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.
The MOT is a mandatory annual requirement for vehicles in the UK – but how do you go about organising yours, and how does it benefit your vehicle?
If you’re feeling a little bit lost when it comes to the process, Trust My Garage has put together some top tips and advice on how to ensure you’re meeting the legal requirements and giving your motor some TLC at the same time.
While this information is currently up to date, the MOT test will change on 20th May 2018. Some new things will be included, defects will be categorised differently, there will be stricter rules for car emissions and diesel vehicles, and some vehicles over 40 years old won’t need an MOT. Look out for our blog post detailing the changes coming soon.
How do I know when my MOT is due?
Your car must undertake its first MOT three years after its first registration, and then every year after that. If you need to know when your MOT is due, you can sign up to the new .GOV MOT reminder service. This will provide you with a reminder one month before your MOT is due. You’ll get another reminder if you still haven’t had your vehicle tested 2 weeks before your MOT is due.
Ok, I know when my MOT needs to be completed – now what?
You can take your vehicle to any registered MOT testing station that provides tests on your class of vehicle. If you have a car, this will be Classes 4 & 7 and for motorcycles it’s Classes 1 & 2. MOT stations should have a sign outside that looks like this:
This sign shows that the station has been approved by the DVSA as fit to carry out MOT tests, and you will be able to take your vehicle there to have the test completed.
How do I find an MOT Testing Station near me?
With over 22,000 MOT Stations operating in Great Britain, there’s plenty of choice to be had! If you’re looking for a trusted independent garage near to you, most Trust My Garage members are approved MOT stations. You can use TMG’s handy Find a Garage map to locate a garage that adheres to a Chartered Trading Standards (CTSI)-approved code of conduct. The Trust My Garage shield acts as a badge of quality for the independent garage sector, and demonstrates the commitment our garages follow to provide the highest levels of workmanship and customer service.
So, I’ve had my vehicle MOT’ed, but how does it help?
The MOT covers many aspects of vehicle safety and roadworthiness, as well as conducting compulsory exhaust emissions tests. At the end of the test, you will receive a certificate proving your vehicle has passed or details on why your vehicle has failed, as well as an advisory information provided by the qualified MOT Tester. Have a look at the photo below to see the areas covered in the test for cars:
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.
Right. I’ve had a service though, is that the same thing?
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. A yearly service is also NOT mandatory, but is strongly recommended to help keep your vehicle in roadworthy condition. Many motorists opt to have their MOT and service conducted at the same time, as it means any issues can be detected and rectified in one appointment.
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.
Thanks! Remind me, where can I get my vehicle MOT’ed again?
No problem – you can take your vehicle to your nearest Trust My Garage member business. Whether it’s for an MOT, check-up, service or repair, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved code of conduct that our members use mean that you and you motor both get the best possible service. For more information you can visit www.TrustMyGarage.co.uk – and be sure to check out the Trust My Garage Facebook and Twitter pages too!
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.
It’s that time of year again. Christmas is right around the corner! Some of us may be a bit more excited than others, but with all the festive cheer in the air, have you thought about the practicalities of driving this Christmastime? If not, then buckle up! We’re about to tell you just how you can make the most when you’re driving this Christmas. (Song optional, but very festive.)
When you’re driving your top priority should always be your safety. Regardless of the destination or the time it takes you to get there, your number one thought should be about your own safety, and that of any passengers in the vehicle with you.
Plan your route
The further the distance you’re travelling, the more chance there is for issues like traffic to occur. Christmas is a peak time for driving, as many people visit their families over the festive period, so try and ensure you give yourself adequate travelling time.
Here are some of the routes identified by motoring organisations as traffic hotspots over Christmas:
- The M1, A1 and A1(M) northbound
- The M4 westbound to Wales and around Heathrow
- The M3, A303 and M5 heading to the West Country
- The M23 to Gatwick and the M11 to Stansted
- The M62 over the Pennines is often affected by snow, as is the A1079 between Hull and York.
It’s also worth noting that many main roads and motorways will be gritted in the case of snow and ice, but this won’t necessarily happen in areas that don’t see as much traffic. It’s worth taking some extra time by using main roads to get to your destination instead of taking shortcuts that often require drivers to travel on country lanes, as these may be more dangerous in poor weather.
If you’re interested in more ways to ensure you’re driving in a safe and responsible manner, you can look at the charity Brake’s ABC pledge. Drivers can promise to follow the rules Brake have set out for being as safe as possible in winter conditions, to help both themselves and other motorists on the roads.
Prepare your car
The UK suffers from a yearly big freeze, so we’re sure you’ve got some great tips on how to help get started in the cold. However, if you’re looking for some ideas about how to get the wheels rolling, here are some of the best we’ve found:
- Tyres: If possible, considering buying winter tyres. If this is not an option, ensure your standard tyres are inflated correctly and that you have a minimum of 3mm of tread on your tyres to cope with wet and slippery conditions.
- Battery: In winter, the battery will run down quicker than in warmer weather. Make sure you do a regular long journey to top it up or trickle-charge the battery.
- Engine: Modern engines are more robust than older ones. All the same, depress the clutch when starting as this will reduce drag on the engine when starting, and preserve the battery.
- Screen wash: Keep this topped up and use a proper additive at the right concentration to prevent it freezing.
- Fuel: Keep your tank topped up – that way if you are caught out, you’ll have enough fuel to make it home or run the engine to keep warm. However, it’s essential to keep snow from blocking the exhaust as noxious fumes can leak into the vehicle.
- Windows: Clear all snow and ice from the windscreen and the roof of the car before driving off. Do not use water to de-ice windscreens. Hot water can crack the glass, and the water will only freeze again on the screen or on the ground where you are standing.
- Locks: A squirt of WD-40 will prevent your door locks freezing up. If they do, apply a heat source to your car key to melt the ice.
- Warm clothing: Your car may be warm on the inside but if you have to step outside, you could be in trouble if you have not got any warm clothing with you.
If you do suffer the unfortunate experience of a breakdown it’s important to keep some essentials in the car – a fully charged mobile phone, a torch, warm clothes, comfortable and waterproof shoes, hot drinks and snacks (Telegraph). That way, when you’re waiting for some roadside assistance or a recovery vehicle you can stay warm, full and safe while trying to stave off the boredom.
Emergency snow kit
- Warning triangle – let other drivers know your situation to avoid stress and confusion
- Cat litter or sand
- Snow shovel or spade
- Ice scraper
- Warm clothes and footwear
- Snacks and water
- Mobile phone
- Blanket or sleeping bag
- Jump leads
- High visibility jacket
- First aid kit
- Heat pad – If you are stranded in the snow and the exhaust pipe is covered, it can be dangerous to run the engine. These help you stay warm.
Remember, you’re never far from a Trust My Garage member who can help you out with any problems that you might experience on the road. All of our members are Trading Standards approved, and are here to get you back on track quickly & safely. Garages are located all over the UK, so no matter where you are, we’re here to help you. If you want to see where your nearest garage is, you can search with your post code on the Trust My Garage map.
Getting Home Safely
Don’t Drink Drive.
The golden rule is that if you plan to have a drink, don’t drive.
Carbuyer suggest that you leave your car parked up, get a cab home or let someone who’s sober drive – as long as they’re insured to drive your car, of course.
The effect of alcohol on driving is profound and so are the penalties if you’re caught doing so. Anyone convicted in the UK of ‘driving or attempting to drive through drink or drugs’ faces anything up to the maximum possible of penalty of a £5,000 fine, a six month prison sentence and up to 11 points on their driving licence, as well as an obligatory 12 month disqualification from driving (Drinkdriving.org). There’s no defence for being caught over the drink-drive limit the following morning, either.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
This year, THINK! have launched a new anti drink-driving campaign for December – FOMO.
The campaign is specifically targeting young males, as figures show they account for almost two thirds of drink drivers killed on our roads.
It will target young men through Facebook, Twitter and Spotify, with 5.4 million British males aged 25 to 34 on Facebook alone – the highest single demographic.
The campaign involves adverts that aim to make it clear to young men that they have plenty to live for the following day, which they may not see if they choose to have a second drink.
Research carried out for the Department for Transport found 20% of young men have had 2 or more drinks before driving and an extra 11% say they have considered it – with a third of adults telling researchers they felt it wouldn’t impact on their driving. However, research from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) shows a second drink doubles a driver’s chances of being involved in a fatality. (Gov.uk)
So let’s be safe, and don’t drink and drive.
Most importantly – Have a Merry Christmas!
We at Trust My Garage all hope you have a wonderful and safe Christmas, and spend lots of time doing whatever you like. If you’re worried that your car isn’t up to the challenge of the British winter, don’t forget you can pop in to your local Trust My Garage member and get booked in for a service. That way we can all motor happy!
If you found this post helpful, why not take a look at our ways to make your Christmas commute better, or leave us a comment with your best winter driving tips!