With approximately 2,173 miles of motorway network spanning the UK, it’s vital for motorists to understand the requirements for travelling these roads safely. If you’re looking to learn how best to utilise the system in a safe and legal manner, look no further – the Trust My Garage blog is here to help.
What are the motorway basics?
Motorways and dual carriageways allow traffic to travel faster and in greater safety than on ordinary roads, but it’s very important for motorists to know the rules that apply on them.
To enter, drivers use a slip road system, enabling them to filter into the existing flow of traffic already using the road, accelerating to match the traffic flow. You must give priority to traffic already on the carriageway, and not force your way into the traffic stream as this could cause other drivers to perform evasive manoeuvres, leading to an accident.
Slip roads also allow you to leave a motorway or dual carriageway, but you’ll need to be in the left-hand lane so that you can drive onto the slip road when you reach it. Move into the left-hand lane in good time to make sure you don’t have to cut in front of other vehicles or miss your exit. Motorway junctions typically have information signs at 1 mile prior to a junction and another at half a mile, to provide drivers travelling at high motorway speeds sufficient time to move to the left.
At no point – unless directed by the police, Highways England traffic officers or DVSA officers – should you stop on the motorway. If you have to slow right down or stop because there’s serious congestion ahead, you can use your hazard warning lights briefly to alert drivers behind you. Remember to turn them off when the driver behind you has slowed down.
The default speed limit on the UK’s motorway network is 70mph. However, some motorways operate as “smart motorways” or “managed motorways”, where variable speed limits and lane closures are displayed on signs on gantries above the road at regular intervals.
There are two kinds of motorway speed sign:
- If the speed limit is in a red ring, that’s a mandatory speed limit.
- If the speed limit is surrounded by flashing amber lights, it’s an advisory speed limit based on traffic and weather conditions.
To learn more about how smart motorways work, check out our blog post Driving on smart motorways – what are they and how do you use them?
What do I need to know when driving on the motorway?
Drivers should utilise the left lane wherever possible when using the motorway, and only venture to the central and right-hand lanes to overtake slower traffic before returning to the left lane after the manoeuvre is completed safely. You should never use the left-hand lane to pass a slower vehicle –known as “undertaking” – unless all lanes of traffic are moving slowly, but the left lane is moving slightly faster. Drivers should also use their indicators as normal to alert other motorists of their intention and allow them to act accordingly.
Rule 264 of the Highway Code states:
- You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear.
- If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past.
- Slow-moving or speed-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking.
If you’re driving at night or in low-light conditions, the reflective studs in the road, commonly known as “cat’s eyes”, can also help you to determine the position of your vehicle on the road. Here’s what each coloured stud means:
- Red – Hard shoulder division
- Amber – Central reservation division
- White – Mid-lane division
- Green – Slip road division
Average speed cameras – what are they?
Average speed cameras have been installed over 250 miles on British roads, in areas around the country. They work by tracking the speed of your car between two points – so slowing down to go past the camera and then speeding up afterwards will not fool it!
The cameras will record your number plate when you pass the first camera, then again at the second, and perform a quick calculation based on the current time to work out how long it took you to travel between the two points. If the time it took you to travel is quicker than could be done at the speed limit, you’ll get a fine and penalty points on your licence.
The cameras can also operate across multiple lanes of traffic, so changing lanes won’t help you – only driving at or under the posted speed limit will.
The best method to avoid a speeding ticket is, of course, not to speed.
How can I make sure my vehicle is safe and roadworthy?
Prior to setting out on any journey, particularly longer trips, you should always check your vehicle for any visible issues or potential problems. Drivers should check:
- Engine oil, coolant and screen wash are within their respective required levels
- Tyre pressures and treads – Tyres should meet the legal minimum requirement of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre in a continuous band around the whole of the tyre with no bulges, bubbles, cuts or tears, or you risk a £2500 fine and three penalty points per tyre – or worse! Tyre pressures should match the BAR/PSI indicated in your vehicle’s Owners’ Manual.
- Fuel level – Running out of fuel is one of the most common causes of breakdown on the UK’s motorway network, so check you’ve got enough fuel for your trip and take note of any available fuel stations en-route to fill up as necessary.
It’s also recommended that you check your lights and wipers to make sure they too are in working order and good condition.
If your car is due its MOT or a service, make sure to take it in to a garage to get it ready for the road. If you’re looking for a reputable, local, independent garage you can head to the Trust My Garage website and use our handy ‘Find a Garage’ map to locate your nearest TMG member, operating to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved code of conduct.
Simply pop in your postcode and our ‘Find a Garage’ map will show you all the TMG members in your area – and you can even read reviews from other customers if you’re unsure which garage is right for your needs.
What happens if I break down on the motorway?
In the event of your vehicle developing a problem the Highway Code says to leave the motorway at the next exit or pull into a service area. If you can’t do so, you should pull onto the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as possible, with your vehicle’s wheels turned to the left.
If possible, try to stop near an emergency telephone (situated at approximately one-mile intervals along the hard shoulder).
Once you have safely pulled over, switched off the engine and removed the key from the vehicle, exit it as soon as possible. You should leave the vehicle by the passenger side door so that you’re not at risk of oncoming traffic. Make sure all passengers do the same, and that they keep well away from the carriageway.
Put the hazard lights on, and, if it’s dark, put your side lights on too. If it’s foggy, put the fog lights on if you can do so with the vehicle switched off. Generally, if you can’t see for more than 100 metres, the visibility is poor and that’s when your fog lights should be used.
The Highway Code advises that any pets travelling with you be left in the vehicle – unless you consider it to be an emergency situation. If that’s the case, take them out of the vehicle but make sure they are kept under control at all times.
You should then call for breakdown help. If you have breakdown cover and an available mobile phone, contact your provider, then try to stay calm and wait for help and support to arrive.
If you don’t have access to a mobile phone – or the battery has drained – then you need to use an emergency telephone. These are located at one-mile intervals along the hard shoulder and are easy to identify because they’re in bright orange boxes.
If you’ve broken down, you’ll need to walk to an emergency phone. Face the oncoming traffic and follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder. The emergency telephone is free of charge and connects directly to the Highways Agency or the police.
While on the phone, give as many details as you can – including your location – and inform the Highways Agency or police if you are a vulnerable motorist such as disabled, travelling alone, older, or with small children.
Your breakdown support will be able to assess if the vehicle requires towing away or if it can be repaired and can re-join the flow of traffic. If you can once again enter the road, be patient and wait for a safe gap in the traffic. If possible, use the hard shoulder to build up speed so you’re entering the carriageway with some momentum rather than slowly, with as little traffic as possible.
Don’t forget, weather in the UK can be unpredictable. If you’re planning a long journey, it is always a good idea to keep warm, weatherproof clothing in your vehicle as motorways offer little shelter from the elements. For an additional safety measure, you may also want to keep high-visibility clothing in your vehicle – wearing a hi-vis vest helps alert other drivers to your presence and could help prevent a potentially fatal accident.
A new survey has revealed that a fifth of drivers aged 17 to 25 have admitted to putting off taking their car in for repairs or servicing – so why are young motorists avoiding a visit to the garage?
The survey showed that over two-fifths (43 per cent) said their biggest worry was the cost of repairs, but 19 per cent also said they were worried about not understanding what the mechanic was saying and 17 per cent said they felt intimidated. (source)
Trust My Garage is here to help you make sure you’re getting the best out of your visit to a garage – so read on to learn how you can make sure you’re satisfied with every step of your experience!
Getting your MOT booked in
When it’s time for your first MOT it can be an intimidating experience, especially if you don’t know where to start with finding a reputable garage. With Trust My Garage all our members adhere to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved Code of Conduct, meaning you know that you’re visiting an independent garage that will uphold the highest levels of service for you and your vehicle.
To find your nearest TMG member, you can use our ‘Find a Garage’ map. This handy tool allows you to input your postcode and find your nearest Trust My Garage member, and you can even read honest reviews from other customers of a garage to see what they’re like! If you decide you want to contact a garage, all their details are displayed so you can take whatever information you need.
Taking your vehicle for an MOT
Visiting a garage for the first time can seem like a scary prospect – but the staff are there to help you! A regular MOT will give your car an MOT certificate, with all the necessary information about your car listed for you to read, as below:
There’s a maximum amount MOT test stations can charge. This depends on the type of vehicle. The maximum fee for a car is £54.85 and £29.65 for a standard motorcycle. Any other work that your vehicle needs on top of the standard MOT will cost extra – but if it’s minor or advisory you can have it repaired shortly after your MOT (if necessary) instead of at the same time.
Your certificate also lists any defects under the new categories, so they’re clear and easy to understand. These are how the new categories can affect you:
If you drive your vehicle without a valid MOT, you can be fined up to £1,000 – and that’s a cost that nobody wants!
Understanding issues and repairs to your vehicle
If your vehicle has had to undertake any kind of repair work, the garage you use should be able to explain what has happened to the vehicle and how it can be/has been repaired. If you aren’t sure about any information, ask! Technicians understand that most motorists aren’t as clued-up to the inner workings of a vehicle as they may be and should be able to describe – or even show you – where an issue has arisen or has been fixed. It might seem silly to ask but if it helps you know what’s going on with your car, a professional should be happy to provide as much detail as they can.
Keeping your vehicle healthy
When it comes to motor maintenance, there is some simple advice: Don’t ignore warning lights and other indications that something isn’t right. Waiting until your MOT is due to fix these can result in a costly surprise! The best way to ensure the health of your car and its roadworthiness is to address mechanical problems as they arise. If you need to familiarise yourself with dashboard symbols, you can always take a look at our “Getting to know your vehicle’s dashboard” blog post, or by reading your vehicle’s Owner Manual.
For more general issues, you can also read our “How can regular vehicle maintenance save you money?” blog post for some ideas on how to ensure your vehicle is kept running in tip-top condition – and how to make sure you don’t spend a fortune!
More 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 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 your money.
Visit www.TRUSTMYGARAGE.co.uk and type in your postcode to find your nearest trusted independent garage.
At Trust My Garage, we believe that regular vehicle maintenance is vital when it comes to ensuring you and your motor get a smooth ride – but what other benefits are there to keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape? We’ve put together some handy information; check it out below!
Get regular full services
Getting your car serviced each year – and maintaining it between services – is money well spent. Problems are likely to be caught early on when they’re cheaper to fix, and your car will have a better resale value and longer life.
A well-maintained car is also more efficient, so you’ll save money on fuel as well. If you need to claim on a warranty you’ll normally have to show your car’s got a complete service record. (More)
Maintain the correct tyre pressure
Experts say up to 20% of your car’s energy consumption relates to its tyres, making them pretty much the single biggest simple-fix factor. And the most important thing you can do to minimise that consumption is ensure your tyres are inflated correctly.
You can check your tyre pressure by investing in a tyre-pressure gauge or foot pump (most have gauges built in). Alternatively, visit a petrol station forecourt where you can use their electric air pumps.
Your car will have a tyre-pressure chart displayed somewhere – usually in the door frame, inside the fuel-filler cap or in the handbook. Unscrew the dust cap off your tyre’s air valve, place the air pump nozzle over the valve, ensuring it is seated correctly. Once the tyre is inflated correctly, remove the nozzle and replace the dust cap. (More)
Utilise your local independent garage
With higher overheads and staff commission, dealerships are nearly always a more expensive choice for servicing and repairs than independent garages. The average rate for franchised dealers is £99 per hour, while independent garages typically charge £56 – saving you £43! (Source: GarageWire; May 2017.)
If you want find a reputable, local, independent garage operating to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved Code of Conduct, you can use the Trust My Garage website’s Find a Garage map here.
Our members offer a range of services across the service and repair industry, ensuring you and your vehicle get the best possible service. For more information about Trust My Garage, you can also read our ‘What Trust My Garage code status means to you’ blog post, or visit the Trust My Garage website.
The end of winter is finally in sight! At Trust My Garage, we’re preparing our vehicles for the Spring season with some top maintenance and driving tips designed to see you through to the long days of Summer.
Whether you’re looking for driving, maintenance or plain cleaning tips, we’ve put together some advice to help you make the most of your motor. Take a look at our handy info list below – and be sure to let us know in the comments if you give any of our methods a try!
Give your car some love
With warmer weather on the way, people like to travel to more! It’s important that the inside of your car is a safe and clean environment for you and any passengers you may have.
Next time you get a chance to wash your car, you could also make sure your footwells are clear of any rubbish or obstructions, give your dashboard and centre console a dust and – if you have the opportunity – try to give your car a hoover out to clean out any debris that gathered over the winter months.
Beware of low Sun
Much like Autumn, the sun is still low in the sky during Spring. Having the sun shining at you while driving can not only damage your eyesight, but could lead to an accident due to poor vision. Be sure to drive with your sun visor down and/or wear quality sunglasses to improve your vision of the roads when necessary.
Check your medication
The onset on Spring can also lead to an onset of allergies for some motorists. If you take any medication and drive, please be sure to check with your pharmacist or doctor for any potentially detrimental side effects such as drowsiness. If you feel that any medication will impact your driving negatively, do not drive until you feel comfortable behind the wheel.
Watch out for other road users
Good weather can lead to a plethora of additional road users – so be sure to be a courteous driver! Cyclists, horse and riders and walkers can all become additional road hazards, so be sure to take care when driving, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar area.
Keep an eye on the road conditions
After winter, the UK’s roads can suffer from an influx of additional potholes, created by the wet and cold conditions of the chilly season. Large potholes can do serious damage to a vehicle, so where safe and possible avoid them, or drive cautiously to try and counteract any adverse effects on your motor.
Spring showers are still a definite possibility, so take care on wet roads and leave additional distance and braking time between you and any vehicles ahead. Be careful of any puddles on the road too, as water in your engine makes for neither a happy car or driver!
Get your car ready for the road
If your car is due for an MOT or service, make sure to take it in to a garage to get it ready for the road. If you’re looking for a reputable, local, independent garage you can head to the Trust My Garage website and use our handy ‘Find a Garage’ map to locate your nearest TMG member, operating to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved code of conduct.
If you have any tips of your own for getting ready for Spring, be sure to let us know in the comments below!
In recent years there has been more evidence of consumers bringing parts they’ve purchased themselves to a garage, and asking the garage to fit them. This shake-up of garage traditions may seem like a good idea for motorists, but it really isn’t – check out why below:
What are consumer-bought parts?
A consumer-bought part is any part purchased directly from a supplier by a consumer instead of by a garage. In the case of most repairs, if a replacement part is needed for a vehicle the garage will order and fit it as part of their service. However, it is now much easier for a customer to make a diagnosis of the issue with their vehicle, purchase a part, and then take it to a garage and ask them to fit it for only the cost of labour time.
Do garages mind fitting consumer-bought parts?
It may be that if you take a part to a garage and ask them to fit it, they say no. While this might seem as if they’re turning away business for no reason it can often be down to a variety of issues. If a garage fits a part you’ve purchased at your request, and then the part breaks, where does the blame lie? The legal position is very clear, the garage is responsible for the work they do but any issues with the part will be your problem. However modern cars are complex and disputes regularly arise. Many consumers fault the garage’s fitting, but it could be the case of the part just not being up to the job. Remember, the main priority for a technician is to ensure your vehicle is safe and fit to drive – so if the part seems questionable, it’s acceptable for them to decline to fit the part.
We at Trust My Garage think that while consumer-bought parts may seem like a good idea it’s always best to let a garage do its job and make sure your vehicle is safe and working correctly. After all, would you take a steak into a restaurant and expect them to cook it for you?
Why have consumer-bought parts become popular recently?
Over the past few years the massive rise in online shopping has meant that more and more ‘direct supply’ companies have been set up for vehicle parts. These kinds of companies mean that a consumer can buy a part directly for their vehicle, instead of going through a garage and potentially paying a small charge for acquiring the part. This method essentially ‘cuts out the middle man’.
Is it a good idea?
Buying parts yourself might seem like a good idea on paper. However, if there is an issue with the part in the future what consumer rights do you have? Unlike parts bought and fitted directly by a garage, there may be warranty issues about the part installation, leaving you with a once again broken vehicle and no way to claim your money back. It also could be the case that the part is of inferior quality if not purchased from a proper supplier, which could in turn do even more damage to your car. In the worst cases, it may even be a counterfeit part. Garages will use suppliers they trust to provide them with quality parts in order to ensure the best possible work for their customers – that is, after all, how they get business!
If you need to get your car repaired, MOT’ed, serviced or even just checked over, you can you use our handy Find a Garage map to locate a reputable, Chartered Trading Standards (CTSI) approved independent garage near you – and remember, happy motoring!