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Planning a summer staycation? Get your vehicle holiday-ready with Trust My Garage

This year, global circumstances are affecting many UK residents’ plans for a summer holiday. Instead of waiting until the world is turning again, some people are opting for a stay-at-home holiday this summer – often referred to as a “staycation”.

Staycations are a great opportunity to explore parts yet unknown across the UK, and with a wide range of options on our doorstep, many are, or will be, driving to a new destination to get their summer break. If you’re taking your vehicle on the road to relaxation, these top tips from Trust My Garage will help make sure you get their safely and happily – read on to find out more!

Plan your route(s)

Before setting off on any journey it is worth checking the routes to your destination. Ideally, have a main route and a back-up option prepared in case of unforeseen delays like traffic or road closures. Many internet search engines offer mapping functions, providing travel times based on time of day, traffic and road incidents, so you can prepare well ahead for your trip. By doing a little homework beforehand, you could save a lot of time and avoid frustrations – which means more time for you to enjoy your holiday.

Check your fluid levels

Prior to making your trip you should check your vehicle’s fluid levels. You can check these yourself if you are comfortable doing so, or you can take your vehicle to a local garage and ask them to check that your levels are where they should be. Key fluids to check are:

  1. Windscreen wash fluid – windscreen wiper symbol on cap
  2. Brake fluid – black with hazard triangle with “!” on cap
  3. Power steering fluid – steering wheel logo on cap
  4. Engine Oil – cap with “OIL” or oil can logo, and yellow ended dipstick for checking the oil level is correct
  5. Engine coolant level – black with hazard triangle with “!” on cap

It is important to ensure your fluids are all within their required minimum and maximum markings, which are indicated with MIN MAX marks either on the side of their respective fluid tanks or, in the case of engine oil, the marked as lines near the end of the dipstick.

If you want to learn how to check your engine oil, watch this simple guide on what to do:

If you are unsure if your car needs any more fluids, or which fluids to use, call or visit your local garage. They should be able to assist and advise on what is best for your vehicle.

Check your tyres and lights

Tyres are a crucial element of keeping your vehicle safe on the roads, so make sure yours tread depths are well within legal limits before heading out! The 20p test is a simple and effective way to check your tyres have an adequate amount of tread to keep you safe on the roads – this is how you do it:

As well as checking your tread depth, you should also ensure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure(s), as detailed in your vehicle’s Owner’s Manual. When travelling with a heavy load, such as baggage for a holiday, you may need to adjust the tyre pressures to ensure optimum tyre efficiency. Details of which weight levels require this should also be provided in your Owner’s Manual as an accompaniment to the pressure details.

While checking your running tyres, it’s good idea to also check your spare(if you have one) for any lumps, bulges or tears in case it is needed on your trip, or alternatively you can ensure you have a fully-stocked tyre  repair kit in your vehicle in case of emergency. For more information on how to check your tyres, you can check out our “What to do when… you need to check your vehicle’s tyres” blog post here.

If your vehicle does require new tyres, you can contact your local garage to arrange a convenient time for you to visit them to fit new tyres to your vehicle.

Lights are equally important too, as a dim or non-functioning light can impair your view of the road or prevent another motorist from seeing your vehicle. If you have a brake light that isn’t working, you could be subject to any of the following:

  • A £60 fine and three points on your licence
  • A Vehicle Defect Rectification Notice – 14 days to fix the fault and provide proof of the fix
  • Your car taken off the road immediately

An easy way to check your lights are functioning, while your vehicle is parked safely, is to turn them on (or depress the brake pedal) and look in any reflective surfaces around you to confirm lights are visible. Reflective surfaces can be the bodies of other nearby vehicles, shop windows or mirrors. If you are accompanied, you can also ask another person to step out and walk around the stationary vehicle to confirm all lights are functioning as normal.

If you need a lightbulb replacing and are unsure which bulb type to purchase, or do not know how to fit a lightbulb to your vehicle, you can contact your local garage and arrange for the service to be carried out by them.

Check your vehicle’s tax, MOT and insurance

Before you’ve even left the house, you may need to check these three important documents are valid and have enough time left on them, to enable you to legally complete your staycation.

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 or renew it online via the Gov.uk website here.

If you are unsure of your vehicle’s MOT status you can use the Gov.uk MOT history checker to see when your vehicle last had an MOT, and the previous detailed information about that MOT. It’s worth ensuring that any advisory items noted at the last MOT are repaired, as these item may have deteriorated since the last MOT was carried out. As part of this service, you can also check if there are any outstanding recalls for your vehicle – where the manufacturer needs to investigate and potentially repair a problem with a certain batch of vehicles – and how to proceed if there is a recall problem. Find out more on the Gov.uk website here.

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.

Visit a local TMG member garage, if necessary

If you think your vehicle needs a professional touch, you can locate your nearest 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 must 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!

What to do when… driving with pets

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.

pawprint trail

Safety

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.”

dog-car.jpg

If your dog is in the car, they should be wearing a seat belt harness or be in a carrier.

 

Animal Happiness

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.

 

Planning

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!

dog map

Make sure you plan your drive with your furry pal in mind! (image source)

Your Destination

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!

dog at house

Check your destination’s rules about pets before booking to avoid disappointment!

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.

frenchie beack.jpg

If you’re headed to the seaside check the local beaches are animal-friendly.

Car checks

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!

tmg_ctsi_long

Five ways to ensure your half-term road trip runs smoothly

The half-term school holiday gives you a great chance to go on a well needed and well deserved family break, away from the stresses and troubles of work and 21st modern life – and for some, a break abroad provides a short term escape from the UK’s recent torrential weather conditions. However, with any long car journey there are always going to be problems and challenges for you to overcome, from mechanical faults on your vehicle to the stress of always having to respond to ‘are we nearly there yet’ from the kids in the back seat. We know what it can be like so we’re offering you five top tips on how to achieve a smooth trip this half term, whether you choose to holiday in the UK or abroad.

Yorkshire country road

5. Patience!

The roads during half-term are going to be a nightmare as motorists with the same idea as you look to make the most of schools being off for the week. It’s important to remember that other drivers are in the same boat as you, and there’s no point in being aggressive towards them. Other drivers aren’t there to annoy you and all they want to do is get from A to B, just like you.

So how can you stay calm and collected? Ensure you’re comfortable in your seated position and take breaks every two hours to prevent yourself from becoming tired, stressed and wound up.

Being courteous will go a long way and you should always acknowledge other drivers letting you pass and apologise if you’ve made a mistake – this will make you feel better as well. Remember, we’re all human and we all make mistakes.

By staying positive in your car you’ll notice the effect it has on the rest of your holiday – you’ll know how uncomfortable it is when you’re in a car being driven by someone who has lost their tether – don’t be the one who ruins your family holiday before it’s even started!

4. Invest in a Sat-Nav

Whilst some will be travelling to loved ones this half-term, many others will be driving down unfamiliar routes to places they’ve never been before. Whilst you might think you have the navigational skills of a homing pigeon, there’s always the chance that you’ll get hopelessly lost, and so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t invest in a Sat-Nav, or at least an up-to-date map. Just remember that a Sat-Nav is not infallible – and is certainly not a substitute for concentration, awareness and common sense.

3. Prepare yourself and your car for driving abroad

If you’re travelling abroad this half-term and are expecting to be driving then you need to be aware of the various laws. According to recent figures, of the two million Brits that travelled abroad last year, 76% (3/4) of them felt nervous about driving, but with this doesn’t need to be the case.

It’s important to note that there’s more to consider than just driving on the right hand side of the road. Remember if you’re driving a hire car then the speedometer will be in km/h, and if you’re driving your own car you should familiarise yourself with the km/h markings. You may find it handy to put a small label on your dashboard showing the equivalent mph speeds for common limits. If you have a car with an electronic speedometer you will probably be able to switch it to km/h (although if you have one, your trip computer will also display in metric units which may be an inconvenience).

In Europe, or any country that drives on the right, you need to adjust your headlight beam so that the dipped beam does not dazzle oncoming drivers. For more information and advice on driving abroad please head to our driving abroad blog post.

If you’re driving in another country the likelihood is that you’re going to be embarking on incredibly long drives. It’s very easy to drive much further than you would in the UK and it’s so important to bear in mind the effect this will have on your tiredness.

2. Check your car before you go

If you’re embarking on a long journey in your car then it’s vital you carry out a number of checks on it to ensure it’ll last the distance. The acronym POWER will help you remember what checks to carry out.

Fill your tank up with Petrol (or diesel) because there’s a chance you’ll drive many miles without seeing a station, and the last thing you’ll want is to run low on fuel.

Oil is your car’s bloodstream and helps lubricate the moving parts in your engine. Without enough oil your engine might seize, causing costly damage.

Most modern cars require a special engine coolant but in an emergency you can top up with Water, though this isn’t ideal as modern coolant contains additives to prevent corrosion to maintain the waterways in the engine. It is of paramount importance that the engine is cool before removing the cap so let your engine fully cool down before you touch it.

You need to ensure the Electrics (lights) on your car – indicators, brake lights and headlights – are all working properly before setting off or you’ll be at risk of having to call out a mechanic.

Ensure your tyres (Rubber) are in good condition ahead of your trip to prevent having problems further down the line. Check to see if they’re properly inflated, have the correct tyre tread (a minimum of 3mm is recommended ) and are in good condition.

All of those bold letters make the acronym POWER, an easy checklist you can follow to ensure your car will drive smoothly and safely. It’s important you get into the routine of carrying out these checks throughout the year, as they will help reduce breakdowns and expensive repair costs.

1. Get your car serviced at your local trusted independent garage

Whilst you can carry out the checks mentioned above yourself, it’s always best to put your car into the hands of experts, who will be able to detect problems at an early stage before they result in costly damage. Remember that by choosing an independent garage you’ll receive the same quality of service as you would at a main dealer, but at a more reasonable price.

Visit the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest independent member. Each Trust My Garage member has all the skills and technical expertise required to give your vehicle a thorough service. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals, complying with a strictly code of practice. What more, all members of Trust My Garage are independent garages – local independent businesses which are part of the community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.