The time of year is once again upon us where dark nights are drawing in and you’re considering putting the heating on to keep your toes warm. The change in seasons can also herald a change in driving habits for many motorists, and at Trust My Garage we want to keep you and your vehicle running smoothly 365 days of the year.
The clocks go back in the early hours of October 29th, meaning it’s going to be dark even earlier – but never fear! To help you ensure you stay at your best we’ve complied some handy tips for both driving and keeping your car running at its best.
Look after your car battery
The average car battery can last up to 5 years (source), but there are many reasons that require it to be changed sooner than this.
Heading into colder weather can cause strain on your battery, as can short repetitive journeys – these use up your battery’s power without giving it enough time to recharge fully. Taking your car out for a longer drive at the weekend can be a key factor in combating battery drain – as can recharging your battery at home or at a local garage.
Check your tyres
Your tyres are the key element in keeping your vehicle rolling, so make sure they’re up to scratch, especially in the slippery weather that comes with Autumn and Winter. The minimum legal tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central three quarters of the tyre, with no tears, bulges or bald spots on any part of the tyre (source). However, most motoring organisations recommend changing at 2mm and the majority of tyre manufacturers recommend changing at 3mm (source).
You should also try to ensure your tyres are inflated correctly to the specifications of your car. Details of the correct pressure can be found in the owner’s manual and/or inside the door frame on the driver or front passenger side doors, and you can check your tyre pressure at most local petrol stations and garages.
Check your engine coolant levels
With cold weather comes the possibility of ice, so it’s important to ensure the fluids in your car don’t freeze. By keeping your engine coolant levels topped up you’ll stay safer in poor conditions, and keep your car’s internal systems running healthily.
If you aren’t sure what type of coolant your car needs, a local garage or aftermarket sales shop will be able to check what kind you require and point you in the right direction. If you’re stuck for where under the bonnet to check your engine coolant, it has a specific cap under the bonnet, circled below:
As long as your coolant is between the ‘MAX’ and ‘LOW’ level markers on the side of the reservoir it should stop any freezing happening.
Take a look at this video below for a guide on how to check your engine coolant:
REMEMBER: Don’t check your coolant levels when the engine is hot as it affects the pressure in the engine and can cause damage to your vehicle.
Here comes the sun
The sun is still a factor, even with poorer weather. Low winter sun can affect your vision when driving by causing blindness, so be sure to wear sunglasses or put down your sun visor to protect both your eyes and your driving.
As well as problems from the direct sun, drivers can also suffer when sunlight reflects off the road surface and causes glare, which can have the same adverse effects as the low sun itself. Again, wearing sunglasses or using the sun visor combats this issue, but if you still find your vision impaired it may be best to drive slowly or pull over until later on when the sun has moved.
Slow down for nature!
Around 74,000 deer are hit by cars every year (source). The risk of hitting one is highest in spring when young deer are starting to venture out , but the autumn is also a time to be wary as stags are often out rutting.
Due to the prevalence of deer across the British countryside it can become difficult in rural areas to avoid deer at this time of year, so if you’re going to an area with a known deer population plan a little extra time for your journey and drive carefully – in some areas it can be an offence to hit a deer!
Watch out for leaves
Fallen leaves aren’t just a problem on your lawn: hitting a patch of wet leaves on the road can be almost as bad as hitting black ice, so take care on country lanes and keep your speed down when you are forced to drive through them.
If your journey is achievable using main roads, try and stick to them as much as possible as they are more likely to be cleared due to high volumes of traffic and keeping motorists safe.
If you live on a street with many trees, you might want to try doing your bit and tidying up you driveway to stop leaves being blown into the road and causing a potential problem for drivers.
Remember, if you want to take your car for a check-up to get ready for autumn and winter driving, you can use Trust My Garage’s handy Find a Garage map to locate a reputable, Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved independent garage in your area to get the best possible service for both you and your vehicle.
Trust My Garage truly is the independent scheme for independent garages in the UK. They have no hidden agenda or commercial influences, which means they really do exist to ensure that independent garage standards are continuing to improve.
It’s a great feeling when you pass your driving test. Ahead lies opportunity – and plenty of open road. But, as they say, you never really start to learn until after you pass, so until you’ve settled in to your newfound freedom here are some top tips to help you make the best of your new start to the world of motoring.
1. Research your car
While it may seem like a good idea to get the coolest, fastest car possible, the reality is that many new drivers suffer in a car that overpowers their abilities. If you start with something small, you can then build up your power as you build up your skill and experience. We know it might be a bit boring, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Once you’re sure you’ve got the right car for you, make sure you keep it in good running condition, with tax and insurance. If you have a second-hand vehicle, find out when it last had an MOT and service and make a note of the dates – that way, you’ll know exactly when it’s due again, and when to call your local Trust My Garage member for Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) consumer code approved service. You’ll also want some breakdown cover – but depending on which insurance provider you use, you may be able to get this as part of your cover.
2. Don’t be too confident
Once you’ve passed your test you no longer have an instructor, friend, or family member watching over you as you drive.Naturally, most people will test their confidence while driving as it helps build skill and experience, but try not to push yourself too hard!
A prime example of this is motorway driving. As a learner you aren’t allowed to drive on the motorway, so unless you enroll in additional, post-test motorway lessons, your first time on these fast paced roads is as a fully-fledged driver. It’s a good idea to have a more experienced driver in the car with you for your first few attempts – even if you’re only driving from one junction to another, any practice is good practice ready for longer journeys in the future.
3. Remember your theoretical knowledge
The driving theory test is there for a reason. It can be difficult once you’ve passed your test to remember all of the information at the drop of a hat, but it’s always good to keep the most important rules clear in your head. If you aren’t sure about a certain piece of information, you can always refer to The Highway Code for more details and a clear explanation.
4. Stick to speed limits
You’re finally allowed to let your hair down and drive freely – and that’s great! But remember, speed limits have been designed to keep drivers and other road users safe, so stick to them. With the new changes to speeding penalties, which you can read more about here, a new driver could have their licence revoked and a big fine after being caught over the speed limit just once.
To help combat this if you’re travelling in an unfamiliar area, keep your eyes peeled for any speed limit signs, and if possible do some research beforehand so you know what kind of speed limits to expect.
5. Have a good time!
Driving is a great experience, so take it easy, follow our top tips and have lots of fun exploring the world in your car!
Remember, if you want to keep your car in tip-top condition you can take it to your nearest Trust My Garage member using our handy Find a Garage map. Our Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved consumer code means that you can put your trust in our members to do a great job, and ensure you have the best experience on the roads – Just keep an eye out for the Trust My Garage shield!
If you are a parent with a child under the age of 16, you may be feeling a little stressed right now. This time of year is difficult and expensive for parents preparing their children for the start of the new school term. There’s such a lot to think about; uniforms, equipment, textbooks, bags, new shoes – and that’s just for starters. The last thing you are going to need is for your car to breakdown on you during the infamous school run!
About one in five cars is driving a child or children to school in rush hour traffic and with the five million primary school children in the UK living on average of one and a half miles from their place of learning, it means there are a lot of cars on the road doing short journeys, five days a week. These driving conditions can cause much more wear and tear on your vehicle than you would imagine and no busy parent wants the stress or expense of a breakdown at this time of year.
Being aware of what causes damage to a vehicle can help reduce the risk of a breakdown or failure during the school run. Here are our top tips to shield you from unexpected repair costs as the kids go back to school.
Make sure your engine is properly lubricated.
Most school runs are quite short journeys, which means that the engine on your vehicle does not have enough time to warm up properly. Engine oil has to reach its full operating temperature in order to lubricate properly This is more likely to be achieved over faster, longer journeys.
What’s the solution?
Let your car ‘idle’ for a few minutes before you begin your journey and this will help your engine warm up ahead of your drive. It will also help to warm, your car up once the cold nights start to draw in. Remember though, don’t go back inside your house while your car warms up – it only takes a few seconds for a thief to take advantage of an empty vehicle.
Concentrate on reading the road.
Hurried braking causes greater wear on the brake pads, which will lead to more frequent trips to the garage.
What’s the solution?
Rather than stopping and starting in traffic, slow down and concentrate on reading the road. By driving more slowly and anticipating when you need to stop, especially around the school environment where young people are likely to be crossing the road, you will apply less pressure to your brakes and gears. This will also help you to save fuel.
Keep an eye on your engine warning and DPF lights
If you drive a diesel vehicle, your are more likely to find your vehicle suffering from engine management problems if you frequently go on short journeys in your car. This is because of the diesel particulate filter (DPF).
The DPF, which traps larger soot particles within the filter and allows smaller particles and gases to escape, can only operate efficiently once your vehicle is driven at 45mph for more than five minutes.
Stop/start driving and motoring at slow speeds means that the soot accumulates and the DPF cannot create sufficient heat to regenerate. Once the soot concentration reaches about 75%, it will need to be looked at by a professional to be regenerated. Don’t ignore the engine warning light if your diesel car is used mainly for short journeys!
What’s the solution?
Make sure you get your car to the nearest Trusted garage if your engine warning or DPF lights start flashing on your dashboard. This is an indication that there is something that needs attention and if ignored, could incur costly repair expenses. In fact, any warning light illuminated on your dashboard is a signal that your vehicle needs some expert attention. If it’s orange you need to contact your local Trust My Garage member as soon as possible – if it’s red, stop the car and call them IMMEDIATELY
You can find your nearest Trust My Garage member by entering your postcode on the Trust My Garage website, here.
Independent garages have access to the same technical information and training as main dealers and are fully equipped to service any type of vehicle to the highest standard, providing you with outstanding value for money.