Tag Archive | "breakdown cover"

Car Problems? Take Cover.

One of the great lies perpetuated upon us all is the one that says it is always other people’s cars that break down. The fact is that an automotive breakdown can happen to any of us at anytime, anywhere. Cars have no sense of timing. This is a problem for all of us and can be especially daunting for people who have little or no knowledge of how cars work.

The list of things that can go wrong is something that most of us don’t really want to think about. There’s the usual problems, obviously, but what happens if your battery dies or if – it doesn’t bear thinking about – you put the wrong fuel in the car?

Of course, the stricken driver could call out their local garage but life’s not like that. The chances are that the breakdown will occur miles from home. Thanks to mobile phones it’s straightforward to summon local help and, if necessary, get the car towed in but the car owner doesn‘t know who he is dealing with or how competent they are. It’s all a bit of a lottery. Then of course, there follows the need to get the occupants home or to arrange for onward travel.

Fortunately, it is possible to get the security of breakdown cover at very reasonable rates so that when it happens to you, you know you can get moving again quickly thanks to the efforts of properly trained technicians, without it costing the earth. Of course, some cars never break down but what price peace of mind eh? When it does happen the consequences will not only be inconvenient, the cost of rescue is likely to be expensive.

Luckily, it is easy to match breakdown cover with the driving budget. For example, some policies will even cover issues that occur before the car has even left the driveway. There’s a whole raft of ways to spread coverage from the basics to car hire when something goes wrong.

Not wishing to be alarmist, it gets worse if driving abroad. Language barriers, different currency and simply a different way of doing things all serve to exacerbate the situation. Fortunately, it is also possible to purchase European breakdown cover for when  travelling in on the Continent. This is normally the highest level of cover and will include benefits such as repatriation back to the UK if you car can’t be fixed abroad, and a hire car so that you can continue your holiday.

So, it’s easy to obtain breakdown cover and equally easy to set the terms to suit the budget. One day, someday, you’ll be glad you invested.

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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 (www.yourcoverinsurance.co.uk) 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.

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Safely Changing a Tyre on a Motorway

Any motorist who has experienced a puncture or a blow-out on a motorway knows what a terrifying experience it can be. The first essential is to get your car safely off the carriageway and on to the hard shoulder. If there is any damage then it is also important that the insurer is contacted once the immediate emergency is over, and a help-line like that is offered by Allianz Your Cover (www.yourcoverinsurance.co.uk) as part of their car insurance package can be immensely valuable in providing supportive advice and guidance on next steps.

But if you are facing a straightforward puncture, then the next question is whether to attempt to change the tyre yourself? The advice from motoring organisations, the police and the guidance in the relevant section of the Highway Code, strongly suggest that you should not. If its night-time, or the light is poor, you will be placing yourself severely at risk if you attempt to change a wheel yourself. The hard shoulder is one of the most dangerous places to be on a motorway, with approximately twelve people killed and 200 injured annually.

Before taking any other action, the responsibility of the motorist is to make sure that they and any passengers are safe by parking the car as far to the left on the hard shoulder as possible, with the wheels turned to the left. Passengers should be moved out of the car from the nearside to keep them away from fast-moving traffic on the carriageway, and they should stand well back on the far side of the safety barrier. The next essential is to make the car as visible as possible by turning on hazard lights and placing a reflective triangle a good distance back from the vehicle to give oncoming traffic enough warning of a hazard ahead. A reminder at this point – every car should carry a warning triangle and a high-viz jacket as part of its essential equipment for use in exactly this sort of situation.

Once the driver has made sure the passengers are safe and the parked car is as visible as possible, the advice is to contact one of the motoring organisations (if using a mobile phone, standing on the safe side of the barrier when making the call), or to alert the motorway unit by calling from one of the emergency phones on the hard shoulder. If you are having to walk on the hard shoulder to the nearest phone, always face oncoming traffic, and wear a high-viz jacket.

Even if you are determined to change the tyre yourself, it is still wise advice to alert the motorway unit to the fact that your car has a puncture and is parked up on the hard shoulder. Then make sure that you line up everything that you need before beginning to take the wheel off, so that you can do so as quickly and efficiently as possible. Always work on the nearside of the car, and have the handbook, jack and wheel wrench, spare tyre, and locking wheel nut adaptor ready to hand. When you set off again, remember to build up your speed on the hard shoulder before safely rejoining the carriageway – and make sure that you check the tyre pressure and wheel nut torque as soon as possible after fitting the spare wheel.

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Saving Money On Servicing

Servicing is very important to keeping your car running efficiently and in preventing breakdowns.  It can also help you achieve a higher resale price when you finally come to selling your car and can mean that you shift your car a lot quicker.  More and more often, buyers will simply ignore and completely ignore any car that doesn’t have a service history, making it practically impossible to sell.

The costs of servicing can add up though.  MOT’s, full services, part services and then the costs of fixing anything that has gone wrong can all add up to some really significant sums.  There are a few ways of minimising these costs though.

The first thing to do is to try and time your MOT and servicing so that they are due at the same time.  Many garages will offer a discount when you combine your MOT and service and have them both done at the same time.  The reason is simple – When they conduct an MOT they are already getting involved in your car and checking the essentials.  This crosses over with a lot of the stuff that they will check out in a service and therefore they can afford to charge you less as it is quicker and easier for them to do both at the same time.  If you don’t make use of this discount you are effectively paying for your brakes to be checked on your MOT and then paying for them to be checked again on your service.  So, try to get them both done together at a discount.

The second thing is to use a specialist.  Using main dealers can be extremely expensive and see huge hourly rates.  Using a specialist can knock as much as 50% off these prices and sometimes even more.  The irony is that most specialists originally worked at the main dealers and then moved on to start their own business.  This effectively means that you are paying someone who is just as qualified and experienced on your car as the main dealer but at a fraction of the price.  They will also often make a smaller mark up on parts as well which can save even more money.

The most important tip for saving money on servicing though is to not avoid a service!  Some people think the best way to save money is to simply ignore a service and just keep driving.  This can actually prove to be the most expensive decision of all because missing a service can mean that you miss detecting small problems before they grow into big problems that can cost serious money!

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How to Avoid Getting Stuck This Winter

The breakdown recovery services always see huge increases in the levels of “breakdowns” during the winter months. This increase in so-called breakdowns are rarely down to real mechanical failures but actually down to poor maintenance and preparation.

Here are a few of the most common reasons for breaking down during the winter that can be easily addressed before you set out on your journey:

Cars without enough antifreeze can see big problems if left in the cold. The water in the system and engine can freeze and therefore make the car impossible to start. In worst cases, the water will freeze and then expand and actually crack pipes and other essential parts of your engine causing serious damage and cost. Always check your antifreeze and top up as required.

One of the biggest reasons for breakdown during the winter season is a dead battery. During the winter months we are using our car batteries a lot more than usual and putting them under a lot of stress. We have our lights on, our windscreen wipers on and our heaters on and this means that the battery doesn’t get as much chance to charge as it normally does. Then combine that with the fact that batteries lose their charge quicker in cold weather and you can quickly see why so many people park up and return to a dead battery.
The easiest way to combat this is to check that you have a good quality battery connected. If so, make sure during the winter months that you try to give your car a good 30 minute drive every week without anything using the battery (e.g. no lights on, stereo off etc) just to make sure it is staying topped up.

Poor quality tyres are one of the biggest reasons for crashes and getting stuck during the winter months. Your tyres are the only thing that connect your car and the ground together and therefore if the connection is of poor quality thanks to low tread then you are going to be experiencing problems. Make sure your tyres have plenty of tread. The legal minimum is 1.6mm but you should be looking for at least 2mm+ for winter months to minimise skidding and wheel spin.

Overall Check
Give your car an overall check-over to make sure everything is topped up and functioning correctly. The most important aspects are your lights, windscreen wipers, washer levels and your brakes. Then take extra care while driving and you should be able to enjoy a breakdown-free winter.

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