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

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

Why can rain be dangerous for motorists?

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

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

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

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

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

How can I prepare myself?

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

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

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

How can I prepare my vehicle?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In need of a professional?

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

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

Winter driving – how to stay safe when the cold hits

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

 

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

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Antifreeze – keeping the chill at bay

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

 

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

 

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

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Tyres – putting rubber to the roads

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Brakes – stop the ride!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Faults – how can you steer clear?

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

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

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Motorway driving is more than middle lane morons

suitcaseMore of us are choosing a ‘staycation’ this summer according to a recent study by Travelodge, which means our motorways are destined to be busier than ever.motorway

With the new on-the-spot fines for middle-lane hogging coming into play this July there is lots to think about when cruising down the motorways at this time of year.

Two thirds of Britons are taking a summer holiday in the UK this year, which is up from 41% in 2012. When travelling abroad vehicle maintenance is the responsibility of airlines, railway executives and cruise ships providers but when you drive to a staycation, maintenance of your car is your own responsibility.  With all the excitement about getting away this year, are we all thinking about preparing our cars for long   motorway journeys?

It is vital that you check your car is safe for motorway journeys by taking it to a Trust My Garage member for a service. Over one hundred people died on UK motorways in 2011 and 740 were seriously injured. A number of these accidents were results of mechanical faults and vehicle defects, causing such things as; tyre blow-outs, brake failure, and steering mechanism failure.

“So what can I check in order to prevent inconvenient breakdowns and dangerous accidents?”

Steering

The most common type of steering problem is loss of power steering assistance due to damaged hydraulic pipes or a loose drive belt; normally indicated by heaviness in your steering. Smaller modern cars have electric power steering and any problem here may be accompanied by a warning light on the dashboard.

Unsafe Tyres

Last summer it was revealed that the number of people convicted for driving with dangerous or defective tyres was a massive 9,369. If your tyres are inflated too much or too little then you are putting yourself and your passengers at risk of a tyre blow-out, which effectively causes the tyre to explode, making you unbalanced and causing you to swerve out of your lane. This is more likely on a motorway where the tyre temperature is higher because of the sustained high speeds and you will need quick reactions in order to stop safely. It is important that you check your tyre pressures according to your handbook recommendations before you set off for a motorway journey.

Worn Brakes

Unsafe brakes can be caused by worn brake pads, leaking brake fluid, or mechanical failure. You should regularly check these, and especially when you are heading for the motorway as responsive brakes are essential when stopping suddenly at such high speeds. If you are starting to feel increased or decreased resistance when stopping then it is time to consult a trusted garage.

Low Fluids

All fluids under the bonnet should be checked regularly, but even more so if you are about to take a long journey on a motorway. These include brake fluid, oil, engine coolant – if any of these are running  low  you run the risk of breaking down on the motorway, which is  dangerous with other vehicles moving past at 70mph – so make sure you are all topped up before you set off on the motorway and don’t forget to check the temperature gauge as your journey progresses.

If you are unsure about any aspect of your car, your warning light is flashing or your engine is making a grumbling noise, that’s the time to take it to a Trust My Garage member for a professional service. You can find your nearest trusted garage by entering your postcode in our postcode finder HERE