Archive | November, 2012

Take Care With Car Repairs

As cars have become more technically advanced, so they have become increasingly complicated. Whilst under warranty any faults are usually someone else’s problem but when the three year limit arrives car owners are basically on their own.

It seems that on an almost yearly basis new regulations are added to MOT examinations. A simple warning light that historically may well have been ignored is now potentially a prelude to a large bill. Once upon a time drivers would by and large make their own repairs but these days – unless you are very skilled – it is probably out of the question.

Regular servicing is key to avoiding the pitfalls of parts failure and irritating breakdowns. To avoid or extend service intervals may seem like an economy but will you can be sure cost in the long run. This is why it is important to leave the work to experts in automotive repair. These days professional garages have the necessary diagnostic equipment to seek out what ails an automobile. Wherever you live there’s sure to be a listing simply by doing a search for, say, ‘MOT Croydon’ or similar, to suit your needs.

A good independent garage will have knowledge of all the major motor brands and will probably offer rates significantly better than a main dealer. They may also be able to source guaranteed car parts at a lower price. In fact, even if your car is under three years old a garage unconnected to any specific manufacturer will be able to meet all servicing needs without affecting any future warranty claims.

The same goes for accident damage. Once the initial shock has worn off the search begins again for the right people for the job. Once again, reaching for the trusty computer it is a simple matter to search for car body repairs in Croydon or anywhere else. With the cost of car insurance the sensible driver will be looking for a very good deal on car repairs. As before, your local independent can usually sort out accident repairs, alloy wheel repairs, paintwork and most other forms of bodywork damage.

When searching, look for a website that looks as if the owners care about how they are perceived. A reputable family run business that caters for MOTs, servicing and repairs will have testimonials available coupled with all the information needed to make an informed choice.

The sad fact is that we all, at some point or another, will drop a wheel down into a pothole or slip on black ice and require the services of professional mechanics. The important thing is to choose wisely. It may cost you some money but it’s worth it for the peace of mind.

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New Delights At The LA Show

There are always a few surprises at motor shows around the world as manufacturers vie to get their products under our twitching noses. This year at the Los Angeles Auto Show there are no fewer than twenty five new cars to tempt the customers. Some are unashamedly in price brackets beyond most drivers but don’t despair as there’s something for everyone. Here’s some highlights:

Fiat have followed the example of Mini with the 500L, a bigger version of the regular Cinquecento, which makes it a small MPV and suitable for the standard 500 owner whose circumstances dictate the need for a bigger car. It’s a stylish package that offers a flexible alternative to city cars but unfortunately it hasn’t retained the brio of the smaller car. For those who like to give an outdoorsy impression there is also a Trekking version with butch appeal.

For lovers of faster cars Porsche have revealed their new Cayman and what a treat for the eyes this is. This would seem to complete the refreshment of the brand as we already have a new 911 and Boxster too. Porsche have always tried to keep a dividing line between the Cayman and the more expensive 911 but that line is becoming increasingly blurred. Pretty soon drivers might wonder why they should pay the price for the 911 when the Cayman (circa £40,000) is so good.

Meanwhile, Jaguar have shown off their fastest saloon car ever with the XFR-S. Fitted with the eight-speed ‘Quickshift’ gearbox, this hardcore version of the existing XFR will break the 5 second barrier for the traffic light sprint to 60mph. The car will be available to buyers in the UK from May so probably best to form an orderly queue now outside your local dealer. That’s if you can decide between it and the new Mercedes SLS AMG Black!

Subaru have a good reputation with the cognoscenti but haven’t really been a mainstream player until now. Their Forester was also seen as a sensible utilitarian buy for driving Labradors around in fields but its all-round talents were largely ignored by the public. The smart new Forester is a bit more special and more in keeping with popular trends. As it is based on tried and trusted Impreza underpinnings it should prove an attractive and capable purchase for anyone needing four-wheel drive.

Some of the concept offerings vary between the feasible and the downright nutty. BMW are trying to get the market interested in a sporty version of its i3 battery hatchback which looks promising; but this cannot be said for the Hyundai Velostar C3 an idea borne of the surfing or cycling fraternity with a fold-back fabric roof. Clearly aimed at the ‘yoof’ culture the company say it’s feasible to build it if there’s any demand; so if you want something that will transport surf boards easily then drop Hyundai a line.

The LA show has turned up so much that is new we will, here at Motor Blogger, bring you more detailed reports on some of the vehicles over the coming days.

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Feel The G-Force

The Mercedes Geländewagen, or G-Wagen as it is more popularly known, has been around since 1979 in all its Teutonic mightiness. If you wanted a bullet-proof, heavy, thirsty off-roader that could take on any terrain imaginable then this was the car for you – at a price.

These days it has been renamed into the new family tradition and is now the G-Class. It has become posh and refined but, although very good, many buyers would possibly prefer the Range Rover. Nevertheless Mercedes clearly plan to keep this model on the go and at the Los Angeles Show will give us a glimpse of the future with the Ener-G-Force Concept vehicle.

Now, if ever a car looked like it should be helping the police with their enquiries it is this one but in fact it is actually based on a design concept for a ‘Highway Patrol Vehicle’ for the year 2025. It is an SUV (see image) developed for the Los Angeles Design Challenge and may well suggest at least some aspects of the new G-Class which is scheduled for 2015.

As a idea of a future police vehicle it will surely fit the bill. With its massive ground clearance, low profile windscreen and huge Tonka-toy wheels it certainly looks the part and should appeal to macho County Mounties in the American West; maybe not so much in Chelsea.

More importantly, the Ener-G-Force is a genuinely environmentally friendly car because beneath its bold exterior drive is provided by electric motors at each hub with power provided by a hydrogen fuel cell. Recycled water is stored in special tanks on the roof which is transferred to something called a ‘hydro-tech converter’ and this in turn coverts the natural resource into hydrogen, thus providing the power.

The juice so produced is stored in the side skirts of the vehicle. Allegedly, the G-Force will carry on for five hundred miles and will emit nothing but water from the tail pipe, and the technology doesn’t stop there. A scanner on the roof ‘examines’ the surrounding terrain and automatically sets spring and damper configurations to achieve maximum traction. Impressive stuff. The only problem might be the perceived danger of the association between the word ‘hydrogen’ and ‘bomb’.

Concept cars are always interesting because buyers of the future can get an idea of what’s coming up. Even some of the more lunatic schemes often turn up a good idea or a solution to a problem that have previously eluded the manufacturers. That’s one of the benefits of good design and all motorists benefit from it in the long run.

You never know, one day we ordinary mortals might get a chance to drive something like Ener-G-Force so it is probably a good idea to order your genuinely authentic imitation Judge Dredd helmet in good time.

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The Increased Risk Of Road Accidents In Winter

Road accidents can and do occur at all times of the year, but conditions can be particularly treacherous in winter. Snow and ice can make braking and cornering much more difficult, and this in turn leads to an increased risk of collisions.

Throughout the winter months, road traffic accident solicitors deal with many cases involving both vehicles and pedestrians. Drivers should be aware of the need to take extra care while driving in adverse weather, as snow in itself is not an excuse nor Defence for those involved in an accident.

Driving safely to avoid accidents on the road

The primary solution to this issue is for drivers to simply use caution. It is perfectly acceptable to lower your speed and avoid any sudden braking and acceleration if the roads are wet, icy or there has been snowfall. Indeed, under these circumstances it may be considered by some to be reckless to drive as you would in normal weather conditions.

Slowing down and fitting your vehicle with winter tyres also means you can brake more effectively if the need arises as the tyres will offer you better grip in winter conditions. Every driver knows that if you are driving at speed it takes longer to stop, and this is only magnified by an icy or wet road. Put the two together and it may be too late to stop yourself from causing an accident, which is something any victim’s road traffic accident solicitor is sure to record against you.

Is your journey really necessary?

This is the most common question of all when the weather causes the roads to be less than friendly. Simply put, if your journey can wait, or you can deal with your errand by phone or email, then that’s what you should do.

Earlier this year, another interesting study from Cardiff University and car insurance company Young Marmalade showed that illness could also be a common cause for an increased number of road accidents in winter.

Their findings showed that flu or cold-ridden drivers who get behind the wheel only retain 50% of their driving ability, with concentration and reaction times negatively affected. Researchers claimed that the effect of the illness on the driver was the equivalent of “four double whiskies”, and was therefore equivalent to driving drunk.

While the law may not necessarily take every report of this nature into account, it is true that road traffic accident solicitors representing victims will look for anything they can find to help show that their client was not to blame.

What to do if you are involved in a road accident

Whatever your involvement, you should contact a solicitor immediately. Most firms will have people specifically trained to deal with road traffic accident cases and their expertise will prove invaluable whether you are making a claim or defending against one.

A good road traffic accident solicitor will firstly ensure you receive the appropriate medical care you need, while other expenses such as missed work and vehicle repair costs can be factored into any claim too, so getting help from a qualified solicitor is vital to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

Orbis Solicitors are based in Lancashire and have years of experience dealing with road traffic accident claims. They also specialise in employment law and all types of personal injury cases.

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Mazda MX-5 Successfully Refreshed

From time to time a car comes along that everybody likes and wants. The Mazda MX-5 is just such a car. It is probable that the reason we don’t see more of them on the road is that their purpose is not practicality but rather simple driving pleasure. It really doesn’t matter how much you can afford to spend on a car, it is highly likely that, on British roads at least, the Mazda MX-5 is the ideal choice for the keen driver.

First introduced to the world in 1989, the MX-5 is an affordable two-seater and was originally an unashamed back to basics front engine, rear wheel drive sports car for the purposes of pleasure. It has grown up a bit since then and is now presented with all the options a modern driver could want. Best of all it only costs between around £18 – 23,000, depending on model choice. If this is still too rich for a buyer then there are plenty around on the used car market that will fit the bill.

Prior to the introduction of a completely new version in 2014 (which will also be marketed in a posh frock by Alfa Romeo), Mazda have refreshed the current model with a new face, a pedestrian-friendly bonnet and the usual accoutrements we have come to expect like sat-nav, climate and extra airbags. That’s it in the photo. Smart, isn’t it?

There are seven versions in the new range and, as ever, the company are determined that the car will be as good to drive as ever. The revised bodywork gives the car a wider, more aggressive look that, helpfully, improves the aerodynamics and balance. Mazda engineers have modified the vacuum brake booster apparently. This may mean nothing to you now but it will when you brake into a corner and find – without even knowing why – the brake return control has been improved and thus front-rear load distribution is even better than the previous version. In short, this car handles.

Buyers have the choice of five or six speed manual ‘boxes depending on the model and there’s also a ‘PowerShift’ gearbox allowing auto or paddle-manual. Two engines are offered, a 1.8L with 126ps or a 2.0L with a more powerful 160ps. This doesn’t seem a lot in a sports car but in a small, lightweight two-seater most motorists will think it plenty. Along with the refreshed body work there are some new modern colours and a well specified interior.

So the MX-5 saga continues and Mazda continue to get it right. An affordable, economic, reliable sports car that holds its value and drives like a much more expensive car. What more could you want? Surely your family will understand why they have to use public transport, don’t you think?

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Birds Hate Cars

Remember an old Hitchcock film called The Birds? If not, it concerned the massed ranks of assorted feathered fiends menacing a community. OK, look out of the window. Is your car outside? If so, look around at the trees and buildings and see if any of the avian enemy are lurking nearby, because they cannot be trusted.

Obviously life is not a movie and these birds are probably not going to try and peck your eyes out or pinch your kebab. No. It’s much worse. They are planning to poop on your beloved motor. It’s a fact; and now it appears that the colour of your car may well dictate the extent by which your bodywork is soiled.

Red paintwork is, to a bird, like a red rag to a bull, apparently. They just can’t stand it and owners of such cars are the most likely to complain. Not that other colours fare much better. In order of preference to these winged marauders blue is next, closely followed black, white, silver and grey with green rounding out the most popular hues. Presumably they think that green cars are just grass and they can do that anytime.

Of course, this is just based on motorists’ responses and there is no actual proof as such that birds are that vindictive. It may be that they just like admiring themselves in reflective surfaces or prefer cars that are parked under trees. Whatever, seed-eating birds (and that’s pretty much all of them) deliver grainy poo which is worse than, say, that belonging to meat eating raptors or seagulls.

As if the offence wasn’t enough, leaving their deposits on your precious paintwork can cause damage that could cost money. Bird droppings contain acids but it is the softening effect on paintwork that causes the real problems because moisture mixes in and forms a mould.

The solution is in preventative cleaning and quick action when assaulted. Always make sure you’ve got a goodly coating of wax which helps protect the lacquer layer of your paintwork. A couple of branded wipes designed for the job should be in every glove box – but remember, these will take off not just bird droppings but also protective waxes so replace it ASAP.

If all else fails then a good polish should put the shine back. Car polish almost infinitesimally removes a layer which is why wax is best for everyday shining. As a last resort a stronger product is needed that removes blemishes, swirl marks and surface scratches (one’s that are so light you can’t feel them when a finger is run across). Again, the car must be re-waxed.

Birds are like politicians. They do things we don’t like and they make a mess. Mass destruction is out of the question as old ladies will come to your house and fire-bomb your ride. As with politicians, you’ll just have to live with it.

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See Your Way Clear To A Safer Drive

Technology is a wonderful thing. In the space of half a century or so, automotive science has taken mighty leaps forward that would make the Hulk look like he was just mincing about. In a few short decades car reliability and safety have improved beyond the wildest dreams of the early auto innovators.

Maybe because of this those clever boffins have decided to turn their attention to the roads we drive on. Various new surfaces are being tested – including one composite that utilises old shredded tyres, which seems like a sensibly green thing to do – as are solar powered surfaces that heat up to melt snow and ice.

The latest wheeze is to use a glow-in-the-dark high-tech paint on road surfaces. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction but will in fact be tested in the Netherlands during 2013; and you thought they just made round cheese.

Apparently, photo-luminescent powder is mixed with line paint. This will soak up sunlight during the day to ‘power’ the glow at night. Amazing stuff.

The plan is to make driving in the dark a safer thing to do and that’s not really something drivers could argue about. What’s more, there is also an idea for the road surface to change colour dependant on the conditions, thanks to temperature sensitive paint. A cold blue for ice, as a possible example.

Other innovations in the pipeline include motion sensor streetlights that switch on only when a car is approaching. Energy saving is the key here and would be considerably more appropriate than the current British system whereby councils switch off much needed lighting, thus ensuring there is sufficient money left to pay for those special biscuits on the meeting room table.

Other road safety solutions being investigated include low height flat beam lighting for road illumination and special lanes for electric cars that utilise wireless induction to charge the EV’s as they drive over pads! All around the world from Holland to the USA and Japan, scientists are looking at new ways to keep death of the roads.

Spotted the snag in the UK yet? That’s right – potholes. If the appropriate authorities can’t keep up with basic road maintenance, it seems very doubtful that they will invest in high-tech safety solutions. They’ll probably just paint the potholes in some luminous lime-green colour and hope we can dodge them.

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To De-coke Or Not De-coke?

A generation or so ago it was a relatively common sight to see car owners beavering away in their garages and on their driveways, routinely servicing their cars. The more experienced would go a stage further, whip off the top-mounted equipment and the cylinder head and de-coke the engine. Forty or fifty years ago this was standard practice every ten thousand miles or so.

Over extended periods of time whilst engines are working there is a tendency for deposits to accumulate where there is combustion. This carbon build-up very gradually affects performance, economy and a loss of cylinder compression, usually around the piston rings. That’s the short version.

The need for regular de-coking was an inevitable result of short journeys and, in particular, dirty fuel. The quality and built-in cleaning properties of the best modern fuels has to a great extent limited this problem until at least a car gets fairly aged. However, these days it is still perfectly possible for an engine to accumulate carbon deposits in the same way that a kettle will in time fur up and perpetual short trips are likely to be the culprit along with using cheap, unbranded petrol.

The other problem today that many drivers will encounter is their own helplessness. We have lost the knack of fixing things ourselves. Your grandfathers could probably take plumbing, routine car maintenance and electrical wiring in their stride. These days many people don’t know how to fix a 13 amp plug to an appliance. It’s this lack of expertise that has resulted in some garages getting away with £100 per hour labour charges.

Opening the bonnet of a modern car can be a bit daunting to a novice; but underneath all the fancy do-dad’s there is still just a basic internal combustion engine. Obviously Granddad had a much easier time removing a carburettor than the modern motorist would with complex fuel injection, but the art of home mechanics is still feasible; but it does still require the removal of the cylinder head so, although it is a straightforward job, it is not for the faint-hearted!

Thankfully, it is unlikely that your car will ever need this drastic intervention. If it does, your engine will tell you. The car is likely to suffer from pre-ignition (aka ‘pinking’ or ‘knocking’) and performance will be generally weaker and emissions worse. The bad news is that it is such a gradual process that the average driver won’t notice.

There are solutions in a can that can be sprayed into air-intakes and are supposed to clean out the inner working parts like a laxative. Some people rate them; others don’t. To avoid coking the sensible driver will fill up with good branded fuels and ensure the car gets a decently long weekly run-out that makes the engine work harder – especially if the vehicle is mostly used as a local runabout. Selecting high gears at low revs may be good for economy but engines are built to perform. Exercise is as good for cars as it is for us.

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Glide Don’t Slide

Modern cars are festooned with safety features and, for the most part, they are a very good thing. In winter conditions, many drivers have ceased to be aware of the benefits of ABS for example, so ubiquitous has it become. Thanks to this great invention the days of wheels locking up under braking are in the past. The problem is that motorists have either forgotten the golden rules of driving that existed before the days of the current safety technology available on new cars, or have become complacent for the same reason.

On roads that are covered with snow, ice or heavy rain skidding is still a problem. It sounds so obvious to say that more care needs to be taken in these adverse conditions and yet there are still accidents. The reality is that a car will still be quite capable of skidding and crashing if it is driven badly or carelessly.

Everyone has witnessed individuals driving too quickly in bad weather. Just drive on any motorway in these conditions and be amazed by the stupidity of some. A car will only skid if it is being driven badly or aggressively. So the advice still applies: if in doubt slow right down.

Driving on snow and ice requires an extra set of rules. Multiply the stopping/braking distance by a factor of ten. When moving off from rest, use a higher gear to stop the wheels spinning out and then steer and brake very gently. Reduce speed when approaching a bend to avoid braking late into the corner. Imagine the smooth flowing actions of an ice skater – sudden moves mean disaster.

As darkness falls and especially when the sky is clear, watch out for ice forming on parked cars – it‘s a clue. Despite its name you can’t actually see black ice. If your car has an outside temperature gauge, don’t ignore it. If it indicates anywhere near freezing then it probably will be.

On snow and ice tyres become quieter and, crucially, steering will feel lighter. This is a noticeable effect which could signal an impending slide and the trick is to remove the foot from the accelerator, which will allow the car to slow without braking.

It takes a fair amount of self control to avoid panicking when a skid does occur. It is important to try to remain calm whilst you remove your feet from the pedals and steer gently in the direction of the skid until you feel the wheels find some grip. Remember, ABS, ESP or any other device known by its initials are certainly life savers but they are no substitutes for good driving! Here endeth the lesson.

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Something For Everyone

You’ve got to hand it to car manufacturers. The economic world is basically going to hell in a handbasket yet still they imagine that what we all really want is some more new cars to tempt us. The sad fact is that they are right. With financial gloom and despondency hanging over us like a fog, a chance to dream about or even own a new car will always cheer us up.

Even as we head for the dark dank days of December new cars are appearing all the time. Take Skoda – possibly the success story of the new millennium. Their new model resurrects an old name, the Rapid. At about the same size as the popular Octavia (which allegedly will be sleeker and more luxurious in its soon-to-be-announced next incarnation) this is a car for drivers who don’t want any fuss and palaver but just good and reliable transport. It is never going to set the world on fire but it is sure to find a decent niche in the market.

Elsewhere on our recent pages you will have seen the glorious Maserati Quattroporte. Well, not to be outdone Rolls Royce have revamped their rather lovely Ghost. The company realise that Rolls owners like a bit of pampering so they’ve added a gizmo that will release the boot lid at just the wave of an elegant ankle beneath the rear bumper. There are also 44,000 paint options to choose from which is quite a lot, but then buyers are forking out the thick end of £200k and they are going to want something special.

For hot hatch fans SEAT have very kindly updated the Ibiza Cupra. It retains the 1.4L supercharged/turbocharged engine that rockets the car to 60mph in under seven seconds whilst the driver gives thanks to the sports suspension and clever electronic diff which keep everything on the road. And talking of hot cars Ford have not been slow in introducing the quick Focus ST to its concept bigger bolder brother. If the ST is Flash Gordon then the Focus ST Cosworth CS330 is Ming The Merciless. As the number at the end of the name suggests this is not a car that takes prisoners. Sadly this Cosworth engineered beast is unlikely to make it into production but some good may come of the exercise.

Back in the real world, Honda have produced a Civic that only emits a tax and congestion charge busting 94g/km. This is the company’s new 1.6L diesel which is reckoned to offer up to 78.5 miles from a single gallon. Very useful when we get the next slap in the face from the Chancellor and a boon for company fleet users.

All these cars, for whatever reason, will sell well. This is also good news for those customers searching for a good used car as this should mean there’ll be plenty of quality stock on the forecourts of Britain.

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