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What to do when… you’re driving in wet weather conditions

The British Summer can be a challenging time for motorists, with changeable weather meaning drivers must be adaptable to a variety of driving conditions. While we all hold out for sunshine, rain is far more likely – but the Trust My Garage blog can help you make sure you drive safely in wet weather!

Why can rain be dangerous for motorists?

Rain is not only an inconvenience for motorists; it can also be a dangerous problem. The Highway Code states that in wet weather vehicle stopping distances are double those required for dry conditions, as tyres have less grip on the road.

Drivers should always take additional precautions when on the road in wet conditions, such as:

  • Maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you
  • Ensuring your vehicle’s steering is responsive – if it becomes unresponsive you should ease off the accelerator and gradually slow down
  • Keeping lights on where appropriate to be visible, as the rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen
  • Being aware of the dangers of spilt diesel that will make the surface very slippery
  • Taking extra care around pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders

A major issue on very wet roads is aquaplaning – an issue caused when a layer of water is allowed to build up between a vehicle’s tyres and the surface of the road beneath. At this point, the tyres cannot grip on the road and this causes a lack of traction which means the driver loses control and is unable to steer, brake or accelerate.

To avoid aquaplaning it’s important to check your tyres (read on for more tyre tips!), not drive too quickly and don’t make sudden manoeuvres that enable water to build up between your vehicle’s tyres and the road. If you’re following a vehicle you can also follow their “tracks” from a safe distance to remain on the part of the road where water has already been displaced, providing more grip.

How can I prepare myself?

Before setting off on any trip be sure to plan the route you’re going to take, and an alternative if you think there could be issues due to poor weather. Using a sat-nav with traffic updates can also help you adjust your route if there are long delays or hazards ahead, but it’s worth keeping traffic alerts on your vehicle’s radio system too, in case there are any sudden changes to the road conditions.

If a problem occurs once your trip is underway you can also find a safe place to pull over – such as a roadside refuge area or lay-by – park up and turn off the engine completely, remove your keys from the vehicle ignition and use your mobile phone to calculate an alternative route.

If you have concerns about your driving ability in poor conditions, it’s always better to wait until you feel safe on the roads. Although it may seem inconvenient your safety and the safety of any passengers you may also have is of utmost importance – as well as that of other road users.

How can I prepare my vehicle?

Prior to setting off it’s important to check your vehicle is in a safe and roadworthy condition. One of the most crucial things to check is tyres, so this is what you need to know:

  • Make sure your tyre pressures are correct. It’s easier than you might think! You can check and correct your tyre pressure at most UK petrol stations using a pay-per-use air and water station, or you can purchase your own tyre pressure gauge – the choice is yours.
  • If you aren’t sure what pressure is correct for your vehicle’s tyres you can refer to your Owner’s Manual. Details should be provided in either/both BAR and PSI, and you can adjust your pressures to the recommended figure.
  • Tyres should meet the legal minimum requirement of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre and in a continuous band around the whole of the tyre,  or risk a £2,500 fine and three penalty points per tyre – or worse!
  • For optimum safety it is recommended tyres have a minimum of 3mm depth of tread across the central three-quarters of the tyre and in a continuous band around the whole of the tyre.
  • There should be no cuts or bulges in the side wall of the tyre, as these can increase the chances of blowouts while on the road – if any bulges, bubbles, cuts and tears are visible you should speak to a professional to arrange a replacement
  • You should also check for punctures prior to setting off – they can either be repaired or the tyre can be replaced, but it’s important to identify any issues and have a professional assess the best course of action.

Wipers play a huge role in ensuring good visibility in inclement weather, so checking their function is a must before driving in wet weather. While they should ideally be replaced six-monthly to yearly, if you notice a decline in visibility you should change them sooner. Factors such as streaking, smearing, skipping and squeaking indicate that your blades should be changed to retain good vision of the road – and don’t forget to check your rear wiper too!

Another area that should always be thoroughly checked is your vehicle’s lights. A sudden heavy downpour can cause quickly darkening road conditions, so functioning lights play an important role in keeping your visibility levels up and keeping you easily identifiable to other motorists.

Before setting off on a journey, turn on your vehicle’s lights and either walk around the vehicle to conduct a check or ask a passenger to check all your lights are working correctly – be sure to press the brake too and check that all three lights are working. If any lights are dim or aren’t working, including fog lights and number plate lights, you should get them replaced as soon as possible.

If you are stopped by police for having faulty brake lights, you could receive:

  • A verbal warning
  • A Roadside Prohibition Notice – which gives you 10 days to get it fixed
  • A £60 fine and 3 points on your licence
  • Worst case scenario – they could tow your car away!

It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with your car’s ventilation system. Wet conditions can cause a car to steam up, making visibility difficult and driving hazardous. Many people think air conditioning is only for hot days, but this is not the case! Using your car’s air conditioning in conjunction with the heater may seem an odd thing to do, but it can actually remove moisture from the air, helping to demist your vehicle quicker than using the heater alone.

Most importantly during extreme weather conditions it’s important to stay warm and dry, so it’s a good idea to ensure your car is kitted out with emergency supplies such as blankets, first-aid kits and extra food and drink if you’re undertaking longer trips.

In need of a professional?

If your car is due its MOT or a service, make sure to take it in to a garage to get it ready for the road. If you’re looking for a reputable, local, independent garage you can head to the Trust My Garage website and use our handy ‘Find a Garage’ map to locate your nearest TMG member, operating to a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved code of conduct. You can also check out our latest TV advert below:

Our ‘What to do when…’ series can provide some further tips and insight across other areas of motoring and vehicle maintenance to help you ensure your motor is running at its best! You can check out our other posts in the series here.

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

Weathering the storm – how to drive safely in wintry conditions

You just have to glance at the news to see the devastating effects of the storms that are battering Wales and Western England, leaving whole communities ruined. The bad news is that it’s only going to get worse, with even more heavy rain predicted over the next few days. Two powerful storms after each other can only mean one thing – floods.

Treacherous Driving Conditions

Driving in wet weather can be dangerous and challenging at the best of times, but when there’s flooding things are obviously made even worse, especially if you’re inexperienced driving in such conditions.

We’re offering you some handy advice for driving in floods – it might just save your life.

5. Be wary of spray

Spray, water that’s forced from the road as a vehicle drives over it, can be deadly as it has the potential to completely cut out your already reduced visibility.

To avoid spray covering your windscreen you should keep a safe distance from the car in front of you, and if you see an oncoming heavy vehicle, switch your windscreen wiper setting to full in anticipation.

You should also be aware of the law – if you’re seen driving through a roadside puddle and splashing someone on the pavement, accident or not, you’re likely to receive a caution from the police, as it is an illegal offence.

4. Check your windows and wipers

Make sure your windows are clean – this will not only improve visibility but clean windows are actually less likely to mist up than dirty ones, so invest in a high quality windscreen washer fluid. When your windows do inevitably start to mist you can counter it by turning your heater fan or air-con on to clear it. Carry out regular checks before you set off on journeys to ensure your wiper blades are in good condition, if they’re not then they’ll be less effective at clearing away water on the windscreen. It’ll be handy to have a spare set in your car so you can replace them when you’re on the move.

Whenever it’s raining and you’re having to use your wipers, it’s a general rule that you should also have your headlights on and dipped.

3. Don’t aquaplane

Aquaplaning is a nice sounding word with a terrifying definition. It is the term used for when your car loses contact with the road and effectively surfs on top of water. You’ll be able to tell when your car is aquaplaning because your steering will feel unusually light and road noise will disappear – what you need to do is gently release your foot from the accelerator so your tyres can once again regain traction with the road.

It’s imperative you don’t brake or steer as doing either of these will cause you to lose total control of your car.

2. Avoid puddles

Driving through water is, as you can imagine, incredibly dangerous. If you get water in your engine electrics it will cause it to stall, not only leaving you stranded but also incurring expensive repair costs.

As a rule you should never drive through water that is as high as your exhaust pipe, and you shouldn’t go through moving water that’s higher than four inches. If you come across water that is this deep then you should turn around and find an alternative route – it might take you longer but do you really want to get stuck in a flood?

If you do drive through water then ensure you stick to the highest point of the road and you must reduce your speed – if you go too fast you’ll create a bow wave that will rise up to your engine and exhaust pipe.

Stick to first gear, keep the revs high by slipping your clutch (keeping the clutch partly engaged) and keep your foot on the accelerator pedal so that the engine is running at a constant speed- these are all necessary because they will help prevent water from entering the exhaust.

Once you’ve got through the water you should gently push your brakes to test them. If they’re not working you need to slow to a stop, pull over and call for assistance.

The important thing to remember is to stay calm. This is easier said than done but panicking won’t get you anywhere, and if anything, will put you at further risk as you’ll be more prone to making rash decisions.

1. Servicing

You should get your car serviced at a trusted independent garage to ensure it’s in good condition for driving in wet weather. As you can imagine you’re going to be heavily reliant on your tyres because of the water on the road, and whilst you can check their pressure and tread yourself it’s always safer to use an expert.

The last thing you want is to breakdown when the rain is lashing down and the winds are ripping trees from their roots – get your car serviced so problems can be detected at an early stage rather than when you’re stranded at the side of a flooded road.

 To find your local independent garage for a service ahead of a drive in wintry conditions, visit the Trust My Garage website and insert your postcode into our garage finder. 

Get a grip driving in icy conditions

Winter is well and truly upon us, and as the early nights draw in so does the weather, which never seems to fail to grind the UK’s roads to a halt.

Snow, rain and freezing temperatures combine to make getting from A to B about as challenging as taking part in a World Rally Championship race.

This winter is expected to break records for snowfall, with forecasters claiming it’s likely to be the worst winter for more than 100 years.   And in the light of this grim news, we’re offering our five top tips to stay safe on the roads when driving in snowy and icy conditions.

5. Check your tyres. You need to make sure your tread depth and tyre pressures are right for winter motoring. At least 3mm of tread is correct for winter driving and certainly nothing less than 2mm. Reducing tyre pressures to get more grip on the road doesn’t work, and in fact reduces stability. If grip is a problem, you might want to consider using winter tyres. They have a higher silica content in the tread which prevents them from hardening at lower temperatures; providing you with greater grip on the roads. For more information about checking tyres and the things you can do yourself, visit the Tyresafe website here.

Driving in snow and ice4. What is your vision like? Make sure your windscreen and roof are completely clear of snow as you will need as much visibility as you can get with driving conditions becoming darker over winter. Make sure all your bulbs are working correctly and that the lenses are clean. Remember that your number plates need to be legible too – you risk a heavy fine if they can’t be seen by other motorists and pedestrians.

3. Energise battery levels. Lights, heaters and wipers put high demands on your car battery. Batteries rarely last longer than five years anyway, but their life will be shortened if you use your car mainly for dark rush-hour trips. Avoid running electrical systems longer than necessary, turn off non-essential electrical loads like heaters and wipers when you don’t need them.

2. Stay calm. Winter driving conditions can be treacherous. Reduce your speed when it is icy and prepare for your journey well in advance. Remain calm in your car and stay alert for signs of danger, which could cause you to slow down or brake. Make sure you are wearing comfortable, dry shoes for driving, and try to stick to main roads as much as you can as side roads won’t always have been gritted in icy weather.

1. Get your car serviced at a Trust My Garage member. The best way to make sure your car is prepared for winter conditions is with a winter service at a Trust My Garage member. There are things you can do yourself but to be sure we always recommend you take your car to your nearest trusted independent garage and let the experts have a look over it. Braking in particular can become a real issue when roads are icy or snow-covered so it is imperative you have your brakes looked at by a professional, and whilst you can roughly gauge your tyre tread depth yourself with the old coin trick, it is far safer to trust a professional.

For the ultimate peace of mind when driving this winter, find a garage you can trust for an honest and professional winter service. Just put your postcode in our garage finder and we will show you where your nearest Trust My Garage members can be found.

Are you ready for summer flash floods?

In planning for heavy downpours of rain following the mini heat waves, police forces across the country are warning weather appdrivers to prepare in advance and steer clear of certain roads that are susceptible to flooding. Smart phones, sat navs and in car technology means we have the most up to date information to plan around adverse weather forecasts. One of these data centres is a, standard weather app integrated into most Smartphones…

BUT the climate is so fickle at the moment that we cannot always predict for certain what weather we are going to be driving in. The Environment Agency has already put out 32 flood alerts in the UK this summer and surface water flooding has caused much localised travel disruption.

 

If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail…

We’ve put together some top tips to make sure that you are fully prepared for driving in wet weather so that you don’t end up stranded… in a very big puddle!car flood

 

  • Slow down as it takes longer for you to stop in the wet weather and if possible avoid using your brakes altogether as they can cause you to aquaplane across the water. Take   your foot off the accelerator earlier than usual to gradually slow down. You will be able to tell if your steering is unresponsive which means that the water is preventing your tyres from gripping the road.
  • As far as you can try and keep to middle and overtaking lanes of motorways and dual-carriageways as water is naturally drawn to the hard shoulder/inside lane because of the way the roads are built.
  • The stopping distance in these conditions needs to be vastly increased. The official following distance is a 3 second rule (or 2 car rule) – make sure you increase this to at least 5 seconds (or 4 cars). It’s better to be safe than sorry!
  • Turn on your lights when your visibility is limited, whether it is a heavy storm, light rain, fog, or even overcast Aquaplaningconditions. It’s not just about what you can see, but about others being able to see you!
  • It may seem like an obvious one – but as we have been lapping up the sun lately, it is likely that many people haven’t recently checked whether their windscreen wipers are up to scratch. With the warnings now in place, it is important that you replace old or brittle wiper blades to make sure you have good visibility in heavy rain swept weather.
  • NEVER drive through water if you can’t see the ground at the bottom of it. And IF driving through large puddles of uncertain depth then GO SLOW. If you go fast it can cause expensive damage as the air intake on many cars is low down at the front, therefore water can become sucked into the engine and cause driveability problems and you might need to take your car to an independent garage to get it checked out! As you go slowly make sure you use a low gear and higher revs to make sure you don’t cut out or damage the catalytic convertor. Once you come out of the flooded area it is important that you test your brakes as they will be saturated with water.
  • Avoid following large vehicles! The splash and spray from lorries and vans can obscure your vision on the road, so keep a wide distance from them and make sure your windscreen wipers are constantly active.
  • Pull over if it gets too bad. No matter how much you need to get somewhere, being late yet ALIVE is always the more sensible option. Heavy rain can put strain on your wiper blades, and cause a sheet of water to flow over your screen restricting your vision. Find a safe spot to pull over and wait for the worst part of the storm to stop, which shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Did you know…?
Your car will float in just two feet of standing water

If you want your vehicle wet weather proofing, you can get a ‘Trust My Garage’ member to carry out a service where they will check all the essential parts of your car to drive you through these weather warnings safely. OR in the unfortunate event of the rain damaging your car in some way, they will provide you with a loyal and affordable repair service. CLICK HERE to find your nearest one.