Category Archives: Tyre maintenance

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!

What to do when… you need to check your vehicle’s tyres

With nights drawing in for Winter, drivers can often overlook small but important details on their vehicles – but Trust My Garage is here to help! These top tips can help motorists when it comes to the ever-important tyre maintenance; check them out below.

 

Tyre Pressures

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. Details should be provided in either/both BAR and PSI, and you can adjust your pressures to the recommended figure. Often a vehicle’s tyre pressure information is also provided on the interior frame of the front passenger door, so be sure to check there if you need a quick reference point as well.

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The required tyre pressure for your vehicle can also depend on the load weight when travelling, so if your vehicle is needed for some heavy lifting it’s best to check your tyre pressures beforehand – as the incorrect pressure could cause a blowout or additional tyre wear. It’s also best to check your tyres when ‘cold’ – preferably when you haven’t driven at all, or have driven under 2 miles’ distance.

 

Tyre Tread

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.

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Tyre damage such as cuts, lumps and bumps are often caused by an impact between the tyre and a kerb, pothole or object in the road. If your tyre has any of these symptoms then you must have the tyre checked as quickly as possible by a tyre specialist, as this sort of damage can result in sudden tyre failure.

 

Why is tyre maintenance so important?

Correct tyre pressure is important in order to stay safe on the road. If tyres are under/over inflated then handling and grip will worsen, potentially causing irregular or unpredictable car 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. It can also impact the environment, as your car will create more emissions by working harder against the impact of improperly inflated tyres.

Ensuring your tyres have tread above the legal limit can help you remain safe on the roads by maintaining adequate grip on the surface of the road. This can help you when travelling at speed, or during sharp turns and emergency braking manoeuvres by helping the car keep a level grip across the road surface.

So to benefit from lower fuel bills, longer tyre life, increased safety and reduced CO2 emissions, make sure you check your tyre pressures and tread depth across all wheels at least once a month and before a long journey.

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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.

More about Trust My Garage

Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s best local garages – each one different and all 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 to help you and your vehicle get the best value service for your money.

Visit www.TRUSTMYGARAGE.co.uk and type in your postcode to find your nearest trusted independent garage.

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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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What to do when… Driving in Winter

Winter is here! With a chill in the air and crunch of frost underfoot, there can be no doubting the harshest season of the year is upon us. When it comes to driving, Winter weather can lead to accidents and issues on the road, so here at Trust My Garage we’ve put together some advice for helping you to stay safe during the cold season.

 

Plan your travel

Before setting off, be sure to check ahead that your route is clear of accidents and other issues that can cause delays, and that the roads haven’t been shut due to poor conditions.

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Check your tyres

If you have the opportunity and need, winter tyres could be a viable option for your vehicle. If you use your normal tyres, ensure they are inflated to the recommended pressure and have a minimum tread depth of 3mm across the width and circumference of the tyre in order to cope with the slippery and wet conditions.

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Check for faults

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.

 

Check the dashboard

If your car is displaying a warning light on the dashboard it’s important to get it checked – the systems are there to keep you safe! If your vehicle isn’t performing at its best it could lead to breakdowns or accidents, so be sure to keep it in the best possible condition. If you aren’t sure what the lights on your dashboard mean you can take a look at our Getting to know your vehicle’s dashboard blog post to give you a breakdown of what you need to know.

 

Dress appropriately

Even though most of us have the luxury of heating in our vehicles, if we break down or have an accident we can often be at the mercy of the Winter chill. By dressing warmly and layering up you can keep warm – and you could even save money on your fuel consumption!

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Keep supplies in your car

In the case of a real emergency it’s important to keep supplies in your vehicle. Items such as a torch, blanket, biscuits, water, a hot drink, a hat, scarf and gloves, and a mobile phone charger or battery pack are always helpful to keep you safe and warm. You should also keep something to put under your tyres if you get stuck, and a shovel to clear any snow.

 

Control your speed

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) recommends:

“When driving in snow, get your speed right – not too fast so that you risk losing control, but not so slow that you risk losing momentum when you need it – and brake, steer and accelerate as smoothly as possible. Start gently in second gear, avoiding high revs. Stay in a higher gear for better control. Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.”

 

Your stopping distances also increase tenfold on ice, so be sure to leave ample room between any surrounding vehicles to stay safe on the road.

 

Read road signs

While you may use familiar roads while driving, any changes to the surface or temporary problems should be highlighted by road signs – so keep an eye out for any updates. Signs will also post any road closures or other issues, so be sure to look around for any information possible.

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If you’re driving on unfamiliar roads then it’s even more important to check road signs – nobody wants to get lost in the snow and ice! By employing careful, steady driving, you can give yourself enough time to read and process any information you need to know.

 

Know when not to drive

If conditions are too dangerous, the safest option is simply to not drive. Although it will delay you, it’s the safest option – and no drive is worth injury, no matter how small. It’s important to keep an eye on weather forecasts, so you don’t plan a journey when the weather is going to be particularly bad. Driving safe means that you can drive happy.

 

If you’re looking to embark on some winter travels, 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!tmg_ctsi_long

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.

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.

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

Leap into your car this February

With a whole extra day to look forward to this month, how will you spend it? You could do a spot of gardening or clear out that loft; tasks that you’ve been putting off since the last leap year. Or, you could do something a bit more exciting and really make the extra day count by leaping into your car and taking off somewhere nice for the day.

A day trip can be an exhilarating as well as a nostalgic experience as we look back fondly on long car journeys to the seaside, or for a day out in the countryside with cries of: “Are we there yet?” echoing from the kids in the back seat.

In the UK, we are lucky to have some of the most picturesque views in the world, so what better way to explore these than on four wheels? Let us guide you through five of our favourite UK road trips to inspire you to get in your car and make the most out of your extra leap year day.

Man Jumping by a Car

Leap into your car to make the most of your extra day this February

Go really wild and visit a safari park

There’s nothing better than getting in your car and heading off for an adventure, especially if you have children to entertain. Travelling to far-flung destinations is, of course, not an option for a day trip. However, if it’s a taste for something exotic, how about getting up close to wildlife instead? Safari parks are a great option for a family day out and their rise in popularity over recent years means we now have a great selection to choose from in the UK. So wherever you live, you’re never too far away from a Siberian white tiger or a Chinese water buffalo.

What must you consider for a Safari Park visit?

Always make sure that your locks and windows are working correctly. We’ve all heard the tale of the monkey creeping in a car through the window. It’s rare that an animal will try and enter your vehicle but ensuring your locks and windows work properly will reduce the risk. Make sure your tyres are the recommended pressure too, there are not many things as dangerous as having to change a tyre in the lion enclosure! Ensuring your vehicle has ample fluid levels is also important.

An eye for a bargain? Visit a car boot sale

Originating from our friends across the Big Pond, the car boot sale has become a firm part of British identity over the last forty years. No two car boot sales are the same, so whether you’re a seasoned professional or a first timer, there’s one to suit most tastes and their popularity means you won’t have to look too hard. Car boots can be the perfect place to find a bargain, or maybe you could sell some of your own goods, so you may get the chance to clear out that attic after all!

What must you consider for a car boot sale visit?

The obvious thing to think about if you are driving to a car boot sale with your vehicle full of goods, is the effect that extra weight can have. Make sure you find out how much weight your vehicle can manage via the handbook. By all means fill the boot, but don’t have too many items on passenger seats and laps. These can be a health and safety hazard and can restrict visibility when driving too, particularly if you store something on the parcel shelf above the boot. Having too much weight in your vehicle can also affect the suspension and handling, not to mention your tyre pressures.

Taking the driving experience a stage further

A day out in your car doesn’t have to be a sedate experience. For those of you who have more adventurous tastes and fancy yourselves as the next Jackie Stewart or Lewis Hamilton why not head down to your nearest race track? There are ”track days” all over the country, including the haloed track of Silverstone meaning you can keep your driving dreams alive.

What must you consider for a race track experience?

Unsurprisingly, these places will not let you drive your own car round the track! Having said that, it is always a good idea to perform basic maintenance checks before you travel to the track, such as inspecting fluid levels, checking tyres and ensuring all lights and signals work correctly.

Family gatherings are always special

Everyone seems to lead such busy lives these days and we now live in a more mobile society with family members spread far and wide. If you’ve been promising your family or a special friend that you will ‘catch up soon’ then now is your chance. Why not make your extra day really count and go and see your loved ones. They will appreciate it! Everyone will have a fun day, and you will feel good that you made the effort.

What must you consider for a family get together?

If the reason you don’t visit your family as often as you should is because they live miles away, then it is always a good idea to carry out basic car maintenance checks prior to heading off. Check your fluid levels, tyres, lights and signals. Try and clear out your boot if you can, as carrying unnecessary excess weight can waste fuel. And if you still haven’t figured out where Aunty Maureen’s house is, make sure you plan your route first. Sat Navs are great but remember they are a driver aid, not a substitute for common sense and awareness.

See the sights

The road trip isn’t the sole preserve of the Americans. Great Britain has some of the most breath-taking views and a range of rich heritage to offer, meaning that if you take off on a trip in your car, you’re never far away from something special.

From the rugged views of the Peak District, the brooding cliff tops of Cornwall or the highest mountain pass in the country at Kirkstonein the Lake District, the UK has so much to offer and what better way to explore than in your car. Make the most of your extra day, pack a picnic and get out there and explore.

What must you consider before seeing the sights?

Some of these destinations introduce rugged and difficult terrains for your vehicle so make sure that you don’t try and drive through areas that your car just cannot manage. Consider parking up somewhere and taking some of the journey on foot – a bit of exercise is good for everyone.

You have the POWER to be prepared

Setting off on a road trip is an exciting prospect for the whole family but before setting off how can you make sure both you and your car are prepared to ensure the journey remains stress free and enjoyable?

Car checks will already be something you schedule on a regular basis, but are even more vital when planning a long trip. If you’re not quite sure which parts of your car you should be checking always remember POWER: Petrol, Oil, Water, Electrics, Rubber (tyres).
Ensure you have plenty of fuel and your tyres and engines are in good condition. It is also worth checking that your lights are in good working order ahead of your trip too. If you are unsure how to check any of the parts of your car, take it to your local Trust My Garage member who will be happy to checks these for you and will guide you through the process too.

You can never really know when bad weather may strike so it’s always best to take some emergency items with you on your journey just in case the worst should happen. Make sure you have the items with you before you travel:

• Food and water supplies
• Blankets and extra clothes
• Medical kit
• Fully charged mobile phone
• Warning triangle

Don’t forget if you’re travelling with children, keeping them entertained is an important consideration. Little things can make a big difference, how about preparing a travel pack for example? Collecting together inexpensive items such as colouring books, magazines or their favourite toy will ensure they remain entertained and the whole family happy has a stress-free journey.

For older children how about some in-car entertainment in the form of an iPad or digital camera, meaning they’ll never be stuck for something to do, and finally why not compile a road trip soundtrack too, get the whole family involved to ensure everyone’s favourite songs are included.

To find your nearest Trust My Garage ahead of making the most of your extra day, Find your nearest TMG member