Category Archives: Tyre maintenance

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.

snow traffic.jpg

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.

vw snow tyre.jpg

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!

warm clothes.jpg

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.

snow hazard sign

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

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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

Winter Driving: 5 Key Checks

Wintereinbruch

Winter is upon us once again. And while we may not be certain of a flurry of snow every year, you can be certain that the Great British weather will throw a combination of wintery gifts our way, bringing difficulties for all of us, especially car drivers. It’s the time of year when you don’t just need to start making changes to the way you drive, but also to the way you look after your vehicle. Breakdowns are far more likely at this time of year due to poor weather conditions. So what can you do yourself to ensure this doesn’t happen and you have a hassle free winter?

Let there be light

Now that the nights have drawn in and it’s dark from mid-afternoon, visibility is a key consideration when driving. Not only are lights essential for you to be able see when driving, but also to ensure other drivers can see you. Regularly check that all the lights on your vehicle are in working order, this includes brake and reversing lights. Ensure that they are clean, especially after wet weather when the roads are muddy, and that the lights are aimed in the right direction and if you find any bulbs that are discoloured, they should be immediately replaced.

Stop right there

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

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

Listen out for warning signs, brakes will let you know when there is a problem whether this is through grinding or squeaking. Sometimes your car will act like it has a mind of its own and pull you to one side while driving, which could indicate a fault with the braking system. Look out for the signs and don’t ignore them. Vibrations and temperamental pedals are also a sign you need to take give your car some attention. Remember, that you can always take your car to a Trust My Garage member to get the brakes checked. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

A well-oiled machine?

A basic consideration for any car owner when carrying out maintenance checks is to understand the importance of keeping your vehicle well lubricated to ensure it remains in optimum condition and working order. Falling temperatures mean that car fluids will thicken, making it difficult for your vehicle to get the right fluids it needs to run properly.

Make sure you regularly check your oil levels, coolant and brake fluid. If you’re not sure how, visit your local TMG member. You can find them using the search function on our website or by using the Trust My Garage app.

Tread carefully

The importance of robust car tyres cannot be understated, as they are the only part of your vehicle that grips the road; they play a vital part in keeping you and your vehicle safe. Wintery conditions and low tread depth can be a disastrous combination, reducing both your speed and grip. Without sufficient tread depth in wet conditions you may experience a particularly dangerous occurrence called aquaplaning. This is where tyres lose contact with the road surface and travel on top of the water’s surface. With no contact with the road, comes the inability to accelerate, brake or steer properly, and you are likely to lose control of your vehicle, thus significant increasing your risk of accident.

When checking tyre tread it is best to use a tread depth gauge rather than relying on intuition. With this implement to hand, measuring tread depth is not difficult and will take up only minutes of your time. For passenger cars, the European legal minimum tread depth is 1.6 mm, across 75% of the tyre, although the deeper the depth the better grip you will have – we recommend that you consider changing your tyres when the tread depth reaches 3mm. Check the depth of the main tread grooves in several places across and around the tyre, using the gauge. In addition, tyres have tread wear indicators in the base of the main grooves. When the tread surface is worn to the same level as these indicators, the tyre is at the legal limit and should be replaced. As a temporary alternative there is also a quick test with a 20p coin if you do not have a gauge to hand. Place the coin in the groove of the tyre and if you can see the inner edge of the border of the coin, it means your tread depth is less than 3mm and you should consider replacing that tyre.

Don’t let the pressure get to you

In addition to tread, checking tyre pressure regularly is vital, even more so during cold weather. Whether using your own pump, or a supermarket garage air pump, here’s how you can do it:-

Check what the tyre pressures should be before you start the pump, you will find this information in your user manual and often on a sticker on the hidden side of the driver or passenger door. Remember that your front and rear tyres may need different pressures. Go round the vehicle with the pump, checking the pressure on each wheel and inflating/deflating as required.

Regularly inspect the condition of the tyres and make sure there are no cracks or bulges, make sure there are no obvious cuts or tears which could lead to a blow-out or puncture and of course don’t forget that spare!

And if you ever find yourself in the event of having to change a tyre on the road, make sure you watch our video:

If you are unsure about your tyres, a visit to your local Trust My Garage member will give you peace of mind and keep you safe on the roads.

Such checks shouldn’t replace regular visits to your local Trust My Garage member for some expert advice; but being aware and prepared for all eventualities will give you peace of mind and a stress free winter.

Five tips for your car’s spring clean

Rejoice! Spring is finally here, and as we are set to benefit from early nights and warmer weather, you’ve now got a great chance to give your car some desperately needed TLC after what was another tough Great British winter.

Car Washing

Winters are hard on us all, especially our vehicles. Bad weather conditions can really take their toll on your car and this is made worse if you haven’t been able to properly maintain your car for a couple of months. Make up for those months of winter neglect by giving your vehicle a well deserved spring clean.

5. Clean the inside

If you’ve got an older car, there’s every chance that the inside remained damp throughout the entire winter period because wet shoes and clothes brought in moisture, and there simply wasn’t the heat required to dry it out. This means that your carpets and other upholstery might be discoloured, or even worse, rotting. The first thing you need to do is remove your mats before vacuuming, and then shampoo your carpets. It’s always worth doing this on a warm, sunny day because you can keep your doors open to dry out your car, though do keep your eye on it, as burglaries can happen anywhere at any time.

If you notice wet patches underneath the carpet then this might be a sign of water penetration, which can lead to serious problems. In this case it’s always worth having your car looked at by professionals at a local Trust My Garage member, who will locate the point of water and rectify the problem for you.

As this is springtime, and it’s a fresh start for us all, why not invest in some new mats, or even a brand new air freshener? Go on, be daring…

4. Check the outside

Over the course of the long hard winter your car will have collected a lot of mud and grime, and it’s not just for superficial reasons that you need to remove it. If you’ve got a particularly dirty car you might be wondering where the best place is to start, but by focusing on the roof first it’ll allow your shampoo and warm water to rinse down the car and soak the particularly stubborn dirt that’s collected at the bottom. Pay special attention to the undersides of the doors and sills and have a look for any areas of corrosion and stone chips which will only get worse over time. If you feel uncomfortable about this then consult your local Trust My Garage member as soon as possible.

Next it’s time to sort out the underneath of your car, and this is probably the part you’re dreading the most. It’s not surprising that it’s the underside of your car that takes the real brunt of the winter conditions, and when you consider the grit and salt that are put on the roads it’s vital you remove any build ups because they can be corrosive.

Hose down the underside of your vehicle and ensure you pay special attention to the front and rear wheel arches, where there will be a lot of mud and salt.

3. Fluids

Your vehicle’s fluids will have likely depleted over the winter period, especially your windscreen washer fluid which was constantly battling against rain streaks. You should be regularly checking your oil levels anyway so now is the perfect time to check your dipstick. If your car is consuming unusually high levels of oil then it could indicate a problem with your engine. You should also look at your engine coolant levels and top your coolant up when necessary.

2. Carry out other vital checks

Your tyres will have gone through a lot over the course of the winter because of poor road surfaces and potholes caused by heavy rain, and now is a perfect time for you to ensure they’re safe.

Your tyre tread will become worn over time, and though the legal minimum is 1.6mm, we strongly recommend you have at least 3mm.

When your tyres are under-inflated the car’s handling will seriously deteriorate and your car may behave unpredictably and erratically. You should check your pressure at least once a month and before you set off on any long journeys. Consult your handbook so you know the right pressure, as this differs between makes and models. Once you’ve found the correct pressure level you need to use an accurate pressure gauge. Wait for your tyres to cool down and take the dust cap off the valve, fix the gauge on and take a note of the pressure result. If it’s too low then you can pump it up at home, use facilities provided by many petrol stations or head to a local trusted independent garage. If it’s too high then let some air out by pressing down on the valve stem.

Once spring comes around it’ll probably be time for you to replace your windscreen wipers as they’ll have been in almost constant use over the incredibly wet winter we’ve all witnessed, and they will have also have combatted with sharp changes in temperature due to the frosty mornings.

Batteries have to work much harder during periods of cold weather, so old or depleted batteries will need to be replaced. If your battery is over three-years-old you should be getting it checked and, if necessary, replaced. It may seem expensive at the time, but it can be cheaper than a recovery bill. You may think that you can replace a battery yourself but if you have a modern car with a ‘stop-start’ system it is important to fit the correct type of battery.  For some modern cars a replacement battery must be ‘coded’ to the car and this is definitely a job for a garage.

Brakes also need to be checked ahead of spring time. You will need to make sure your brake fluid is at the correct level as low brake fluid can be an indication of excessive brake wear or fluid leak. Have the brake discs inspected and measured as well as checking for pad wear.

1. Have your car serviced at a local Trust My Garage member

These checks will play a vital part in your car’s overall wellbeing, and although you should get into the routine of carrying out these checks regularly, there’s no substitute for having your vehicle looked at by a professional. A Trust My Garage (TMG) member will ensure that your vehicle has not been badly damaged by winter weather conditions and is safe and fit for driving during the new season. The quality offered by independent garages is no less than that offered by main dealers. TMG members have the same access to technical information and expertise to ensure that your vehicle remains roadworthy whatever the weather and whatever the season.

Visit the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest member.

Weathering the storm – how to drive safely in wintry conditions

You just have to glance at the news to see the devastating effects of the storms that are battering Wales and Western England, leaving whole communities ruined. The bad news is that it’s only going to get worse, with even more heavy rain predicted over the next few days. Two powerful storms after each other can only mean one thing – floods.

Treacherous Driving Conditions

Driving in wet weather can be dangerous and challenging at the best of times, but when there’s flooding things are obviously made even worse, especially if you’re inexperienced driving in such conditions.

We’re offering you some handy advice for driving in floods – it might just save your life.

5. Be wary of spray

Spray, water that’s forced from the road as a vehicle drives over it, can be deadly as it has the potential to completely cut out your already reduced visibility.

To avoid spray covering your windscreen you should keep a safe distance from the car in front of you, and if you see an oncoming heavy vehicle, switch your windscreen wiper setting to full in anticipation.

You should also be aware of the law – if you’re seen driving through a roadside puddle and splashing someone on the pavement, accident or not, you’re likely to receive a caution from the police, as it is an illegal offence.

4. Check your windows and wipers

Make sure your windows are clean – this will not only improve visibility but clean windows are actually less likely to mist up than dirty ones, so invest in a high quality windscreen washer fluid. When your windows do inevitably start to mist you can counter it by turning your heater fan or air-con on to clear it. Carry out regular checks before you set off on journeys to ensure your wiper blades are in good condition, if they’re not then they’ll be less effective at clearing away water on the windscreen. It’ll be handy to have a spare set in your car so you can replace them when you’re on the move.

Whenever it’s raining and you’re having to use your wipers, it’s a general rule that you should also have your headlights on and dipped.

3. Don’t aquaplane

Aquaplaning is a nice sounding word with a terrifying definition. It is the term used for when your car loses contact with the road and effectively surfs on top of water. You’ll be able to tell when your car is aquaplaning because your steering will feel unusually light and road noise will disappear – what you need to do is gently release your foot from the accelerator so your tyres can once again regain traction with the road.

It’s imperative you don’t brake or steer as doing either of these will cause you to lose total control of your car.

2. Avoid puddles

Driving through water is, as you can imagine, incredibly dangerous. If you get water in your engine electrics it will cause it to stall, not only leaving you stranded but also incurring expensive repair costs.

As a rule you should never drive through water that is as high as your exhaust pipe, and you shouldn’t go through moving water that’s higher than four inches. If you come across water that is this deep then you should turn around and find an alternative route – it might take you longer but do you really want to get stuck in a flood?

If you do drive through water then ensure you stick to the highest point of the road and you must reduce your speed – if you go too fast you’ll create a bow wave that will rise up to your engine and exhaust pipe.

Stick to first gear, keep the revs high by slipping your clutch (keeping the clutch partly engaged) and keep your foot on the accelerator pedal so that the engine is running at a constant speed- these are all necessary because they will help prevent water from entering the exhaust.

Once you’ve got through the water you should gently push your brakes to test them. If they’re not working you need to slow to a stop, pull over and call for assistance.

The important thing to remember is to stay calm. This is easier said than done but panicking won’t get you anywhere, and if anything, will put you at further risk as you’ll be more prone to making rash decisions.

1. Servicing

You should get your car serviced at a trusted independent garage to ensure it’s in good condition for driving in wet weather. As you can imagine you’re going to be heavily reliant on your tyres because of the water on the road, and whilst you can check their pressure and tread yourself it’s always safer to use an expert.

The last thing you want is to breakdown when the rain is lashing down and the winds are ripping trees from their roots – get your car serviced so problems can be detected at an early stage rather than when you’re stranded at the side of a flooded road.

 To find your local independent garage for a service ahead of a drive in wintry conditions, visit the Trust My Garage website and insert your postcode into our garage finder. 

Why the MOT debate isn’t about price, but regular servicing

You will probably have seen our recent blog post explaining why the cheapest MOT isn’t always the best. It’s a popular consumer issue at the moment and many motorists are looking for the best deal, unaware that they might not always be getting the best service. There are 20,000 MOT stations in the UK and 18,000 of those are at independent garages. So we turned to one of our members and asked them where they stand on the popular topic of MOTs.

CavalieroutsideAll independent garages can give a qualified opinion on the MOT but Cavalier Garage, in Manchester has been carrying out high quality MOTs for over twenty years so their views are based on considerable experience and are worth listening to. Owner Rob Harris is a qualified MOT tester and has two other MOT testers on his team. He explains what he had to do to in order to operate a garage business that was qualified and trusted to perform the MOT test.

Becoming certified for MOT testing is quite a rigorous process. You have to apply in principle to VOSA with in-depth plans of your workshop, indicating where your testing bay will be and the facilities you have available for it. Then an enforcement officer comes out and has a look at your workshop. If they are happy that you have the facilities for MOT testing then they will accept your application in principle. It’s then up to you to install the necessary high quality equipment for MOT testing in the workshop.

After that you have to ensure that you have staff who are authorised MOT testers. They need the training and the certificates to achieve this and you have to send them for re-training regularly to ensure they are always up-to-date in their skillset. You also need someone in charge of quality control and administration. Then, VOSA need to approve your MOT testing bay and your MOT testers and you are told to audit your MOT testers’ quality every two months. It’s a long process that is on-going and it’s a big investment.”

We mentioned before that a garage providing an MOT needs to cover the costs associated with providing it and therefore often can’t afford to offer MOTs at an unrealistic or headline-grabbing price. This does mean, though, that when you have an MOT performed at one of our member garage you receive a proper job, and will be charged fairly only for parts that need to be replaced.

For Cavalier Garages, price is not so much an issue as the fact that motorists need to treat the MOT as a test of their vehicle’s road safety and environmental standards. It’s not the same as having a vehicle serviced and doesn’t check its general mechanical condition.

Cavalier1Rob explains: “An MOT and a service are two entirely different things. When was the last time you saw someone pull up on the hard shoulder of a motorway with breakdown and they are baffled as to how it happened because their car passed its MOT the day before? It’s not because it was missed in the MOT but because how well the car runs is not part of a standard MOT test (other than testing for emissions).

“It’s common sense. A car is such a big investment so why wouldn’t you want to have it serviced regularly to ensure it was always performing safely and correctly? It makes a lot more sense than relying on an annual MOT to tell you if there’s something wrong with your car, when the MOT test is not designed to do that.

We are always telling motorists that there are some checks they can carry out on their car themselves, in between their regular services, to ensure that their car remains safe on the road. Remembering the acronym WARM and checking your “Wipers, Anti-freeze, tyres (Rubber) and having regular Maintenance in winter can keep your car safe in potentially dangerous conditions. We always recommend you frequently check your petrol, oil and lights too. Regular checks will help keep your car in top condition, but there is absolutely no alternative to regular servicing, certainly not the annual MOT test!”

If you live in Stretford, Manchester, make sure you visit Cavalier Garages for regular servicing. If you don’t live in Stretford but want to find a garage you can trust, enter your postcode in our postcode finder and we will pinpoint your nearest Trust My Garage member. Don’t forget you can now leave feedback on our website too!