!

Beware the witchy weather

The onset of autumn and winter means poorer road conditions for motorists – summer showers have given way to winter whirlwinds! Low winter sun can dazzle unprepared drivers, and heavy rain and fog can create slippery roads and reduced visibility.

In wet conditions allow additional travel time and drive at a speed appropriate to the conditions, be aware that braking distances can double on wet roads and increase tenfold on ice!

Avoid a fright at night

It’s important for drivers to take it steady when driving in the dark, especially if you’re driving in an unfamiliar area.

Broken or faulty lights can result in a £50 fine, three penalty points and even a Roadside Prohibition Notice – which means you must fix the fault before a re-inspection – so be sure to take the time to walk around your vehicle and check all your lights are functional before setting off on any trips.

If you’re new to driving it may be worth practicing your evening driving in a familiar area before heading off on longer trips – getting hours of practice under your belt may help with your confidence and help you get used to driving in poor lighting!

Don’t let your wheels be tyre-rifying

With poorer driving conditions on their way it’s important to ensure your tyres are up to the challenge – so be sure to check your tyre pressures and tread depth regularly. The legal minimum for tread depth is 1.6mm, but tyre grip can deteriorate rapidly if the depth is under 3mm.

You can use the edge of a 20p coin to check how deep your tread is – if the outer band of the coin is visible, then your tyres may be illegal and unsafe and should be checked immediately by a qualified tyre professional. Illegal tyres can earn you three penalty points and a fine of up to £2,500 per tyre!

For the correct tyre pressures for your vehicle consult your Owner’s Manual or look for a tyre information sticker which could be located on one of the door pillars or inside the fuel flap. One of these should contain the information you need for your tyres to be inflated to the correct PSI/BAR. Air and water machines are commonplace at petrol stations across the UK – or you can ask your local Trust My Garage member to check your pressure is correct, if you’re unsure of how to do this yourself.

Keep your bat-tery flying

On  average, car batteries last up to 5 years (source), but there are many reasons that a battery could require replacing  sooner than this.

Heading into colder weather can cause strain on your battery, as can short repetitive journeys – with lots of stopping and starting of the engine which can drain a battery’s power without giving it enough time to recharge fully. Also; the use of a heated rear window, lights and wipers all add to the load placed on a battery. Taking your car out for a longer drive at the weekend can be a key factor in combating battery drain, as can recharging your battery at home or at a local garage. If you are concerned about the condition of your battery your friendly TMG member could always check it out for you!

Take a trip to the fuel pump-kin

Running out of fuel is one of the most common causes of breakdown on the UK’s motorway network, so check you’ve got enough fuel for your trip and take note of any available fuel stations en-route to fill up as necessary. It’s also wise to allow sufficient fuel to be able to accommodate any delays that may occur on route.

If you aren’t sure of places to fill up on y our trips, you can use an internet search engine to locate nearby fuel stations or ask a local in the area where the nearest fuel station is. Some modern sat navs also highlight close by fuel stations but you may need to turn this function on in your model’s settings where possible!

Avoid an MOT horror with Trust My Garage

If your car is due its MOT or a service, make sure to take it in to a garage to keep it roadworthy. If you’re looking for a reputable, local, independent garage you can rely on, head to the Trust My Garage website and use our handy ‘Find a Garage’ map to locate your nearest TMG member, operating to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved code of conduct.

Simply pop in your postcode and our ‘Find a Garage’ map will show you all the TMG members in your area – and you can even read reviews from other customers if you’re unsure which garage is right for your needs.

Trust My Garage truly is the independent scheme for independent garages in the UK. They have each signed up to treat customers and their vehicle with respect, which means they really do exist to ensure that independent garage standards are continuing to improve.

If you’re looking for more information or would like to contact Trust My Garage, please visit TrustMyGarage.co.uk or Contact Us here.

Feeling the drag? Step up your car’s performance with Trust My Garage

If you’re hitting the UK’s roads, it’s important to ensure your vehicle is performing well when you need it to – so check out our top tips on how to optimise your motor with Trust My Garage! It could even help with your safety and running costs; find out more by reading on.

Does your vehicle contain everything but the kitchen sink?

If you like to travel with all your personal possessions in your car, you’re out of luck! Gym bags, books and unnecessary tools might not weigh much individually but the grouped effect adds up quickly, and will affect your car’s fuel efficiency as it means the extra weight will cause you to burn more fuel to achieve your car’s usual level of performance.

It’s a simple matter of cleaning out any unnecessary items from your vehicle, as well as any rubbish that you may have accumulated over time since your last clean. By losing the extra items you can gain some performance – and maybe even go further between fuel station trips!

Air-con giving you a frosty feeling?

Did you know that when you use your car’s air-conditioning it could raise your car’s fuel consumption by as much as 8-10%? (info)

In hot weather it’s understandable to have the air-con running, and at high speeds it’s better for performance than opening a window for a breeze, but if you leave you air-con running most of the time when you’re driving it can impact performance and economy without you even realising!

If you want to utilise your air-con effectively, you should run the system once a fortnight for five minutes to make sure the system remains free of issues – but if you suspect there’s a problem with your air-con or it doesn’t feel cold anymore you can take your vehicle to your local Trust My Garage member for a check or re-gas service!

Racking up the boxes on your motor’s roof?

If you use roof racks and/or boxes on your motoring trips be sure to remove them in-between journeys. By leaving them in place you affect the aerodynamic design of your vehicle, which then increases drag and affects performance, including fuel consumption!

The easiest solution is to remove your roof equipment whenever it is not in use, but if this is impractical there are many types of lightweight options – although the faster you travel, the more this will impact your vehicle’s performance.

Is your motor feeling tyre-d?

Correct tyre pressures are important in order to stay safe on the road. If your tyres are under/over inflated then handling and grip will worsen, potentially causing irregular or unpredictable car wear as well as affecting handling behaviour. Tyres that aren’t fully inflated are also more likely to suffer from a sudden rapid deflation and will suffer premature wear on the outside edges of the tyre, meaning the wheel rim and tyre will be more susceptible to impact damage.

Checking your vehicle’s tyre pressure is easier than you might think! You can check and correct your tyre pressure at most UK petrol stations using a pay-per-use air and water station, or you can purchase your own tyre pressure gauge – the choice is yours.

If you aren’t sure what pressure is correct for your vehicle’s tyres you can refer to your Owner’s Manual. On many vehicles there is also a label on either the door pillar or inside the filler flap that provide tyre pressure information. Details should be provided in either/both BAR and PSI, and you can adjust your pressures to the recommended figure.

The tread of a tyre refers to the rubber on its circumference that makes contact with the road or ground. The legal limit for minimum tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters, however it is recommended to keep your tyres at 3mm or above for optimum grip. Drivers who fail to comply with the regulations face a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre.

Tread depth is important to maintain good grip on wet roads but, as the tread wears down, the tyres will lose the ability to grip well. The ‘20p test’ is a quick way to check the tread depth. Place a 20p coin into the main tread grooves at three points across the tyre and then repeat around its circumference. If the outer band is visible, the tyres may be unsafe or illegal and need to be checked by a professional garage or tyre specialist.

Bad performance? Not with this economy!

The best way to improve the performance and efficiency of any vehicle is to drive with economy in mind.

Looking further ahead when driving and ensuring keen observation can help you spot any potential hazards or traffic fluctuations earlier in your journey – giving you time to anticipate and use brake or accelerate at a gentler pace. This style of driving doesn’t affect your vehicle’s fuel economy in the same way that sharp braking and accelerating does, and it can also help minimise the wear on your tyres too!

Also, dropping your cruising speed by a few miles per hour will make a huge difference to your fuel costs and won’t add too much extra time to your journey. As an example, a journey of 100 miles driven at 70mph will take you 86 minutes, while driving at 60mph would only add 14 minutes to that time and you will use 10% less fuel.

By photo: Qurren (talk)Taken with Canon IXY Digital 70 (Digital IXUS 60) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63359365

Why you can Trust My Garage to take care of your servicing and MOTs

Another great way to ensure your vehicle is performing at its best is by keeping up with your yearly MOT requirements and ensuring it’s serviced regularly.

For a professional garage experience, you can find a local CTSI approved Trust My Garage member by visiting the Trust My Garage website’s ‘Find a Garage’ map! You can even try it out here:

Every garage in Trust My Garage are members of the Independent Garage Association, which is part of the RMI, one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations. IGA members are true professionals who have to comply with a strict code of practice, so they can help you motor on happily and safely.

Each and every customer of all Trust My Garage members can rely on using a nationally recognised brand to help you and your vehicle get the best value service for you and your vehicle – and you can find out more by visiting us at TrustMyGarage.co.uk or checking out our Facebook and Twitter pages!

Motoring forwards – Find out what drives your vehicle with Trust My Garage

There are many elements to driving a car, but one of the most important is how it’s propelled forwards! Find out all you need to know about which type of “wheel drive” could work best for you with the Trust My Garage blog – read on to discover more.

Front-Wheel Drive

Front-wheel drive is the most common layout for the engine and transmission set-up in the new car market and has been so for the last few decades. It works by the engine only sending power to the front two wheels of the vehicle (hence the name), effectively pulling the car along from the front.

Front-wheel drive is so popular in the car market because it is less complex and more affordable to engineer, compared to rear or four-wheel drive, and it also is better for fuel economy!

However, front-wheel drive does have certain limitations which make it less than ideal for high performance cars. Although many hot hatches do use it, front-wheel drive can’t offer the same kind of rapid acceleration you see from rear or four-wheel drive cars.

By Moebiusuibeom-en – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9684337

Rear-Wheel Drive

While most front-wheel drive cars also sport their engines in the front of the vehicle, with rear-wheel drive vehicles the engine can be located in different places (such as in the middle or rear of the vehicle). Rear-wheel drive works in the opposite manner to front-wheel drive, with the engine sending power to the rear two wheels of the vehicle and using it to push the vehicle forwards from the back.

Rear-wheel drive offers better acceleration than front-wheel drive. Unlike front-wheel drive, it is possible to achieve optimal 50/50 front/rear weight distribution with a rear-wheel drive car, which offers better balance and handling in a vehicle.

By Moebiusuibeom-en – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9684227

However, rear-wheel drive often compromises cabin practicality because the powertrain requires a driveshaft. This creates a bump in the passenger cabin, losing space for anyone sat in the vehicle. Rear-wheel drive is also less efficient than front-wheel drive and can be difficult for drivers to handle if there’s no traction control or road conditions are slippery due to the weather.

Both front- and rear-wheel drive can also be referred to as “Two-wheel drive”, as they only use two of the vehicle’s wheels to propel it forwards.

All-Wheel Drive

All-wheel drive offers a setup in which the engine’s power gets sent to a vehicle’s four wheels for maximum traction. All-wheel drive is all about varying the amount of power sent to each wheel, either mechanically or electronically.

All-wheel drive can either be offered as a part- or full-time system, depending on the model of vehicle and driver preferences. Some models now feature a system that allows the driver to disconnect the rear wheels when driving at speed, reducing drag and improving fuel economy. More expensive systems may also have a feature that engages and disengages all-wheel drive automatically based on the road conditions, detected by sensors around the vehicle and calculated by an onboard computer.

4-Wheel Drive

Sometimes referred to as 4×4, four-wheel drive powertrains are largely associated with SUV models, but can also be found on numerous family and executive cars, especially among vehicles with higher specs.

This system’s main distinction is that it’s typically used on vehicles designed and built to handle the unpaved wilderness.

Unlike all-wheel drive, it sends power to all four wheels equally and without variation, meaning each wheel will spin at the same constant rate as all the others. The equal split of power is great for manoeuvring through tough, low-traction situations, but it isn’t very friendly on the pavement.

By Moebiusuibeom-en – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9684357

Driving a four-wheel drive car on solid ground can make simple actions like turning around in a tight street very difficult, because the wheels are no longer in sync. Most modern four-wheel drive vehicles are equipped with a part-time system, meaning they operate in two-wheel drive mode in normal driving conditions. This way, the driver can engage the four-wheel drive system manually from the cabin only where necessary.

Keeping your vehicle in wheely good condition

Regardless of how your motor is propelled forwards, it’s important to keep it in a safe and legal driving condition. For a professional garage experience, you can find a local CTSI approved Trust My Garage member by visiting the Trust My Garage website’s ‘Find a Garage’ map!

Apart from finding a garage nearby, you can also read reviews from other motorists about the members in your area to help you decide which garage is right for you. Try it out here:

Every garage in Trust My Garage are members of the Independent Garage Association, which is part of the RMI, one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations. IGA members are true professionals who have to comply with a strict code of practice, so they can help you motor on happily and safely.

Each and every customer of all Trust My Garage members can rely on using a nationally recognised brand to help you and your vehicle get the best value service for you and your vehicle – and you can find out more by visiting us at TrustMyGarage.co.uk or checking out our Facebook and Twitter pages!

The Highway Code – How well do you know the rules of the road?

The Highway Code – How well do you know the rules of the road?

The Highway Code is a set of information, advice, guides and mandatory rules for all road users in the United Kingdom. It operates as a tool to promote road safety – but how well do you know the rules laid out in it? Find out on the Trust My Garage blog!

We’ve put together a quiz to test your knowledge across different areas of the Code, so you can find out if you know enough to write the book – or need to read it cover to cover! Try your hand at our questions below and be sure to leave a comment if you’re pleased with your score.

If a rule in the Highway Code is a legal requirement, it is identified by the use of which phrase?

  1. ‘Do/do not’
  2. ‘Should/should not’
  3. ‘Must/must not’
  4. ‘Never/always’

When passing an animal on or near the road, you should:

  1. Sound your horn
  2. Rev your engine
  3. Accelerate rapidly
  4. Drive slowly, give them plenty of room and be ready to stop

Where lanes are restricted due to roadworks, you should:

  1. Merge in turn with other traffic
  2. Slow down to a stop and turn off your engine
  3. Accelerate rapidly to get away from traffic
  4. Allow drivers from other lanes to pass but hold up vehicles behind you

When visibility is seriously reduced due to adverse weather, you must:

  1. Switch on your fog lights immediately
  2. Use your headlights when you cannot see for more than 100 metres
  3. Keep your headlights switched off to avoid dazzling other drivers
  4. Stay inside and not drive at all

What does the below arm signal mean when used to inform other road users:

  1. I intend to move out to the right or turn right
  2. I intend to slow down or stop
  3. I intend to move in to the left or turn left
  4. I intend to reverse

What is the maximum penalty fine for speeding?

  1. £1,000 fine (£2,500 for motorway offences)/Discretionary disqualification
  2. £2,500 fine (£3,000 for motorway offences)/Discretionary disqualification
  3. £500 fine (£1,000 for motorway offences)
  4. £1,000 fine (£2,500 for motorway offences)

If you have to stop your vehicle on the roadside you must:

  1. Open the door without checking for pedestrians
  2. Park facing against the traffic flow
  3. Only apply the handbrake if you are on a hill
  4. Switch off the engine, headlights and fog lights

If your vehicle breaks down, think first of all other road users and:

  1. Wear dark clothing and try to avoid being seen by other drivers
  2. Warn other traffic by using your hazard warning lights if your vehicle is causing an obstruction
  3. Leave the vehicle in the road for as long as possible
  4. Do not call for help

How do you think you did? Check out the answers below to see how well you scored!

ANSWERS

1 – C, 2 – D, 3 – A, 4 – B, 5 – C, 6 – A, 7 – D, 8 – B

If you scored well, congratulations! You know your stuff when it comes to the Highway Code. If you need to brush up on the correct answers you can read the Code in full here.

Test your motor as well as your mind

Before heading out on to the road, it’s important to make sure your knowledge is up to scratch – but you should also make sure your vehicle is safe and roadworthy too! With Trust My Garage, it’s simple to find a reputable local garage to help you with your motor’s servicing, MOT and maintenance.

With over 2,900 members across the UK, you’re never far away from a TMG member. We’ve even created a handy search function so you can locate your nearest TMG-approved garage with ease!

Simply pop in your postcode and our ‘Find a Garage’ map will show you all the TMG members in your area – and you can even read reviews from other customers if you’re unsure which garage is right for your needs. Try it out below:

Since 2016 Trust My Garage members have all operated to a strict Code of Conduct, which has been approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) – the national body for trading standards professionals. Trust My Garage is currently the only CTSI backed code exclusively for independent garages, so you can rest assured that you are dealing with a firm that is determined to deliver the highest levels of customer satisfaction.

Want to know more about TMG? To get more information or to contact Trust My Garage, please visit TrustMyGarage.co.uk or Contact Us here.

Using the UK’s motorway network – The Trust My Garage guide to driving safely

With approximately 2,173 miles of motorway network spanning the UK, it’s vital for motorists to understand the requirements for travelling these roads safely. If you’re looking to learn how best to utilise the system in a safe and legal manner, look no further – the Trust My Garage blog is here to help.

What are the motorway basics?

Motorways and dual carriageways allow traffic to travel faster and in greater safety than on ordinary roads, but it’s very important for motorists to know the rules that apply on them.

To enter, drivers use a slip road system, enabling them to filter into the existing flow of traffic already using the road, accelerating to match the traffic flow. You must give priority to traffic already on the carriageway, and not force your way into the traffic stream as this could cause other drivers to perform evasive manoeuvres, leading to an accident.

Slip roads also allow you to leave a motorway or dual carriageway, but you’ll need to be in the left-hand lane so that you can drive onto the slip road when you reach it. Move into the left-hand lane in good time to make sure you don’t have to cut in front of other vehicles or miss your exit. Motorway junctions typically have information signs at 1 mile prior to a junction and another at half a mile, to provide drivers travelling at high motorway speeds sufficient time to move to the left.

At no point – unless directed by the police, Highways England traffic officers or DVSA officers – should you stop on the motorway. If you have to slow right down or stop because there’s serious congestion ahead, you can use your hazard warning lights briefly to alert drivers behind you. Remember to turn them off when the driver behind you has slowed down.

The default speed limit on the UK’s motorway network is 70mph. However, some motorways operate as “smart motorways” or “managed motorways”, where variable speed limits and lane closures are displayed on signs on gantries above the road at regular intervals.

There are two kinds of motorway speed sign:

  • If the speed limit is in a red ring, that’s a mandatory speed limit.
  • If the speed limit is surrounded by flashing amber lights, it’s an advisory speed limit based on traffic and weather conditions.

To learn more about how smart motorways work, check out our blog post Driving on smart motorways – what are they and how do you use them?

What do I need to know when driving on the motorway?

Drivers should utilise the left lane wherever possible when using the motorway, and only venture to the central and right-hand lanes to overtake slower traffic before returning to the left lane after the manoeuvre is completed safely. You should never use the left-hand lane to pass a slower vehicle –known as “undertaking” – unless all lanes of traffic are moving slowly, but the left lane is moving slightly faster. Drivers should also use their indicators as normal to alert other motorists of their intention and allow them to act accordingly.

Rule 264 of the Highway Code states:

  • You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear.
  • If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past.
  • Slow-moving or speed-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking.

If you’re driving at night or in low-light conditions, the reflective studs in the road, commonly known as “cat’s eyes”, can also help you to determine the position of your vehicle on the road. Here’s what each coloured stud means:

  • Red – Hard shoulder division
  • Amber – Central reservation division
  • White – Mid-lane division
  • Green – Slip road division

Average speed cameras – what are they?

Average speed cameras have been installed over 250 miles on British roads, in areas around the country. They work by tracking the speed of your car between two points – so slowing down to go past the camera and then speeding up afterwards will not fool it!

The cameras will record your number plate when you pass the first camera, then again at the second, and perform a quick calculation based on the current time to work out how long it took you to travel between the two points. If the time it took you to travel is quicker than could be done at the speed limit, you’ll get a fine and penalty points on your licence.

The cameras can also operate across multiple lanes of traffic, so changing lanes won’t help you – only driving at or under the posted speed limit will.

The best method to avoid a speeding ticket is, of course, not to speed.

How can I make sure my vehicle is safe and roadworthy?

Prior to setting out on any journey, particularly longer trips, you should always check your vehicle for any visible issues or potential problems. Drivers should check:

  • Engine oil, coolant and screen wash are within their respective required levels
  • Tyre pressures and treads – Tyres should meet the legal minimum requirement of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre in a continuous band around the whole of the tyre with no bulges, bubbles, cuts or tears, or you risk a £2500 fine and three penalty points per tyre – or worse! Tyre pressures should match the BAR/PSI indicated in your vehicle’s Owners’ Manual.
  • Fuel level – Running out of fuel is one of the most common causes of breakdown on the UK’s motorway network, so check you’ve got enough fuel for your trip and take note of any available fuel stations en-route to fill up as necessary.

It’s also recommended that you check your lights and wipers to make sure they too are in working order and good condition.

If your car is due its MOT or a service, make sure to take it in to a garage to get it ready for the road. If you’re looking for a reputable, local, independent garage you can head to the Trust My Garage website and use our handy ‘Find a Garage’ map to locate your nearest TMG member, operating to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved code of conduct.

Simply pop in your postcode and our ‘Find a Garage’ map will show you all the TMG members in your area – and you can even read reviews from other customers if you’re unsure which garage is right for your needs.

What happens if I break down on the motorway?

In the event of your vehicle developing a problem the Highway Code says to leave the motorway at the next exit or pull into a service area. If you can’t do so, you should pull onto the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as possible, with your vehicle’s wheels turned to the left.

If possible, try to stop near an emergency telephone (situated at approximately one-mile intervals along the hard shoulder).

Once you have safely pulled over, switched off the engine and removed the key from the vehicle, exit it as soon as possible. You should leave the vehicle by the passenger side door so that you’re not at risk of oncoming traffic. Make sure all passengers do the same, and that they keep well away from the carriageway.

Put the hazard lights on, and, if it’s dark, put your side lights on too. If it’s foggy, put the fog lights on if you can do so with the vehicle switched off. Generally, if you can’t see for more than 100 metres, the visibility is poor and that’s when your fog lights should be used.

The Highway Code advises that any pets travelling with you be left in the vehicle – unless you consider it to be an emergency situation. If that’s the case, take them out of the vehicle but make sure they are kept under control at all times.

You should then call for breakdown help. If you have breakdown cover and an available mobile phone, contact your provider, then try to stay calm and wait for help and support to arrive.

If you don’t have access to a mobile phone – or the battery has drained – then you need to use an emergency telephone. These are located at one-mile intervals along the hard shoulder and are easy to identify because they’re in bright orange boxes.

If you’ve broken down, you’ll need to walk to an emergency phone. Face the oncoming traffic and follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder. The emergency telephone is free of charge and connects directly to the Highways Agency or the police.

While on the phone, give as many details as you can – including your location – and inform the Highways Agency or police if you are a vulnerable motorist such as disabled, travelling alone, older, or with small children.

Your breakdown support will be able to assess if the vehicle requires towing away or if it can be repaired and can re-join the flow of traffic. If you can once again enter the road, be patient and wait for a safe gap in the traffic. If possible, use the hard shoulder to build up speed so you’re entering the carriageway with some momentum rather than slowly, with as little traffic as possible.

Don’t forget, weather in the UK can be unpredictable. If you’re planning a long journey, it is always a good idea to keep warm, weatherproof clothing in your vehicle as motorways offer little shelter from the elements. For an additional safety measure, you may also want to keep high-visibility clothing in your vehicle – wearing a hi-vis vest helps alert other drivers to your presence and could help prevent a potentially fatal accident.

If you’re looking for more information or would like to contact Trust My Garage, please visit TrustMyGarage.co.uk or Contact Us here.

What to do when… you’re driving in wet weather conditions

The British Summer can be a challenging time for motorists, with changeable weather meaning drivers must be adaptable to a variety of driving conditions. While we all hold out for sunshine, rain is far more likely – but the Trust My Garage blog can help you make sure you drive safely in wet weather!

Why can rain be dangerous for motorists?

Rain is not only an inconvenience for motorists; it can also be a dangerous problem. The Highway Code states that in wet weather vehicle stopping distances are double those required for dry conditions, as tyres have less grip on the road.

Drivers should always take additional precautions when on the road in wet conditions, such as:

  • Maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you
  • Ensuring your vehicle’s steering is responsive – if it becomes unresponsive you should ease off the accelerator and gradually slow down
  • Keeping lights on where appropriate to be visible, as the rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen
  • Being aware of the dangers of spilt diesel that will make the surface very slippery
  • Taking extra care around pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders

A major issue on very wet roads is aquaplaning – an issue caused when a layer of water is allowed to build up between a vehicle’s tyres and the surface of the road beneath. At this point, the tyres cannot grip on the road and this causes a lack of traction which means the driver loses control and is unable to steer, brake or accelerate.

To avoid aquaplaning it’s important to check your tyres (read on for more tyre tips!), not drive too quickly and don’t make sudden manoeuvres that enable water to build up between your vehicle’s tyres and the road. If you’re following a vehicle you can also follow their “tracks” from a safe distance to remain on the part of the road where water has already been displaced, providing more grip.

How can I prepare myself?

Before setting off on any trip be sure to plan the route you’re going to take, and an alternative if you think there could be issues due to poor weather. Using a sat-nav with traffic updates can also help you adjust your route if there are long delays or hazards ahead, but it’s worth keeping traffic alerts on your vehicle’s radio system too, in case there are any sudden changes to the road conditions.

If a problem occurs once your trip is underway you can also find a safe place to pull over – such as a roadside refuge area or lay-by – park up and turn off the engine completely, remove your keys from the vehicle ignition and use your mobile phone to calculate an alternative route.

If you have concerns about your driving ability in poor conditions, it’s always better to wait until you feel safe on the roads. Although it may seem inconvenient your safety and the safety of any passengers you may also have is of utmost importance – as well as that of other road users.

How can I prepare my vehicle?

Prior to setting off it’s important to check your vehicle is in a safe and roadworthy condition. One of the most crucial things to check is tyres, so this is what you need to know:

  • Make sure your tyre pressures are correct. It’s easier than you might think! You can check and correct your tyre pressure at most UK petrol stations using a pay-per-use air and water station, or you can purchase your own tyre pressure gauge – the choice is yours.
  • If you aren’t sure what pressure is correct for your vehicle’s tyres you can refer to your Owner’s Manual. Details should be provided in either/both BAR and PSI, and you can adjust your pressures to the recommended figure.
  • Tyres should meet the legal minimum requirement of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre and in a continuous band around the whole of the tyre,  or risk a £2,500 fine and three penalty points per tyre – or worse!
  • For optimum safety it is recommended tyres have a minimum of 3mm depth of tread across the central three-quarters of the tyre and in a continuous band around the whole of the tyre.
  • There should be no cuts or bulges in the side wall of the tyre, as these can increase the chances of blowouts while on the road – if any bulges, bubbles, cuts and tears are visible you should speak to a professional to arrange a replacement
  • You should also check for punctures prior to setting off – they can either be repaired or the tyre can be replaced, but it’s important to identify any issues and have a professional assess the best course of action.

Wipers play a huge role in ensuring good visibility in inclement weather, so checking their function is a must before driving in wet weather. While they should ideally be replaced six-monthly to yearly, if you notice a decline in visibility you should change them sooner. Factors such as streaking, smearing, skipping and squeaking indicate that your blades should be changed to retain good vision of the road – and don’t forget to check your rear wiper too!

Another area that should always be thoroughly checked is your vehicle’s lights. A sudden heavy downpour can cause quickly darkening road conditions, so functioning lights play an important role in keeping your visibility levels up and keeping you easily identifiable to other motorists.

Before setting off on a journey, turn on your vehicle’s lights and either walk around the vehicle to conduct a check or ask a passenger to check all your lights are working correctly – be sure to press the brake too and check that all three lights are working. If any lights are dim or aren’t working, including fog lights and number plate lights, you should get them replaced as soon as possible.

If you are stopped by police for having faulty brake lights, you could receive:

  • A verbal warning
  • A Roadside Prohibition Notice – which gives you 10 days to get it fixed
  • A £60 fine and 3 points on your licence
  • Worst case scenario – they could tow your car away!

It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with your car’s ventilation system. Wet conditions can cause a car to steam up, making visibility difficult and driving hazardous. Many people think air conditioning is only for hot days, but this is not the case! Using your car’s air conditioning in conjunction with the heater may seem an odd thing to do, but it can actually remove moisture from the air, helping to demist your vehicle quicker than using the heater alone.

Most importantly during extreme weather conditions it’s important to stay warm and dry, so it’s a good idea to ensure your car is kitted out with emergency supplies such as blankets, first-aid kits and extra food and drink if you’re undertaking longer trips.

In need of a professional?

If your car is due its MOT or a service, make sure to take it in to a garage to get it ready for the road. If you’re looking for a reputable, local, independent garage you can head to the Trust My Garage website and use our handy ‘Find a Garage’ map to locate your nearest TMG member, operating to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved code of conduct. You can also check out our latest TV advert below:

Our ‘What to do when…’ series can provide some further tips and insight across other areas of motoring and vehicle maintenance to help you ensure your motor is running at its best! You can check out our other posts in the series here.

Fuel-efficient driving – How can you make your motor’s MPG go the extra mile?

As of December 2018, BBC News’ Fuel Price Calculator revealed the price of fuel per litre across the UK stood at £1.24 and £1.34 for petrol and diesel vehicles respectively (source). With the cost of filling up the tank on the rise, Trust My Garage has some top tips on how to drive economically and make your MPG go further – check them out below!

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Condense your time on the road

Did you know that when you drive a car that has been parked for a few hours the engine is cold and it uses more fuel to power the engine for the first five miles or so? By combining your errands into one daily trip you can save your pennies and your mileage – meaning your miles will last longer between trips to the pump.

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Stick to the speed limit

This one should be a given for responsible driving, but stick to the speed limits! What Car? research shows that a vehicle going at 80mph uses up to 25% more fuel than one going at 70mph.

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Spend a minute on maintenance

One of the best ways to improve your fuel efficiency is to keep your car well maintained and serviced regularly. By ensuring your car is running optimally you can utilise your fuel and go further for your pounds, even if it’s just pumping up your tyres to the correct pressure! If you’re not sure on how best to go about maintaining your car, check out our latest maintenance blog post: “Winter driving – how to stay safe when the cold hits”.

If you think your car could be in need of a service, you need a helping hand when it comes to good maintenance practice, or you think your motor could be in need of a repair, your local Trust My Garage member can help. Not sure if there’s a member near you? Pop your post code into TMG’s ‘Find a Garage’ map and we can tell you who’s nearby!

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Air-con? Air-gone!

Car heaters don’t, in general, use up much fuel as they recycle the heat from the engine. Air conditioning, however, does. It’s definitely the case if you have an older vehicle but it’s much less noticeable with modern cars. Remember that using your air-con regularly is a good thing, as it keeps the seals in good condition. It also dries the air so that it’s as useful to you in winter as it is in summer for keeping your windscreen de-misted. But what about opening windows instead? When it comes to keeping them down it may affect fuel consumption at more than 40mph, but air conditioning marginally increases fuel use at all speeds.

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Keep F1 on the track

“Slip-streaming” behind other vehicles to help save fuel is a technique Formula 1 drivers adopt, but it is highly dangerous and frowned upon by road safety experts. Similarly, switching off the engine whilst moving and coasting to a stop is also deemed to be extremely reckless – so don’t bring racetrack habits to the road.

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Take a weight off

Just like your body, your car needs more fuel to move around more weight, which means you shouldn’t cart items around in your boot unless you absolutely need to. You can also reduce weight by filling up with less fuel, more often. You’d be surprised how much more a full tank of fuel weighs than half a tank!

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Read the road and use gravity

Use gravity to your advantage and build up momentum by pushing on downhill to power through inclines. This may sound confusing, but a good way to do this is to read the road as if you were on a pushbike and accelerate accordingly. While doing this, be sure to look far ahead while driving and keep moving where possible by anticipating obstacles. Easing off the throttle and keeping momentum is better than speeding up, braking and then starting all over again.

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What is Trust My Garage?

Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s best local garages – every one different and every one dedicated to the highest standards of skill and personal service. All the garages in Trust My Garage are members of the Independent Garage Association – which is part of the RMI, one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations. IGA members are true professionals who have to comply with a strict code of practice.

Each and every customer of all Trust My Garage members can rely on using a nationally recognised brand. If there’s a problem that can’t be sorted out between you and your garage, the IGA takes over and helps to achieve a happy outcome.

For more information about Trust My Garage or to locate your nearest TMG member visit www.trustmygarage.co.uk.

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Winter driving – how to stay safe when the cold hits

The UK is well into winter, so motorists should be keeping safe on our roads – but new research has shown drivers are unprepared for motoring in the chilly season!

 

Halfords, which commissioned a survey of 2,000 motorists, has found nearly half of all drivers surveyed admitted they have not conducted any maintenance checks on their vehicle – so how can you make sure you’re ready to face the cold? The Trust My Garage blog is here to help! Check out our top tips below.

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Antifreeze – keeping the chill at bay

Antifreeze is clever stuff that stops the water in your engine’s cooling system from freezing! It also does several other important jobs, making it a vital car fluid to keep your engine running smoothly.

 

As well as preventing water from freezing up, antifreeze raises the boiling point of engine coolant to prevent overheating. The stuff also protects your engine from corrosion, aids heat transfer, and prevents scale from building up internally.

 

How do you use it? There’s the concentrated form, or the ready mixed with water kind. The latter version is commonly referred to as engine coolant and can normally be used straightaway for top-ups and replacements. The concentrated form needs to be diluted with water, usually at a level of around 50% antifreeze and 50% water. Always check the pack’s instructions for the right ratio to use.

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Tyres – putting rubber to the roads

Tyre pressure and tread can be crucially important during winter, as poor tyres can cause your vehicle to slip across wet and icy roads.

 

To keep your tyres at optimum performance you’ll need to make sure your tyres are correctly inflated and have adequate tread across the circumference of the tyre – you’ll find the BAR/PSI you need in your vehicle’s Owners Manual or inside front door frame, and it’s recommended to keep your tyres at 3mm or above for optimum grip.

 

If you aren’t sure how to check your tread depth, you can employ ‘the 20p test’, which you can find out more about here. If your tyres fall under the 1.6mm legal limit you could face a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre!

 

If you’re looking for more information about checking your tyres you call also check out our “What to do when… you need to check your vehicle’s tyres” post for all your tyre-based needs.

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Brakes – stop the ride!

Brakes are an essential part of any car and therefore should be serviced regularly. This is especially important during winter months, but how can you tell your brakes are in tip top condition?

 

It’s a case of making sure you check them regularly, as the winter months can be very wet and sometimes puddles can be difficult to avoid. When driving through a puddle, make sure you test your brakes afterwards by driving at a slow speed and gently applying pressure.

 

Listen out for warning signs, as brakes will let you know when there is a problem – whether this is through grinding or squeaking. Sometimes your car will act like it has a mind of its own and pull you to one side while driving, which could indicate a fault with the braking system. Vibrations and temperamental pedals are also a sign you need to take give your car some attention -so look out for the signs and don’t ignore them.

 

Remember, that you can always take your car to your nearest Trust My Garage member to get the brakes checked – it’s better to be safe than sorry!

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Faults – how can you steer clear?

If you notice a fault with your vehicle, such as a cracked windscreen, dim headlight, or poorly charged battery, it’s important to get it sorted before undertaking any winter driving. If you feel there is a fault but aren’t sure how to proceed, you can always take your vehicle to a local garage to have it looked at by a professional – you can even use the TMG Find a Garage map to locate your nearest Trust My Garage member.

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If you’re looking to hit the road this winter, you can take your vehicle to your local Trust My Garage member. Whether it’s for a check-up, service or repair, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved code of conduct that our members use mean that you and you motor both get the best possible service – no matter the weather!

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Want your motor to have no tricks, just treats this Hallowe’en? This is how you can – with Trust My Garage!

Something dark is just around the corner – it’s Hallowe’en across the world! For drivers in the UK this Samhain, it’s best to make sure your vehicle is running smoothly before the dark nights and cold mornings creep into view. With these handy ‘tricks’ from Trust My Garage your motor should be running like a ‘treat’ all through the Winter!

 

Prepare for driving at night

While we know how nice it is to drive in the light summer evenings, it isn’t that way all year round! It’s important for drivers to take it steady when driving in the dark – especially if you’re driving in an unfamiliar area.

 

Be sure to take the time to check all the lights on your vehicle before setting off on a trip, as nobody wants to be caught out in the dark. If you need help with checking a light you can’t see, you can ask a friend or family member to help. Broken lights can result in a £50 fine, three penalty points and even a Roadside Prohibition Notice – which means you must fix the fault before a re-inspection.

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If you’re new to driving it may be worth practicing your evening driving in a familiar area before heading off on a trip – getting hours of practice under your belt may help with your confidence and help you get used to driving in poor lighting!

 

Check your tyres

With poorer conditions on their way it’s important to ensure your tyres are up to the challenge – so be sure check your tyre pressures and tread depth regularly. The legal minimum for tread depth is 1.6mm, but tyre grip can deteriorate rapidly if the depth is under 3mm. You can use the edge of a 20p piece to check how deep your tread is – if the outer band of the coin is visible, then your tyres may be illegal and unsafe and should be checked immediately by a qualified tyre professional. Illegal tyres can earn you three penalty points and a fine of up to £2,500 per tyre!

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For checking your tyre pressures, your vehicle’s Owner’s Manual should contain the information you need for your tyre to be inflated to the correct PSI/BAR. Air and water machines are commonplace at petrol stations across the UK – or you can ask your local garage to check your pressure is correct if you’re unsure how to do it yourself.

 

Under-inflated tyres affect handling and grip, potentially causing irregular or unpredictable vehicle behaviour. They are also much more likely to suffer from a dangerous sudden rapid deflation, especially on high-speed motorway journeys.

 

Beware of the weather

The turn of the seasons brings a scary array of weather conditions, all of which can affect how you drive. Low Winter sun can dazzle unprepared drivers, and heavy rain and fog can create slippery roads that affect how you handle your vehicle.

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To combat the sun, keep a spare pair of sunglasses in your vehicle, and if it has a sun visor ensure it blocks the sun from your view while in your driving position.

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In wet conditions allow additional travel time and keep speeds steady – with plenty of time for slow braking as braking distances double when wet and increase ten times on ice!

 

How Trust My Garage can help you

Remember, if you want to take your car for a check-up to get ready for autumn and winter driving, you can use Trust My Garage’s handy Find a Garage map to locate a reputable independent garage that follows the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved Trust My Garage Code of Practice to get the best possible service for both you and your vehicle.

 

Trust My Garage truly is the independent scheme for independent garages in the UK. They have no hidden agenda or commercial influences, which means they really do exist to ensure that independent garage standards are continuing to improve.

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