Archive | July, 2013

Power To The People

Once the potential of oil was fully exploited as a fuel source the world started drilling for the black stuff as if there was an endless supply. Now it looks like there isn’t and whilst we search for an alternative to petrol we are, metaphorically speaking, holding the world like a nearly empty ketchup bottle and shaking it over the plate to eke out the last few drops.

In the meantime, in sheds around the planet, very clever people are reviewing and testing all the other options open to us to keep cars on the road. Electric cars are our first option but range anxiety seems insoluble just now and batteries will eventually fail. Thus hybrids came into being where electricity is assisted by or generated by an regular engine. Better, but still no cigar.

So we look at hydrogen. Fill pressurised bottles with gaseous hydrogen, feed it into a fuel cell and by the miracle that is science it will be converted into electricity that powers the car. Provided the infrastructure can be set up to ensure the gas is available where and when we need it they could well be a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine. Already working examples are appearing on our roads but there is a long way to go.

And it doesn’t stop there. Aston Martin recently successfully raced a Rapide at the Nürburgring 24 Hour event, the engine of which was set up to run directly from hydrogen, augmented by petrol when the gas ran out. In normal use it would be possible to replenish the gas before petrol would be needed.

And, again, it doesn’t stop there. What about liquid nitrogen? Forgotten that hadn’t you? Nitrogen is cooled to minus 196C then heated in the cylinder and fed into a regular engine which forces the piston down and off you go. Or how about compressed air? Tata Motors has built a weird looking vehicle that stores air compressed to 300 bar. As the air is released it powers an hydraulic motor. Clever, but a dubious choice as lots of power is needed to compress the free stuff.

Taking this a step further, a hybrid/air car has been made that recovers energy as it slows down and that energy is used to compress air into a  cylinder. At low speeds the air is released to drive the vehicle. Peugeot/Citroen will sell a version of this from 2016.

So a huge amount of work and effort is being expended in alternative sources of power to replace the petrol/diesel option. Some ideas are feasible, some are doubtful. One thing’s for sure though – one of them has simply got to work and possibly within the next twenty years.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

How Old (And Dangerous) Are Your VW’s Tyres?

One of the biggest advantages to owning and driving an older model Volkswagen Beetle is its history. It’s easy to sit back in the driver’s seat and imagine all the dreams your car has fulfilled over the years, and imagine all the wonder and excitement it will bring you in the coming years.

Just because your Volkswagen is old, though, doesn’t mean its parts have to be. As a VW Beetle owner it is your responsibility to ensure every Beetle part is safe, reliable, and functioning correctly, so your VW can keep on running like it should, and you can relax knowing it is safe to drive.

While the proper function of a VW is dependent on many types of Beetle parts, it is especially important for you to consider its tyres. Ageing tyres not only affect the way your Beetle drives, but can also be extremely dangerous.

Tyres and Old Age

In the past, car owners have been taught to always look at the tread of a tyre to determine its safety and age. If the tread was worn down, the tyre was said to be balding and it shouldn’t be used. This way of thinking is incorrect. Over time, the compounds in a tyre begin to deteriorate. This deterioration is not always visible on the outside, so it cannot be judged by the condition of the tread. Beetle spare tyres and even new tyres that have never been used but have been around for years can be just as deadly as older tyres with worn tread.

As a tyre ages, the rubber it is made of begins to crack. Think of it like a rubber band. If you have a rubber band sitting in a desk drawer for a year and one day you decide to take it out and stretch it, little cracks will be present in the rubber. On a tyre, these cracks are not always seen, but are sometimes visible on the inside of the tyre or the surface. Over time, this cracking can result in a separation of the steel belts located in the tread and the rest of the tyre.

When this separation occurs, the result can be deadly, especially if the car is in motion when it occurs. A driver can easily lose control of the VW, potentially risking their life and the life of others on the road.

Replacing VW Beetle Parts: How Long do Tyres Last

In most cases, tyres can last anywhere from six to ten years from the date they are manufactured. Several factors come into play, however, when calculating the expiration date for these Beetle parts.

• Heat- Research has shown that in warmer climates tyres tend to age much more quickly, especially in locations where the tyre is subjected often to sunlight and warmer temperatures.

• Storage- Whether you’re storing a tyre in a shop or garage or storing spares for your personal VW, the location is key. Spare tyres that are mounted on the back of a Beetle are left exposed to sun, weather, and dirt. Those that are stored in the trunk are exposed to high temperatures, especially in warmer climates. Thinking of it like baking the tyre in a miniature oven. Even if the tyre is sitting on a shelf, has not been inflated, and isn’t mounted on a wheel will still age, but much more slowly.

• Use- How do you treat your Beetle tyres? How many times have you accidentally hit the curb when pulling up to the bank’s drive through window? Do you only drive the Beetle on the weekend? The way the car is used will affect its ageing process dramatically, either slowing it down or increasing it. Always make sure you maintain proper tyre pressure, have the tyres rotated often, and have them inspected regularly by a professional.

Don’t be fooled by the thread. Old tyres, even those with thread in good condition, can be extremely dangerous on the road.

Need parts for your Beetle? Come to Veewee for the right parts and tools to keep your tyres in good condition, like gauges, footpumps, and cleaners.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (1)

5 things you don’t want to hear from a mechanic

Going to the garage can be a bit nervy at the best of times, but here’s some of the post-check-up news you don’t want to be hearing…

A car is a complicated machine, albeit one that has very much become part of our daily lives. With over 28 million cars on the road in the UK, it’s the mode of transport for more than half of us adults.

After a small dip in 2010, it seems we’re back in love with the automobile but all that time spent behind the wheel can have some damaging effects. Given how much the technology and mechanics of modern cars have improved on the models of the 1950s, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s barely any work that needs to be done to keep them in shape.

Allianz Your Cover ( provides you with 5 nightmare mechanic responses to a ‘tickle’ in the engine which are usually the result of overlooking a basic maintenance task for your automobile.

1. Seized engine due to lack of oil
This is one of the nightmare situations. It means that your engine has fused and failed due to a lack of lubrication; the heat of the engine’s movements, combined with the lack of oil to smooth their journeys, causes them to melt together into a metal lump. You could be looking at up to £10,000 for a new or re-manufactured engine.

2. Hydrolocked engine
Also not news you’ll be desperate to hear: a hydrolocked engine is caused by water getting into the cylinders. This usually occurs when attempting to cross deep puddles in low-slung cars, or through flooding. It means that this expensive piece of machinery, which has the power to expel excess droplets and air molecules, cannot expel the load of water dumped into it. Again, you’re looking at several thousand pounds.

3. Broken timing belt
This one is embarrassing; you’ll notice that, if you read your guidance manual for the car, the timing belt is something that should be checked and changed around every 30,000 miles. If you have an interference engine (these are a modern invention: they allow the valves to open further and breathe into the oncoming piston), they rely on one of these to work. But the timing belt wears down and, if it isn’t replaced, you’re looking at £1,000 worth of damage to your valves and pistons.

4. Overheated engine
Sometimes a little smoke coming from the engine is fine, right? Be vigilant here. Catching an overheating engine early is fine but ignoring it, pretending it will go away, can lead to a blown head gasket, a cracked head or a cracked block. These three problems get respectively more expensive – heading up over the nasty side of £5,000.

5. Broken computer
Many cars these days have up to 20 computers inside them working away at once. Whilst we pay little heed to them, and some of the protective circuitry goes, it’s easy for one to blow the whole system and fry all its computer friends. If the problem is small, fine, maybe you can fix the one computer; otherwise you could be looking at getting a new car.

The takeaway:

If you conduct regular maintenance checks on your vehicle you will be able to avoid most of the issues mentioned above and spend your money on more enjoyable things such as taking your family on a road trip around France over the summer or getting the latest accessory for your car.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (1)

Think Before You Buy A New Car

After a while everyone gets a bit fed up with their existing car and the urge comes upon them that it is time for a change. Well, there’s an old motto that goes ‘buy in haste, repent at leisure’ and this could well have been written about the act of trading up to another vehicle. There are plenty of excellent used cars on the market so why do people select the first thing that the first internet search throws up? It’s surprising how often this happens.

The problem is that treating yourself to a new car should, not unreasonably, be an enjoyable experience and in all the excitement common sense can be overlooked. The trick is not to be talked into a rash purchase. It is all very well standing on a forecourt being impressed by big talk from a sales person but all may not be as it seems. It is a crucial part of buying a car that a decision is made with due care and attention.

For example, how many people, even today, buy a car without doing a ? It is one of the great truths that you can’t take people’s word for things. A data check costs peanuts and can be done on the spot if for no other reason than peace of mind. In the same vein, anyone who buys a car without checking and verifying the paperwork is simply asking to get duped.

The other aspects that potential buyers tend to overlook are the costs involved in running this or that car. Vehicle Excise Duty goes up every year – or so it seems – and it needs to be costed into the equation. Modern cars are good and reliable but sometimes the servicing costs can be surprisingly high and spare parts expensive. To many people ignore these figures and only find out later what it is going to cost them.

Key to ensuring the budget is equal to the spend is looking into the price of car insurance. It may not be quite so exciting as it is to buy a car spontaneously but checking with a reliable insurance company like 1st Central Insurance before setting your heart on a particular brand or model may well be the difference between enjoyment and disappointment. This is especially true of younger drivers for whom a competitive quote is vital.

Buying a quality used car is fun. No matter how modest the purchase may be the new owner will still be looking out the window at their new pride and joy sitting outside. There are right ways to buy a car and there are wrong ways. Don’t get carried away by rushing a purchase. Car insurance is an important part of this decision. It matters, so choose wisely.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

The Swinging Barometer Of Unreliability

It wasn’t so long ago that motorists knew where they stood with a car. The purchase of certain makes and models would once have been considered daring at best and absolute madness at worst. Once, a patriot would only have considered buying a car made in Britain.

The Ford Motor Company made cars in this country but they were a dastardly arriviste upstart American outfit. Italian built cars could be purchased but only if you wanted to spend a lot of time at the side of the road and the rest of the time watching your car rust and fall apart before your very eyes. No: the patriotic Briton bought cars made in Longbridge by the Austin Rover Group which over time had several different names.

What all those names had in common was a blend of awfulness and unreliability that was second to none. Where there was accidental damage the holes were filled with left-over sandwich crusts and copies of the Daily Mirror and sprayed over with a vaguely similar colour. Cars in the middle to late 20th Century were, you will have surmised, not very good.

Unless you had some money because then you could afford to buy German automobiles. The car manufacturers in that country realised that what the world wanted was some class and absolute reliability. The cars they made where considered to be the best you could buy. ‘Scratch a German and he bleeds precision’ was a catchphrase that had some truth in it.UN2 The Swinging Barometer Of Unreliability

But that was then. History. Done and dusted. These prestigious vehicles including all the big names no longer have that reputation for bullet-proof build quality. New research based on warranty claims has shown that German cars are being labelled amongst the most unreliable. That’s a surprise.

The stats show that they are more likely to break down and when they do they create massive repair bills. Certainly we know that many of the cars we buy from Germany are laden with technology which, if you think about it, is just another word for things that can go wrong. Anyone who has had to fork out for parts on an expensive German car will know this as the average price for a repair is in excess of a grand. Unfortunately it is happening all too often.

It seems that drivers are beginning to believe that simple is better. The Ford Fiesta – still made by those American upstarts – is now officially Britain’s most reliable car. It is closely tracked by offerings from Vauxhall, Suzuki and others. It stands to reason that the more costly the car the more costly it will be to fix but for companies whose reputation is on the line it has got to be a bit of a worry when it comes to future sales. Wiil buyers think twice from now on?

Posted in Auto BlogComments (2)

Black Box Tragedy

Following their driving test, the next hurdle that young drivers must overcome on their way to a successful driving life is the initial car insurance premium. Older, more experienced drivers must be aghast to see the sort of money newbies have to fork out just to drive a low-performance 10 year old shuttle, but there it is.

As a result, ways have been sought to mitigate what amounts to being a penalty on youth. One of those ways is the black box which monitors the driving behaviour of the new driver, the details of which are transmitted to the insurance company who base their premiums on the data received. Simply by agreeing to the strictures of the company policy the youth of Britain can see an instant reduction in their insurance quotes.

Some conspiracy theorists believe that this amounts to just another way of watching the movements of people, and that argument certainly has merit but overall most young people will and have accepted that as a way to save money.

Sadly, in one case at least, the fitment of a black box has inadvertently led to tragedy. A young driver aged 18 and his 17yo mate in the passenger seat died in a crash last November. When fitted, black box recorders collate information based on a set of rules for the driver. This is designed to promote staying within the law. In the case of these young men one of the rules was a curfew on driving between 11pm and 5am.

As is the way with young men everywhere they had cut things a bit fine on getting the car home in time for 11 o’clock. This resulted in them going faster than they usually would. This young driver, it can be proved, had never previously broken any speed limits but felt constrained to speed to make up time. The alternative would have been a £100 fine from the insurer. They crashed and both died. At the inquest the coroner stated that the curfew had played ‘a very significant factor in his driving’.

Herein lies the problem. How rigid should these constraints be? No-one for a moment blames the insurer who is just following industry trends but it does beg the question as to where the line is drawn. There was no give or take in the curfew. A half hour period of grace and this accident would most likely have been avoided.

This form of telematics based motor insurance has definitely helped to improve driving standards amongst the young. There is no reason not to continue it but young men being young men are always going to innocently make an error of judgement. Allowance should be given to this.

Editor’s Note: Motor Blogger has chosen not to name these lads but we extend our condolences to their families and friends.

Posted in Auto Blog, Auto NewsComments (0)

Saying Goodbye To Your Car

There was recently a sad story about the owner of a forty five year old classic car. Circumstances dictated that the venerable vehicle must be sold. There was no going back. As the faithful old retainer was driven away to a new life the owner was left standing in the street like a bereft lover, quietly weeping. Selling a favourite car, especially one that has given sterling service, can pull at the heartstrings but, in this callous world, that is how it has to be if you want a new car.

Once a vehicle has been driven off the dealer’s lot it becomes a used car. That doesn’t matter to the happy driver until such time as change dictates. So, is there a good time to sell a car? Does there come a time in the life of your vehicle when depreciation meets additional unavoidable expense?

Cars lose value very quickly in the first year and fairly quickly in the second and third years. After that depreciation slows down and a reliable well maintained motor could hold some value – more or less – for a short while until the first problems start to appear and costs begin to rise.

It’s a thorny problem. Some people wait until the warranty runs out. That means they are selling a car that has, almost certainly, been properly maintained and can often be a good buy. Although most people are disappointed in the perceived value of their beloved car this may well be the best moment to sell.

Private buyers will be keen on a used car that has a full service history and relatively low mileage. Cars aged three or less are the most popular with dealers because they still have a decent retail value. Anything older and they may well not be interested.

The trick – if there is one – is to perhaps keep yourself informed by keeping tabs on the trade. Let’s say your car is a Ford Focus. The company sells many of these into the fleet market and at some point after they have been working for a year they may well appear all at once on the open market and create a bit of glut of similar cars. The trade price will drop accordingly and so will the value of your car.

This is something that private users have no control over; but does it seem like a good idea to study the market regularly as part of ownership just to see if there is a rise and fall in the value of cars like yours at age two or three to verify if there’s a good time of year to sell? It’s a thought.

Or is it just the case that for private owners there is never a good time to sell? Cars that are over five years old or with 60k plus on the clock are deemed to likely be unreliable. This may not apply to your car but that is how it will be seen. Does this then suggest that the best thing to do is keep it and ring every last drop of value out of it until, one day, a person comes along with a few quid and an optimistic attitude and leaves you standing in the road in tears? Such is the nature of car ownership.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (1)

Infiniti offers Steer By Wire

Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti are the first to offer the very latest steer-by-wire technology on their forthcoming Q50. No less a driver than Sebastian ‘The Finger’ Vettel – who is the company’s performance director – has been heavily involved in developing this car in which the steering wheel talks to a computer which in turn talks to the wheels. Instantaneously, we hope.

Apparently this new technology fitted to Infiniti’s all-new car has been inspired by the latest jet aircraft technology. No, we don’t know either – cars go along the ground, planes go in the air. That’s all we’ve got.

The Q50 is set to take on the might of the Audi A4 / BMW 3 Series in the premium mid-sized market. Designed, according to Infiniti, to ‘appeal to both the heart and the head’ the car marries the brand’s flowing design themes with technology and traditional craftsmanship. It will come in two or four-wheel drive with a choice of two high performance, low emission engines – a 170PS diesel and a 360PS petrol hybrid. It will apparently be competitively priced in this sector from around £28,000. On sale later this year.

But back to the future. Direct Adaptive Steering is to be standard on certain models and will allow the driver to choose how the wheel feels in their hand. Round would be our first choice but presumably they mean road feel. This used to be something we took for granted but with the introduction of electric steering and the like, some of that ‘feel’ has been lost. Witness the grumbling about the latest 911, for example.

The computer software allows the driver to adjust the steering so that it is smooth and easy – ideal for parking for example – or as sharp and responsive as a F1 car and it is all adjusted via the touch screen. Preferred settings can be memorised. The idea is that by eliminating mechanical losses the steering response will be faster and vibrations will be non-existent. All this is achieved with a level of feedback from the road that is central to every Infiniti’s performance feel, although we have got to think that this will now be simulated feel.

Potential buyers of this car may baulk at something that somehow smacks of a loss of personal control. It seems though that Infiniti have realised this by ensuring that there are fail-safe systems just in case and, if all else does fail, the steering column will remain as additional reassurance. For now!

Posted in Auto News, Car ReviewsComments (0)

Peugeot’s Most Powerful Road Car

The Peugeot RCZ, with its attractive double-bubble roof, has been a popular choice for those in the market for a sporty coupé . The interior is smart but although it boasts four seats, the two back ones are only suitable if the occupants are visiting from Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, so 2 2 is a more apt description and even that, frankly, is pushing it.

Never mind, it’s an excellent sports car with a choice of strong engines. It is pretty much available world-wide now so it is probably about time that Peugeot livened things up a bit – and so it has proved. The car in the big picture is the new RCZ-R, described as the most powerful road car the company has produced.

The top of the range RCZ boasts a grunty 200bhp but this one has been tuned up to deliver a stonking 270! That’s even more than the latest Golf GTI. The car will be officially revealed shortly at the forthcoming Goodwood Festival of Speed. Power comes from a 1.6L THP turbocharged engine that it shares with the Mini. The official torque figure is an impressive 330Nm yet the car only emits 145g/km of the nasty stuff.

rcz large Peugeot’s Most Powerful Road Car

The overall fuel consumption figure is 44.8mpg. It remains to be seem if this is a real-world figure given the way that this car is likely to be hustled along. The 0-62 number is 5.9 seconds which is moving the car to the top of the rankings of performance car potential, leaving the average hot hatch panting in its wake. Given that the top-of-the-range RCZ is well priced, buyers would be forgiven for thinking that the cost R is going to pitched considerably higher. Not so, say Peugeot; they are insisting that this pocket rocket is going to be, in their words, very competitively priced.

The company insist that the engine will be sufficiently strong to be “resistant to sports use on the racetrack.” Serious stuff, and to prove the point this RCZ-R is seventeen kilos lighter than the lesser model and is ten millimetres nearer the ground. For additional handling the wheels are wider 19” alloys; the overall track is wider, brakes much stronger and the wheel camber angle has been increased thus enhancing the road holding but, no doubt, at the expense of extra tyre wear on the standard Goodyear Eagles.

R logos abound amongst the leather and Alcantara. A choice of four exterior colours can be complemented from a selection of satin or gloss carbon roof treatments and mirror outers. There has been some carping about the handling of the RCZ which falls short of the Audi TT standard so, for the more enthusiastic driver, this new model might just provide the solution. All will be revealed soon.

Posted in Auto News, Car ReviewsComments (0)

Vauxhall’s Monza Concept Teaser

Opel/Vauxhall (themselves subsidiaries of GM) are not giving away too much in the image above which features Company Chief Executive Karl-Thomas Neumann alongside the Monza concept, but there’s a fair amount of information on offer regarding the future direction of this long-established company. Their philosophy in the usual auto-speak – that has evolved like an alien language over the years – is going to be: The evolution of sculptural styling with innovative connectivity for individual mobility.

This then is the future and it pretty much falls in line with the general trend. The cars of the future are changing even as we watch although they still can’t make a decent cup of tea.

The Monza Concept will appear at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. It is part of the ongoing development programme of next-gen cars being worked on by a large workforce of engineers and designers. This is thanks to the not inconsiderable sum of $4 billion handed over by GM America that has been earmarked for future European developments.

Aerodynamics are clearly playing a big part as the car sits very low with a very defined bonnet and fluid shape. We have to admit it does look good. Although we have to assume that this is simply a design exercise it may herald the future ‘family’ look for Opel/Vauxhall products or even presage a new GT car. Expect a low-capacity, high-powered range of petrol engines with electrical assistance.

The Company are saying that we can also expect a ‘quantum leap’ forward in material use and of the infotainment systems. There’s a suggestion that the car may be based on the front-wheel drive Cascada platform although first whispers said rear-wheel drive. We’ll see.

It is interesting how these design philosophies filter down through the years. A long time ago, at the Geneva Salon in 1966 in fact, the company showed the world its XVR concept. That’s it in the bigger picture – note that the test driver is wearing a suit and tie! The design is widely indicative of the things that have actually come to pass. With its wide, low profile tyres you can see the design cues of cars to come.

monz2 Vauxhall’s Monza Concept Teaser

No major details yet, then, on the Monza Concept and none at all on the interior but Opel/Vauxhall are saying that with trend-setting technologies they will change the driving experience. We are very much looking forward to Frankfurt.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (0)