Driving in wet weather
Over the past few weeks, Britain has experienced heavy out-of-season showers. In some cities, these downfalls have proven too much for drainage systems, as flooding has been seen throughout the country. Although 20 June marked the official first day of summer, weather reports suggest that it may not be time to pack away the umbrellas and wellies just yet. When it comes to driving, too, extra precautions ought to be taken.
As most will remember from the theory driving test, rain can severely impair driving conditions. Aside from the splutters and splats of raindrops obscuring windscreens, stopping distances and visibility are also affected. Lack of care, when driving in the rain, can lead to lack of control, collision, and, in extreme cases, fatalities – so keeping safe during downfalls is essential. Acting as further solution, it has been suggested that drivers ought to avoid driving during extreme weather conditions, if possible.
Richard Gladman, Head of Driving Standards, said: “Only travel in extreme adverse weather conditions if it is really necessary.”
For most, avoiding the weather can be impractical, but there are easy ways to ensure greater safety when driving during the current weather conditions.
Here’s a list of things to consider during your summer downpour driving:
The last thing you want, when caught up in a spell of heavy rains, is to have your vision restricted due to damaged or dirty windscreen wipers. With the current unforgiving conditions, it is important to make sure that your senses, as well as your motor, are fully functional. During extreme downfall, it can become near impossible to see more than the stampede of raindrops on your windscreen, which makes it increasingly difficult to spot a potential hazard. What’s more, excess water decreases the amount of grip your tyres have on the road, which could lead to slipping and sliding, should your breaks be pressed too abruptly. Avoid potential casualties by ensuring your lights, windscreen wipers and tyre pressures are all present and correct, and be sure to stay attentive. Contact your local Trust My Garage to carry out all your essential car checks.
Planning is key when it comes to driving in extreme weather conditions. Where it is best to avoid travelling altogether, if this is unavoidable, forward-thinking is important. Gladman said: “Before setting off, check for any weather alerts, traffic updates or planned road closures that may affect your journey.” It is beneficial to clue yourself up on any roads in your area that are prone to flooding; this will allow you to avoid potentially dangerous routes. What’s more, it is best to allow more time to reach your destination, as the current weather can lead to longer routes, more diversions and lengthier traffic queues. These circumstances could lead to stress behind the wheel which can poorly affect your driving. Stay safe by planning your journey in advance, and leaving out earlier than usual.
It’s no secret that some road surfaces around the country are a little worse for wear; what’s more, heavy rains often lead to them becoming even more damaged. As well as leading to a slightly bumpier journey, damaged road surfaces can also be detrimental to your tyres, causing excessive wear and tear. In clear weathers, it is far easier to avoid potholes or chips in the road; however, during the rain, puddles make them increasingly difficult to spot. A tip for spotting potentially impaired surfaces is to look out for any loose chunks of tarmac, as these are signs of damaged road surfaces.
With heavy rains deterring vision, it is important for motorists to stay visible. Switching on your dipped headlights will allow other drivers to see you easily – without overwhelming them with the glare of your full beams. When driving an unfamiliar car, it is important to make sure you are aware of how buttons and switches work before setting off on your journey. In extreme weather conditions, familiarise yourself with the light switches and settings before revving off.
It is a fact that stopping distance increases during wet weather. Due to the excess water on the roads, your tyres grip is far less efficient, so slips and skids can be unavoidable. During extreme weathers, it is essential to consider your speed, as the physics of driving in the rain dictates that the higher the speed, the greater the stopping distance. Stay safe by sticking to the speed limit and keeping a safe space between you and the car ahead.
Reduced speed will also provide a smoother ride when driving through large puddles. When driving through excess waters, or at high speeds on wet roads, your car faces the risk of building up a layer of water between the vehicle’s wheels and the road which cannot be cleared by the tread on the tyres. If this becomes too much for the car to handle, your vehicle could lose traction which prevents the car from responding to your controls, and gaining a mind of its own. This is called aquaplaning, and gives you the feeling that your car is on water-skis. You may also notice the car becoming much quieter, as the noise of tyres on tarmac will disappear.
In this event, although instinct may dictate it, it’s best to avoid slamming on the brakes or jerking as these can lead to skidding. Should this happen, allow the vehicle to follow the path that it wants to and ease your foot off the accelerator until you can feel friction and traction coming back to your wheels. At this point, it is safe for you to gently nudge your steering wheel and use your brakes lightly (if your car has ABS, at this point, you can brake normally). More preventatively, keeping a steady pace will allow for a more streamlined approach to the water, decreasing your chances of aquaplaning, or spraying other road users.
Aquaplaning is much more likely if your tyres are worn, so be sure to check your tread depth regularly.
In extreme circumstances, torrential rain can interfere with the electrics of your vehicle, leading to a breakdown. Plan ahead for any emergencies by keeping your mobile phone charged, so you can call for recovery. It is also recommended that you are familiar with your local garage for any repairs that may be needed. Be sure to download the Trust My Garage app or head to the website to locate your nearest trusted garage. While you wait for your recovery service, ensure your bonnet is closed to avoid further complications.
Most importantly, during the extreme weather conditions, it’s important to stay warm and dry – ensure your car is kitted out with emergency supplies such as blankets, first-aid kits and extra food and drink.
For more information on how to keep you and your car safe during the summer flooding, seek advice from your local Trust My Garage member.
With the new on-the-spot fines for middle-lane hogging coming into play this July there is lots to think about when cruising down the motorways at this time of year.
Two thirds of Britons are taking a summer holiday in the UK this year, which is up from 41% in 2012. When travelling abroad vehicle maintenance is the responsibility of airlines, railway executives and cruise ships providers but when you drive to a staycation, maintenance of your car is your own responsibility. With all the excitement about getting away this year, are we all thinking about preparing our cars for long motorway journeys?
It is vital that you check your car is safe for motorway journeys by taking it to a Trust My Garage member for a service. Over one hundred people died on UK motorways in 2011 and 740 were seriously injured. A number of these accidents were results of mechanical faults and vehicle defects, causing such things as; tyre blow-outs, brake failure, and steering mechanism failure.
“So what can I check in order to prevent inconvenient breakdowns and dangerous accidents?”
The most common type of steering problem is loss of power steering assistance due to damaged hydraulic pipes or a loose drive belt; normally indicated by heaviness in your steering. Smaller modern cars have electric power steering and any problem here may be accompanied by a warning light on the dashboard.
Last summer it was revealed that the number of people convicted for driving with dangerous or defective tyres was a massive 9,369. If your tyres are inflated too much or too little then you are putting yourself and your passengers at risk of a tyre blow-out, which effectively causes the tyre to explode, making you unbalanced and causing you to swerve out of your lane. This is more likely on a motorway where the tyre temperature is higher because of the sustained high speeds and you will need quick reactions in order to stop safely. It is important that you check your tyre pressures according to your handbook recommendations before you set off for a motorway journey.
Unsafe brakes can be caused by worn brake pads, leaking brake fluid, or mechanical failure. You should regularly check these, and especially when you are heading for the motorway as responsive brakes are essential when stopping suddenly at such high speeds. If you are starting to feel increased or decreased resistance when stopping then it is time to consult a trusted garage.
All fluids under the bonnet should be checked regularly, but even more so if you are about to take a long journey on a motorway. These include brake fluid, oil, engine coolant – if any of these are running low you run the risk of breaking down on the motorway, which is dangerous with other vehicles moving past at 70mph – so make sure you are all topped up before you set off on the motorway and don’t forget to check the temperature gauge as your journey progresses.
If you are unsure about any aspect of your car, your warning light is flashing or your engine is making a grumbling noise, that’s the time to take it to a Trust My Garage member for a professional service. You can find your nearest trusted garage by entering your postcode in our postcode finder HERE
The number of over 50s carrying out basic car maintenance, such as changing the battery, has almost halved over the last five years (17% compared to 10%); instead they are using garages to carry out these basic tasks according to a report from Saga Car Insurance.
Technology is the heart of the modern car which means we are now able to enjoy a smoother ride with added luxury. However, a more advanced level of expertise is needed when something needs altering or repairing. As cars have become more complex, over 50s have become less confident about car maintenance.
Old vs New
A history lesson in brief… Back in the 1970s car manufacturers started using electronic equipment to control vehicle functions and systematically regulate vehicle emissions. This subsequently increased the complexity of the vehicle functions, which improved performance, safety, reliability and fuel efficiency. These increasingly complex systems needed to be controlled and gradually the number of “computers” (or ECUs) in the vehicle grew until we have the modern motor car with its own network of interconnected systems. Although the car can even store and report faults, access to this information is unlikely to be available to the home mechanic.
These ‘on board diagnostics’, are coded, which means you require the technical expertise of a trained mechanic – who has access to technical data as well as sophisticated and expensive equipment to generate an accurate diagnosis of the car’s problem.
What else do the stats say?
|Saga report…||TMG says…|
|One in six (16%) men take their car to a garage after failing to make basic repairs themselves.||Rather than make a problem worse by taking a DIY approach, use a trusted independent garage that will get it right first time. It’s what they are there for!|
|DIY car repairs:
||Whatever the age of your car, using a professional is always the safest bet, even if you think you can do it yourself. Sometimes, the upfront cost savings in DIY repairs can end up costing you much more in larger repair work down the road, or in the loss of insurance coverage because you didn’t go to a professional.|
|Only 2% of women are likely to attempt making repairs to their car compared with 15% of men.||Women are making a wise move here. TMG members pride themselves on being ‘female’ friendly, as they try to stub out the old stigma attached to the industry. They explain all their costs in a transparent manner and offer a professional and personal service to everyone.|
A different report from Saga last month found that over a third of drivers over 50 are also trying to reduce their motoring spend. When it comes to taking your car for a service or repair, using an independent garage is the most cost efficient way to do it.
See our very own Infographic (infographic link) highlighting research from the Independent Garage Association (IGA). It shows that by visiting an independent garage you could be spending on average, £40 an hour less than if you visited a main dealer.
If you can relate to this post, then make sure you find your most local TMG member to make sure a professional and friendly mechanic is looking at your car and making it roadworthy… first time round!
Ideally you should be checking your wheel alignment as often as you get your car serviced and every time you have a tyre change!
If it has never seemed important, here are the top 5 reasons why you should be checking regularly that the wheels of your car are perpendicular to the road and parallel to one another.
1. SAFETY for you and your passengers
Badly aligned wheels will result in your car being pulled to one side of the road ultimately putting everyone in the car at unnecessary risk. Think of it like driving in wet or icy conditions. By not regularly getting your wheel alignment checked you are unintentionally making driving an unsafe practice.
2. Save fuel and costs
You wouldn’t initially think it, but when your wheels are not properly aligned it adds extra pressure on your tyres and they push against each other. This then creates higher resistance between your tyres and the road, making it harder for your car to move forward, and consequently using up more fuel. In addition to this the extra fuel usage means you are burning more fossil fuels which significantly harm the environment.
3. Reduce your carbon footprint
These days, everybody is trying to reduce their own carbon footprint and by making sure your wheels are correctly aligned, you can manage your emissions. The extra fuel usage needed to move your car forward when poor alignment is causing your wheels to fall under extra pressure, means that more fossil fuels are being burned and you are inadvertently contributing to global emissions. By having your wheel alignment regularly checked, you can help to improve your own carbon footprint.
4. Extend the lifespan of your tyres
New tyres can be a real drain on your bank account, and the price of wheel alignment at a garage is likely to be a fraction of the cost of brand new tyres. As mentioned, badly aligned wheels add more pressure onto your tyres – and this burns the rubber much faster. If you read our previous blog HERE on tyre depth, you will see that bald tyres are extremely dangerous and costly – so you need to keep an eye on these for both your safety and to save money.
5. Avoid knock on effects
Not addressing your wheel alignment can take its toll on other parts of your vehicle. Wheel alignment is carefully defined by the vehicle manufacturers to ensure that the car will always handle in a safe and secure manner. Misaligned wheels , which can often be caused by the poor state of our roads – not helped by the proliferation of traffic calming measures – can literally have a “knock-on” effect on other components such as brakes, steering and suspension.”
What should you do next?
Trust My Garage advises that you get your wheel alignment checked every 6,000 miles or every six months. Get your nearest Trust My Garage member to cast their expert eye over your tyres for peace of mind. You can find your nearest member HERE.