Blog Archives

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

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

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

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

MOT status, tax and insurance – are you covered?

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

MOT

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

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

Tax

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

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

Insurance

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

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

Tread carefully when it comes to tyres

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

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

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

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

Batteries and brakes – are they roadworthy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep things fluid

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

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

Take a long, hard look

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

Not sure how best to care for your car?

Our ‘What to do when…’ series can provide some further tips and insight across other areas of motoring and vehicle maintenance to help you ensure your motor is running at its best! You can check out our other posts in the series here.

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

Want to know more about Trust My Garage?

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

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

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

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

The MOT Extension – how does it work and does it apply to you?

With the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic currently affecting the UK, the Government has implemented a rolling 6-month MOT exemption for vehicles with their MOT due. Not sure of how it works or what it means for your car? Trust My Garage has the answers! Read on to find out more.

UPDATE: The DVSA have published further updates to their guidance, stating that if a vehicle fails its MOT, the exemption is no longer valid. A failed vehicle needs to be fixed and pass its MOT before it can be driven on the road. Read the guidance in full here.

What changes have happened?

The Government issued an instruction on 23rd March in which the public have been asked to remain at home as much as possible to help curb the spread of the coronavirus currently occurring worldwide. This includes working from home where feasible, minimising contact with other people and remaining in isolation if they believe they have one or more symptoms of the virus.

Critical workers, such as medical staff, delivery drivers and teachers are still being asked to work, and garages have been listed as one of the business types which can remain open to help support people during this time.

What happens if my MOT is due?

The DVSA have announced that MOTs due on or after Monday 30th March have been granted a six-month extension on a rolling basis – so if your vehicle is due on 1st April, it will now be due on 1st October instead.

This process is being applied approximately 7 days ahead of the expiry date of the vehicle’s MOT certificate, so has not yet been applied to all vehicles due for MOT over the coming weeks. For example: every Tuesday, the following Tuesday’s tests are moved 6 months ahead.

The new ‘due date’ will appear in the DVSA’s MOT History service when it is amended. It enables motorists to check their extension has been done and they can legally use that vehicle to get to work as a critical worker, or for purchasing necessary shopping.

What happens if my vehicle needs maintenance or a repair?

The Government have asked the public to ensure their vehicles remain in a safe and roadworthy condition, even when they’ve been granted an MOT extension.

Using any vehicle with defects present on the highway, regardless of its MOT status, is an offence. You can be fined up to £2,500 – and be banned from driving and get 3 penalty points for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

One way of checking if your vehicle is in a roadworthy condition is to ensure it has a valid MOT certificate.

As garages are still allowed to be open during this time, you should be able to contact one of over 3,000 Trust My Garage members and discuss your options. Many garage businesses are now offering a free collection and delivery service to help vulnerable or at-risk motorists, or those who are in self-isolation too.

To find your nearest Trust My Garage member, you can try our handy “Find a Garage” map, or pop in your postcode here:

If you know what your vehicle needs, TMG members can even provide a work estimate online – so you know what service your vehicle will receive, and at what rate! You can also view each garage’s profile to learn more about the business, their opening hours and check ratings from other customers, so you can be 100% confident in the garage you choose to use.

All TMG members subscribe to a Trading Standards-approved Code of Conduct, which includes a strict Customer Charter, and each member upholds the high standards of quality garages designed to support their customers’ needs.

More about Trust My Garage

If you’re looking for more information about Trust My Garage, you can head over to our website, TrustMyGarage.co.uk. We’re also on social media, so check out our Facebook and Twitter profiles to get the latest motoring news and updates straight into your social feeds – and you can even check out our latest TV advert below!

If you’ve got any comments or feedback about your trusted local TMG members, be sure to leave us a comment in the box below!

Autumn Budget 2017 – How will it affect motorists?

Wednesday 22nd November saw Chancellor of the Exchequer announce his Autumn budget speech to the House of Commons.

 

The Budget is the Government’s yearly announcement about how it will use nation’s money to fund services such as schools, the NHS, policing, housing and more. Taxpayers provide money for the Government, which then translates into the budget’s funding. Motoring taxes such as VAT, charged at the current rate of 20%, Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax), and fuel duty are some of the types of funding coming from vehicle owners that the budget utilises.

Philip Hammond Budget 2017

Trust My Garage believes that keeping you in the loop as a vehicle owner is of vital importance, so we’ve created a breakdown on how the changes announced in the budget could affect the UK’s motorists and the future of driving.

 

Fuel Duty

After much speculation, fuel duty has remained frozen for another year – meaning drivers of diesel vehicles will not be subject to increased costs for their fuel.

 

Road Tax

However, vehicle excise duty for diesel cars that do not meet the latest emission standards will rise by one band in April 2018 to crack down on the increasing levels of air pollution – so you could be paying anything from £15 to £500 more a year depending on how polluting your diesel vehicle is. As well as this, existing diesel supplements in company car tax will rise by 1%.

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The Chancellor also reassured “white van men, and women” that company taxes on diesel vehicles will not hit them –  The changes to company car tax for diesel vehicles are designed for cars only.

 

Electric Cars

As a benefit to motorists, Mr Hammond unveiled extra funding and tax incentives for electric car drivers in order to initiate further take up of electric vehicles (EVs). An extra £100 million is set to go towards helping people buy battery electric cars. The Government has also pledged to make sure all new homes are built with the right cables for electric car charge points.

In addition to the extra investments, electric cars charged at work will not incur benefit in kind, meaning they aren’t subject to taxation as fossil fuel-run vehicles are. This should encourage businesses to install charging points on their premises for employees – making it easier to charge your car at a convenient time.

EVs

The Government is also investing more funding into a cohesive electric vehicle charging infrastructure, once again ensuring you can stay charged up and ready to go no matter where you are if you choose to run an EV.

 

Driverless Technology

Thinking even further ahead, the Government has pledged to devote funding to driverless cars, considering them as the ‘next step’ after electric vehicles. The Chancellor announced that the UK will set out rules so that self-driving cars can be tested without a safety operator.

 

In Summary

Overall, the latest budget has been of mixed quality for motorists. Fuel duty prices have unexpectedly been frozen again to save you money, and the investment into electric vehicles will make it easier than ever to make the switch to a greener car and reduce air pollution for the next generation. However, the rise in costs for diesel vehicles is still set to affect many thousands of drivers across the UK.

 

No matter what the budget – be it yours or the UK’s – Trust My Garage and the Car Repair Plan are here to help you ensure your car is running at its best! If you’re looking for any kind of  service or repair, you can use our handy Find a Garage map to locate your nearest Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) code of conduct approved member.

For more information about Trust My Garage you can also visit our website at www.TrustMyGarage.co.uk.

Got any thoughts or comments about how the Autumn budget could affect you? Tell us in the comments below!

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Diesel Scrappage: What is it all about?

In recent weeks there has been much talk about diesel emissions and how they are affecting pollution levels around the globe. Diesel engine vehicles are one of the main causes of concern for pollution levels, especially on the back of the Dieselgate scandal, where Volkswagen pleaded guilty in the US to allegations they hid true vehicle emission levels during emissions testing.

Despite the new technology being used in electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as average petrol cars, hundreds of thousands of daily use vehicles are powered by diesel engines, as they are seen to be the most fuel efficient. So, in the face of a potential oncoming vendetta against diesel as a fuel, what can UK motorists do?

diesel ex

Diesel emissions are a real problem when it comes to pollution

 

Government Plans

The British government are currently drafting plans to try and reduce the amount of emissions in cities around the UK. Their ‘Clean Air Plan’ aims to tackle dirty and polluted air, reducing overall pollution. Clean air zones could be set up in dozens of cities and towns, according to the document.

Unsurprisingly, London has the highest levels of air pollution in the UK. According to a 2014 Public Health England report, poor air quality in inner London alone is responsible for 7.2 per cent of deaths in the capital, while previous studies have linked air pollution to 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. (Auto Express)

The plans to try and reduce emissions have become necessary as the UK has struggled to keep within EU limits on some pollutants, particularly nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is produced by diesel engines and is linked to a range of respiratory diseases, including asthma. Some 37 of the 43 regions of the UK are in breach of NO2 limits. (BBC)

 

How would the ‘Clean Air Plan’ affect motorists?

The series of documents on a clean air strategy cover a wide variety of options, the most radical measure being considered is what’s termed a “targeted” car scrappage scheme. In its technical documents supporting the plan, modellers estimate that such a scheme could take 15,000 diesel and older petrol cars off the road.

“Under this scheme, 15,000 Euro 1-5 diesel cars/Euro 1-3 petrol cars are replaced with electric cars. The grant level that has been assumed for this option is £8,000,” the documentation states. (BBC)

The suggestion is that a scheme could be brought in within two years.

In a statement, The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said: “Local authorities are already responsible for improving air quality in their area, but will now be expected to develop new and creative solutions to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, while avoiding undue impact on the motorist.” (Auto Express)

diesel fuel pump

The Clean Air Plan suggests a grant of up to £8,000 for diesel scrappage

 

The UK Government previously introduced a £300million vehicle scrappage scheme in 2009 that applied to all old vehicles. In return for scrapping their old car or van, owners were given £1,000 from the Government towards a new vehicle. However, it seems the incentive to choose a more eco-friendly car will require a larger grant to get motorists to give up their long-serving diesel vehicles.

While there are benefits to embracing a diesel scrappage scheme, it has been reported that motorists could also face a ‘triple whammy’ when it comes to costs, in order to ensure the grants provided to those taking part in the scheme are cost effective. Parking charges, pollution charges, and a new tax increase are all potential dangers for a driver’s wallet.

 

Is my car eligible for the diesel scrappage scheme?

It’s expected that the scrappage scheme will target the oldest diesel vehicles on the road, which also tend to be the dirtiest. Any diesel car or van that’s more than 10 years old is likely to be eligible for the scheme, while more modern diesels will be exempt.

Initially, it’s believed that the scheme will only apply to the 10 most polluted cities in the UK, with London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool all on the list. However, it’s possible that if the initial trial is a success then the scheme could be rolled out nationwide. (Car Keys)

diesel fuel cap

Diesel has fallen out of favour as other, less polluting, fuels have been utilised

 

At present, the Clean Air Plan has only been through a first draft, and will likely take some time to be completed. If you’d like to read more about the plan and the results of the consultation that inspired it, you can take a look at the .Gov website here.

If you’re looking to check your car or motorcycle’s emissions, book it in for an MOT, service, or just a bit of a tune-up, you can find your nearest CTSI Consumer Code approved Trust My Garage member using our handy ‘Find a Garage’ map. Once your car is ready to hit the road you can also check out our top tips for driving in summer here, too!

Why is the MOT so important for vehicles?

Every year from the age of three your car should, by law, go in for an MOT test. But what exactly does the MOT do and why are they so important?

 

What even is an MOT?

During an MOT, the most important parts of your vehicle are “checked to make sure they meet the legal standards” (Gov). By having an MOT, you’re making sure that your car is safe to drive on UK roads. It’s called an MOT because it was originally named after the original Ministry of Transport (MoT). (source)

 

But I’ve had my car serviced, isn’t that the same?

Simply put, no. The MOT does not cover the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox, which are the parts of your car that will be looked at during a service. The MOT looks at mechanical parts of your car and emissions as well. 

 

Ok, so what parts of my car does the MOT look at?

The MOT provides you with an evaluation on the condition of most of your car, such as bodywork, fuel, seats, brakes and tyres. For a more in-depth breakdown of all the parts of your car looked at during the MOT, you can have a look at the full government list here, or take a look at the photo below.

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Car parts looked at during the MOT (source)

So why is the MOT so important for my car?

Under the current system, 27.48 million vehicles took the MOT test last year and 4 out of 10 of them were found to be unroadworthy when examined. (DVSA, 2015) Even with a regular test every year, that’s still just under 11 million vehicles that aren’t fit to drive on UK roads.

With the Government opening their new consultation about extending the time before a car’s first MOT, it’s important to think about how many more dangerous vehicles – which could be over 3 and a half million! – that could be around in just one extra year’s time. 

 

 

Wait, the government want to do what?

Yes, you read that right. The government have opened a public consultation asking for opinions on whether a car should be able to wait 4 years for its first MOT, instead of 3. It’s being called the 4-1-1 system, and while it might seem like a good idea, the facts say otherwise. There is a belief that because modern cars are more reliable, they do not need to be tested so strictly. In practice this is incorrect. Not only is the current MOT failure rate higher than it was in 2008 (when vehicles were less reliable), components designed to wear out – like tyres and brakes – are far more likely to have become dangerous by the time the vehicle is four years old. 

 

But an extra year with no MOT would save me money, right?

Well, that isn’t exactly the case. Extending the time allowed before the first MOT of a car or motorcycle’s life from three years to four would likely prove more expensive for motorists, as it would raise the likelihood that minor problems become more serious defects – which then triggers in turn further defects which require more significant and more costly repairs later. It may also be the case that defects associated with one component due to excessive wear could then result in defects in different but associated components which would otherwise have remained serviceable. The defects are therefore cumulative – which could cost you even more money. 

 

But my car looks fine, so why would it even need an MOT?

While it’s true that your car may look fine at a glance, when was the last time you checked the tread on your tyres? Do you know the proper depth it needs to be at to be road safe? Do you think your brakes are as responsive as when you first got your car? Are the electrics still safe and functioning properly? The MOT is designed to ensure your vehicle is as safe as possible when you drive it, and lets you know if there are any problems before they become a real danger to you and other road users. 

rusty-car

 

Surely it can’t be that much of a problem though?

That’s where you’re wrong. In 2013/14 there were more than 770,000 vehicles discovered during MOT tests with a dangerous defect. Nearly 2,200 EVERY day. The problems ranged from brakes, steering, tyres, suspension, seatbelts, lights and signalling equipment (DfT, ‘MOT Scheme Evidence base’, 2008). Now, when you go out on to the roads, do you want over 2,000 chances of being in an accident due to a dangerous car?

 

You’re right, that’s bad! But what can I do to stop it happening?

For a start, you can take your vehicle for its yearly MOT, to make sure it’s in the best possible condition. If you’re looking for a garage that will carry out a thorough, DVSA standard MOT you can find your nearest trusted independent garage on the Trust My Garage website. All the garages are Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved and are ready to do the best work for you and your vehicle. 

You can also head over proMOTe’s website if you’re looking for some more facts, or you can to the Government website and take a look at the MOT consultation yourself. It’s open for response from all members of the public, so if you think it’s a bad idea, like we do, let the government know!

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Proposed MOT changes: Why the 4-1-1 system is dangerous

The Government has announced a proposal to consult on extending the time allowed before the first MOT of a vehicle’s life from three years to four – known as the 4-1-1 system (Summer Budget, 2015).

While many motorists may think this is a good idea, there is ever-growing evidence that the increase of faulty and potentially dangerous cars on UK roads would result in extra injuries and possibly even deaths. 

The Department for transport (DfT) released a report that stated that the addition of an extra year before a car’s first MOT could mean injuries rise by 2,000 a year, with an estimated 71 of those injuries being fatal.

Evidently any move to extend the time allowed before the first MOT of a car or motorcycle’s life from three years to four years would seriously endanger road safety for all road users.

Not only would the changes be dangerous, but they mean that there would also be an increase in repair costs for drivers and an inevitable increase in harmful emissions due to the additional time that vehicles had been active on the roads without the essential checks carried out during an MOT. 

 There have been previous attempts in government to introduce an extended first MOT period – in 2008 and 2011 – both of which considered the 4-1-1 as a structure for MOT frequency, and both at both of these times the government decided that no changes should take place. There have been no changes in the MOT design or car safety that would then mean that the 4-1-1 structure is now viable. 

Under the current system, 27.48 million vehicles took the MOT test in 2015 and 4 out of 10 of them were found to be unroadworthy when examined.(DVSA, 2015)  Along with this, more than 770,000 vehicles were discovered to have a dangerous defect in 2013/14, equating to nearly 2,200 every day. The problems ranged from brakes, steering, tyres, suspension, seatbelts, lights and signalling equipment.(DfT, ‘MOT Scheme Evidence base’, 2008)

 Currently many vehicles are found to be unroadworthy at three years old; therefore it stands to reason that extending the MOT to four years will mean there are even more vehicles on the roads in a potentially dangerous condition. There is a belief that because modern cars are more reliable, they do not need to be tested so strictly. In practice this is incorrect. Not only is the current MOT failure rate higher than it was in 2008 (when vehicles were less reliable), components designed to wear out – like tyres and brakes – are likely to have become dangerous by the time the vehicle is four years old.

If a vehicle has a defect by its third year of use, then extending the MOT for a further year will also have the effect of increasing the number of defects the vehicle carries, because defects associated with one component due to excessive wear could then snowball and cause defects with the related components in the vehicle. Not only is this dangerous for motorists, but it could also be costly as minor repairs that could be fixed in the third year could become major defects by the fourth. 

Not only is the proposed system dangerous to vehicle safety and public safety, it is also dangerous for the environment. Air quality and reducing emissions is a high Government priority, but extending the time allowed before a vehicle’s first MOT allows polluting vehicles (which would have been detected when they were three years old) to go undetected for a further year. This makes them far more likely to increase their polluting emissions as the engine condition further deteriorates. 

The 4-1-1 system paves the way for vehicles to be a source of danger on the roads. You can have your say about it by visiting the government consultation, designed to give people a platform for their opinions before any changes are debated by the government . It is open until Sunday 16th April, 11:45pm. To get have your say click here.

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To find out more about why the proposed changes to MOT frequency are a danger to both vehicles and road users, take a look at the ProMOTe website here.

If you think that your vehicle is due for an MOT or you feel it needs a bit of maintenance, why not visit the Trust My Garage website and find a trusted independent garage in your area? Click here to find your nearest garage