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What to do when… You’re maintaining your vehicle during lockdown

With the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic affecting the UK, many motorists are making efforts to keep their vehicle in tip-top shape without breaking the social distancing measures set in place by the UK government. To help drivers, Trust My Garage has put together some advice on how you can stay within the guidelines and keep your vehicle at its best – read on to find out more!

With the implementation of a lockdown, it is best to use your car only for essential travel – such as food shopping, collecting a prescription, medical appointments or travelling to work if you are unable to work from home. By using vehicles less frequently than is the norm, many motors are left standing on driveways, in garages and parked on the roadside, leading to potential roadworthiness and safety issues.

Remember, many garages remain open for essential repairs, so if you have any concerns about your vehicle’s roadworthiness, get it checked out as soon as possible.

MOT status, tax and insurance – are you covered?

Without getting into your vehicle, you could be in violation of the UK’s motoring laws – but you can take simple steps to be sure you aren’t driving illegally.

MOT

Due to the pandemic, the UK government is extending car MOTs due from 30th March onward by six months on a 7-day rolling basis (so an MOT due on 1st April is now due on 1st October, and so on). Review dates are currently subject to a staggered implementation, and extended dates are being posted on the Gov.uk website here. To find out more on how the extension works, you can view our “The MOT Extension – how does it work and does it apply to you?” here.

Even if your vehicle’s MOT has been extended by the government, should you feel it is unsafe or unroadworthy take it to a garage as soon as possible for an MOT, repairs or maintenance. Your safety and the safety of other road users is paramount!

Tax

Although you may not be using your vehicle as regularly as normal, it is still subject to Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), commonly known as road tax. This is an annual tax that is levied as an excise duty and which must be paid for most types of vehicles which are to be driven or parked on public roads in the UK.

About a month before your road tax expires the DVLA will issue you with a V11 Vehicle Tax Reminder, containing the information you need to either renew your tax online, via telephone or at a Post Office branch, as well as the date your current road tax period will expire. You can also check the status of your road tax online via the Gov.uk website here.

Insurance

During lockdown, you may also need to check that your vehicle is still insured for use. Your insurance provider will send a reminder email or letter approximately a month before your policy is due for renewal, so you can choose to either renew with your current supplier, or with another provider depending on what suits you best.

If you aren’t sure when your insurance renewal is due, your existing policy documents will provide the correct date. Insurance providers often supply these via an online portal or paper format, depending on what you have requested, so you can check at your convenience.

Tread carefully when it comes to tyres

You should check your tyre pressures at least every two weeks – and if your vehicle has a spare, check that too! Under inflated tyres increase fuel consumption and reduce vehicle handling, and they also lead to increased tyre wear, which means your tyres may require replacing sooner than you expect.

The legal limit for minimum tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the whole tyre, however it is recommended to keep your tyres at 3mm or above for optimum grip. Drivers who fail to comply with the regulations face a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre. You should also look out for cuts or wear anywhere on the tyre and replace them if you can see tears or bulges.

If a vehicle stands for an extended period of time, flat spots may occur on your car’s tyres. These happen when a vehicle’s wheels have not rotated for a long period of time and the downward pressure from the body causes the tyres to become misshapen where they contact the road surface.

When a car has a flat spot on one of its tyres, this can lead to symptoms such as vibrations on the steering and inconsistent handling, because the wheel is unbalanced. If flat spots do occur on your tyres, they may rectify themselves as the vehicle is brought back into use; however this may take some time. If you are unsure whether the vibration you are encountering is a tyre flat spot or something more serious, contact your local garage.

Batteries and brakes – are they roadworthy?

When a vehicle is not used for a prolonged period of time there is a risk of the battery power draining to a point where there is insufficient charge to start your car. If you find your car has a flat battery you have a number of options:

  • Charge it using the correct type of external battery charger
  • Jump start the car using jumper leads connected to another vehicle or battery.

Before using either option it is always advisable to consult your vehicle handbook to ensure you connect any cables correctly, as so incorrect use could cause damage to your vehicle’s sensitive electrical systems.

If there are two cars in your household, you may want to consider alternating your essential trips in them. You should also be mindful that repeated short journeys will flatten your battery faster than usual, which is even more reason to follow the government’s guidance to shop for necessities as infrequently as possible. You should also avoid turning your engine on only to turn it off again shortly after.

Another issue that can occur when vehicles are left unused for long periods is brake seizure or sticking. This makes it difficult to get the vehicle rolling after not being used. If your brakes do stick or seize on this may not be as easy to resolve as a flat battery, so contact your local garage and arrange for a vehicle check prior to undertaking any travel after prolonged periods without use.

Working brakes should have a foot pedal that feels firm throughout its working travel, getting firmer the more you push down on the pedal. If you notice that the brakes feel spongy or slack, and perhaps the car appears to be taking longer to slow down or stop, you likely have air in the brake lines. If this is the case, take your vehicle to a garage to have it inspected!

Keep things fluid

You should check fluid levels to keep your engine well maintained and have your car ready to drive when you need it. Top up your:

  • Oil: Make sure your engine oil level is showing between the minimum and maximum marks on the dipstick. If your vehicle doesn’t have a dipstick consult the handbook on how to check your engine oil level electronically. Details of the correct oil type and grade will also be noted in your handbook.
  • Coolant: The coolant level in your vehicle should be between the minimum and maximum marks on the water tank in the engine compartment. If you need to top up your coolant, you must do so as per the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Windscreen wash: A clear view of the road is vital. A dirty windscreen combined with low Spring sunshine can make visibility difficult. If your washers aren’t working correctly your view of the road ahead can be severely impaired, so top up your screen wash and check you wiper blades for dirt or trapped debris

Take a long, hard look

Prior to setting off on any journey, it’s always good to visually inspect your vehicle for any issues, such as dirty or broken lights or tyre inflation, and ensure your front and rear number plates are clearly visible.

Not sure how best to care for your car?

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.

If you’re looking for a professional local garage to help give your car some TLC you can find a local CTSI approved Trust My Garage member by visiting the Trust My Garage website’s ‘Find a Garage’ map! You can even read reviews from other motorists about the members in your area to help you decide which garage is right for you. Try it out here:

Want to know more about Trust My Garage?

Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s trusted local garages – each one different and all dedicated to the highest standards of skill and personal service.

Every garage in Trust My Garage are members of the Independent Garage Association, which is part of the RMI, one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations. IGA members are true professionals who have to comply with a strict code of practice.

Every customer of all Trust My Garage members can rely on using a nationally recognised brand to help you and your vehicle get the best value service for you and your vehicle. If you want to find out more about Trust My Garage, visit our website, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Don’t forget: If you can think of any more top lockdown maintenance tips, leave us a comment in the box below!

So, should you bring your car to uni?

heading fr uni.jpg

So, you’re flying the nest and heading for uni? For most, it’s been a hard slog getting to this point – staying up all night to revise for your exams, skipping social plans to perfect your coursework – and now you have to come to terms with the fact that you’re leaving home.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to leaving your parents behind: what will your new roomies be like? What will you eat every day? How do you stop your laundry from changing colour?

But there’s one consideration that you should probably give some greater thought into: should you bring your car with you?

It seems like the perfect idea, allowing you to have even more freedom now that you’re adjusting to independent life. Bringing your car along to your new city means you don’t have to worry about how you’ll get from A to B, especially if you find yourself living some distance from your university campus. It’ll also allow you greater opportunity to explore your new surroundings, and perhaps find some cool spots that aren’t on any bus route.

What’s more, uni digs can be a little bit cramped sometimes, and you will struggle to find space to store all of your belongings. Let’s be honest, you’ve probably brought everything you own with you, knowing full well you absolutely don’t need most of it! So, maybe having your car around could provide an extra little bit of storage – keeping your spare jackets and shoes in your boot could free up a lot essential dorm space.

Not only that, for some courses, having your car with you is almost essential to carry out your work. For example, you may need to visit patients or film on location, so your car will be handy for any extra specialist equipment you may have in tow.

Of course, there’s always the all-important fact that having your car with you will make it so much easier for you to run your dirty laundry home to your mum, because carrying bags full of dirty underwear, and dirty-pint-ridden t-shirts on a train probably isn’t the most ideal situation.

Sound good? Well, there’s slightly more to it than that.

As well as coming to terms with the fact that you almost certainly will end up becoming a personal taxi service for the rest of your flatmates, there are some other important considerations you really ought to think about:

Will you actually need it?

This is the biggest question you should ask yourself. Cars require a great deal of maintenance and upkeep, not to mention all the costs that are associated with keeping it on the roads, so, it is important to ask yourself if the extra hassle is really worth it.

Generally, most students opt to live in university halls during their first year. Typically, this accommodation is located either directly on, or extremely close to the campus. What’s more, most university’s benefit from being within a stone throw away from the life and heart of your new city, so considering everything you could possibly need will be within spitting distance of your shoebox bedroom, will you actually get the chance to give your motor a spin?

Perhaps consider all of the places you will need to get to, and have a look at the public transport links. You may find that everything you could possibly need is available an arms-width away.

Where can you park it?

It’s all well and good deciding that you need your motor with you, so you don’t have to lug bags and bags of groceries around town after a supermarket trip, but have you considered where you’ll keep your car?

Owing to their commonly centralised locations, many universities have extremely few parking facilities on campus, and the same applies for halls of residence. In most cases, parking facilities are only available for members of staff, meaning that you will probably be pushed to park your motor a few streets away. This leaves you in a difficult predicament regarding safety – can you actually trust it’ll be safe parked up on a street a mile away from where you’re living? And will you feel safe getting to your car, during the night, when you fancy a late drive to Maccies?

Why not take a day trip to your new city, before you move in, to scope out the area? Be sure to find out your hall of residence’s parking procedure (you may have to pay if they have an on-site car park), and take a wander around to find the nearest on-road parking.

Can you afford to run it?

Many Freshers light up at the prospect of their bank accounts being lined with a student loan. For most of you, this sum of money is more than your bank account has ever seen, so naturally, you’ll be inclined to splurge.

However, many forget that this ‘free’ money isn’t an excuse to buy all the latest gear that you otherwise couldn’t have afforded – it is, in fact, supposed to facilitate the extra expenses needed to live! We know, that doesn’t sound exciting, but many new students underestimate the actual cost of living.

It was recently announced that the government would be scrapping the maintenance grant, which provided an extra bit of income for students from poorer backgrounds. This means that students will now have to rely solely on their maintenance loan to fund their housing, utilities, food and books, as well as the extra bit of dollar needed to fund the nights out that you absolutely won’t want to miss.

Annoyingly, all of these add up – adulting can be cruel on the bank account-  and actually, many will find that the loan just won’t be able to cover all of your outgoings.

So, how will you manage to keep your car taxed, insured, MOT’d, serviced and fuelled too? Will your weekend job cover it, as well as leaving you with enough to keep your allocated cupboard and fridge shelf full(ish)?

It sounds tedious, but it’d be wise to devise some sort of list of all your expected outgoings, and compare this to your income. This way you can weigh up how far out of pocket your car could leave you.

Insurance

The bane of most motorists lives, but possibly more so for younger people, is insurance. It’s no secret that the younger generations can be hit with the highest of insurance premiums, and sometimes these figures can leave you wondering whether it’s worth being road-independent at all.

Now, different cities and areas around the country have increasing or decreasing effects on insurance premiums, mostly based on their affluence. As a general rule of thumb, ‘nicer’ more suburban areas tend to encourage ‘nicer’ lower premiums. City centres and less affluent areas tend to encourage pretty eye-watering figures. So, it’s definitely worth considering how your new address will affect your insurance costs. Could you afford to pay an increased premium? Be sure to get a quote before you make your decisionuni.png

Will it be safe?

Now, we’re not trying to scare you here, but it is not unknown for student areas to be targeted for burglaries. It’s an unusual case, as most students agree that they do not keep many valuables in their university home – but it does happen, and it is worth considering.

Since you may not be able to park your car where you can keep an eye on it, you do want to be able to rest easily (albeit in a bed that won’t be as comfy as your one back home), knowing that it will be safe. For this reason, it is worth checking your alarm system is intact and investing in some sort of immobiliser or steering lock.

It probably goes without saying that, should you be forced to park some distance from your front door, avoid leaving anything valuable inside your vehicle.

What happens when something does go wrong?

We bet many of you leave it to your parents to sort out your car upkeep. Many young people like to enjoy the leisure of driving a car, without having to worry about the nuisance maintenance it needs. So, what will you do when you’re too far away from the nest for your mum and dad to sort your MOT or service?

 Yotmgu head to Trust My Garage!

Trust My Garage is a garage approval scheme that gives you the peace of mind that your car will be in safe hands. All Trust My Garage members abide by a strict code of conduct, meaning that your service will always be second to none.

Luckily, finding your nearest one is easy. Head to www.trustmygarage.co.uk or download the Trust My Garage app in the App store or Google Play store. From here, you can simply type in your postcode, and you’ll be directed to a selection of your nearest trusted garages.

It’s as simple as that.

We have over 2,600 members across the country, meaning that you’ll never be too far away from a Trust My Garage member.

But how will you afford to pay for your garage services?crp TRUSTY

We’ve already established that your outgoings at university will wind up being much more than you expect. So, you’re probably getting sweaty palmed at the idea of having to fork out more money in the case of an unexpected car service or repair.

But, you need not worry!

Our Car Repair Plan scheme allows you to deposit a small amount of money into an online account every month. This fund can be built up to ‘shield yourself from unexpected car repair costs’ as some Trust My Garage members around the country will allow you to pay for their services using this plan. When searching for a garage via the Trust My Garage website, you are able to refine the search filter to only show those who accept the Car Repair Plan.

Although it may be tempting, when you fancy a greasy kebab at 5am after a heavy night, you cannot withdraw any savings from your Car Repair Plan account, meaning that all the money that you do save up, can be used to pay off those annoying, but completely necessary, car services.

It gets better! The Car Repair Plan allows you to add more than one car to your account. This means you don’t personally have to be an account holder in order to take advantage of this scheme – your parents can be.

Mum and dad can deposit their chosen amount into their account every month, and, if they’ve added your car onto their account, you can use their fund to cover your car repair needs. We recommend asking their permission first though!

How does that sound? Find out more about Trust My Garage and the Car Repair Plan here.

So what will your decision be, will you be taking your motor along to uni with you? Comment below, and let us know what you decide to do! And Good Luck with your new adventure!