The UK is well into winter, so motorists should be keeping safe on our roads – but new research has shown drivers are unprepared for motoring in the chilly season!
Halfords, which commissioned a survey of 2,000 motorists, has found nearly half of all drivers surveyed admitted they have not conducted any maintenance checks on their vehicle – so how can you make sure you’re ready to face the cold? The Trust My Garage blog is here to help! Check out our top tips below.
Antifreeze – keeping the chill at bay
Antifreeze is clever stuff that stops the water in your engine’s cooling system from freezing! It also does several other important jobs, making it a vital car fluid to keep your engine running smoothly.
As well as preventing water from freezing up, antifreeze raises the boiling point of engine coolant to prevent overheating. The stuff also protects your engine from corrosion, aids heat transfer, and prevents scale from building up internally.
How do you use it? There’s the concentrated form, or the ready mixed with water kind. The latter version is commonly referred to as engine coolant and can normally be used straightaway for top-ups and replacements. The concentrated form needs to be diluted with water, usually at a level of around 50% antifreeze and 50% water. Always check the pack’s instructions for the right ratio to use.
Tyres – putting rubber to the roads
Tyre pressure and tread can be crucially important during winter, as poor tyres can cause your vehicle to slip across wet and icy roads.
To keep your tyres at optimum performance you’ll need to make sure your tyres are correctly inflated and have adequate tread across the circumference of the tyre – you’ll find the BAR/PSI you need in your vehicle’s Owners Manual or inside front door frame, and it’s recommended to keep your tyres at 3mm or above for optimum grip.
If you aren’t sure how to check your tread depth, you can employ ‘the 20p test’, which you can find out more about here. If your tyres fall under the 1.6mm legal limit you could face a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre!
If you’re looking for more information about checking your tyres you call also check out our “What to do when… you need to check your vehicle’s tyres” post for all your tyre-based needs.
Brakes – stop the ride!
Brakes are an essential part of any car and therefore should be serviced regularly. This is especially important during winter months, but how can you tell your brakes are in tip top condition?
It’s a case of making sure you check them regularly, as the winter months can be very wet and sometimes puddles can be difficult to avoid. When driving through a puddle, make sure you test your brakes afterwards by driving at a slow speed and gently applying pressure.
Listen out for warning signs, as brakes will let you know when there is a problem – whether this is through grinding or squeaking. Sometimes your car will act like it has a mind of its own and pull you to one side while driving, which could indicate a fault with the braking system. Vibrations and temperamental pedals are also a sign you need to take give your car some attention -so look out for the signs and don’t ignore them.
Remember, that you can always take your car to your nearest Trust My Garage member to get the brakes checked – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Faults – how can you steer clear?
If you notice a fault with your vehicle, such as a cracked windscreen, dim headlight, or poorly charged battery, it’s important to get it sorted before undertaking any winter driving. If you feel there is a fault but aren’t sure how to proceed, you can always take your vehicle to a local garage to have it looked at by a professional – you can even use the TMG Find a Garage map to locate your nearest Trust My Garage member.
If you’re looking to hit the road this winter, you can take your vehicle to your local Trust My Garage member. Whether it’s for a check-up, service or repair, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved code of conduct that our members use mean that you and you motor both get the best possible service – no matter the weather!
Vehicle technology is evolving at a rapid pace. Modern cars are more sophisticated, intelligent and responsive than ever. As a result, vehicle technicians who are a part of Trust My Garage have to continue to complete training courses and invest in the latest equipment in order to successfully service and maintain your car to the highest standards. But where does that leave you as the owner?
Decades ago if your car had a problem and money was tight you’d probably invest in a cheap manual and socket set, and patch over the cracks yourself. But with vehicles becoming more and more complicated, largely through having a lot more on-board technology, this isn’t an easy thing to do. Indeed, the AA recently stated that half of the 3.4 million call-outs it attends every year are caused by poor maintenance. Of course, there are still some basic maintenance tasks you can carry out yourself, such as checking fluid levels, tyres, mirrors, etc, but many of the maintenance tasks we performed ourselves a few decades ago have been consigned to the toolboxes of history. To illustrate how the modern vehicle is evolving, we look at a few of the maintenance tasks that have become a thing of the past.
Hands up if you remember standing outside, wearing more layers than the Michelin man on a cold, frosty winter night, and pouring antifreeze into the car to ensure that the water in your engine was not frozen the next morning? These days are long gone now, because most cars manufactured post-1998 use organic acid technology – or OAT – which acts as an extended life coolant. OAT consists of different chemicals than traditional engine coolants, meaning that antifreeze only has to be replaced every six years or 600,000 miles, negating the need to check levels every single winter night.
Remember having to top up the water levels in your car battery? Vehicle batteries were not as sophisticated years ago as they are today, and had to have their water levels checked regularly to reduce the risk of them overheating. Drivers used to have remove the vent cap and look down into individual cells to check water levels, topping them up with distilled water when necessary. For modern cars this is no longer necessary. Batteries are now sealed units and in most cases are maintenance free, meaning that any battery issues are best left to highly trained professionals, such as the vehicle technicians who are a part of Trust My Garage.
If you own a vintage car, or an electric lawnmower, there’s a chance you’ll be purchasing non-alcohol fuel stabiliser, to protect replace the lead that’s no longer in the fuel and protect it from the ethanol that’s now in modern fuels. However, if you own a modern car (and live nowhere near grass), you probably haven’t even heard of the stuff. That’s because vehicle engines are a lot more robust, durable and rust-free today than they used to be, brought about largely by the availability of new materials that can be used to manufacture engines. Engines today live a lot longer than they used to, and engine maintenance is always best left to a qualified expert.
Keep on motoring
Ever wondered why, when driving down a country road on a hot summer day, there’s always someone taking their vintage car out for a drive? Not only does it look good, but it’s also an essential part of maintenance. Many years ago cars had to be driven regularly in order to keep them in tip-top condition. Of course, it still helps to use your car regularly now; keeping it dormant still runs down the battery a very low level as there are so many systems in the car that are “live” and protecting the car when switched off – even though they draw very small amounts of electrical current. But modern cars are more robust than their predecessors and do not require quite as much driving to stay in shape.
Confused by your motor?
Put down that spanner, and get your car maintained in a professional manner. The best way to keep your car in tip top condition is by having it regularly serviced and maintained with your local Trust My Garage member. Our members can service all types of vehicle to the highest standard and can even advise you on some of the checks that you can still carry out yourself today.
And just like the motor vehicle, Trust My Garage has come a long way over the last few years. Today, we are the only truly independent code exclusively for independent garages. Want to find your nearest member? Enter your details in our postcode finder.