With the average UK motorist making 986 trips and covering 6536 miles per year in their car (source), it’s possible that some drivers can leave their motor in need of a little tender loving care when it comes to basic maintenance issues – but how can you make sure you give your vehicle the care it needs? Find out with the Trust My Garage blog!
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.
Use your dipstick (if your vehicle has one) to check oil levels every couple of weeks, when the car is warm and on level ground. Stop the engine and wait a few minutes for the oil to settle, remove the dipstick and wipe it clean.
Push the dipstick all the way in, wait a second, and then withdraw it and check the level. The oil should be between the MIN and MAX marks. If the oil is dark or dirty or underneath the minimum line (or both!) It should be topped up/changed as soon as possible.
Many modern vehicles use an electronic system to check their oil level, so if your vehicle uses this you should familiarise yourself with the system.
It is illegal under the Road Vehicles Regulations 1986 to not have screenwash in your vehicle. Keep it regularly topped up with a screenwash additive – one that prevents it from freezing and clears oily grime from your windscreen for clear vision.
Don’t forget to keep the inside clean too, to avoid your vision being reduced due to glare – especially when the sun gets lower in the sky during daily commutes to and from work.
Every week, while your engine is cold, check your coolant level is between the MIN and MAX marks – if it’s below the minimum line, top it up as required, and check it again after your next journey.
If your coolant level regularly requires topping up you may have a leak in the vehicle’s cooling system, so get it checked out by your local garage!
Keep an eye out for stone damage and, if you spot any chips, get them repaired as soon as possible – as they can grow and crack if left alone. If the damage can’t be repaired, or it’s in a place where it could distract you, your windscreen may need to be replaced.
Many motor insurance policies provide discounted or free chip repairs, and detail how to proceed with your repair.
It’s important to give your car panels an occasional check for any damage, or signs of rust. If you notice any rusty or damaged areas, you can contact a local bodyshop to see how best to proceed with any repairs.
Take a walk around your vehicle or ask a friend to help check all your lights – including indicators, reversing lights, brake lights and fog lights – once a week. Look out for blown bulbs and cracks or dirt on the lenses.
Your vehicle can receive a Minor Defect notification on its MOT if your indicators do not “flash amber” in compliance with the requirements, so if you have any issues with fading indicator lights you should replace them or have a local garage inspect them – you may only need a new bulb!
If a bulb has broken and you don’t want to replace it yourself you can also take your vehicle to a local garage, who can fix the issue and help you avoid a penalty.
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 what we do?
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.
Each and 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.
Don’t forget: If you can think of any more top TLC tips, leave us a comment in the box below!
2018 is upon us! The start of the new year means many people across the UK are kickstarting their January with a range of New Year’s resolutions – and motorists are no exception. This year, drivers are looking to reboot their motoring habits in a bid to revamp both their vehicles and their attitudes to driving.
A new survey has shown the variety of ways in which motorists want to put more effort into vehicle maintenance and their driving styles – but which of these resolutions will be yours?
Checking tyre pressures and oil levels regularly
In the poll, 24 per cent of drivers said they wanted to improve how frequently they check their tyre pressures and oil levels. Both of these areas are hugely important in your vehicle; as maintaining correct tyre pressure ensures good fuel efficiency, better road safety in poor weather conditions and more even wear across the tyre, reducing the likelihood of bald spots on the tyre. Correct tyre pressures should be listed in your vehicle’s owner’s manual and on the pillar when the driver’s door is open. To inflate your tyres to the correct pressure, many garages and petrol stations offer a tyre pressure inflator on site.
Having the correct levels of oil in your engine is also of vital importance for your vehicle. Any engine needs lubrication, and making sure your engine is well oiled will fight against two major engine damagers: friction and heat. Measuring your oil level on the dipstick when your vehicle is cool and on level ground will give you an accurate reading of the amount and an indication of the quality of the oil in your motor.
Learning to park properly
17 per cent of drivers also wanted to learn how to park properly. While many drivers are comfortable driving in to a parking space, some motorists – especially new and/or younger drivers – can feel daunted at the prospect of parallel parking. While practice is the best method for improvement, these tips from the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) can offer some help for understanding how to parallel park safely and effectively.
The survey found that 16 per cent of drivers were nervous or unhappy about using the motorway in their vehicle. As part of the expansive road network spanning the UK, motorways provide a fast route to almost any destination up and down the country – but the speed and heavy flow of traffic can be an intimidating prospect for a motorist. The Highway Code provides explicit rules of conduct for using the motorway network, but drivers can also use a ‘Pass Plus’ training course with a registered instructor as a practical application to help get them motoring.
Improving reversing ability
15 per cent of respondents also said they would like to improve their ability to reverse their vehicle. While reversing may seem like a common manoeuvre, some drivers can find it difficult. The Highway Code offers some helpful advice for reversing, along with its other general road use guidelines. Rule 202 states:
“Look carefully before you start reversing. You should
- use all your mirrors
- check the ‘blind spot’ behind you (the part of the road you cannot see easily in the mirrors)
- check there are no pedestrians (particularly children), cyclists, other road users or obstructions in the road behind you.
Reverse slowly while
- checking all around
- looking mainly through the rear window
- being aware that the front of your vehicle will swing out as you turn.
Get someone to guide you if you cannot see clearly.”
Not getting road rage
14 per cent of drivers in the poll admitted to succumbing to road rage when motoring, with a resolution not to give in to the red mist in 2018. While being a confident driver is a definite positive, motorists should not be over confident, as it can be a killer on the roads. The best method for combatting road rage is simply to let any issues go and not let them affect your journey, however we know how difficult that can be! Rule 147 of The Highway Code states:
“Do not allow yourself to become agitated or involved if someone is behaving badly on the road. This will only make the situation worse. Pull over, calm down and, when you feel relaxed, continue your journey.”
So, sit back, relax, and carry on driving in a calm manner for your own safety and that of other road users.
Switching off phones at the wheel
A shocking 13 per cent of drivers admitted to their resolution being to switch off their mobile phone when behind the wheel. The law states that:
“You can only use a handheld phone if you are safely parked or need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.”
If you’re caught using a mobile in any other motoring circumstance you’ll receive 6 penalty points on your driving licence and a £200 fine.
The simplest solution is to turn off your phone or have it in a locked compartment of your car, and if you feel you need to check your phone pull over at a safe point and switch off your car’s engine. If you need to contact someone and you know they are driving, wait until you know they have arrived at their destination to avoid being a distraction to them.
Keeping your vehicle in top condition
Maintaining your vehicle should be at the top of your New Year’s Resolutions list, so that you can keep motoring happy throughout 2018. With Trust My Garage, you know you can rely on using a nationally recognised brand, with a truly professional service for both you and your vehicle. 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.
Got any New Year’s resolutions of your own? Let us know in the comments!
In the news lately, there has been a great deal of coverage surrounding mobile phone use at the wheel. Although illegal, many motorists are still opting to use their hand-held devices whilst driving, despite the damaging implications this could have. It has now been proposed that the punishment for being caught with a mobile whilst in the driver’s seat is set to rise, with offenders receiving tougher penalties and larger fines. Although many still have a seemingly brazen attitude towards this illegal act, despite the implications it can have, there are some more common habits that many motorists are guilty of that could also potentially land you in a great deal of trouble too.
Remember, in the eyes of the law, ignorance is no defence, so it’s best to clue yourself up on these motoring illegalities, before you find yourself in trouble.
- Driving whilst on prescription drugs
It probably goes without saying that driving under the influence of drugs and hallucinogens are completely unlawful. But, we bet you didn’t know that your over-the-counter prescription drugs could lead you onto the wrong side of the law too. Some household medications come with cautionary notes suggesting that the drug could cause the user to feel drowsy and thus affect their ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. In this case, getting behind the wheel is strongly advised against and ignoring such caution could lead to a one year driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to six months in prison, and a criminal record. Always remember to read the advisory leaflet that comes alongside your medication, to keep you from having a run in with the law.
- Using phone whilst supervising learner driver
Now, we know that the law dictates against drivers using handheld devices behind the wheel, but did you know this rule also applies to driving instructors too? Anyone supervising a learner driver is considered to be in primary control of the vehicle and thus is required to give the roads their full attention. Being caught on a phone in these circumstances could lead to fines of up to £300, and up to 6 points on the supervisor’s licence. Subsequently, any driving related convictions and charges could further lead to loss of work for offenders who instruct for a living. Quite like the laws regarding drivers using their mobiles, this law does come with one exception; this illegality is only considered acceptable if the driver/instructor needs to call 999 and is not able to pull over in safe place.
- Using your horn
When you find yourself driving behind a slow motorist, it may be tempting to sound your horn by way of prompting the driver to speed up. Not only is this considered aggressive driving – it is also punishable. Actually, the rules regarding horn use are considerably refined.
Whilst in a moving vehicle, the horn should only be sounded if you need to warn other road users of your presence, such as on a blind bend. The horn should not be sounded whilst the car is stationary on the roads, or when driving in a built up area between 11.30pm and 7.00am except for extenuating circumstances, such as another road user posing a danger. Doing so could lead to a fixed penalty notice and a fine.
In more severe cases, the council may choose to take action, and charge a horn offender under the noise pollution law. If this is the case, hefty fines may be issued with up to £5000 being fined on domestic land, or up to £20,000 on commercial premises. Given this, it’s probably better to resist the temptation!
- Having a dirty number plate
We know how it can get in winter. Over the summer months, you spend hours on end, preening and presenting your motor so that it gleams in the summer sun. When it comes to winter, however, the misery and chill can make this process a little more tedious. Nobody likes having to stand out in the cold and rain; so sometimes, the car washing, waxing and cleaning process can occur very few and far between. However, such understandable neglect could see you being penalised if it affects the visibility of your number plate.
According to legislation, your number plate must be readable at all times and not covered in dirt. Failing this, you could end up with up to a £1000 fine. It is also a requirement that the number plate is fixed to the vehicle; is of the correct size, colour, font and spacing; and follows the British standard including the trademark of the plate supplier.
- Driving too slowly
With all the extensive laws regarding driving currently in place, it may be tempting to err on the edge of caution and drive a little more guardedly. However, where your intentions may be good, in this scenario, such excessive consideration could actually land you in a spot of bother. Not only is driving too slowly likely to wind up fellow road users, which could subsequently encourage potentially dangerous aggressive driving on their behalf, it could also land you with three to nine points on your licence and a potential disqualification. Why? Because holding up traffic can be considered to be driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. So, if you find yourself with a queue building up behind you, and you’re not yet at the speed limit, it may be worth speeding up a little, to avoid such punishment.
- Driving with fog lights on
Of course, this only refers to situations when it is not foggy. Sometimes, you may see other road users with their fog lights on during clear conditions – it seems it may have become a bit of a cool trend to keep them on. However, the Highway Code dictates that this is in fact not allowed. Headlights and fog lights may only be used when visibility is seriously reduced, and you generally can’t see for more than 100 meters. Should you regain a clear vision field, it is important you turn your lights off immediately. Failing to do so could dazzle other road users which could lead to further problems or fatalities, which certainly isn’t cool.
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way street
It can sometimes be a really easy mistake to make, driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Sometimes, the no-entry sign just isn’t clear enough and you find yourself driving in the opposite direction to parked up vehicles. You may think that this simple mistake is forgivable; that you could just do a quick turn-in-the-road and you’ll be fine; but actually, should you be caught by an officer, you could face a penalty or charge for driving without due care or attention. Be sure to stay extra attentive to road markings and signs to dodge such penalisation.
- Not clearing snow off the car roof
In the height of winter, when snow is all around, the last thing you want to do is stand out in the cold for longer than necessary. When it comes to setting out on a journey, you may be tempted to try and get away with just giving a section of your windscreen a quick scrape to remove any ice and condensation from your direct eyeshot. However, such a botched job could lead you into trouble with the police.
Not only are you required to completely clear all of your windows of snow and ice, but it is also imperative you remove any snow from your roof and bonnet too. Snow on the roof could slip forward onto your windscreen and obstruct your vision of the road, which could be incredibly dangerous. Not only this, but the falling snow could also cause problems for other road users too.
Anything that can fall from your car is considered a hazard which could lead to a £60 fine and three penalty points – in more serious cases, you can be charged with offences of careless or inconsiderate driving. So, it’s probably worth spending a few more minutes scraping in the morning, and investing in a good de-icer and scraper
- Driving with hazard lights on
Based on the rules dictated in the Highway Code, hazard lights should only be switched on:
- To warn others that your stationary vehicle may temporarily obstruct traffic
- Whilst on a motorway or unrestricted dual carriageway and you need to warn drivers behind you of a hazard or obstruction ahead
In both cases, it is recommended that motorists switch off the hazard lights once they have been observed by other motorists.
However, it is becoming increasingly common for road users to opt for hazard lights in other circumstances too. In many cases, motorists are using their hazard lights whilst parked in a place they shouldn’t be, under the assumption that the hazard lights will subsidise their illegal parking. Of course, this is not the case, and will be penalised. Not only that, though; aside from the aforementioned circumstances, driving with hazard lights on can cause confusion amongst other drivers and pedestrians, which could lead to potential hazards and conflicts, and thus is worthy of a penalty.
Avoid the risk of your motor becoming a hazard to other road users by keeping up to date with your car services and MOTs. Remember, there are over 2,100 Trust My Garage members around the country, all qualified and willing to conduct these necessary checks. Be sure to find your nearest trusted garage on the Trust My Garage website.
- Leaving the engine running while the car is left unattended
During the wintery weather, it may be tempting to leave your car running to warm up before you head out on your morning commute to work. However, unless you’re doing so on a private driveway or garage, this is actually a punishable offence. It is recommended that motorists do not leave their vehicles unattended with the engine on, as such actions could lead to theft or damage; both of which could further lead to subsequent danger or injury.
- Sleeping in a car whilst drunk
After a heavy night out, you can sometimes find yourself waking up in a variety of unexpected places. If, for some reason, you find yourself locked out of your own home, it may be tempting to have a kip in your car instead. It may seem like a perfectly reasonable solution; it’s warm and cushioned, and can keep you safe like a protective bubble. But, it could also see you being penalised.
If you fall asleep in a car whilst under the influence of alcohol, you can face punishments not too dissimilar than those linked to drink driving. Although you may be curled up in the back seat with the engine off, you are still considered in control of a vehicle. Even if you have no intention of driving the vehicle whilst under the influence, simply being inside it whilst drunk could land you in trouble.
In many cases, penalisation for these cases are at the discretion of any officer present. If they consider you to be out of control of your vehicle, or posing a potential danger or hazard to other road users, they are well within their rights to issue fines, penalties and points. For the safety of yourself and other motorists, it is important to take extra consideration whilst driving, and we recommend staying extra attentive! Which of these habits didn’t you know about?
Many of us drive around in our cars blissfully unaware of the useful colour coded guides that are often under the bonnet. This came to light recently as we were filming at one of our member garages. The non-mechanics among us were surprised to be shown that the fluids you are able to check yourself under the bonnet are often colour coded, particularly in modern cars where the things you can check yourself may be less obvious than on older vehicles.
Keeping on top of a few simple checks yourself means you are less likely to have something go wrong with your car, and it may even help you avoid expensive repair bills.
After reading this blog, make sure you go out to your car and take a look under your bonnet to see if your model colour codes the things you can check yourself…
Oil lubricates and cleans all the moving parts of your engine. In most cases, where you check the oil (the dipstick) is separate from where you put the oil – although everyone who has ever worked in the motor trade will be able to tell a story about cleaning up the mess after people have tried to top up the oil through the dipstick hole. There are always exceptions to this rule and some Renault and Peugeot cars have a combined dipstick and oil filler. Oil filler caps and dipstick handles are often yellow and may have information or pictograms embossed into them.
Unless the handbook indicates otherwise, oil should be checked after the engine has been running for a while then switched off and left for a few minutes. It should not be checked with a completely cold engine. Make sure the car is parked on level ground before attempting to check the oil.
Step 1 – Pull the dipstick out and wipe clean
Step 2 – Put it back into the oil well and pull it back out
Step 3 – Oil mark should be between the minimum and maximum levels
Modern oils are carefully refined to suit the characteristics of today’s engines and you should be careful to ensure that you are using the correct oil. Consult your car’s handbook to confirm the correct type and viscosity rating.
Brake fluid transfers from the master cylinder behind the brake pedal to the brake calipers located at each wheel when you apply your brakes. The brake fluid cap may also be colour coded and again may have information or pictograms embossed into it. It will and look something like this:
Step 1 – Check that the level is between the minimum and maximum levels
Step 2 – If it is too low then add the correct grade of brake fluid to the maximum level
If you need to add a significant amount of brake fluid or need to top up fluid regularly, you should seek assistance from your nearest TRUST MY GARAGE member.
Engines work very hard and the coolant is what stops it from overheating. The tank is semi-transparent and will probably have a colour coded cap. Unlike older cars, it is very unlikely that you will be adding coolant to the radiator itself. Again, the cap for the engine coolant may be yellow, or blue and looks like this:
Step 1 – Make sure the engine is cold. The cooling system in a car is usually pressurised to allow the engine to run at higher temperatures without boiling. If you release this pressure by opening the cap when the engine is hot there is a significant risk of scalding
Step 2 – The level should be between the ‘low’ and ‘high’ levels
Step 3 – Like your brake fluid, if it looks too low then top it up to a higher level
Modern engines may require a specific coolant fluid rather than plain water although it is OK to top up with plain water in an emergency. Once again, excessive or ongoing loss of coolant is a warning to take your car to your nearest TRUST MY GARAGE member to be checked.
Step 1 – Open the lid
Step 2 – Check if the level of fluid is sitting in the neck of the reservoir
Step 3 – If it is too low then fill it to the neck
Gary Lillistone is a senior driver from Coventry and has experienced for himself how cars have become more advanced since he started driving decades ago. He reflects on the maintenance of his vehicles over the years:
“Thirty to forty years ago, you would check over a car before making a reasonable journey. You would typically lift the bonnet and take the radiator cap off to see if the water level was OK, or check the battery. There have beenmany times when I’ve had to recharge a battery of a night. I would also listen to the engine to see if it purred or was running on one or two cylinder. If it was lumpy, I checked the spark plugs and maybe took off the distributor cap to look at the points. Motorists got into the way of tinkering with cars. Today, they tend to be more reliable and many of us don’t bother even looking at water levels, or checking the dipstick. Car owners really should check their oil levels on a regular basis. Some models do use a fair bit of oil and you could potentially seize the engine by running it dry. Can you really rely on an oil light coming on to warn you? It could be an expensive mistake!”
Now you know exactly why these things are colour coded – and there will usually be a selection of warning and instructional labels located under the bonnet. There will also be more information in the car’s handbook including information about the types and capacities of the various fluids. But if you suspect you still have a problem with your car after checking each of these areas, then you may need some specialist help. You can use the postcode finder on our website to find the most trusted garages in your area. FIND ONE HERE