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Drive safe during summer downpours

Flood

Britain has experienced flooding during recent weeks

Driving in wet weather

Over the past few weeks, Britain has experienced heavy out-of-season showers. In some cities, these downfalls have proven too much for drainage systems, as flooding has been seen throughout the country. Although 20 June marked the official first day of summer, weather reports suggest that it may not be time to pack away the umbrellas and wellies just yet. When it comes to driving, too, extra precautions ought to be taken.

As most will remember from the theory driving test, rain can severely impair driving conditions. Aside from the splutters and splats of raindrops obscuring windscreens, stopping distances and visibility are also affected. Lack of care, when driving in the rain, can lead to lack of control, collision, and, in extreme cases, fatalities – so keeping safe during downfalls is essential. Acting as further solution, it has been suggested that drivers ought to avoid driving during extreme weather conditions, if possible.

Richard Gladman, Head of Driving Standards, said: “Only travel in extreme adverse weather conditions if it is really necessary.”

For most, avoiding the weather can be impractical, but there are easy ways to ensure greater safety when driving during the current weather conditions.

Here’s a list of things to consider during your summer downpour driving:

Car checks

The last thing you want, when caught up in a spell of heavy rains, is to have your vision restricted due to damaged or dirty windscreen wipers. With the current unforgiving conditions, it is important to make sure that your senses, as well as your motor, are fully functional. During extreme downfall, it can become near impossible to see more than the stampede of raindrops on your windscreen, which makes it increasingly difficult to spot a potential hazard. What’s more, excess water decreases the amount of grip your tyres have on the road, which could lead to slipping and sliding, should your breaks be pressed too abruptly. Avoid potential casualties by ensuring your lights, windscreen wipers and tyre pressures are all present and correct, and be sure to stay attentive. Contact your local Trust My Garage to carry out all your essential car checks.

Route plan

Planning is key when it comes to driving in extreme weather conditions. Where it is best to avoid travelling altogether, if this is unavoidable, forward-thinking is important. Gladman said: “Before setting off, check for any weather alerts, traffic updates or planned road closures that may affect your journey.” It is beneficial to clue yourself up on any roads in your area that are prone to flooding; this will allow you to avoid potentially dangerous routes. What’s more, it is best to allow more time to reach your destination, as the current weather can lead to longer routes, more diversions and lengthier traffic queues. These circumstances could lead to stress behind the wheel which can poorly affect your driving. Stay safe by planning your journey in advance, and leaving out earlier than usual.

 Road surfaces

It’s no secret that some road surfaces around the country are a little worse for wear; what’s more, heavy rains often lead to them becoming even more damaged. As well as leading to a slightly bumpier journey, damaged road surfaces can also be detrimental to your tyres, causing excessive wear and tear. In clear weathers, it is far easier to avoid potholes or chips in the road; however, during the rain, puddles make them increasingly difficult to spot. A tip for spotting potentially impaired surfaces is to look out for any loose chunks of tarmac, as these are signs of damaged road surfaces.

Visibility

With heavy rains deterring vision, it is important for motorists to stay visible. Switching on your dipped headlights will allow other drivers to see you easily – without overwhelming them with the glare of your full beams. When driving an unfamiliar car, it is important to make sure you are aware of how buttons and switches work before setting off on your journey. In extreme weather conditions, familiarise yourself with the light switches and settings before revving off.

Speed

It is a fact that stopping distance increases during wet weather. Due to the excess water on the roads, your tyres grip is far less efficient, so slips and skids can be unavoidable. During extreme weathers, it is essential to consider your speed, as the physics of driving in the rain dictates that the higher the speed, the greater the stopping distance. Stay safe by sticking to the speed limit and keeping a safe space between you and the car ahead.

Reduced speed will also provide a smoother ride when driving through large puddles. When driving through excess waters, or at high speeds on wet roads, your car faces the risk of building up a layer of water between the vehicle’s wheels and the road which cannot be cleared by the tread on the tyres. If this becomes too much for the car to handle, your vehicle could lose traction which prevents the car from responding to your controls, and gaining a mind of its own. This is called aquaplaning, and gives you the feeling that your car is on water-skis. You may also notice the car becoming much quieter, as the noise of tyres on tarmac will disappear.

In this event, although instinct may dictate it, it’s best to avoid slamming on the brakes or jerking as these can lead to skidding. Should this happen, allow the vehicle to follow the path that it wants to and ease your foot off the accelerator until you can feel friction and traction coming back to your wheels. At this point, it is safe for you to gently nudge your steering wheel and use your brakes lightly (if your car has ABS, at this point, you can brake normally). More preventatively, keeping a steady pace will allow for a more streamlined approach to the water, decreasing your chances of aquaplaning, or spraying other road users.

Aquaplaning is much more likely if your tyres are worn, so be sure to check your tread depth regularly.

Emergencies

In extreme circumstances, torrential rain can interfere with the electrics of your vehicle, leading to a breakdown. Plan ahead for any emergencies by keeping your mobile phone charged, so you can call for recovery. It is also recommended that you are familiar with your local garage for any repairs that may be needed. Be sure to download the Trust My Garage app or head to the website to locate your nearest trusted garage. While you wait for your recovery service, ensure your bonnet is closed to avoid further complications.

 

Most importantly, during the extreme weather conditions, it’s important to stay warm and dry – ensure your car is kitted out with emergency supplies such as blankets, first-aid kits and extra food and drink.

 

For more information on how to keep you and your car safe during the summer flooding, seek advice from your local Trust My Garage member.

Owner of a new car? Then reap the benefits of independent maintenance!

Perhaps the most telling sign of our recovering economy is that 2013 saw the highest number of new car registrations since 2007, before the world was plunged into the doom and gloom of the global recession.

uk number plate

Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers show that 2,264,737 new cars were registered in 2013, and December marked 22 months of consecutive growth, a statistic that’s unparalleled across Europe and makes the UK the second strongest automotive manufacturer, behind perennial manufacturing powerhouse Germany.

Motorists lucky enough to own a new car will want to make the most of the technology at their disposal, and that means receiving the best maintenance at the best price.

Independents vs franchised dealers

It’s a common misconception that having your new car serviced at an independent garage will void your warranty, and that you must go to a franchised dealer. This is absolutely not the case, and in fact under European Law, the Block Exemption Regulations give you the right to have your vehicle serviced, maintained and repaired at an independent garage of your choice, without invalidating your warranty. This is as long as the independent garage services the vehicle according to the manufacturer’s schedule using parts which are of “equivalent quality”, which all Trust My Garage members comply with.

So, what are the benefits of having your new car looked after by an independent garage? Well, the most obvious one is the cost saving you’ll enjoy. New cars don’t come cheap and it’s likely you’ll have invested a serious amount of money into yours, so why needlessly waste money going to a main dealer? The Independent Garage Association recently polled 2,000 of its members and the statistics are quite startling. The poll showed that the average labour cost is just over £40 for independent garages, whereas the same rate for main dealers is currently much higher.

It’s only natural to assume that the cost saving will mean a sacrifice in quality, right? Wrong! Members of Trust My Garage have access to the same level of technical information and parts as main dealers, and train their staff to the same levels too. There is no compromise on the quality of work you’ll receive at an independent garage, meaning you’ll receive both great service and fantastic value.

It’s also worth pointing out that you’ll have a far more positive experience at an independent garage, which are often family fun businesses, because they rely on your continued custom, and will go that extra mile to ensure you keep going back. Main dealers don’t rely so much on retained customers, and more often than not you’re just another statistic. Technicians at independent garages are well and truly part of the local community, they’ll shop at the same grocers at you and take their kids to the same school as yours. By choosing an independent garage you’re reinvesting money back into your local community, which can only be a good thing!

Don’t fall for the myth that states you need to have your vehicle serviced at a main dealer. By going to a local trusted independent garage you’ll not only receive a level of service that is at the very least is on a par, but you’ll also save yourself a lot of money at the same time, money that can go towards your next new car!

Visit the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest member. Each Trust My Garage member has all the skills and technical expertise required to give your vehicle a thorough service. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals, complying with a strictly code of practice. What more, all members of Trust My Garage are independent garages – local independent businesses which are part of the community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.

Five ways roadworks can ruin your day

Roadworks are the bane of any motorist’s life, ranking up there with drivers who fail to indicate, and rush hour traffic. While roadworks are necessary, as councils and the Highways Agency maintain the undoubtedly complex infrastructure of our roads,  they are at best a bit of a nuisance and at worst, capable of ruining your whole day.

We’ve rounded up some of the main issues that motorists face when it comes to the dreaded ‘R’ word.

British road closed and diversion signs.

5. You’re left wondering why no work is being done…

There’s nothing more frustrating than crawling through a maze of traffic cones and temporary traffic lights when absolutely no work is being carried out. ‘Where are all the workers?’ ‘Where are all the hard hats?’ ‘Why is that digger not being used?’ These are all unanswerable questions that you’ll ask yourself fruitlessly. It’s incredibly annoying when your journey is disrupted for seemingly no reason, especially when you know that these problems won’t disappear anytime soon because the roadworks are scheduled to drag on, month after month.

What should I do?: Just grin and bear it, and remember that it probably isn’t the workers simply deciding not to turn up to work, it’s more likely to be a case of poor management and planning.

4. You’re sent down an unfamiliar route

Diversion signs are likely to send an anxious shiver down your spine as you prepare to embark on a potentially alien route, particularly if you’re in an unfamiliar area. This feeling of panic can be alleviated if you have a sat-nav but if you haven’t got one and you haven’t got time to pull over and look at a map, then you might find yourself entering a world of the unknown – a world full of nightmarish traffic cones, flashing lights and empty portable buildings.

What should I do?: It’s a good idea to do some research ahead of your journey to see if any roadworks are in place or planned, and which diversions are available. You should also invest in a sat-nav or an up-to-date map, especially if you’re driving around an area you’ve never been to before.

3. Your journey grinds down to a halt

Roadwork traffic jams are like normal traffic jams, except that you’ve something obvious to aim your anger towards instead of sitting, slowly fuming as you wonder what stupid thing someone has done up ahead to cause the tailbacks.

What should I do?: Again, research your route to see if there are any roadworks, and if there are,  leave early so you can reach your destination on time. Try to make the most of your unavoidable snail’s pace by listening to an interesting podcast or audiobook or even a CD that you haven’t listened to in years. It’s vital to keep your cool in these situations and whatever you do, don’t take your frustration out on other drivers, who are in the same boat as you, or the people carrying out the works, who are simply doing their job.

2. Damage to exterior

Loose stones and other debris are unavoidable when roadworks are being carried out, and while they might seem small and insignificant, these small fragments can cause serious damage to the exterior of your car, including the windscreen and paintwork.

What should I do?: Check your vehicle’s exterior regularly to identify any chips or cracks – they might appear to be minor problems at first but if they’re not looked at and fixed they’re likely to worsen and result in costly repairs down the line.

1. Damage to steering and suspension

As you drive through roadworks you may encounter ramps where the Tarmac or upper layer of the road surface has been removed. This can damage both your vehicle’s steering and suspension systems, and the alignment of your tyres. Symptoms of steering and suspension or wheel alignment problems include uneven tyre wear, your vehicle pulling to one side as you’re driving, noise and vibration while cornering, and even loss of control of your vehicle.

What should I do?: Steering and suspension systems are key safety-related components of a vehicle and largely determine its handling. Regardless of road conditions, these systems should be checked regularly, while wheel alignment should be checked every 6,000 miles or six months.

Visit the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest independent member. Each Trust My Garage member has all the skills and technical expertise required to give your vehicle a thorough service. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals, complying with a strictly code of practice. What more, all members of Trust My Garage are independent garages – local independent businesses which are part of the community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.