Winter is here! With a chill in the air and crunch of frost underfoot, there can be no doubting the harshest season of the year is upon us. When it comes to driving, Winter weather can lead to accidents and issues on the road, so here at Trust My Garage we’ve put together some advice for helping you to stay safe during the cold season.
Plan your travel
Before setting off, be sure to check ahead that your route is clear of accidents and other issues that can cause delays, and that the roads haven’t been shut due to poor conditions.
Check your tyres
If you have the opportunity and need, winter tyres could be a viable option for your vehicle. If you use your normal tyres, ensure they are inflated to the recommended pressure and have a minimum tread depth of 3mm across the width and circumference of the tyre in order to cope with the slippery and wet conditions.
Check for faults
If you notice a fault with your vehicle, such as a cracked windscreen, dim headlight, or poorly charged battery, it’s important to get it sorted before undertaking any winter driving. If you feel there is a fault but aren’t sure how to proceed, you can always take your vehicle to a local garage to have it looked at by a professional – you can even use the TMG Find a Garage map to locate your nearest Trust My Garage member.
Check the dashboard
If your car is displaying a warning light on the dashboard it’s important to get it checked – the systems are there to keep you safe! If your vehicle isn’t performing at its best it could lead to breakdowns or accidents, so be sure to keep it in the best possible condition. If you aren’t sure what the lights on your dashboard mean you can take a look at our Getting to know your vehicle’s dashboard blog post to give you a breakdown of what you need to know.
Even though most of us have the luxury of heating in our vehicles, if we break down or have an accident we can often be at the mercy of the Winter chill. By dressing warmly and layering up you can keep warm – and you could even save money on your fuel consumption!
Keep supplies in your car
In the case of a real emergency it’s important to keep supplies in your vehicle. Items such as a torch, blanket, biscuits, water, a hot drink, a hat, scarf and gloves, and a mobile phone charger or battery pack are always helpful to keep you safe and warm. You should also keep something to put under your tyres if you get stuck, and a shovel to clear any snow.
Control your speed
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) recommends:
“When driving in snow, get your speed right – not too fast so that you risk losing control, but not so slow that you risk losing momentum when you need it – and brake, steer and accelerate as smoothly as possible. Start gently in second gear, avoiding high revs. Stay in a higher gear for better control. Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.”
Your stopping distances also increase tenfold on ice, so be sure to leave ample room between any surrounding vehicles to stay safe on the road.
Read road signs
While you may use familiar roads while driving, any changes to the surface or temporary problems should be highlighted by road signs – so keep an eye out for any updates. Signs will also post any road closures or other issues, so be sure to look around for any information possible.
If you’re driving on unfamiliar roads then it’s even more important to check road signs – nobody wants to get lost in the snow and ice! By employing careful, steady driving, you can give yourself enough time to read and process any information you need to know.
Know when not to drive
If conditions are too dangerous, the safest option is simply to not drive. Although it will delay you, it’s the safest option – and no drive is worth injury, no matter how small. It’s important to keep an eye on weather forecasts, so you don’t plan a journey when the weather is going to be particularly bad. Driving safe means that you can drive happy.
If you’re looking to embark on some winter travels, you can take your vehicle to your local Trust My Garage member. Whether it’s for a check-up, service or repair, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved code of conduct that our members use mean that you and you motor both get the best possible service – no matter the weather!
The time of year is once again upon us where dark nights are drawing in and you’re considering putting the heating on to keep your toes warm. The change in seasons can also herald a change in driving habits for many motorists, and at Trust My Garage we want to keep you and your vehicle running smoothly 365 days of the year.
The clocks go back in the early hours of October 29th, meaning it’s going to be dark even earlier – but never fear! To help you ensure you stay at your best we’ve complied some handy tips for both driving and keeping your car running at its best.
Look after your car battery
The average car battery can last up to 5 years (source), but there are many reasons that require it to be changed sooner than this.
Heading into colder weather can cause strain on your battery, as can short repetitive journeys – these use up your battery’s power without giving it enough time to recharge fully. Taking your car out for a longer drive at the weekend can be a key factor in combating battery drain – as can recharging your battery at home or at a local garage.
Check your tyres
Your tyres are the key element in keeping your vehicle rolling, so make sure they’re up to scratch, especially in the slippery weather that comes with Autumn and Winter. The minimum legal tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central three quarters of the tyre, with no tears, bulges or bald spots on any part of the tyre (source). However, most motoring organisations recommend changing at 2mm and the majority of tyre manufacturers recommend changing at 3mm (source).
You should also try to ensure your tyres are inflated correctly to the specifications of your car. Details of the correct pressure can be found in the owner’s manual and/or inside the door frame on the driver or front passenger side doors, and you can check your tyre pressure at most local petrol stations and garages.
Check your engine coolant levels
With cold weather comes the possibility of ice, so it’s important to ensure the fluids in your car don’t freeze. By keeping your engine coolant levels topped up you’ll stay safer in poor conditions, and keep your car’s internal systems running healthily.
If you aren’t sure what type of coolant your car needs, a local garage or aftermarket sales shop will be able to check what kind you require and point you in the right direction. If you’re stuck for where under the bonnet to check your engine coolant, it has a specific cap under the bonnet, circled below:
As long as your coolant is between the ‘MAX’ and ‘LOW’ level markers on the side of the reservoir it should stop any freezing happening.
Take a look at this video below for a guide on how to check your engine coolant:
REMEMBER: Don’t check your coolant levels when the engine is hot as it affects the pressure in the engine and can cause damage to your vehicle.
Here comes the sun
The sun is still a factor, even with poorer weather. Low winter sun can affect your vision when driving by causing blindness, so be sure to wear sunglasses or put down your sun visor to protect both your eyes and your driving.
As well as problems from the direct sun, drivers can also suffer when sunlight reflects off the road surface and causes glare, which can have the same adverse effects as the low sun itself. Again, wearing sunglasses or using the sun visor combats this issue, but if you still find your vision impaired it may be best to drive slowly or pull over until later on when the sun has moved.
Slow down for nature!
Around 74,000 deer are hit by cars every year (source). The risk of hitting one is highest in spring when young deer are starting to venture out , but the autumn is also a time to be wary as stags are often out rutting.
Due to the prevalence of deer across the British countryside it can become difficult in rural areas to avoid deer at this time of year, so if you’re going to an area with a known deer population plan a little extra time for your journey and drive carefully – in some areas it can be an offence to hit a deer!
Watch out for leaves
Fallen leaves aren’t just a problem on your lawn: hitting a patch of wet leaves on the road can be almost as bad as hitting black ice, so take care on country lanes and keep your speed down when you are forced to drive through them.
If your journey is achievable using main roads, try and stick to them as much as possible as they are more likely to be cleared due to high volumes of traffic and keeping motorists safe.
If you live on a street with many trees, you might want to try doing your bit and tidying up you driveway to stop leaves being blown into the road and causing a potential problem for drivers.
Remember, if you want to take your car for a check-up to get ready for autumn and winter driving, you can use Trust My Garage’s handy Find a Garage map to locate a reputable, Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved independent garage in your area to get the best possible service for both you and your vehicle.
Trust My Garage truly is the independent scheme for independent garages in the UK. They have no hidden agenda or commercial influences, which means they really do exist to ensure that independent garage standards are continuing to improve.
How old were you when you first got your driving licence? How many years have you been on the road – and do you think you could still pass your test now? With age comes experience, as they say, but is there a point where age can become a deteriorating factor in your driving? Figures show that a record 100,000 people number of people aged over 90 holding a driving licence in Britain, so ensuring that you’re a sound and competent driver is a priority for staying safe on the roads.
At Trust My Garage, we want to ensure drivers of all ages have a safe and happy driving experience, so we’ve put together some advice to help older drivers stay at the top of their game when it comes to getting behind the wheel.
It’s paramount for all motorists to ensure their eyesight is good enough to operate a vehicle on the road, but for older drivers it can be difficult to determine if there’s an issue with your sight. DVLA standards of vision for driving rules state: “You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.” If a driver needs glasses or contact lenses in order to read a number plate at this distance, then they “must wear glasses or contact lenses every time you drive if you need them to meet the ‘standards of vision for driving’.”
The best way to make sure you’re still safe to drive is with regular eye tests. If you already wear glasses, your optician will advise you on how frequently an eye test is needed, depending on the severity of your visual impairment. If you don’t wear glasses, you can visit a local optician and ask for an appointment. If you’re aged 60 or over and a UK resident, you should qualify for an NHS funded eye test. You can enquire at your optician about redeeming this free test.
If you find yourself struggling to read traffic signs when out on the road, along with number plates or other important road details such as potential hazards, you should book an eye test with your optician as soon as possible. Eyesight deterioration can sometimes be a symptom of other effects of ill health, so any issues should be checked by a professional.
Not only can poor eye health affect you, it can also affect other drivers if you’re involved in an accident. If you don’t see a hazard until it’s too late, it will affect your reaction time to the hazard and potentially cause a dangerous accident – which could also involve other drivers! For the safety of yourself and other drivers, it’s better to be cautious and check that your eyes are working as best they can.
Tiredness and rest periods
As you age, it’s important to let your body rest and catch up with your mind. After all, we aren’t all lucky enough to stay 16 forever! In many older people, they are often “only as old as they feel”, but when it comes to driving, older motorists must acknowledge that their bodies change with age.
Tiredness plays a key factor for any driver, but it can be especially prevalent among older motorists. Giving yourself a break on longer drives is imperative to letting your brain rest, as concentrating for long periods of time can really cause your driving to suffer. Even younger drivers can fall prey to tiredness! It’s often a mistake that drivers overlook, but one that can cause real issues. If you’re driving for over two hours you should break for at least fifteen minutes, and as you get older you can increase the amount of your rest stops to suit your needs. If you aren’t used to driving long distances you should also factor in more rest stops, and take time to have a break and stretch your legs or get some refreshments where you can.
Did you know that it’s illegal to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving? From hayfever to headaches, it’s important to check packaging for any potential side effects and issues, as often many motorists don’t realise how significantly medication can affect your driving. This is especially true for prescribed medication, as it is usually stronger than anything purchased over-the-counter. If you’re unsure about the effects of any medications you take, you can check with your GP for their professional opinion.
Refresh your driving
If you find that you’re struggling with driving as you get older, it’s possible that some refresher driving lessons may help. It’s important that you know the rules of the road, and in some cases a piece of forgotten knowledge could come in handy! Many driving schools offer refresher lessons on areas of motoring that you feel less certain about, and you can take as many lessons as you need – even if it’s only one!
If you’d like more of a theoretical refresher, you can also re-read The Highway Code, either in print or online via the .Gov website. It’s easily divided into different sections so you can clearly see which sort of information is relevant to you. As well as rules for the road, it also contains road user etiquette tips to make being on the road easier for everybody, including pedestrians and cyclists.
Equip your vehicle
Sometimes, as our bodies change, we suffer from issues that can affect our driving. If you’re struggling with any part of your body it can prohibit your ability to drive – especially issues with your eyes, as stated above. However, if your arms and/or legs are affected, it can take longer for you to manoeuver a vehicle and also react to hazards. If necessary – and within your costs – you can have your car outfitted with extra aids in order to make driving easier, or you can see what other kind of help is available in order to ensure you remain safe if you stay on the roads.
It’s also the case that you may want to stick to routes you find easier to drive – but if it any point you begin to feel unsafe, even on familiar roads, you should consider what you need to do in order to best suit your needs.
At Trust My Garage, we believe the most important rule of all when it comes to driving – no matter your age – is to stay safe. If everyone uses the road in a safe manner, it should be much easier and more agreeable when it comes to driving.
It’s also paramount that your vehicle is safe too, and if you want to ensure your motor is running in great condition, you can take it to your local Trust My Garage member, operating as part of our Chartered Trading Standards approved consumer code. They can help you keep your car running as smoothly as your driving, and keep you motoring ahead for the future.
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 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 your money.
Visit www.TRUSTMYGARAGE.co.uk and type in your postcode to find your nearest trusted independent garage.
Over the last few years, traffic on the UK’s roads has been increasing. Drivers of commercial vehicles have become a ubiquitous sight, from delivery vans laden with parcels to heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). These vehicles haul goods and services across the nation, delivering to millions of companies and households every day. Trade across Europe has also developed, creating an influx of foreign goods vehicles on UK roads – but which countries are they coming from?
To help you identify goods vehicles in the future, Trust My Garage has designed a test for all the savvy spotters out there, helping you expand your geographical knowledge by number plate – and even impress a passenger or two in the future! Take our quiz below and let us know how you fare in the comments.
The rules are simple – we show you a number plate, with its country identifier, and you guess where that vehicle originated. Simple! So, let’s get started…
- We’ll start you off with an easy one – where does the ‘F’ on this number plate relate to?
- Ok, this one is a bit tougher – what country is ‘LT’?
- Try this – where is ‘GBZ’?
- Here’s another to test your knowledge – what country does ‘SK’ refer to?
- Getting harder – where does ‘LV’ refer to?
- Is your brain working yet? Try this one – where is ‘CZ’?
- Time to test you – what country is ‘E’?
- Try this one – where is ‘CY’?
- How about this – which country does ‘DK’ refer to?
- Ok, last one – what country is ‘HR’?
You’re all done, so it’s time to look below for the answers!
- Czech Republic
So, how well did you do? Was it better or worse than you thought? Either way, let us know! Spotting number plates is always a fun way to pass time when travelling, and now you can show off your impressive skills to friends and family alike.
Don’t forget, if you’re planning a road trip this summer, you can visit your local Trust My Garage member to ensure your car is running at its best. You can find your nearest member garage by using our handy Find a Garage map and see what services they have on offer, and any reviews left by other customers too! All Trust My Garage members adhere to our Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved code of conduct, so you and your vehicle get the best possible service.
As well as this fun quiz, if you’re looking for some other tips, check out our post on what to do when driving in summer, or if you’re feeling continental you can take a look at some of the best driving roads in Europe – and remember, happy motoring!
It’s that time of year again! Everyone in the UK is gearing up for their summer holiday. You wouldn’t leave the kids at home, but what about your furry, four-legged friends? If you decide you want to take your animal companion along with you to your holiday destination, what are the best ways to make their trip as comfortable as yours? Well fear not, Trust My Garage is here with some top tips for driving with pets.
First things first, you’ll need to know the law about driving with your animals in the vehicle. The Highway Code’s Rule 57 states:
“When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”
So you’re in the clear to take your animal with you! The Code is very clear about what to do for both animals and drivers, as it’s the best way to ensure that everyone makes the safest possible journeys. While a carrier or caged boot is probably the safest option, if your dog is well behaved and clipped to a seat harness you’re okay to let them feel the fresh air through your windows. If you don’t want to restrain your pet in any way, take this advice from Rachael Kilroy, Senior Veterinary Surgeon at Vets for Life:
“If a dog is not secured safely then sharp braking or a collision could result in them being catapulted sharply forwards, potentially causing life-threatening internal injuries, as well as trauma to people in the car.”
If your pet isn’t used to being in a car, then a long journey shouldn’t be their first real experience. Prior to travelling, you should slowly let your animal into the vehicle to help them get used to their surroundings. Starting out with a very short trip – nipping to the shop, for example – and the building up the length of time in the vehicle is a great way to do this. Even if the first couple of times in the car are when it’s stationary, a good sniff and look around can go a long way to making your pet happier when travelling.
It’s always important to plan a trip, but our furry friends require a little extra attention when it comes to longer journeys!
You should take a regular break every 1-2 hours, depending on how restless your animal is, and pack plenty of water and treats – If you’re feeling thirsty or hungry, your pet probably is too! For longer journeys, you may want to think about planning a route that includes a stop near a park or wooded area to let your animal – especially dogs – stretch their legs and have a run around. When it comes to animals like cats, you might want to bring some toilet training pads too – accidents happen!
This might seem silly, but check your destination’s rules on pets! If you’re off to see family or friends, make sure they know in advance that you’re bringing your pet, and if you’re going to a hotel, camp site or similar location, check if – and which – animals are allowed. A quick internet search or phone call to your desired venue should do the trick, as many hotels etc. clearly state their pet policy. It’s no good getting all the way to your lovely summer holiday, only to be turned away at the sight of a wagging tail!
As well at your venue, many people research the area they go to stay at beforehand to see if it appeals to them. With a pet, you may want to take into consideration if the surrounding area is also animal friendly. Some beaches in the UK require dogs to be kept on leads for the duration of their walk, and some allow them to run free, whereas some don’t allow dogs at all. Some quick internet browsing should help you locate the best pet-friendly activities to fill up your holiday and keep your pets involved too.
Long journeys can take their toll on a vehicle, so if you’re planning a road trip then you don’t want to create stress for your family and pets with a breakdown – or worse, broken air con! If you visit your local Trust My Garage approved member, you can check your car is running at its best and take away any concerns before you travel, and make sure you, your family and your pets get the best possible summer holiday.
If you’ve got any other top tips, feel free to leave them in the comments! If you’re looking for some more general summer driving tips, check out our post on What to do when…driving in Summer!
It’s that time of year again. Christmas is right around the corner! Some of us may be a bit more excited than others, but with all the festive cheer in the air, have you thought about the practicalities of driving this Christmastime? If not, then buckle up! We’re about to tell you just how you can make the most when you’re driving this Christmas. (Song optional, but very festive.)
When you’re driving your top priority should always be your safety. Regardless of the destination or the time it takes you to get there, your number one thought should be about your own safety, and that of any passengers in the vehicle with you.
Plan your route
The further the distance you’re travelling, the more chance there is for issues like traffic to occur. Christmas is a peak time for driving, as many people visit their families over the festive period, so try and ensure you give yourself adequate travelling time.
Here are some of the routes identified by motoring organisations as traffic hotspots over Christmas:
- The M1, A1 and A1(M) northbound
- The M4 westbound to Wales and around Heathrow
- The M3, A303 and M5 heading to the West Country
- The M23 to Gatwick and the M11 to Stansted
- The M62 over the Pennines is often affected by snow, as is the A1079 between Hull and York.
It’s also worth noting that many main roads and motorways will be gritted in the case of snow and ice, but this won’t necessarily happen in areas that don’t see as much traffic. It’s worth taking some extra time by using main roads to get to your destination instead of taking shortcuts that often require drivers to travel on country lanes, as these may be more dangerous in poor weather.
If you’re interested in more ways to ensure you’re driving in a safe and responsible manner, you can look at the charity Brake’s ABC pledge. Drivers can promise to follow the rules Brake have set out for being as safe as possible in winter conditions, to help both themselves and other motorists on the roads.
Prepare your car
The UK suffers from a yearly big freeze, so we’re sure you’ve got some great tips on how to help get started in the cold. However, if you’re looking for some ideas about how to get the wheels rolling, here are some of the best we’ve found:
- Tyres: If possible, considering buying winter tyres. If this is not an option, ensure your standard tyres are inflated correctly and that you have a minimum of 3mm of tread on your tyres to cope with wet and slippery conditions.
- Battery: In winter, the battery will run down quicker than in warmer weather. Make sure you do a regular long journey to top it up or trickle-charge the battery.
- Engine: Modern engines are more robust than older ones. All the same, depress the clutch when starting as this will reduce drag on the engine when starting, and preserve the battery.
- Screen wash: Keep this topped up and use a proper additive at the right concentration to prevent it freezing.
- Fuel: Keep your tank topped up – that way if you are caught out, you’ll have enough fuel to make it home or run the engine to keep warm. However, it’s essential to keep snow from blocking the exhaust as noxious fumes can leak into the vehicle.
- Windows: Clear all snow and ice from the windscreen and the roof of the car before driving off. Do not use water to de-ice windscreens. Hot water can crack the glass, and the water will only freeze again on the screen or on the ground where you are standing.
- Locks: A squirt of WD-40 will prevent your door locks freezing up. If they do, apply a heat source to your car key to melt the ice.
- Warm clothing: Your car may be warm on the inside but if you have to step outside, you could be in trouble if you have not got any warm clothing with you.
If you do suffer the unfortunate experience of a breakdown it’s important to keep some essentials in the car – a fully charged mobile phone, a torch, warm clothes, comfortable and waterproof shoes, hot drinks and snacks (Telegraph). That way, when you’re waiting for some roadside assistance or a recovery vehicle you can stay warm, full and safe while trying to stave off the boredom.
Emergency snow kit
- Warning triangle – let other drivers know your situation to avoid stress and confusion
- Cat litter or sand
- Snow shovel or spade
- Ice scraper
- Warm clothes and footwear
- Snacks and water
- Mobile phone
- Blanket or sleeping bag
- Jump leads
- High visibility jacket
- First aid kit
- Heat pad – If you are stranded in the snow and the exhaust pipe is covered, it can be dangerous to run the engine. These help you stay warm.
Remember, you’re never far from a Trust My Garage member who can help you out with any problems that you might experience on the road. All of our members are Trading Standards approved, and are here to get you back on track quickly & safely. Garages are located all over the UK, so no matter where you are, we’re here to help you. If you want to see where your nearest garage is, you can search with your post code on the Trust My Garage map.
Getting Home Safely
Don’t Drink Drive.
The golden rule is that if you plan to have a drink, don’t drive.
Carbuyer suggest that you leave your car parked up, get a cab home or let someone who’s sober drive – as long as they’re insured to drive your car, of course.
The effect of alcohol on driving is profound and so are the penalties if you’re caught doing so. Anyone convicted in the UK of ‘driving or attempting to drive through drink or drugs’ faces anything up to the maximum possible of penalty of a £5,000 fine, a six month prison sentence and up to 11 points on their driving licence, as well as an obligatory 12 month disqualification from driving (Drinkdriving.org). There’s no defence for being caught over the drink-drive limit the following morning, either.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
This year, THINK! have launched a new anti drink-driving campaign for December – FOMO.
The campaign is specifically targeting young males, as figures show they account for almost two thirds of drink drivers killed on our roads.
It will target young men through Facebook, Twitter and Spotify, with 5.4 million British males aged 25 to 34 on Facebook alone – the highest single demographic.
The campaign involves adverts that aim to make it clear to young men that they have plenty to live for the following day, which they may not see if they choose to have a second drink.
Research carried out for the Department for Transport found 20% of young men have had 2 or more drinks before driving and an extra 11% say they have considered it – with a third of adults telling researchers they felt it wouldn’t impact on their driving. However, research from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) shows a second drink doubles a driver’s chances of being involved in a fatality. (Gov.uk)
So let’s be safe, and don’t drink and drive.
Most importantly – Have a Merry Christmas!
We at Trust My Garage all hope you have a wonderful and safe Christmas, and spend lots of time doing whatever you like. If you’re worried that your car isn’t up to the challenge of the British winter, don’t forget you can pop in to your local Trust My Garage member and get booked in for a service. That way we can all motor happy!
If you found this post helpful, why not take a look at our ways to make your Christmas commute better, or leave us a comment with your best winter driving tips!