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!
Winter is upon us once again. And while we may not be certain of a flurry of snow every year, you can be certain that the Great British weather will throw a combination of wintery gifts our way, bringing difficulties for all of us, especially car drivers. It’s the time of year when you don’t just need to start making changes to the way you drive, but also to the way you look after your vehicle. Breakdowns are far more likely at this time of year due to poor weather conditions. So what can you do yourself to ensure this doesn’t happen and you have a hassle free winter?
Let there be light
Now that the nights have drawn in and it’s dark from mid-afternoon, visibility is a key consideration when driving. Not only are lights essential for you to be able see when driving, but also to ensure other drivers can see you. Regularly check that all the lights on your vehicle are in working order, this includes brake and reversing lights. Ensure that they are clean, especially after wet weather when the roads are muddy, and that the lights are aimed in the right direction and if you find any bulbs that are discoloured, they should be immediately replaced.
Stop right there
Brakes are an essential part of any car and therefore should be serviced regularly. This is especially important during winter months, but how can you tell your brakes are in tip top condition?
It’s a case of making sure you check them regularly. The winter months can be very wet and sometimes puddles can be difficult to avoid. When driving through a puddle, make sure you test your brakes afterwards by driving at a slow speed and gently applying pressure.
Listen out for warning signs, brakes will let you know when there is a problem whether this is through grinding or squeaking. Sometimes your car will act like it has a mind of its own and pull you to one side while driving, which could indicate a fault with the braking system. Look out for the signs and don’t ignore them. Vibrations and temperamental pedals are also a sign you need to take give your car some attention. Remember, that you can always take your car to a Trust My Garage member to get the brakes checked. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
A well-oiled machine?
A basic consideration for any car owner when carrying out maintenance checks is to understand the importance of keeping your vehicle well lubricated to ensure it remains in optimum condition and working order. Falling temperatures mean that car fluids will thicken, making it difficult for your vehicle to get the right fluids it needs to run properly.
Make sure you regularly check your oil levels, coolant and brake fluid. If you’re not sure how, visit your local TMG member. You can find them using the search function on our website or by using the Trust My Garage app.
The importance of robust car tyres cannot be understated, as they are the only part of your vehicle that grips the road; they play a vital part in keeping you and your vehicle safe. Wintery conditions and low tread depth can be a disastrous combination, reducing both your speed and grip. Without sufficient tread depth in wet conditions you may experience a particularly dangerous occurrence called aquaplaning. This is where tyres lose contact with the road surface and travel on top of the water’s surface. With no contact with the road, comes the inability to accelerate, brake or steer properly, and you are likely to lose control of your vehicle, thus significant increasing your risk of accident.
When checking tyre tread it is best to use a tread depth gauge rather than relying on intuition. With this implement to hand, measuring tread depth is not difficult and will take up only minutes of your time. For passenger cars, the European legal minimum tread depth is 1.6 mm, across 75% of the tyre, although the deeper the depth the better grip you will have – we recommend that you consider changing your tyres when the tread depth reaches 3mm. Check the depth of the main tread grooves in several places across and around the tyre, using the gauge. In addition, tyres have tread wear indicators in the base of the main grooves. When the tread surface is worn to the same level as these indicators, the tyre is at the legal limit and should be replaced. As a temporary alternative there is also a quick test with a 20p coin if you do not have a gauge to hand. Place the coin in the groove of the tyre and if you can see the inner edge of the border of the coin, it means your tread depth is less than 3mm and you should consider replacing that tyre.
Don’t let the pressure get to you
In addition to tread, checking tyre pressure regularly is vital, even more so during cold weather. Whether using your own pump, or a supermarket garage air pump, here’s how you can do it:-
Check what the tyre pressures should be before you start the pump, you will find this information in your user manual and often on a sticker on the hidden side of the driver or passenger door. Remember that your front and rear tyres may need different pressures. Go round the vehicle with the pump, checking the pressure on each wheel and inflating/deflating as required.
Regularly inspect the condition of the tyres and make sure there are no cracks or bulges, make sure there are no obvious cuts or tears which could lead to a blow-out or puncture and of course don’t forget that spare!
And if you ever find yourself in the event of having to change a tyre on the road, make sure you watch our video:
If you are unsure about your tyres, a visit to your local Trust My Garage member will give you peace of mind and keep you safe on the roads.
Such checks shouldn’t replace regular visits to your local Trust My Garage member for some expert advice; but being aware and prepared for all eventualities will give you peace of mind and a stress free winter.
5 ways to tackle winter sun glare
It’s perhaps ironic that during winter, the darkest and most coldest season of them all, one of the biggest dangers for motorists is the sun. You’ll know the feeling of having no other choice than to squint or close your eyes when the sun dazzles you, and doing that whilst driving can be a dangerous, yet avoidable, issue.
Glare problems persist all year round, but during the winter it’s particularly dangerous because the sun is low in the sky during the morning, which is when the roads are at their busiest with people driving to work and taking their children to school. There’s also the additional issue of the sun reflecting off snow, ice and water on the road.
An AA report released earlier this year claimed that sun glare is responsible for 36 deaths every year and causes nearly 3,000 accidents. Due to the danger associated with turning corners whilst temporarily ‘blinded’, most accidents occur on minor roads, rather than on the motorway. The report states that of the 2,905 accidents caused by sun glare last year, 1,203 were on A-roads, 428 on B-roads, 1,222 on other minor roads and only 52 were on the motorway.
Here are five tips you can use to ensure you drive safely and counter the damaging effect of low winter sun.
5. Ensure your windscreen is properly washed
With sun glare reducing visibility, it’s vital that you ensure your windscreen is clean and free of debris. Regularly check your windscreen washer fluid levels and top up when necessary. If you’ve got debris on your windscreen then the sun’s reflection will scatter through, making it even harder to see. As soon as you notice your windscreen starting to look a bit on the grubby side, give it a quick spray, but if you’ve got stubborn marks that won’t budge then clean the windows properly or head to a car wash immediately.
It’s also important to note that your wiper blades must be in good condition because they’ll fail to properly clean your windscreen if they’re worn or split. Wiper blades are fairly cheap to buy and simple to attach.
4. Lower your speed
Drive with caution and resist the urge to brake suddenly whenever you become temporarily blinded from the sun. Approach junctions with particular care and ensure each direction is clear of vehicles before you set off. This might sound like common sense but with reduced visibility it’s so easy to miss an oncoming vehicle.
Remember that the speed limit is the maximum speed you can drive at in a particular area, it’s not always safe to drive at it and if you feel unsafe don’t hesitate to drive slower.
3. Wear sunglasses and lower your visor at all times
Once autumn comes rolling around it might seem logical to put away your sunglasses until the following spring, but during the winter months it’s absolutely crucial you always have a pair in the car. Don’t just buy any old pair (a cheap one or one that you just like the look of) and polarised lenses can be particularly recommended for driving as they will be more efficient at reducing glare because most of the dazzling reflections will be horizontally polarised – while the sunglasses will be polarised vertically. Whilst you might have to pay a little bit extra, they might just save your life. Typically people don’t buy sunglasses in the winter and that means you’ll often be able to purchase them at a discounted price. Remember to remove your sunglasses before you drive into a tunnel. If you don’t, your vision will be restricted, even in tunnels that appear to be well-lit.
Visors are always a great way of reducing the amount of sunlight you get in your eyes. Make a habit of constantly having it down during the winter months. Remember that most cars allow you to swivel the sun visor to the right to counter glare coming in from the side window as well.
2. Consider taking an alternative route to work
If there’s a different route you can take to work, one that is lined with tall trees or buildings, then use it. It might take you a little bit longer but it’ll be far safer and you won’t find yourself constantly lowering your speed whenever the sun dazzles you.
Ask around for people’s recommendations or even have a look on Google Street View to see which routes will be safer.
1. Be aware of what’s around you
Keep in mind that other motorists on the road will be suffering from sun glare as well, and if they haven’t read this blog post, they might not be wearing sunglasses! Avoid braking heavily because the car behind you might not be able to react in time, and keep ample space between you and the car in front of you in case they brake heavily themselves. Pay even more attention to cyclists and pedestrians because they’ll be even harder to spot when the sun is low. Take note of where the sun is in the sky at all times; if it’s behind you then it’ll be in the eyes of the cars driving towards you, so be aware that they might not be able to see you. Dipping your headlights is a great way to ensure you’re clearly seen by the oncoming traffic.
A lot of these vehicle checks, such as checking washer fluid levels, you will be able to do yourself but it is important you also regularly service your vehicle at a trusted independent garage. This will ensure that your car remains roadworthy and safe, even in potentially dangerous weather conditions. To find a garage you can trust, enter your postcode in our online garage finder here.
It’s Christmas time, which means on top of spending a fortune on presents and food and tying yourself up in tinsel trying to make your home look festive, you are probably bracing yourself for that annual commute to see the relatives.
We all love our families but the thought of spending hours driving through Christmas traffic at an already stressful time can make the festive commute daunting. You’re often sat in your car in gridlocked traffic, crawling along at 5mph, worrying about arriving too late to join in with Christmas dinner.
We understand that commuting can be a completely miserable experience, especially during the winter months. With our handy advice you can make your Christmas commute that bit more bearable and arrive full of Christmas cheer.
5. Listen to a podcast or an audiobook
Gone are the days where the radio, with its depressing news and constant traffic updates, was your only distraction from the dread that lies in front of you on the road. There are thousands of interesting podcasts on pretty much any topic, from TED Talks to the latest football news. You can’t read a book when you are stuck in gridlock, it’s not legal – or sensible, so take advantage of audiobooks, which are exactly what they say on the tin – a book you can listen to. Find ones that genuinely interest you and you’ll arrive at your family’s home stimulated and raring to go.
4. Listen to great music
Most drivers will have a collection of CDs in their car but more often than not they don’t ever get rotated, meaning they can easily get sick and tired of listening to the same music. Once you’ve listened to an album put it back in your CD rack at home and put a different one in your car – this will not only keep things fresh but you’ll soon rediscover your love for your music collection. There’ll be albums that you might not have listened to in over ten years and the waves of nostalgia will soon shake off those early morning winter cobwebs. If you’ve got a portable music player like an iPod then invest in a cable that connects it to your car’s stereo and use the shuffle mode to really mix things up. Unpredictable yes, but come on, it’s time to walk (or drive) on the wild side.
3. Get up earlier
You are already cursing at this idea, aren’t you? Whilst the thought of getting up out of your warm, comfortable nest of a bed an hour earlier may send shivers down your spine, once you’re awake, showered and caffeinated you’ll feel right as rain. Only now your commute will be made much shorter because of the reduced traffic on the road. If you’re worried about a lack of shuteye then adjust your sleeping pattern and go to bed a bit earlier. Carpe diem, and all that.
You’ll probably find that many of your moments of profound wisdom occur when you’re driving. The likelihood is that when you’re commuting you’re going to be on your own, free to ramble on about pretty much anything. You can do your best brainstorming, analysing and scheduling just by thinking aloud. You can go over your presents list to ensure you haven’t missed anybody else, or think about how you are going to fill the silence when sitting in a room with a relative you don’t really get on with. Don’t get too distracted though, remember to keep your main focus on the road – even when in gridlock.
1. Get your car regularly serviced at a Trust My Garage member
Your family lives on the other side of the country but you have said you will arrive in time for Christmas lunch. You wake up early, make yourself look prim and pristine and you head off, confident that you’re going to arrive on time. Suddenly a little red light starts flashing on your dashboard and makes you panic. You’re forced to pull over on the hard shoulder. Your car has broken down and needs to be towed to a garage. Sound like a nightmare? It absolutely is, but it’s one that can be avoided by getting your vehicle regularly serviced at a Trust My Garage member. Regular services will ensure your car will run smoothly and without catastrophic breakdowns, meaning you make it to see the family on Christmas day – not Boxing day. Remember; don’t just rely on your annual MOT check as it’s a safety check, not a substitute for regular servicing. Find out more on that here.
To find your local independent garage for a service ahead of your Christmas commute, visit the Trust My Garage website and insert your postcode into our garage finder.
It’s that time of year again. The nights draw in earlier with each passing day, you wake up in darkness and going outside without your big coat is tantamount to ordering your own death wish. This is the time of year when you appreciate you car the most, because let’s face it, can you imagine having to queue up at a rainy bus stop on a bitterly cold morning? No, thought not.
Whilst your levels of affection towards your car may raise, they definitely don’t feel the same love from nature, with the cold weather finding various ways to inflict damage on them. Whilst we’re all aware that regular checks are vital, very few of us actually carry them out.
In fact, there are statistics to back that statement up. A Trust My Garage survey carried out earlier this year found that a whopping 84% of motorists neglect to carry out basic, regular checks on their vehicles.
Admittedly it’s tough; you’ve come back from a long hard day of work, it’s pitch black outside and all you want to do is sit in front of the TV and hibernate until the morning. However, by failing to carry out basic checks, like oil and engine coolant levels, you’re putting your car massively a risk, resulting in costly repairs or even the inconvenience of having no car at all, and that’ll mean having to get that bus to and from work (shudder).
Don’t worry though, because simply by following our simple advice you can ensure you keep your car WARM this winter.
So what does WARM mean? Well you’ve noticed it’s capitalised and therefore it must be an acronym, and as with the very best acronyms it reads as a word that’s relevant, like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). WARM is an incredibly simple acronym that will help you give your car all the required love it desperately yearns for during the winter months.
W is for WIPERS
We all know the importance of windscreen wipers as without them your visibility can often be reduced to zero, especially during those drives where the rain stubbornly refuses to pass. Your wipers take a lot of flack in order for you to be able to see the road in front of you, with the cold weather causing them to crack and split, so you regularly need to make sure that they’re in good condition.
If you notice your wipers aren’t clearing the rain away properly or if they’re leaving smears then you need to start thinking about replacing them. Reduced visibility in bad weather will seriously jeopardise your safety – and for just a few pounds you can get them easily and quickly replaced.
A is for ANTIFREEZE
Antifreeze is a component of most, but not all, engine coolants. If you want your engine to work properly then you need to have the right concentration of coolant. Coolant levels should be regularly checked. If you have ever topped up the system with plain water then the anti freeze will have become diluted.
Make sure that once week you have a quick check of the water coolant reservoir to ensure the liquid inside is at maximum level. If you notice it drop then there could be a leak in the system, something you really want to avoid.
Because all cars are different make sure you use the right type of antifreeze by checking your handbook or consulting your local Trust My Garage member.
R is for RUBBER
There are two important things to keep in mind regarding your tyres: whether they have the right amount of tread and whether they’re correctly inflated.
Driving on wet and icy roads is challenging even for a seasoned driver. Over or under-inflation can affect steering and braking, and if the tread on your tyres isn’t at least 1.6mm-the legal requirement for cars and light vans- then they’re going to struggle and put you and other drivers at risk. Having sufficient tread will help prevent skidding and dreaded aquaplaning, when your car loses traction and is lifted by the water on the road. Sound scary? It is, terrifyingly so, so check your tyres!
For more information on checking your tyres and the things you can do yourself, visit the Tyresafe website here.
M is for MAINTENANCE
Cars are not only expensive pieces of equipment but yours most likely holds an important place in your heart, like a metallic member of your extended family. Therefore it makes sense to look after it by carrying out a few basic checks every week and regularly getting it serviced at your trusted dealer. Whilst it may be a bit of a chore, these easy tips will not only keep you safe, but also increase the longevity of your motor, saving you money in the long run.
How else can I keep my car WARM?
A simple service from a local Trust My Garage (TMG) member can ensure that your vehicle is safe and fit for driving. TMG members have access to technical information and expertise to ensure your car remains roadworthy in the harsh winter wonderland that will soon envelope us.
Where is my local Trust My Garage Member?
To locate your nearest Trust My Garage member and take advantage of quality service at an affordable price, simply log onto www.trustmygarage.co.uk and type in your postcode to see a list of Trust My Garage members in your area. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals – local independent businesses which are part of your community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.
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.
4. 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.