Blog Archives

Number plate spotting – Can you guess the country of origin?

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?

lorry traffic

Lorries and other goods vehicles are more prevalent than ever on UK roads

 

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…

 

  1. We’ll start you off with an easy one – where does the ‘F’ on this number plate relate to?

france plate.png

  1. Ok, this one is a bit tougher – what country is ‘LT’?

Lithuania plate

  1. Try this – where is ‘GBZ’?

Gibraltar-plate

  1. Here’s another to test your knowledge – what country does ‘SK’ refer to?

Slovakia plate

  1. Getting harder – where does ‘LV’ refer to?

Latvia plate

  1. Is your brain working yet? Try this one – where is ‘CZ’?

Czech plate

  1. Time to test you – what country is ‘E’?

Spain plate

  1. Try this one – where is ‘CY’?

Cyprus Plate

  1. How about this – which country does ‘DK’ refer to?

Denmark plate

  1. Ok, last one – what country is ‘HR’?

Croatia plate

You’re all done, so it’s time to look below for the answers!

 

Answers:

  1. France
  2. Lithuania
  3. Gibraltar
  4. Slovakia
  5. Latvia
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Spain
  8. Cyprus
  9. Denmark
  10. Croatia

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!

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Consumer-bought parts – Are they beneficial for motorists?

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, but is it actually helpful for motorists?

model car fix

Are consumer-bought parts actually beneficial for motorists?

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.

 

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’. 

model car jacked up

Garages will provide reliable, high-quality parts for any vehicle repairs

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!

merc engine

If you want to ensure your car is fitted with the correct part let the garage source the part and complete the repair

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 the issues stated above. 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.

 

Overall, 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?  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!

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The best driving roads in Europe

The best driving roads in Europe

Looking for the perfect stretch of road to cruise along this summer? Well prepare to get some serious travel fever with some Trust My Garage favourites, as well as getting prepared with our best foreign driving tips! Don’t forget – if you’re looking for some general summer driving tips you can always check out our What to do when… driving in Summer blog post.

The Stelvio Pass, Italy

stelvio-pass.jpg

The Stelvio Pass is Italy’s hidden secret in the Alps. Topping out at 2757 metres high, this twisting, hairpin bend-filled route is located just before the Swiss border in the province of Sondrio.

Open to both motorists and cyclists, the pass provides unmatchable views of the surrounding mountainous landscape. The road offers a total of 48 switchback turns along its North face, offering a real challenge for the adventurous driver. The best approach to tackle the pass is from the North West side, allowing you to drive up through the turns and rewarding you with lush Alpine scenery. After heading through the pass’ tight turns, you can also either continue on to the town of Bormio or head North to the Umbrail Pass, which leads back into the Swiss National Park. This tends to be far less busy than the now ultra-popular Stelvio, but we guess that’s what you get when you visit Top Gear’s World’s Best Driving Road (2008)!

 

The Military Road, Isle of Wight

isle of wight

If you’re looking for a drive somewhere closer to home, the Isle of Wight has some stunning coastal views on offer. As you drive down the A3055, known locally as The Military Road, you curve above Blackgang Chine, and then are suddenly faced with a panorama of the south-west coast of the Island, curving stretching ahead and below you.

As the road is in a protected National Trust area, there are few buildings – but you can still make out the turrets of the famous novelist J.B. Priestley’s former home, if you keep your eyes peeled. The stretch of road is roughly 12 miles long, and is perfect for a cruise in summer when the roadside wildflowers are in bloom.

 

The Cat and Fiddle, Derbyshire

cat and fiddle road

Named after the pub located at the peak of this road, this is a 12 mile journey between Buxton and Macclesfield, using the A54-A537. With Derbyshire often described as the ‘gateway to the Peak District’, this route has been coveted by car and motorbike enthusiasts alike for its challenging corners and enjoyable scenic views. To ensure motorists are kept safe the route is entirely covered with average speed cameras of 50mph, but even at that speed some of the hairpin corners will provide a thrill – mediated with a refreshing lime and soda at the finish!

 

A44, West Wales

a44wales

This stretch of A road travels between Aberystwyth and Llangurig, providing 25 miles of untamed Welsh landscape for drivers. Setting out as a simple drive away from the Welsh coast at Aberystwyth, the road rises and transforms into scenery more at home in an Alpine setting than a sleepy corner of Wales. As you travel on to Llangurig the road offers sweeping curves and chicanes, giving motorists a chance to really enjoy the drive as well ads the stunning scenery.

 

The Cheddar Gorge, Cheddar (Somerset)

cheddargorge

Starting on the B3135 east of Cheddar, 14 glorious miles of Somerset countryside lie between you and your destination at Ashwick. As you head East, you visit Priddy, then Plummers Loan, then continue on along the A37 towards your final destination.

The route can be taken in 3 sections. The first area demands full concentration from the driver, working through the twisting corners of the gorge itself.

The second, about four miles in, opens up the road greatly. Hairpins give way to sweeping curves, and the sharp face of the gorge is replaced by trees.

 

The final section provides a few miles of long straights and gentle gradient changes making for a quick conclusion to this short route.

 

The road can become busy as it is a tourist travel route for anyone visiting the Cheddar Gorge caves, but it’s still an excellent drive providing unparalleled close-up views of some unique landscapes.

 

The Romantic Road, Germany

Romantic-Road

Heading back out to Europe, one of the most scenic routes in the Germany is the ‘Romantic Road’ (Romantischen Straße). Running roughly 190 miles from the River Main to the Alps, the road was designed in the 1950’s to provide a sense of being transported back in time to Medieval Europe. With tiny historic villages and grand fairytale castles placed between long stretches of river, forests, meadows and agricultural lands, the Romantic Road offers tourism of a different kind for the keen motorist.

Due to the length of the trip, stopping off in one of the 16 towns along route for a bite to eat and a rest is advised, with many spots offering an authentic German dining experience. We definitely suggest bringing a camera for this one too, as the stunning variety of locations along the road will definitely be a sight to share with friends back home.

 

Trollstigen, Norway

Trollstigen

We’re rounding off our top roads with a good’un. Starting in the town of Andalsnes in Rauma and finishing at the village of Valldal in the Norddal Municipality,  Trollstigen, or Troll’s Ladder/ Troll’s Path in English, is a four mile drive of epic proportions. Taking Country Road 63, drivers’ eyes are spoiled for choice with breathtaking views. Some of the best are actually located in the visitor centre car park, which at 2,300ft high offers a soaring panorama of the route below.

Along the whole route are specifically-designed viewing platform, allowing motorists to stop and enjoy some stunning photo opportunities. One such view is the 1,050ft-high Stigfossen waterfall, which drivers can also traverse via stone bridge. You may not believe it, but within the route lie small houses dotted about the landscape – imagine those views on your daily drive!

Foreign driving tips

Here are some of our best tips for staying on top of your game when it comes to driving in Europe:

Drive on the correct side of the road

In Europe, motorists use the right-hand side of the road. It may seem silly, it’s worth checking before you arrive into a country and cause an accident! There are usually signs upon arrival at the borders letting you know which side of the road to use, but if you’re unsure, ask a member of border staff and of course do some research before you set off.

 

Take regular rest stops

Even though you’re in a car driving for long periods can be exhausting, especially due to concentrating on unfamiliar roads. The Highway Code recommends taking a break (of at least 15 minutes) every two hours – you don’t want to cause an accident due to lack of concentration. If that means a nap at a service station, a nap it is!

 

Stay hydrated

Make sure to bring plenty of water with you for your trip to stay hydrated and help you concentrate when driving on new roads. If you don’t want to buy bottled water, fill up an old bottle or two before you set off. If there’s a group in the vehicle ensure there’s enough to go around, or stop regularly for drinks breaks – you could even combine this with your rest stop.

 

Check what you’re required to have in your car

Did you know that in Spain it’s mandatory for glasses-wearing drivers to carry a spare pair of specs in their vehicle at all times? There are certain rules and regulations for what you need in your car for many countries – do your research and find out what you must and mustn’t carry in your vehicle before setting off.

 

Bring some entertainment

This one’s important – especially if you’ve got kids in the car. Bored children can lead to irritable bickering and loss of concentration, and nobody wants that! Even if you aren’t travelling with a car full of family,  a game of I Spy or some music on the radio keeps you awake and helps you stay focused on your driving – and it can be the difference between a happy or a tantrum-filled journey!

 

If you’re looking to set off on one of these adventures, or even stay somewhere a little closer to home, ensuring your vehicle is in tip-top condition should be a priority. If you want to make sure your motor is running at its best, why not take it to your local Trust My Garage member? If you’re in need of an MOT, service, repair or tune up, our CTSI approved code of conduct means that you and your vehicle both get the service you deserve – ready for the drive of a lifetime!

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UK speeding law changes: How do they affect you?

As of Monday 24th April 2017, the UK speeding sentencing guidelines have undergone some changes, increasing the severity of penalties for anyone caught committing a speeding offence.

The Sentencing Council have published their revised guidelines for 2017 onward in a report, which you can have a look at here. We’ve broken down the most important parts of the report for you below.

 

How the fines are calculated

Fines will be calculated using the Band system. Offences are broken down into categories, known as bands, based on their severity. This is then used to gauge an approximate fine. Bands A, B, and C are shown here with their penalties:

Sentencing range 

Band C fine
150% of relevant weekly income

Band B fine
100% of relevant weekly income

Band A fine
50% of relevant weekly income

 Disqualification

Points

Disqualification for 7-56 days OR
6 points on your licence

Disqualification for 7-28 days OR
4-6 points on your licence

3 points on your licence

  • Must endorse and may disqualify. If no disqualification impose 3 – 6 points
  • Where an offender is driving grossly in excess of the speed limit the court should consider a disqualification in excess of 56 days.

 

What happens if someone commits a speeding offence?

The penalty received for speeding depends on the speed the offence was committed at and the speed limit of the road used. The table below shows which speeds fall under which bands comparative to the speed limit.

Speed limit (mph)  Recorded speed (mph)
20 41 and above 31 – 40 21 – 30
30 51 and above 41 – 50 31 – 40
40 66 and above 56 – 65 41 – 55
50 76 and above 66 – 75 51 – 65
60 91 and above 81 – 90 61 – 80
70 101 and above 91 – 100 71 – 90
Sentencing Range Band C Band B Band A

For example, if you were driving at 42mph in a 20mph speed limit area your offence would fall into Band C, but doing the same speed in a 30mph speed limit area would mean your offence falls into Band B.

 

Is there any real change from the previous rules?

The Band system has changed how drivers are fined, as this is now worked out on a percentage of weekly income and the severity of the offence. There has also been an increase in severity of penalty when speeding in low-speed limit areas. The maximum fines for speeding have not changed. These are:

  • £1,000 on a normal UK road
  • £2,500 on a UK motorway.

 

Remember, the easiest way to avoid being caught speeding is by not speeding! If you want to make sure your car is running smoothly you can pop into your nearest Chartered Trading Standards approved Trust My Garage member for all your motoring needs. You can find your closest garage with our handy Find a Garage map. If you want to know more about why Trust My Garage members are the best, take a look at our blog post explaining the benefits of visiting a TMG member.

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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!

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What to do when… driving in Summer

The Sun is shining, the sky is clear and the roads are open! It’s nearly summertime here in the UK, so what can you do to help your car and driving be at their best?

We’ve arranged some top tips to combat the summer sun, with some help from The Highway Code, so take a look and see how you can make the most of driving in the British summer.

Keep your vehicle well ventilated to avoid drowsiness. When you get warm, you get sleepy – and that’s not what you want behind the wheel! Your passengers might not like it, but it’s better to be safe and a little bit chilly than be in an accident due to drowsiness.

car air con

Don’t be afraid to push that A/C button if it’s warm out!

Be aware that the road surface may become soft or if it rains after a dry spell it may become slippery. We all know that the British summertime can never happen without a good amount of rain – it’s why we appreciate the sun so much! However, even if you don’t venture out until it’s dry, roads can still hold water and be slippery until much later after a rainy spell. These conditions can affect your steering and braking, so try to be as careful as if it was still chucking it down.

slippery road

Be cautious on slippery roads, even if the sun is shining

If you are dazzled by bright sunlight, slow down and if necessary, stop. Although chasing those hours of sunshine is important, being dazzled by sunlight while driving can cause an accident as many drivers will avert their eyes or squint – impairing their vision. Sun visors and sunglasses can help to remedy this, but if you’re finding it too much it’s ok to pull over and wait a little while until the sun’s position has changed.

sun dazzle

Sun through the trees can impair a driver’s vision, just like bright headlights

 

As well as The Highway Code, we’ve also got some more general tips which may come in handy this summer.

 

Beer Gardens – Don’t be tempted! There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink in the sunshine, but if you’re driving, don’t have any alcohol. Many groups now use a prearranged ‘designated driver’, but if you take your car to the pub and decide to drink while there, get a taxi or a lift home  – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

beer-garden.jpg

If you’re heading to a beer garden, don’t take your car

 

Don’t leave your pet in your car. Although you can open a window, the temperature inside a car can soar compared to that of the air outside. Animals can become dehyrated and suffer greatly, even if you think they haven’t been there for a long time. Check out the video below to see how being locked in a vehicle on a hot day affects a person – imagine this being your dog!

 

As well as looking after yourself, look after your car! Here’s some handy maintenance info to keep your car in tip-top shape.

Check your fluids. Make sure your car’s oil, water and screenwash are at the levels they should be, and that you have plenty of engine coolant – you don’t want to overheat your engine and leave yourself stranded.

engine.jpg

Checking your engine’s fluids could save you a lot of stress this summer

 

Maintain your tyres. If you’re doing extra miles to make the most of the summer, that means extra wear and tear. Check your tread depth is above the legal limit of 1.6mm and there aren’t any bald spots, bulges, or tears around the circumference of the tyre or in the tyre walls.

car tyres

If your tyres are looking like this, it might be time for a fresh set!

 

Test your brakes. In the summer there tends to be more people on the road, and that means more hazards. Caravans, cyclists, bikers and horse riders make the most of the nicer weather, so be prepared for the unexpected! Cautious driving might mean an extra 5 minutes to your destination, but it’s much safer for you and other road users.

car abs light

Make sure your brakes are working – if there’s a hazard, you’ll need them!

 

Finally, if you really want to make the most of this summer, then we’ve got one final piece of advice for you – HAVE FUN!

dog car summer

Most importantly; get ready to have some fun this summer!

 

Don’t forget that if you want to get your car ready for some summer driving, you can use our handy map to find your local Trust My Garage member, operating under a Chartered Trading Standards Association approved consumer code. They’ll help to ensure your car is safe and ready to hit the road to catch some sun.tmg_ctsi_long

The Trust My Garage £1,000 Guarantee – How does it help?

If you take your vehicle for an MOT, service or repair at your local garage, how can you be sure of the quality of its work? At Trust My Garage, we truly believe that our members are the best independent garages in the UK, each one unique but all skilled professionals who are dedicated to providing top quality work with a friendly, personal service.

Don’t just let us tell you how good our members are – you can see the evidence from other consumers too. Based on results from TMG’s online feedback system over the course of 2015, the overall satisfaction rate for TMG members over the last year was 88%, with 98% of consumers satisfied that the member only carried out necessary or quoted work, and 97% of customers were likely to use the member again. You can’t argue with happy customers!

To show how confident we are that you’ll be happy with your next visit to your local TMG member, we’ve launched the Trust My Garage £1,000 Guarantee: a first of its kind financial reassurance scheme backed by the Independent Garage Association (IGA). This means that as well as approval from Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) for the quality of our members, you have the added benefit of financial backing from the IGA.

 

model car mechanic

Need to get your motor fixed? Take it to one of our thousands of Trust My Garage members!

 

It’s very unlikely that you’re ever going to need the TMG £1,000 Guarantee, but it’s there to show that we stand behind our members to underwrite any financial award made following a dispute with one of our members.

But what terms and conditions make up The TMG £1,000 Guarantee, we hear you ask? Well, let’s break it down.

 

How It Works

If you have a problem with one of our members, please contact them and give them a chance to resolve the matter. If you can’t come to a solution, you must follow the complaints procedure as outlined in the Trust My Garage Code of Practice Appendix 2 (full document here).

You will need to file an official complaint with the National Conciliation Service (NCS), our independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider, at www.nationalconciliationservice.co.uk.

If you are judged to be in the right after completing the ADR process, the IGA will underwrite the payment of any financial award up to £1,000 in the event that the garage is unable to make the payment.

 

The Application Process

Under normal circumstances where the ADR process finds in your favour, any financial award will be paid to you by the garage promptly. It is only if this payment is not made after 14 days have elapsed that a claim may be made under the TMG £1,000 Guarantee.

You MUST follow the process as set out in the Trust My Garage Code of Practice for your claim to be eligible under the guarantee. To make a claim, call the TMG helpline on 0845 305 4230 and have your NCS claim reference to hand.

If you want to know more details, you can take a look at our TMG £1,000 Guarantee full terms and conditions.

 

We’re certain that our independent garages will make a great job of any work on your vehicle – so if you need a service, MOT, repair, or just a once-over, head to the Trust My Garage website to find your local TMG member, or for more information about The Trust My Garage £1,000 Guarantee you can click here.

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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.

car-mot-whats-included

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. 

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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

Road safety and Cyclists: How everyone can stay safe

Why are there more cyclists using the roads?

The numbers of people choosing to cycle for fun, fitness or to get to work has increased by more than a quarter in twenty years and an incredible 3.2 billion miles are cycled on our roads every year. (Think!) Add this to the ever-increasing amount of cars on UK roads and all of a sudden, there isn’t much space to share.

Although cycling-related deaths are at an all-time-low since 2010, there were still 3,337 cyclists killed on the road in 2015 (source), and figures released by the Department for Transport last year suggested cyclists are 17 times more likely to be killed on the road than those travelling in vehicles. While charities such as THINK! are helping to raise awareness and remind motorists about the safest ways to travel, there is still a lot that can be done to ensure that drivers and cyclists can use our roads in harmony.

 

THINK!’s basic tips for drivers about cyclist safety

 

We are Cycling states that cycling is essentially a safe activity, causing little risk either to cyclists themselves or to other road users. Moreover, there is good evidence that cyclists gain from ‘safety in numbers’, with cycling becoming safer as cycle use increases. However, fear of road traffic is a major deterrent, despite the health, environmental and other benefits of cycling.

They also say that cycle safety in the UK lags behind many of our continental neighbours, because of poorly designed roads and junctions, traffic volumes and speeds, irresponsible driving, and a legal system that fails to respond adequately to road danger. National and local government should therefore aim for more as well as safer cycling. These two aims can and should go hand-in-hand.

What can I do to stay safe as a driver?

Sustrans are a charity that is trying to encourage the UK to use more sustainable methods of transport, in order to help ease congestion and other problems on the roads. Their top tips for drivers are:

To make roads as safe as they can be, motorists need to be aware of cyclists too.

  • When turning left watch for cyclists coming up on your near side and don’t cut them up;
  • Give cyclists a wide berth when overtaking;
  • At night, dip your headlights when approaching cyclists;
  • In wet weather, allow cyclists extra room as surfaces may be slippery.

Remember, cyclists and motorists are equally entitled to use and share the same road space. Respecting all road users helps everyone to benefit from travelling by road. (source)

The Highway Code also has specific information for both cyclists and drivers about how to safely and properly use the roads.

Rule 211: Look out for motorcyclists and cyclists at junctions

Highway Code rule 211: Look out for motorcyclists and cyclists at junctions

What can I do to stay safe as a cyclist?

When cycling, there are also rules listed in the Highway Code that road users must obey, just like motorists. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) have also created a handy PDF that outlines some of the easy things that cyclists and motorists can do in order to work better together on the roads. Some of their best tips are:

  • Sometimes motorists can find it difficult to predict what a cyclist is going to do, so try and clearly signal any movements that could be seen as unusual to a driver.
  • When driving large vehicles, motorists can find it very difficult to see cyclists on their nearside, even with all their extra mirrors, so maintain a safe distance.
  • Failing to look properly is also a common mistake made by cyclists, and contributes to 42% of cyclist collisions at junctions.
  • NEVER be tempted to ride down the inside of any vehicle (especially a bus or lorry) that is waiting at a junction. Hold back and stay behind where the driver can see you in their mirrors. Be patient and don’t squeeze down the inside by the gutter.
  • If a vehicle overtakes you close to a left turn junction, keep a safe gap behind the vehicle in case the driver cuts in front of you to turn left.
  • When overtaking a parked car, remember to leave enough room in case a door opens (‘leave a door and a bit more’) and be ready for someone to open a door as you pass.
  • In normal conditions, ride in the ‘secondary position’, approximately 1/3 into the carriageway – avoiding debris and grid covers in the gutter. If you need to improve your visibility in poor conditions you can ride in the ‘primary position’, in the middle of the road. However, try not to hold drivers up unnecessarily.
  • When riding together never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.
  • The Highway Code says: At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen.

Remember: BE SAFE BE SEEN.

source: RoSPA.

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RoSPA diagram for maintaining a safe distance from HGVs.

What’s being done to improve road safety?

It isn’t only the public that are noticing the importance of safety for both drivers and cyclists. In June 2016 the government proposed implementing a fine of £5,000 for motorists that drove carelessly or too close around cyclists.

The idea was discussed after similar rules were created in Australia and Europe to help keep cyclists safe from dangerous driving. At the time, the Transport Minister Robert Goodwill stated: “As with other changes of this type introduced overseas, we remain interested in the change and are keeping it under review.”

While it’s true that nobody wants to get into an accident, they still happen. If your car hasn’t been running as smoothly as you like why not book it into your local Trust My Garage approved independent garage and get it back to tip-top condition?

If you’d like to learn more about staying safe on the road with cyclists – whether you’re a driver or a cyclist – you can find plenty advice on websites such as Highway Code, Brake & Think!.