2018 is upon us! The start of the new year means many people across the UK are kickstarting their January with a range of New Year’s resolutions – and motorists are no exception. This year, drivers are looking to reboot their motoring habits in a bid to revamp both their vehicles and their attitudes to driving.
A new survey has shown the variety of ways in which motorists want to put more effort into vehicle maintenance and their driving styles – but which of these resolutions will be yours?
Checking tyre pressures and oil levels regularly
In the poll, 24 per cent of drivers said they wanted to improve how frequently they check their tyre pressures and oil levels. Both of these areas are hugely important in your vehicle; as maintaining correct tyre pressure ensures good fuel efficiency, better road safety in poor weather conditions and more even wear across the tyre, reducing the likelihood of bald spots on the tyre. Correct tyre pressures should be listed in your vehicle’s owner’s manual and on the pillar when the driver’s door is open. To inflate your tyres to the correct pressure, many garages and petrol stations offer a tyre pressure inflator on site.
Having the correct levels of oil in your engine is also of vital importance for your vehicle. Any engine needs lubrication, and making sure your engine is well oiled will fight against two major engine damagers: friction and heat. Measuring your oil level on the dipstick when your vehicle is cool and on level ground will give you an accurate reading of the amount and an indication of the quality of the oil in your motor.
Learning to park properly
17 per cent of drivers also wanted to learn how to park properly. While many drivers are comfortable driving in to a parking space, some motorists – especially new and/or younger drivers – can feel daunted at the prospect of parallel parking. While practice is the best method for improvement, these tips from the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) can offer some help for understanding how to parallel park safely and effectively.
The survey found that 16 per cent of drivers were nervous or unhappy about using the motorway in their vehicle. As part of the expansive road network spanning the UK, motorways provide a fast route to almost any destination up and down the country – but the speed and heavy flow of traffic can be an intimidating prospect for a motorist. The Highway Code provides explicit rules of conduct for using the motorway network, but drivers can also use a ‘Pass Plus’ training course with a registered instructor as a practical application to help get them motoring.
Improving reversing ability
15 per cent of respondents also said they would like to improve their ability to reverse their vehicle. While reversing may seem like a common manoeuvre, some drivers can find it difficult. The Highway Code offers some helpful advice for reversing, along with its other general road use guidelines. Rule 202 states:
“Look carefully before you start reversing. You should
- use all your mirrors
- check the ‘blind spot’ behind you (the part of the road you cannot see easily in the mirrors)
- check there are no pedestrians (particularly children), cyclists, other road users or obstructions in the road behind you.
Reverse slowly while
- checking all around
- looking mainly through the rear window
- being aware that the front of your vehicle will swing out as you turn.
Get someone to guide you if you cannot see clearly.”
Not getting road rage
14 per cent of drivers in the poll admitted to succumbing to road rage when motoring, with a resolution not to give in to the red mist in 2018. While being a confident driver is a definite positive, motorists should not be over confident, as it can be a killer on the roads. The best method for combatting road rage is simply to let any issues go and not let them affect your journey, however we know how difficult that can be! Rule 147 of The Highway Code states:
“Do not allow yourself to become agitated or involved if someone is behaving badly on the road. This will only make the situation worse. Pull over, calm down and, when you feel relaxed, continue your journey.”
So, sit back, relax, and carry on driving in a calm manner for your own safety and that of other road users.
Switching off phones at the wheel
A shocking 13 per cent of drivers admitted to their resolution being to switch off their mobile phone when behind the wheel. The law states that:
“You can only use a handheld phone if you are safely parked or need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.”
If you’re caught using a mobile in any other motoring circumstance you’ll receive 6 penalty points on your driving licence and a £200 fine.
The simplest solution is to turn off your phone or have it in a locked compartment of your car, and if you feel you need to check your phone pull over at a safe point and switch off your car’s engine. If you need to contact someone and you know they are driving, wait until you know they have arrived at their destination to avoid being a distraction to them.
Keeping your vehicle in top condition
Maintaining your vehicle should be at the top of your New Year’s Resolutions list, so that you can keep motoring happy throughout 2018. With Trust My Garage, you know you can rely on using a nationally recognised brand, with a truly professional service for both you and your vehicle. 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.
Got any New Year’s resolutions of your own? Let us know in the comments!
Wednesday 22nd November saw Chancellor of the Exchequer announce his Autumn budget speech to the House of Commons.
The Budget is the Government’s yearly announcement about how it will use nation’s money to fund services such as schools, the NHS, policing, housing and more. Taxpayers provide money for the Government, which then translates into the budget’s funding. Motoring taxes such as VAT, charged at the current rate of 20%, Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax), and fuel duty are some of the types of funding coming from vehicle owners that the budget utilises.
Trust My Garage believes that keeping you in the loop as a vehicle owner is of vital importance, so we’ve created a breakdown on how the changes announced in the budget could affect the UK’s motorists and the future of driving.
After much speculation, fuel duty has remained frozen for another year – meaning drivers of diesel vehicles will not be subject to increased costs for their fuel.
However, vehicle excise duty for diesel cars that do not meet the latest emission standards will rise by one band in April 2018 to crack down on the increasing levels of air pollution – so you could be paying anything from £15 to £500 more a year depending on how polluting your diesel vehicle is. As well as this, existing diesel supplements in company car tax will rise by 1%.
The Chancellor also reassured “white van men, and women” that company taxes on diesel vehicles will not hit them – The changes to company car tax for diesel vehicles are designed for cars only.
As a benefit to motorists, Mr Hammond unveiled extra funding and tax incentives for electric car drivers in order to initiate further take up of electric vehicles (EVs). An extra £100 million is set to go towards helping people buy battery electric cars. The Government has also pledged to make sure all new homes are built with the right cables for electric car charge points.
In addition to the extra investments, electric cars charged at work will not incur benefit in kind, meaning they aren’t subject to taxation as fossil fuel-run vehicles are. This should encourage businesses to install charging points on their premises for employees – making it easier to charge your car at a convenient time.
The Government is also investing more funding into a cohesive electric vehicle charging infrastructure, once again ensuring you can stay charged up and ready to go no matter where you are if you choose to run an EV.
Thinking even further ahead, the Government has pledged to devote funding to driverless cars, considering them as the ‘next step’ after electric vehicles. The Chancellor announced that the UK will set out rules so that self-driving cars can be tested without a safety operator.
Overall, the latest budget has been of mixed quality for motorists. Fuel duty prices have unexpectedly been frozen again to save you money, and the investment into electric vehicles will make it easier than ever to make the switch to a greener car and reduce air pollution for the next generation. However, the rise in costs for diesel vehicles is still set to affect many thousands of drivers across the UK.
No matter what the budget – be it yours or the UK’s – Trust My Garage and the Car Repair Plan are here to help you ensure your car is running at its best! If you’re looking for any kind of service or repair, you can use our handy Find a Garage map to locate your nearest Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) code of conduct approved member.
For more information about Trust My Garage you can also visit our website at www.TrustMyGarage.co.uk.
Got any thoughts or comments about how the Autumn budget could affect you? Tell us in the comments below!
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.
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.