Category Archives: education

Which car maintenance tasks are becoming a thing of the past?

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?

Cleevely010Decades 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.

Antifreeze

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.

Battery

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.

Engine protection

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?

tmgPut 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.

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Carry on caravanning with Trust My Garage

The popularity of staycations shows no signs of diminishing, as latest research from Mintel suggests that 2016 will be a record year for people choosing to holiday in the UK rather than abroad. The figures are expected to be the highest for a decade. Of all the staycation options available, the popularity of the caravan continues to grow. According to the UK motor home trade body the NCC, more than £1.8 billion is currently being spent annually on caravan holidays in the UK; equating to around 2 million holiday makers.

It is not much of a surprise that caravanning continues to be so popular. With the prospect of owning a holiday home out of reach for many of us, the option of a caravan is a great alternative, giving the freedom to set off on the road at a moment’s notice.

If you’re new to the caravan owner’s club, you’re probably excitedly planning your first trip for this summer, but before you do, let Trust My Garage guide you through the necessary requirements before setting off.

Caravan lifestyle road and landscape in vintage old style.

Trust My Garage can help you prepare for a caravan holiday

Licence requirements

First things first, when did you pass your driving test? Knowing if your driver’s licence enables you to tow a caravan can often be a source of confusion. However it is thankfully relatively simple. If you passed your driving test before the 1st January 1997, the conditions of your licence mean you are automatically entitled to tow a trailer and this is indicated by a B+E on your driving license. In practice, the conditions allow you to drive a vehicle and trailer with a total combined weight of 8.25 tonnes. The rules for pre-1997 drivers means there are few restrictions for drivers in terms of car and trailer or caravan combination, although you should always be careful to ensure that the car and caravan are correctly matched and that the caravan is not too heavy for the towing car.

Drivers who passed their test after the 1st January 1997 are subject to a few more restrictions. You can tow a vehicle and trailer combination weighing up to 3.5 tonnes, provided that the unladen weight of the towing vehicle is greater than the maximum permissible weight of the trailer.

Keeping in trim

To keep your vehicle safe, it’s recommended that the total weight of your caravan is no more than 85% of the kerb weight of your car, this is the weight minus any passengers or goods. Information can be found in the manufacturer’s handbook. Packing for your journey is an important consideration, not just what you bring along but how you pack it. Heavier items should be placed above the axis, to keep it stable, and ensuring a smoother journey.

Noseweight

The next item on your checklist is to check your caravan’s nose weight. The nose weight is the weight or force which is exerted on the car’s tow ball when your caravan is attached.

This is an important check, as it can have a significant impact on the stability of your caravan. Too light and this could cause the rear of the towcar to lift. Conversely, if it’s too heavy, this will have an adverse impact on steering, increasing your risk of having an accident.

As a simple guide in measuring this, your caravan’s nose weight should be approximately 7% of its laden weight. To measure the nose weight is straightforward if using a nose weight gauge. Simply make sure the caravan is on an even, level surface and any heavy items are in the middle of the caravan above the axis, ensuring heavy items are loaded low down in the unit.

Speed limits

If towing a caravan in the UK, the maximum speed limit is 50mph on a single carriageway and 60mph on a dual carriageways or motorways. If the combination weight of your car and caravan exceeds 7500kg, then a restriction of 50mph also applies on dual carriageways. If you need any further clarification regarding speed limits, always check the Highway Code.

Extra practice

If you’re new to the world of caravanning, maneuvering a caravan can take time to get used to. As a good way of developing your skills and confidence, it may be a good idea to enrol on a towing course. Courses can be arranged through organisations such as the Caravan Club.  And the good news is there is no formal exam at the end. Full details regarding the range of courses available can be found on the Caravan club website. (www.caravanclub.co.uk)

Trust My Garage

Whether you’re a first time caravanner or have years of experience behind you, Trust My Garage can provide expert help and advice to ensure you and your vehicle remains safe on the road this summer. If you need any help and advice regarding your caravan, your local Trust My Garage member will be more than happy to advise. Find your local trusted garage by entering your postcode into our search finder to locate your nearest member.

Or, by downloading the free Trust My Garage App, you can find services in your local area at the click of a button. Trust My Garage is the only government backed code solely for independent garages.

It’s all white for UK car sales, but what does your car say about you?

The new car market in the UK is growing, with an 8.4% increase in purchases of new models during February, the biggest increase for more than a decade. In fact, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has revealed that once again the colour white has retained its position as the most popular car colour in the UK for the third year running, a rise of 2.2% from the previous year.

So why has white become the colour of choice for British motorists? Could it be that despite a rise in car sales, as a result of the recession, the public still remains economically cautious, with white cars tending to hold their value for longer than other colours? Is this trend a reflection of the public’s financial prudence?

To discover what your car colour may say about you, Trust My Garage has teamed up with colour psychologist Lucy Curtis to look at the top ten car colours in the UK and what this could reveal about the type of driver you might be.

Top 10 car colours in the UK

Car on white

White is the most popular colour car, but what does this say about UK drivers?

White – The number of white cars on Britain’s roads have surged over the last decade, with white cars accounting for almost a quarter of cars on Britain’s roads. If you choose to purchase a white car you are most likely to be someone who is extremely focused, not wishing to be distracted by external factors and with a penchant for order and cleanliness, your car will be sparkling inside and out.

Black – if you’re an owner of a black car, you’re not likely to be someone who fades into the background. You probably carry an air of mystery and sophistication and perhaps give off the impression of being slightly ‘untouchable’.  Not keen on being a laid back driver, you won’t be reckless, but you’re someone who wants to get noticed. You’ll want to make sure your vehicle is well looked after with regular servicing from your local Trust My Garage member.

Grey – Perhaps surprisingly, grey takes the bronze position for colour popularity. In stark opposition to drivers of black cars, if you have a grey car you probably want to remain in the background, not wanting to be noticed by others. You’re unlikely to break the speed limit or creep through amber lights when you should be remaining still.

Blue – Once frequently the most popular car colour in Britain, blue has now slipped to fourth position. As an owner of a blue car it is all about the mind and intellect. Inquisitive by nature, you’ll be keen to learn about the inner workings of your car, meaning you’re not intimidated when it comes to understanding why there is a strange noise coming from your bonnet. Confident of your own abilities you’re not afraid to push your car to its limits, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid regular servicing. On the contrary, you’re likely to be fascinated by your local Trust My Garage technician and will do all you can to learn from them.

Red – It is unsurprising that red is a popular choice when it comes to racing cars, with their highly energised and fast past nature, owners of red cars are likely to want to be noticed. This could lead to an increase in taking risks. Red car drivers are unafraid to queue jump, and typically, accelerator pedals may need a bit more attention than others as your forceful nature may lead to you being heavy footed on the pedals.

Silver – If you’re behind the wheel of a silver car, you likely to be a calm individual, not easily fazed by those around you. Keen to be seen as forward thinking and innovative, whether it’s the latest satnav or tyre pressure monitor, you’ll have all the latest gadgets and gizmos to keep you safe on the road. You’re certainly not someone who is likely to neglect regular car servicing.

Green – As a driver of a green car, it’s all about balance. You’re generally an even paced driver, on the whole, and you’ll be reluctant to take risks, but on occasion you may find yourself going against the norm.

Brown – A practical and down to earth driver, you’ll be reluctant to take risks. Any passenger jumping into your car can rest assured they’re in the hands of a safe and trustworthy driver. Your practical nature means you’re likely to ensure your car is well maintained, with regular car checks and servicing.

Orange – A vibrant outgoing personality is what you can expect of drivers of orange cars. If this is you, you’re likely to be a fun and sociable driver, who loves listening to music as you travel. For you, driving is an experience, not just a case of getting from A to B.

Purple – If purple is your colour of choice, you’ll be reluctant to fit in with the crowd. You’re an individual who likes to do things on their own terms, a trait which translates into your driving style. You have an inner confidence which means you won’t worry about fitting in.

Whatever your style, TMG are here to help

Whatever your driving traits or colour preference, regular car servicing is the key to keeping you and others safe on the road. If you need any help and advice regarding car maintenance, your local Trust My Garage member will be happy to advise. If you need to find your local trusted garage for a service, it’s now easier than ever. Enter your postcode into our search finder to locate your nearest member.

Alternatively you can now download the free Trust My Garage App, allowing you to find services in your local area. Trust My Garage is the only government backed code solely for independent garages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving in the changes for learner drivers in 2016

The UK driving test looks set to witness the biggest changes in almost 20 years as the government plans to update the test in mid-2016 to reflect changes that have taken place in regards to both driving habits and driving technology. The plans are being introduced to help increase pass rates, which currently stand at just under 50 percent. Future driving tests will include more real life situations and conditions, it is hoped this will not only increase success rates but also prepare drivers more comprehensively for the reality of independent driving, creating more confident, proficient drivers. Trust My Garage takes a look at some of the changes learner drivers will be expected to face before they can rip up those L plates for good.

The use of satnav

One of the biggest changes to the driving test will be the inclusion of the satnav, now a commonplace navigation tool for drivers. Drivers will soon be expected to use a satnav for the first part of their test and be required to navigate their way to a specified location.

Woman Having Driving Lesson With Instructor

Driving lessons are set to change

Removal of the three point turn

The three point turn, more properly called the ‘turn in the road’, and a staple of the UK driving test, could be about to disappear. According to the DVSA, it is no longer a common procedure, and will be replaced with more challenging, everyday skills instead. In addition to the removal of the three point turn, reversing around corners could also be a thing of the past under new plans.

Additional moves

With the removal of two manoeuvres comes the inclusion of two additional moves, including the requirement to drive forwards into a car parking space and stopping, and then reversing back out to the left or right when leaving a car park. This will replace the traditional reverse bay park and is being introduced due to the increase of trolley lanes in supermarket car parks, for drivers to take their shopping to their vehicle to store in the boot. It is thought that reversing into bays makes it difficult to open the boot when a driver reverse parks in the bay opposite. Another new manoeuvre is pulling up on the right side of the road in a convenient place, and then reversing back two car lengths, and then driving on when you are ready.

Driving safely

Those who have already passed their test will be familiar with the current use of show and tell questions before the test begins, however under plans to make this more realistic, drivers will be required to answer questions on the move, including describing how they would perform basic maintenance checks, with the aim to create the feel of real life situations drivers will have to face.

happy elderly drivingRaising the age limit

Currently once a driver reaches the age of 70 they are asked to re-apply every 3 years to renew their licence. Plans are now underway to increase this to 75. Reaching 75 does not mean you should stop driving, it simply means you will have to decide if you are fit to drive by renewing your licence and every three years after that.

Tips for older drivers

Being an older driver certainly doesn’t make you an unsafe driver, in fact with the experience and knowledge that comes with many years of driving, older drivers are well equipped to face the challenges of the road. However with ageing, inevitably there does come a time when our reactions may become slower and health conditions may have an impact on our ability to drive as we once did. Monitoring your health and being realistic about how this may impact on your driving, making changes when needed, will ensure you keep yourself and others safe on the roads.

Health checks should include regular hearing and sight tests. Be aware of possible side effects of any medications you may be taking and the impact this could have on your driving abilities, if you are unsure, always seek the advice of your doctor.

If you believe your reactions are slower than they previously were, plan your routes in advance, you may also decide to avoid driving at night or during times of high congestion, such as rush hour. You may also need to change your vehicle as you get older, and opt for a car with larger mirrors and windows to improve visibility. Knowing your limitations and making changes as a result is the sign of responsible driving and will ensure you remain a safe driver.

Tips for newly qualified drivers

Research from RoSPA has reported that drivers are more likely to have an accident during the first two years after qualifying than at any other time. Passing your test is just the start of your journey, a journey which will see you build up confidence, knowledge and experience. Passing your test is an exciting time but it doesn’t mean you now know all there is to know about driving; there will still be plenty of scenarios and situations you’ll have to face for the first time. Once you’ve passed your test taking an additional qualification such as Pass Plus, while not compulsory, is a great way to build on your newly acquired skills and knowledge in a safe and controlled way. There are a total of six modules covering topics including driving at night and on the motorway.

Driving requires a huge amount of concentration, regardless of experience. As a new driver, maintaining concentration and focus is a skill that needs honing, so reducing distractions is a must. Avoid carrying other passengers if you can, as you build up your confidence, as they can be the biggest source of distraction. Leave your car stereo and mobile phone switched off, eliminating the risk of interruption from a call or your favourite song.

Whether you’re an experienced driver or newly qualified, Trust My Garage can provide expert help and support to ensure your vehicle is in its best possible condition.

 

Keeping you on the move this Easter

With only days to go until the Easter holidays, many of you will be already thinking ahead, planning a short getaway to make the most of the long weekend. Latest statistics from Visit England have revealed that short trips are the fastest growing area of domestic holidays, with nearly 30 million one to three day breaks taken during 2013; a 17 percent increase from 2008, meaning more and more of us are choosing a staycation.

This is great news, but with the number of cars on Britain’s roads increasing over this period and with forecasters predicting that the uncertain British weather looks set to surpass itself with the risk of flash flooding and even snow showers well into April, there promises to be a number of challenges for motorists to face. With this in mind what do you need to consider to ensure you keep on the move?

Breaking down

Whether it’s your own car which breaks down or you’re stranded on a motorway as a result of an incident, the motorway can be an overwhelming prospect. Just recently, drivers on the M6 were stranded for more than 24 hours after a crash whilst maintenance workers repaired sections of the road.

If you find yourself stuck on the motorway it can be tempting to keep your engine running, especially during cold weather as a means to heat your car. However, by doing this you run the risk of running out of fuel. If you find yourself stuck on the motorway with no end in sight, turn off your engine, turning it back on for ten minutes every hour, to keep your car warm. Before going on a long journey make sure you’ve packed blankets and extra clothes as well as water and food supplies, keeping you warm and hydrated in the event that you get stuck on a motorway.

TMG Tired Driver bridge

If your car shows signs of breaking down, such as making spluttering noises or the engine failing, the first thing to remember is not to panic. If possible, carry on until you come to the next exit and find a safe place to park. If this isn’t possible, move onto the hard shoulder, making sure your hazard lights are on. Once you’ve parked safely, get yourself and other passengers out of the car by the left hand doors; don’t be tempted to stay in your car as there is still a danger that your car could still be hit by passing traffic. Remove emergency items from your car and make your way to the safety barrier. Don’t be tempted to carry out repairs on a motorway, regardless of how simple or straight forward you believe them to be. Wait in a safe place and call your breakdown company. Alternatively, if you have downloaded the Trust My Garage app on your smartphone, you may be able to find a local trusted garage nearby which offers a recovery service.

It is not only the motorway than can present problems if your car breaks down, side roads and isolated areas, can also be frightening places to suffer a break down. If it does happen, if safe to do so, place a warning triangle at least 45 metres away from your car, letting any other drivers that may be passing of your presence. Get back in your car, ensuring your doors and your windows are locked and your hazard lights are on. Keep your phone well charged and call for help remaining in your car until help arrives.

Stranded

The risk of flash floods as seen across the country in recent weeks is likely to pose a threat well into April according to forecasters. In the West Midlands alone, a number of weather warnings recently resulted in drivers being stranded in flood hit roads. If you are faced with floods and heavy rain and are considering driving you should first check the depth of the water. In most vehicles you should never attempt to drive through water that is up to the centre of your wheels.

When driving through water, keep your speed to a minimum to avoid creating a large bow wave. If you find yourself stranded in flood water and your engine cuts out, don’t try to restart the engine as this could result in further damage. If possible make it safely to dry land, get out of your car and ensure all the windows and doors are locked to reduce the risk of further damage and wait for the emergency services.

Preparing ahead

There are currently an estimated 7,000 breakdowns happening every day on Britain’s roads, and many of these could be avoided as the biggest cause of car breakdowns in the UK, according to breakdown providers, is car maintenance issues. This is easy to prevent if drivers are prepared for their journey. Punctured tyres, running out of fuel and a flat battery top the list as the most common causes of vehicle breakdowns. Keeping your vehicle well looked after, not only with regular checks yourself but with regular servicing at your local Trust My Garage workshop, will keep your vehicle in good condition, reducing the risk of your vehicle breaking down.

How TMG can help

Trust My Garage has a free app which not only allows drivers to locate their nearest Trust My Garage member, but during a breakdown or an emergency, drivers can instantly find out which garage provides a recovery service, meaning you’re only a click away from getting help.

To find your local trusted garage just put your postcode in our garage finder and we will show you where your nearest Trust My Garage members can be found. And you can even submit feedback on the service you receive via the Trust My Garage website! To find details about your nearest Trust My Garage Member and the services they provide, or for more information regarding the Trust My Garage App, visit us here.

How do I ensure responsible driving on busy roads?

Latest figures from the Department for Transport has revealed that there are now more than 25.8 million cars on Britain’s roads, up from 25.2 million at the same time last year, meaning that five out of nine regions in England now have the equivalent of one car for every two people.  With car production at a high and the use of public transport declining by more than 60 percent in the last six years, the number of cars on our roads is likely to continue to grow.

With this in mind, how can you ensure you keep safe on the road? We’ve compiled the best advice to keep you and others safe when out driving.

Mind the gap

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the mantra “only fools break the two second rule”. Unfortunately, some drivers may need to repeat this a bit more often as research from the road safety charity Brake, has reported that around 14% of accidents happen as a result of tailgating and shunting. Keeping at least two seconds between you and the car in front during normal driving conditions and four seconds during bad weather, will give you sufficient time to brake if needed.

Know your limit

It may seem obvious advice to keep to the speed limit, but drivers not keeping within the limit is one of the biggest causes of accidents on the roads. Keeping to the limit is a requirement and keeping inside the target will reduce hazards and the need for heavy braking. Remember, British motorways have a maximum speed limit of 70 mph and you should only be in driving in the right lanes if you are overtaking vehicles on the left.

Timing is everything

One of the easiest things you can do to keep within the speed limit, is give yourself plenty of time for your journey. Planning ahead to make sure you have enough time, with a route plan will leave you much more relaxed, reducing your temptation to speed.

The child in a safety seat near to mother.Focus

The longer we do something the more it becomes second nature and this is just as true for driving. The benefits of being an experienced driver are obvious, however this experience has the potential to bring complacency. Before stepping into your car, make sure you are well rested, calm, alert and free from any other issues that may affect your attention.

Night driving

Driving at night is not ideal, but if you need to, there is plenty you can do to keep safe. If taking a long journey make sure you are well rested before you begin with your route planned in advance, with regular two hour breaks factored in. Don’t ignore the warning signs, if you still feel tired during your trip, find somewhere safe to stop as soon as you can. If you’re on a motorway, pull into your nearest service station – DO NOT stop on the hard shoulder and have a nap in your vehicle.

Parking

Driving responsibly doesn’t end when you stop driving, how you park can have consequences for both you and other drivers. Are you aware that UK motorists are involved in 1400 car park-prangs every day?[1] Keep your speed low when parking as this allows you greater control in a small space. Look in all directions including left, right and directly behind your vehicle as this is where a car could be backing out opposite from you and of course pedestrians could be there too!  If your car has any form of automated parking assistance – from  reversing sensors to a full blown auto parking mode remember that these are driver aids, not driver replacements!

Mirrors

Do you check your mirrors before every journey? Before setting off, make sure you check that your mirrors are in the correct position, so you can see around your vehicle. When driving you should also check them every time you change speed, or direction and before signalling

Time for a refresh

Once we’ve passed our test, unless it’s a requirement of your job, very few of us will have any additional assessments. As we become more experienced and more comfortable with driving we all have the potential to slip into bad habits. To curb this it’s a good idea to consider a refresher course every few years, ensuring you keep your knowledge and confidence up to speed.

Car maintenance

Being a responsible driver isn’t just about your behaviour and those around you. The health of your vehicle is also paramount. Beyond regular vehicle maintenance, there are various vehicle checks you can make to ensure your car is kept in good working order and reduce your risk of breakdown.  Weekly checks should become second nature, if you’re not quite sure what you should be checking, remember POWER: Petrol, Oil, Water, Electrics, Rubber.

Regular checks will help you spot any potential issues early, if you need any additional guidance, your local Trust My Garage member will be more than happy to help.

While regularly monitoring your vehicle is highly recommended it is no substitute for regular servicing from a trained professional. Trust My Garage technicians are highly skilled and will be able to spot any issues and provide you with clear advice on keeping your vehicle in top condition. To find your nearest Trust My Garage member, visit our website and simply enter your postcode into our garage finder.

You can also download the Trust My Garage app from any smartphone and it will instantly recognise your location before showing a number of trusted garages nearby. From the app, you can view garage feedback, view our educational videos and call one of our members directly to book a service, MOT, or recovery service.

[1] Accident Exchange, 2014 report

Five reasons to support your local independent garage on Small Business Saturday

As Small Business Saturday arrives in the UK for the first time, the importance of consumers supporting independent businesses in the UK is rightly being stressed. Ask most shoppers what they consider a small independent business to be and they’ll likely say a retail outlet such as a local hairdresser or a convenience store. We’re urging you to consider the fact that independent garages are small businesses themselves, and should be supported on Small Business Saturday. Additionally, as small businesses help each other, we’re asking how many independent businesses have considered using independent garages for their vehicle servicing needs.

Small Business Saturday was originally set up in America three years ago in order to help small businesses fight off competition from bigger rivals. It was a huge success, boosting the turnover of small businesses in the US by £3.5 billion. Shadow Business Secretary, Labour MP Chuka Umunna, has brought the event to the UK calendar, and it has since gained widespread support. We’re highlighting the part that independent garage businesses play on Small Business Saturday and beyond.

QCSOur member Quality Car Service is a family-run business that’s been based in Milton Keynes for five years. They see themselves as an efficient small to medium enterprise, and run themselves accordingly. They work hard as a small business to retain their skilled staff and regularly review their business processes and HR policy, just like any other independent business. They also regularly review their business plan so that they stay competitive. This is a vital element of running an independent garage, especially in the current climate.

To celebrate the role of the small independent garage on Small Business Saturday, here are Quality Car Service’s top five reasons to choose a local independent garage.

5.      Investment in the local economy

Small businesses are so crucial to the UK economy – that simply cannot be overstated. Of the 4.9 million businesses in the UK, 99.2 percent of them were small businesses at the start of 2013. Additionally, research has shown that for every £10 spent in the local community, an extra £25 is reinvested. Perhaps the most telling fact though is that independent businesses are the biggest generators of jobs, which is poignant considering unemployment levels in the UK today. The message is clear – if small businesses fail then the unemployment levels would skyrocket. Help support your local community by spending in it – if you do then your money will likely be recycled back into the local economy.

4.      Reputable network

We’re a Trust My Garage member, and in order to be a member you’ve got to prove you work to a high standard. So when you see that we’re affiliated with Trust My Garage, you instantly know we have achieved certain quality goals. Always look out for the Trust My Garage shield logo- if you see it then you know that you’re really going to be able to trust that independent garage. There are many networks available that independent small businesses can join but its those that are based on quality of service that are the most reliable.

Chris Gurney_Quality Car Service_headshot3. Better value for money

Often independent small businesses are more cost effective than larger brands. The Independent Garage Association recently polled over 2,000 of its members on their labour rates and results concluded that independent garages ‘continue to offer motorists the very best value for money.’ Figures from the poll show that the average labour cost is slightly over £40 for independent garages, and the most recent Warranty Direct annual Labour Rates survey demonstrates that average labour rates for main dealer garages stands at a national average of £95.94. These averages mean that in some areas the difference between the cheapest independent garage and the most expensive main dealer is quite staggering.

2.      Access to technical information and quality parts

Many independent businesses offer just as high a quality service as businesses that are part of a wider chain, if not even higher. The same is true for independent garages. We have access to the same level of technical information and quality parts as main dealers. The training that we give to our staff is no different to the training mechanics at dealerships receive. We constantly keep all of our equipment and diagnostic software up-to-date to ensure that there’s no job we can’t do. If we have to outsource a job then we’ve failed and lost business, so we strive to be able to handle any request. For each job we undertake we ensure that each member of staff is fed the necessary information so that if it’s particularly taxing we’re then able to learn from it.

1.      Better customer service

Independent businesses, like ourselves, rely heavily on customer retention, and the only way we can ensure we keep getting customers back through our doors is by offering them great service – that means keeping them updated at all times, giving them information they know they can trust, and making them feel as comfortable as possible. We pride ourselves on our friendly approach and the rapport we create with our customers. Often businesses that are part of wider brands don’t have to put this emphasis on a personal service because they know they will receive business based on the reputation of the brand or chain they belong to. Because we are independent, we can provide customer service the way we want to – the way we would want to be treated as customers ourselves – and this ensures a personal and efficient service every time.

To find your local independent garage business on Small Business Saturday, visit the Trust My Garage website and insert your postcode into our garage finder.

Top tips to help keep older drivers safe on the road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is your car ready for the school run test?

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

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

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

schoolrunMake sure your engine is properly lubricated.

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

What’s the solution?                                        

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

Concentrate on reading the road.                                                 

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

What’s the solution?

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

Keep an eye on your engine warning and DPF lights

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

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

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

What’s the solution?

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

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

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