When it comes to motoring, we at Trust My Garage want to make sure drivers stay as safe as possible on the roads. That’s why we’ve created our ever-growing network of trusted independent garages, to keep your vehicle running in optimum condition and keep you as happy as possible.
However, there are others who wish to ruin your motoring experience by submitting drivers to a variety of scams, which can damage both your vehicle and your bank account – and we don’t think that’s fair to you. In order to help you stay aware of potential dangers, we’ve put together information about some recent scams that have affected unfortunate motorists.
The speeding fine email
As recently as October 2017, scam emails have been circulated to motorists advising them of ‘Notice of Intended Prosecution’ or ‘NIP’ for a speeding offence. These emails have been supposedly sent from the Government or police and can even claim to have ‘photographic evidence’ of the offence, however they are completely false.
The only way legitimate notices of intended prosecution are sent is via Royal Mail to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) registered address, so anyone who receives this email is advised to report it to Action Fraud, the national Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, and delete it without clicking any links or attachments.
The whiplash accident
According to ABI figures, the national cost of whiplash claims makes up 20 per cent of the average insurance premium, while insurer Aviva claims that a staggering 94 per cent of all its compensation claims for motor accidents relate to minor whiplash. (source)
Minor whiplash is very hard to prove or disprove, but if you suspect someone is fraudulently claiming whiplash against you after a small collision, seek the advice of a solicitor to see if you can fight it.
There have been recent attempts to clamp down on false whiplash claims, however the difficulty in verifying the claims have led to new legislation, known as the ‘2015 dishonestly laws’, being put into place in order to correctly punish fraudulent claimants.
The ‘cash for crash’ scheme
‘Cash for crash’ is the nickname given to schemes where a scammer intentionally crashes into another driver in order to make a fraudulent claim on their insurance. Often tied in with whiplash claims, ‘crash for cash’ costs the UK £340m every year, with profits frequently funding other criminal activities such as firearms and drug dealing. The BBC states:
“Crash for cash scammers choose their victims carefully – they keep an eye out for drivers who look like they would be fully insured but be less likely to cause a fuss. Mothers with children on board and the elderly are favoured victims. If you’ve been a victim, the circumstances are likely to be as follows:
A car in front of you slams on the brakes for no obvious reason, and you have no time to react and collide with the car in front. Another scenario (known as ‘flash for cash’) happens when a driver flashes their lights at a junction to let you out, then crashes into you deliberately.
The other driver will insist the accident is your fault. The scammer will then hand over their insurance details – sometimes already prepared and written down.
A few weeks after the accident your insurers will write to you with details of the other driver’s claim which will be exaggerated with costs like car hire, recovery and whiplash injuries.” (source)
So how can you avoid this scam? It helps to pay attention to the driver and passengers of other cars around you – people frequently looking backwards or driving erratically can be a giveaway of a ‘cash for crash’ scheme in process. Try and keep a safe braking distance away from other vehicles and be sure to watch for cars turning and manoeuvring around you. Fraudsters may even try and disable their brake lights to try and cause an accident, so make sure to pay attention to your surroundings.
The online car-buying con
Not content with damaging your existing car, there has even been a scam designed to trap motorists purchasing cars online, via sites such as eBay. Cons like these use cloned cars – which is like automobile identity theft – to sell illegal vehicles under legal details, leaving buyers out of pocket with an illegal vehicle. The stolen vehicle is given the identity of a similar legitimate car, including licence plates, chassis numbers and accompanying documentation. Prospective buyers can run a background check on the car and the details will appear to be correct.
One victim lost £17,000 after paying in cash for a Mercedes later discovered to be cloned and was left with no way to regain their lost money due to no proof of transaction.
How can you avoid this scam? The best method is to purchase via authorised sellers, like garages and dealerships, but viewing a car in person is always beneficial and ensuring you pay for your purchase via a traceable, secure method means there is evidence of your purchase and the recipient of your money should anything go awry.
What should you do if you think you’ve been a scam victim?
The first steps in reporting a scam, especially one where you have lost money, should be to report it to Action Fraud. If you wish to get in contact with your local authorities for a crime number, you can also call or visit your local police station. For further information and for other types of scam advice, Citizens Advice can provide more information, viewable here.
Telephone: 0300 123 2040
Textphone: 0300 123 2050
Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm
About Trust My Garage
Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s best local garages – every one different and every one dedicated to the highest standards of skill and personal service.
All the garages 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.
Each and every customer of all Trust My Garage members can rely on using a nationally recognised brand. If there’s a problem that can’t be sorted out between you and your garage, the IGA takes over and helps to achieve a happy outcome.
For more information about Trust My Garage or to locate your nearest TMG member visit www.trustmygarage.co.uk.
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.
The best driving roads in Europe
Looking for the perfect stretch of road to cruise along this summer? Well prepare to get some serious travel fever with some Trust My Garage favourites, as well as getting prepared with our best foreign driving tips! Don’t forget – if you’re looking for some general summer driving tips you can always check out our What to do when… driving in Summer blog post.
The Stelvio Pass, Italy
The Stelvio Pass is Italy’s hidden secret in the Alps. Topping out at 2757 metres high, this twisting, hairpin bend-filled route is located just before the Swiss border in the province of Sondrio.
Open to both motorists and cyclists, the pass provides unmatchable views of the surrounding mountainous landscape. The road offers a total of 48 switchback turns along its North face, offering a real challenge for the adventurous driver. The best approach to tackle the pass is from the North West side, allowing you to drive up through the turns and rewarding you with lush Alpine scenery. After heading through the pass’ tight turns, you can also either continue on to the town of Bormio or head North to the Umbrail Pass, which leads back into the Swiss National Park. This tends to be far less busy than the now ultra-popular Stelvio, but we guess that’s what you get when you visit Top Gear’s World’s Best Driving Road (2008)!
The Military Road, Isle of Wight
If you’re looking for a drive somewhere closer to home, the Isle of Wight has some stunning coastal views on offer. As you drive down the A3055, known locally as The Military Road, you curve above Blackgang Chine, and then are suddenly faced with a panorama of the south-west coast of the Island, curving stretching ahead and below you.
As the road is in a protected National Trust area, there are few buildings – but you can still make out the turrets of the famous novelist J.B. Priestley’s former home, if you keep your eyes peeled. The stretch of road is roughly 12 miles long, and is perfect for a cruise in summer when the roadside wildflowers are in bloom.
The Cat and Fiddle, Derbyshire
Named after the pub located at the peak of this road, this is a 12 mile journey between Buxton and Macclesfield, using the A54-A537. With Derbyshire often described as the ‘gateway to the Peak District’, this route has been coveted by car and motorbike enthusiasts alike for its challenging corners and enjoyable scenic views. To ensure motorists are kept safe the route is entirely covered with average speed cameras of 50mph, but even at that speed some of the hairpin corners will provide a thrill – mediated with a refreshing lime and soda at the finish!
A44, West Wales
This stretch of A road travels between Aberystwyth and Llangurig, providing 25 miles of untamed Welsh landscape for drivers. Setting out as a simple drive away from the Welsh coast at Aberystwyth, the road rises and transforms into scenery more at home in an Alpine setting than a sleepy corner of Wales. As you travel on to Llangurig the road offers sweeping curves and chicanes, giving motorists a chance to really enjoy the drive as well ads the stunning scenery.
The Cheddar Gorge, Cheddar (Somerset)
Starting on the B3135 east of Cheddar, 14 glorious miles of Somerset countryside lie between you and your destination at Ashwick. As you head East, you visit Priddy, then Plummers Loan, then continue on along the A37 towards your final destination.
The route can be taken in 3 sections. The first area demands full concentration from the driver, working through the twisting corners of the gorge itself.
The second, about four miles in, opens up the road greatly. Hairpins give way to sweeping curves, and the sharp face of the gorge is replaced by trees.
The final section provides a few miles of long straights and gentle gradient changes making for a quick conclusion to this short route.
The road can become busy as it is a tourist travel route for anyone visiting the Cheddar Gorge caves, but it’s still an excellent drive providing unparalleled close-up views of some unique landscapes.
The Romantic Road, Germany
Heading back out to Europe, one of the most scenic routes in the Germany is the ‘Romantic Road’ (Romantischen Straße). Running roughly 190 miles from the River Main to the Alps, the road was designed in the 1950’s to provide a sense of being transported back in time to Medieval Europe. With tiny historic villages and grand fairytale castles placed between long stretches of river, forests, meadows and agricultural lands, the Romantic Road offers tourism of a different kind for the keen motorist.
Due to the length of the trip, stopping off in one of the 16 towns along route for a bite to eat and a rest is advised, with many spots offering an authentic German dining experience. We definitely suggest bringing a camera for this one too, as the stunning variety of locations along the road will definitely be a sight to share with friends back home.
We’re rounding off our top roads with a good’un. Starting in the town of Andalsnes in Rauma and finishing at the village of Valldal in the Norddal Municipality, Trollstigen, or Troll’s Ladder/ Troll’s Path in English, is a four mile drive of epic proportions. Taking Country Road 63, drivers’ eyes are spoiled for choice with breathtaking views. Some of the best are actually located in the visitor centre car park, which at 2,300ft high offers a soaring panorama of the route below.
Along the whole route are specifically-designed viewing platform, allowing motorists to stop and enjoy some stunning photo opportunities. One such view is the 1,050ft-high Stigfossen waterfall, which drivers can also traverse via stone bridge. You may not believe it, but within the route lie small houses dotted about the landscape – imagine those views on your daily drive!
Foreign driving tips
Here are some of our best tips for staying on top of your game when it comes to driving in Europe:
Drive on the correct side of the road
In Europe, motorists use the right-hand side of the road. It may seem silly, it’s worth checking before you arrive into a country and cause an accident! There are usually signs upon arrival at the borders letting you know which side of the road to use, but if you’re unsure, ask a member of border staff and of course do some research before you set off.
Take regular rest stops
Even though you’re in a car driving for long periods can be exhausting, especially due to concentrating on unfamiliar roads. The Highway Code recommends taking a break (of at least 15 minutes) every two hours – you don’t want to cause an accident due to lack of concentration. If that means a nap at a service station, a nap it is!
Make sure to bring plenty of water with you for your trip to stay hydrated and help you concentrate when driving on new roads. If you don’t want to buy bottled water, fill up an old bottle or two before you set off. If there’s a group in the vehicle ensure there’s enough to go around, or stop regularly for drinks breaks – you could even combine this with your rest stop.
Check what you’re required to have in your car
Did you know that in Spain it’s mandatory for glasses-wearing drivers to carry a spare pair of specs in their vehicle at all times? There are certain rules and regulations for what you need in your car for many countries – do your research and find out what you must and mustn’t carry in your vehicle before setting off.
Bring some entertainment
This one’s important – especially if you’ve got kids in the car. Bored children can lead to irritable bickering and loss of concentration, and nobody wants that! Even if you aren’t travelling with a car full of family, a game of I Spy or some music on the radio keeps you awake and helps you stay focused on your driving – and it can be the difference between a happy or a tantrum-filled journey!
If you’re looking to set off on one of these adventures, or even stay somewhere a little closer to home, ensuring your vehicle is in tip-top condition should be a priority. If you want to make sure your motor is running at its best, why not take it to your local Trust My Garage member? If you’re in need of an MOT, service, repair or tune up, our CTSI approved code of conduct means that you and your vehicle both get the service you deserve – ready for the drive of a lifetime!
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!
It’s that time of year again! Everyone in the UK is gearing up for their summer holiday. You wouldn’t leave the kids at home, but what about your furry, four-legged friends? If you decide you want to take your animal companion along with you to your holiday destination, what are the best ways to make their trip as comfortable as yours? Well fear not, Trust My Garage is here with some top tips for driving with pets.
First things first, you’ll need to know the law about driving with your animals in the vehicle. The Highway Code’s Rule 57 states:
“When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”
So you’re in the clear to take your animal with you! The Code is very clear about what to do for both animals and drivers, as it’s the best way to ensure that everyone makes the safest possible journeys. While a carrier or caged boot is probably the safest option, if your dog is well behaved and clipped to a seat harness you’re okay to let them feel the fresh air through your windows. If you don’t want to restrain your pet in any way, take this advice from Rachael Kilroy, Senior Veterinary Surgeon at Vets for Life:
“If a dog is not secured safely then sharp braking or a collision could result in them being catapulted sharply forwards, potentially causing life-threatening internal injuries, as well as trauma to people in the car.”
If your pet isn’t used to being in a car, then a long journey shouldn’t be their first real experience. Prior to travelling, you should slowly let your animal into the vehicle to help them get used to their surroundings. Starting out with a very short trip – nipping to the shop, for example – and the building up the length of time in the vehicle is a great way to do this. Even if the first couple of times in the car are when it’s stationary, a good sniff and look around can go a long way to making your pet happier when travelling.
It’s always important to plan a trip, but our furry friends require a little extra attention when it comes to longer journeys!
You should take a regular break every 1-2 hours, depending on how restless your animal is, and pack plenty of water and treats – If you’re feeling thirsty or hungry, your pet probably is too! For longer journeys, you may want to think about planning a route that includes a stop near a park or wooded area to let your animal – especially dogs – stretch their legs and have a run around. When it comes to animals like cats, you might want to bring some toilet training pads too – accidents happen!
This might seem silly, but check your destination’s rules on pets! If you’re off to see family or friends, make sure they know in advance that you’re bringing your pet, and if you’re going to a hotel, camp site or similar location, check if – and which – animals are allowed. A quick internet search or phone call to your desired venue should do the trick, as many hotels etc. clearly state their pet policy. It’s no good getting all the way to your lovely summer holiday, only to be turned away at the sight of a wagging tail!
As well at your venue, many people research the area they go to stay at beforehand to see if it appeals to them. With a pet, you may want to take into consideration if the surrounding area is also animal friendly. Some beaches in the UK require dogs to be kept on leads for the duration of their walk, and some allow them to run free, whereas some don’t allow dogs at all. Some quick internet browsing should help you locate the best pet-friendly activities to fill up your holiday and keep your pets involved too.
Long journeys can take their toll on a vehicle, so if you’re planning a road trip then you don’t want to create stress for your family and pets with a breakdown – or worse, broken air con! If you visit your local Trust My Garage approved member, you can check your car is running at its best and take away any concerns before you travel, and make sure you, your family and your pets get the best possible summer holiday.
If you’ve got any other top tips, feel free to leave them in the comments! If you’re looking for some more general summer driving tips, check out our post on What to do when…driving in Summer!
It’s inevitable – sometimes there are people that are bad at parking. Often there isn’t much you can do in a situation where other people have parked improperly or illegally, but how can you avoid doing it yourself? Take a look at our handy tips on how to be good at parking – and some examples of what not to do!
The Highway Code has some clear rules about what a motorist can and can’t do when it comes to parking. For example, Rule 239 advises that motorists should:
- Use off-street parking areas, or bays marked out with white lines on the road as parking places, wherever possible.
- You MUST switch off the engine, headlights and fog lights
- You MUST apply the handbrake before leaving the vehicle
- You MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic
- it is safer for your passengers (especially children) to get out of the vehicle on the side next to the kerb
- put all valuables out of sight and make sure your vehicle is secure
- lock your vehicle.
And it also states what you should avoid doing too:
- Do not park facing against the traffic flow
- Stop as close as you can to the side
- Do not stop too close to a vehicle displaying a Blue Badge: remember, the occupant may need more room to get in or out
You MUST NOT stop or park on:
- the carriageway or the hard shoulder of a motorway except in an emergency (see Rule 270)
- a pedestrian crossing, including the area marked by the zig-zag lines (see Rule 191)
- taxi bays as indicated by upright signs and markings
- an Urban Clearway within its hours of operation, except to pick up or set down passengers (see ‘Traffic signs’)
- a road marked with double white lines, even when a broken white line is on your side of the road, except to pick up or set down passengers, or to load or unload goods
- a tram or cycle lane during its period of operation
- a cycle track
So when you see cars parked like this, you know they aren’t complying with the Highway Code:
As well as following the instructions laid out by Rule 239, motorists are also subject to other parking rules, like these:
- You MUST NOT park in parking spaces reserved for specific users, such as Blue Badge holders, residents or motorcycles, unless entitled to do so. (Rule 241)
- You MUST NOT leave your vehicle or trailer in a dangerous position or where it causes any unnecessary obstruction of the road. (Rule 242)
Here’s an example – can you guess what this driver did?
Yep, you guessed it – the car was parked in a space reserved for Blue Badge holders. While we aren’t suggesting that this is how to deal with bad parking, we have to admit it’s quite funny (and artistic!)
That isn’t all when it comes to avoiding bad parking. Drivers must also remember the details of Rule 243, listed below:
DO NOT stop or park:
- near a school entrance
- anywhere you would prevent access for Emergency Services
- at or near a bus or tram stop or taxi rank
- on the approach to a level crossing/tramway crossing
- opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction, except in an authorised parking space
- near the brow of a hill or hump bridge
- opposite a traffic island or (if this would cause an obstruction) another parked vehicle
- where you would force other traffic to enter a tram lane
- where the kerb has been lowered to help wheelchair users and powered mobility vehicles
- in front of an entrance to a property
- on a bend
- where you would obstruct cyclists’ use of cycle facilities
except when forced to do so by stationary traffic.
So, if there are any of those obstructions around you need to try and avoid them – unlike the Nissan Micra below!
Of course, if traffic is stationary then, as the rule explains, it’s ok to stop in these places because there isn’t anywhere for your car to go! Rule 243 applies to when your car is parked -that means that the vehicle is stationary, with the handbrake applied, and no key in the ignition.
We all park every day of our motoring lives, so we should be considerate to other drivers and road users, as we expect them to be towards us. If you want a garage to treat your car with the same consideration, head to the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest TMG independent garage, operating under our Chartered Trading Standards (CTSI) approved code of conduct, and see how they can help your car run at its best!
It’s that time of year again. Christmas is right around the corner! Some of us may be a bit more excited than others, but with all the festive cheer in the air, have you thought about the practicalities of driving this Christmastime? If not, then buckle up! We’re about to tell you just how you can make the most when you’re driving this Christmas. (Song optional, but very festive.)
When you’re driving your top priority should always be your safety. Regardless of the destination or the time it takes you to get there, your number one thought should be about your own safety, and that of any passengers in the vehicle with you.
Plan your route
The further the distance you’re travelling, the more chance there is for issues like traffic to occur. Christmas is a peak time for driving, as many people visit their families over the festive period, so try and ensure you give yourself adequate travelling time.
Here are some of the routes identified by motoring organisations as traffic hotspots over Christmas:
- The M1, A1 and A1(M) northbound
- The M4 westbound to Wales and around Heathrow
- The M3, A303 and M5 heading to the West Country
- The M23 to Gatwick and the M11 to Stansted
- The M62 over the Pennines is often affected by snow, as is the A1079 between Hull and York.
It’s also worth noting that many main roads and motorways will be gritted in the case of snow and ice, but this won’t necessarily happen in areas that don’t see as much traffic. It’s worth taking some extra time by using main roads to get to your destination instead of taking shortcuts that often require drivers to travel on country lanes, as these may be more dangerous in poor weather.
If you’re interested in more ways to ensure you’re driving in a safe and responsible manner, you can look at the charity Brake’s ABC pledge. Drivers can promise to follow the rules Brake have set out for being as safe as possible in winter conditions, to help both themselves and other motorists on the roads.
Prepare your car
The UK suffers from a yearly big freeze, so we’re sure you’ve got some great tips on how to help get started in the cold. However, if you’re looking for some ideas about how to get the wheels rolling, here are some of the best we’ve found:
- Tyres: If possible, considering buying winter tyres. If this is not an option, ensure your standard tyres are inflated correctly and that you have a minimum of 3mm of tread on your tyres to cope with wet and slippery conditions.
- Battery: In winter, the battery will run down quicker than in warmer weather. Make sure you do a regular long journey to top it up or trickle-charge the battery.
- Engine: Modern engines are more robust than older ones. All the same, depress the clutch when starting as this will reduce drag on the engine when starting, and preserve the battery.
- Screen wash: Keep this topped up and use a proper additive at the right concentration to prevent it freezing.
- Fuel: Keep your tank topped up – that way if you are caught out, you’ll have enough fuel to make it home or run the engine to keep warm. However, it’s essential to keep snow from blocking the exhaust as noxious fumes can leak into the vehicle.
- Windows: Clear all snow and ice from the windscreen and the roof of the car before driving off. Do not use water to de-ice windscreens. Hot water can crack the glass, and the water will only freeze again on the screen or on the ground where you are standing.
- Locks: A squirt of WD-40 will prevent your door locks freezing up. If they do, apply a heat source to your car key to melt the ice.
- Warm clothing: Your car may be warm on the inside but if you have to step outside, you could be in trouble if you have not got any warm clothing with you.
If you do suffer the unfortunate experience of a breakdown it’s important to keep some essentials in the car – a fully charged mobile phone, a torch, warm clothes, comfortable and waterproof shoes, hot drinks and snacks (Telegraph). That way, when you’re waiting for some roadside assistance or a recovery vehicle you can stay warm, full and safe while trying to stave off the boredom.
Emergency snow kit
- Warning triangle – let other drivers know your situation to avoid stress and confusion
- Cat litter or sand
- Snow shovel or spade
- Ice scraper
- Warm clothes and footwear
- Snacks and water
- Mobile phone
- Blanket or sleeping bag
- Jump leads
- High visibility jacket
- First aid kit
- Heat pad – If you are stranded in the snow and the exhaust pipe is covered, it can be dangerous to run the engine. These help you stay warm.
Remember, you’re never far from a Trust My Garage member who can help you out with any problems that you might experience on the road. All of our members are Trading Standards approved, and are here to get you back on track quickly & safely. Garages are located all over the UK, so no matter where you are, we’re here to help you. If you want to see where your nearest garage is, you can search with your post code on the Trust My Garage map.
Getting Home Safely
Don’t Drink Drive.
The golden rule is that if you plan to have a drink, don’t drive.
Carbuyer suggest that you leave your car parked up, get a cab home or let someone who’s sober drive – as long as they’re insured to drive your car, of course.
The effect of alcohol on driving is profound and so are the penalties if you’re caught doing so. Anyone convicted in the UK of ‘driving or attempting to drive through drink or drugs’ faces anything up to the maximum possible of penalty of a £5,000 fine, a six month prison sentence and up to 11 points on their driving licence, as well as an obligatory 12 month disqualification from driving (Drinkdriving.org). There’s no defence for being caught over the drink-drive limit the following morning, either.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
This year, THINK! have launched a new anti drink-driving campaign for December – FOMO.
The campaign is specifically targeting young males, as figures show they account for almost two thirds of drink drivers killed on our roads.
It will target young men through Facebook, Twitter and Spotify, with 5.4 million British males aged 25 to 34 on Facebook alone – the highest single demographic.
The campaign involves adverts that aim to make it clear to young men that they have plenty to live for the following day, which they may not see if they choose to have a second drink.
Research carried out for the Department for Transport found 20% of young men have had 2 or more drinks before driving and an extra 11% say they have considered it – with a third of adults telling researchers they felt it wouldn’t impact on their driving. However, research from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) shows a second drink doubles a driver’s chances of being involved in a fatality. (Gov.uk)
So let’s be safe, and don’t drink and drive.
Most importantly – Have a Merry Christmas!
We at Trust My Garage all hope you have a wonderful and safe Christmas, and spend lots of time doing whatever you like. If you’re worried that your car isn’t up to the challenge of the British winter, don’t forget you can pop in to your local Trust My Garage member and get booked in for a service. That way we can all motor happy!
If you found this post helpful, why not take a look at our ways to make your Christmas commute better, or leave us a comment with your best winter driving tips!
The summer holidays are finally here!
For most, this means an extra 10 minutes in bed, reassured by the fact that there will be far fewer cars on the road during the morning commute to work.
For others, however, it means six weeks of quality time with the munchkins.
The summer break is the perfect way to escape the mundane routine of school runs and smelly PE kits, with many opting for some sort of summer getaway.
Jetting abroad can be costly and hectic, so more and more Brits are opting for UK breaks in sites such as Devon, Cornwall, and the Lake District. For the more venturous, willing to drive the engine further afield, ferrying into mainland Europe is also a favoured alternative to flying.
Of course, both of these options means long road trips are in store, which, for parents, can equate to a long, sore headache.
With RoSPA reporting that 21.5% of drivers are distracted by babies or children while on the road, here’s how to keep sane during your lengthy journeys with the kids.
TRAVEL AT NIGHT
Simply put, the best way to keep the children from whining and throwing tantrums during your journey is by making sure they’re asleep the whole way. Most children have a set routine during term time which means that, despite having no school to wake up for, they’ll be used to drifting off at a certain time. This is the perfect opportunity to set out on your travels as, not only will their state of slumber allow for a more peaceful journey for you, but during the evenings, the roads are far more likely to be quiet.
If this is not an option, then there are always ways to encourage your nippers to kip outside of their usual bedtime. How about tiring them out before the journey? Taking a long walk, keeping them up late the night before, and getting them to dance to their favourite songs are all ways to burn the energy they’d otherwise use to occupy their boredom during your travels. Lavender will also aid this. Stocking up on lavender oils and scents, and dropping a few squirts onto their seat will have them relaxed and soothed in no time.
KEEP THEM OCCUPIED
It’s no secret that children tend to get very bored very quickly. On a long car ride, it won’t take long before they’re fidgeting and fussing out of restlessness. Fortunately, there are plenty of activities to keep your children occupied, even during the longest of journeys. What’s more, you can get involved in the fun too! Here are some of our favourite options:
- Bringing along their favourite toys
- Arming them with activity packs, colouring books and word-searches
- Playing verbal games as a family, including I-spy, How many lorries and I went to the market…
- Map spotting: Get them to track where about you are on a map, this way you won’t have to hear the shriek of ‘Are we there yet!?’
- Carrying their favourite books and perhaps encouraging them to role play their favourite characters
REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOUR
Every child likes prizes. In fact, everybody likes prizes. The great thing with children is that the rewards need not be extravagant giveaways. Sweets and treats are great ways to encourage good behaviour. In moderation, though, to avoid a catalyst to hyperactivity.
The key thing is to let your children know the behaviour that is expected of them during the trip. Try writing out a checklist of fun car rules, showing the type of behaviour mummy and daddy expect on the journey. These don’t have to be strict or formal – in fact, children will be far more likely to abide by rules if they’re presented in a fun and humorous way, especially knowing they could receive a treat for being good boys and girls.
Taking breaks is essential during a long journey. Not only will it allow you to take in some of the great views along the way – but it’ll also stop the fidgeting and complaints of a numb bum.
Children tend to get hungrier easier, and will put all their efforts into making it known! Breaks are the perfect opportunity to make sure they’re fed and hydrated as eating in the car is best avoided; not only could this end up being really messy, but potentially hazardous too! Should the car jolt or brake suddenly, children could end up choking on food; while strapped up in seat belts, it is much more difficult to come to their aid. Instead, it is safer, and much more fun to take a picnic stop.
Service stations can be relatively expensive, so why not get the kids involved by setting up some picnic nibbles beforehand?
Thanks to tablets and portable DVD players, children can now carry their favourite films and programmes with them wherever they go. Most systems also allow users to download and install games, apps and audiobooks too, which should just about keep the little ones occupied for hours.
This option does require some preparation beforehand though. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a system with internet data, most tablets will require some sort of internet connection. To avoid disappointment, pre-download any apps and games at home before setting off on your journey. Also be sure to check the tablet is fully charged before leaving, to avoid batteries running out too soon into your journey.
Nursery rhymes and cheesy pop may not be the ideal playlist for mums and dads, but the children will certainly enjoy them. Who can really complain when a singalong to The wheels on the bus is saving you from the shrieks and screams of restlessness?
Get all the family in on the action, and make it a real musical treat. Children love to be involved, and seeing mummy and daddy enjoying a bit of a warble will provide them with great amusement.
CARRY WET WIPES AND TISSUES
Children can be messy. While on the roads, it won’t be possible to tidy up after them, even when you do get the twitch to do so.
Keeping wet wipes and tissues at hand will provide a quick fix for sticky hands and spills as the kids should be able to tidy up themselves. This will help to protect your interiors from permanent stains of spills and leaks.
PLAN YOUR JOURNEY
Car journeys can be stressful in any case, but not knowing where you’re going can be even more traumatic. On a long trip, getting lost will only make both you and the children irritable. Although most car owners have shunned the road map, and put all their trust into the Sat Nav, it is important to familiarise yourself with the route beforehand – just in case!
Sometimes Sat Navs can be a little bit untrustworthy, especially where new roads are concerned. Doing your research beforehand can prepare you for any diversions or changes to your trip.
It may also be beneficial to carry a road map in your glove compartment to prepare you for any electronic or technical issues with your navigation device.
Don’t make your journey any longer than it needs to be.
There are plenty more hints and tips for driving with children, click for Part Two of our article!
Latest figures from the Department for Transport has revealed that there are now more than 25.8 million cars on Britain’s roads, up from 25.2 million at the same time last year, meaning that five out of nine regions in England now have the equivalent of one car for every two people. With car production at a high and the use of public transport declining by more than 60 percent in the last six years, the number of cars on our roads is likely to continue to grow.
With this in mind, how can you ensure you keep safe on the road? We’ve compiled the best advice to keep you and others safe when out driving.
Mind the gap
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the mantra “only fools break the two second rule”. Unfortunately, some drivers may need to repeat this a bit more often as research from the road safety charity Brake, has reported that around 14% of accidents happen as a result of tailgating and shunting. Keeping at least two seconds between you and the car in front during normal driving conditions and four seconds during bad weather, will give you sufficient time to brake if needed.
Know your limit
It may seem obvious advice to keep to the speed limit, but drivers not keeping within the limit is one of the biggest causes of accidents on the roads. Keeping to the limit is a requirement and keeping inside the target will reduce hazards and the need for heavy braking. Remember, British motorways have a maximum speed limit of 70 mph and you should only be in driving in the right lanes if you are overtaking vehicles on the left.
Timing is everything
One of the easiest things you can do to keep within the speed limit, is give yourself plenty of time for your journey. Planning ahead to make sure you have enough time, with a route plan will leave you much more relaxed, reducing your temptation to speed.
The longer we do something the more it becomes second nature and this is just as true for driving. The benefits of being an experienced driver are obvious, however this experience has the potential to bring complacency. Before stepping into your car, make sure you are well rested, calm, alert and free from any other issues that may affect your attention.
Driving at night is not ideal, but if you need to, there is plenty you can do to keep safe. If taking a long journey make sure you are well rested before you begin with your route planned in advance, with regular two hour breaks factored in. Don’t ignore the warning signs, if you still feel tired during your trip, find somewhere safe to stop as soon as you can. If you’re on a motorway, pull into your nearest service station – DO NOT stop on the hard shoulder and have a nap in your vehicle.
Driving responsibly doesn’t end when you stop driving, how you park can have consequences for both you and other drivers. Are you aware that UK motorists are involved in 1400 car park-prangs every day? Keep your speed low when parking as this allows you greater control in a small space. Look in all directions including left, right and directly behind your vehicle as this is where a car could be backing out opposite from you and of course pedestrians could be there too! If your car has any form of automated parking assistance – from reversing sensors to a full blown auto parking mode remember that these are driver aids, not driver replacements!
Do you check your mirrors before every journey? Before setting off, make sure you check that your mirrors are in the correct position, so you can see around your vehicle. When driving you should also check them every time you change speed, or direction and before signalling
Time for a refresh
Once we’ve passed our test, unless it’s a requirement of your job, very few of us will have any additional assessments. As we become more experienced and more comfortable with driving we all have the potential to slip into bad habits. To curb this it’s a good idea to consider a refresher course every few years, ensuring you keep your knowledge and confidence up to speed.
Being a responsible driver isn’t just about your behaviour and those around you. The health of your vehicle is also paramount. Beyond regular vehicle maintenance, there are various vehicle checks you can make to ensure your car is kept in good working order and reduce your risk of breakdown. Weekly checks should become second nature, if you’re not quite sure what you should be checking, remember POWER: Petrol, Oil, Water, Electrics, Rubber.
Regular checks will help you spot any potential issues early, if you need any additional guidance, your local Trust My Garage member will be more than happy to help.
While regularly monitoring your vehicle is highly recommended it is no substitute for regular servicing from a trained professional. Trust My Garage technicians are highly skilled and will be able to spot any issues and provide you with clear advice on keeping your vehicle in top condition. To find your nearest Trust My Garage member, visit our website and simply enter your postcode into our garage finder.
You can also download the Trust My Garage app from any smartphone and it will instantly recognise your location before showing a number of trusted garages nearby. From the app, you can view garage feedback, view our educational videos and call one of our members directly to book a service, MOT, or recovery service.
 Accident Exchange, 2014 report
5 ways to tackle winter sun glare
It’s perhaps ironic that during winter, the darkest and most coldest season of them all, one of the biggest dangers for motorists is the sun. You’ll know the feeling of having no other choice than to squint or close your eyes when the sun dazzles you, and doing that whilst driving can be a dangerous, yet avoidable, issue.
Glare problems persist all year round, but during the winter it’s particularly dangerous because the sun is low in the sky during the morning, which is when the roads are at their busiest with people driving to work and taking their children to school. There’s also the additional issue of the sun reflecting off snow, ice and water on the road.
An AA report released earlier this year claimed that sun glare is responsible for 36 deaths every year and causes nearly 3,000 accidents. Due to the danger associated with turning corners whilst temporarily ‘blinded’, most accidents occur on minor roads, rather than on the motorway. The report states that of the 2,905 accidents caused by sun glare last year, 1,203 were on A-roads, 428 on B-roads, 1,222 on other minor roads and only 52 were on the motorway.
Here are five tips you can use to ensure you drive safely and counter the damaging effect of low winter sun.
5. Ensure your windscreen is properly washed
With sun glare reducing visibility, it’s vital that you ensure your windscreen is clean and free of debris. Regularly check your windscreen washer fluid levels and top up when necessary. If you’ve got debris on your windscreen then the sun’s reflection will scatter through, making it even harder to see. As soon as you notice your windscreen starting to look a bit on the grubby side, give it a quick spray, but if you’ve got stubborn marks that won’t budge then clean the windows properly or head to a car wash immediately.
It’s also important to note that your wiper blades must be in good condition because they’ll fail to properly clean your windscreen if they’re worn or split. Wiper blades are fairly cheap to buy and simple to attach.
4. Lower your speed
Drive with caution and resist the urge to brake suddenly whenever you become temporarily blinded from the sun. Approach junctions with particular care and ensure each direction is clear of vehicles before you set off. This might sound like common sense but with reduced visibility it’s so easy to miss an oncoming vehicle.
Remember that the speed limit is the maximum speed you can drive at in a particular area, it’s not always safe to drive at it and if you feel unsafe don’t hesitate to drive slower.
3. Wear sunglasses and lower your visor at all times
Once autumn comes rolling around it might seem logical to put away your sunglasses until the following spring, but during the winter months it’s absolutely crucial you always have a pair in the car. Don’t just buy any old pair (a cheap one or one that you just like the look of) and polarised lenses can be particularly recommended for driving as they will be more efficient at reducing glare because most of the dazzling reflections will be horizontally polarised – while the sunglasses will be polarised vertically. Whilst you might have to pay a little bit extra, they might just save your life. Typically people don’t buy sunglasses in the winter and that means you’ll often be able to purchase them at a discounted price. Remember to remove your sunglasses before you drive into a tunnel. If you don’t, your vision will be restricted, even in tunnels that appear to be well-lit.
Visors are always a great way of reducing the amount of sunlight you get in your eyes. Make a habit of constantly having it down during the winter months. Remember that most cars allow you to swivel the sun visor to the right to counter glare coming in from the side window as well.
2. Consider taking an alternative route to work
If there’s a different route you can take to work, one that is lined with tall trees or buildings, then use it. It might take you a little bit longer but it’ll be far safer and you won’t find yourself constantly lowering your speed whenever the sun dazzles you.
Ask around for people’s recommendations or even have a look on Google Street View to see which routes will be safer.
1. Be aware of what’s around you
Keep in mind that other motorists on the road will be suffering from sun glare as well, and if they haven’t read this blog post, they might not be wearing sunglasses! Avoid braking heavily because the car behind you might not be able to react in time, and keep ample space between you and the car in front of you in case they brake heavily themselves. Pay even more attention to cyclists and pedestrians because they’ll be even harder to spot when the sun is low. Take note of where the sun is in the sky at all times; if it’s behind you then it’ll be in the eyes of the cars driving towards you, so be aware that they might not be able to see you. Dipping your headlights is a great way to ensure you’re clearly seen by the oncoming traffic.
A lot of these vehicle checks, such as checking washer fluid levels, you will be able to do yourself but it is important you also regularly service your vehicle at a trusted independent garage. This will ensure that your car remains roadworthy and safe, even in potentially dangerous weather conditions. To find a garage you can trust, enter your postcode in our online garage finder here.