Tag Archive | "car maintenance"

Take The Safe Route To Europe

From time to time we at Motor Blogger like to offer some hints and tips to help you on your automotive way. We don’t profess to know better – we’re just trying to help. This time, because we know that some of you will be driving in foreign countries, possibly for the first time, we politely offer some tips for driving abroad. Remember, they do things differently over there.

The weather in the UK hasn’t been great but at the time of writing this piece it seems like British Summer has finally arrived. This is probably too late for you if you have booked to head for somewhere with guaranteed sun.

roam1 Take The Safe Route To EuropeFirst off – prepare your car beforehand. An easy way to do this is by taking your car in for a service, if it’s due, but there are also checks you can make yourself. Obviously you should be doing this routinely anyway but always check tyre pressures – you never know what tyre gauges will be like at your destination – and tread, as well as topping up oil and coolant.

Going on a touring holiday means that you will be using your vehicle for long periods of time, that’s a given; therefore there will be attendant additional wear and tear, as well as a build-up of dirt. Make sure you make daily checks of the tyres, windscreen, mirrors and lights.

Be sure to take a comfort break after every two hours of driving to combat fatigue. This is especially true because the changes in driving conditions and rules will increase your levels of concentration especially as you will be driving on the wrong (that is the right) side of the road.

You’ll need to take appropriate documentation to comply with requirements of immigration and customs: driving licence, driving licence counterpart, vehicle registration document (V5), insurance certificate and passports (for all those travelling). You must display a GB sign on your vehicle unless your number plates include the GB Euro-symbol, assuming you remain in the Union.

Most countries require drivers to carry reflective jackets and warning triangles. Don’t forget, if you’re driving through France you are obligated to carry not one but two breathalysers. The word is that French authorities are not enforcing this but you never can tell. If in doubt about what to take, have a trawl around the ‘net and see what is required for the countries you are visiting or just passing through. Also, don’t forget to reset your headlights or risk the wrath of continental drivers!

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Why Is It Absolutely Necessary To Have The Correct Tyre Pressure?

Many of us go on motoring for mile after mile without checking our tyre pressure. Some can go between services without even considering the amount of air that ought to be pumped into their tyres. Although some of us might kick the car’s tyres from time to time, maybe ahead of long motorway journey for instance, this is only the roughest of gauges and is hardly an accurate measurement of pressure. Even if you stop to check the tyre pressure using an electric pump at the filling station once in a while, it is worth asking yourself if you do this often enough. Perhaps, if your tyres need pressure adding every time that you check, then it might be worth doing this with a greater regularity. After all, driving with tyres that are under-inflated can cause problems which are easily avoided.

Extend the life of the tyres

Most mechanics would agree that maintaining the correct air pressure in your car’s tyres is important. With the right amount of air pressure set in your tyres, they will go on for a longer period. Once your tyres have become sufficiently worn down, they are no longer street legal and you could face a fine. Under-inflated tyres wear more rapidly on all sorts of road surface. If you fit new tyres because yours have worn down, buy them from a good independent dealer like Point-S Tyres and remember to keep them pumped up in future.

Brake Efficiently

Not only do correctly inflated tyres enhance the handling of a car, they can also prevent accidents. This is because tyres which have a low pressure cause you to brake inefficiently. Simply put, swerving out of trouble and braking quickly are both harder with under-inflated tyres. This is the case even if it just one of your wheels that is affected.

Avoid Poor Mileage

Failure to maintain the correct tyre pressure with your vehicle can also result in poor mileage. Low tyre pressure leads to more energy being used by the car to get it moving in the right direction. You end up burning more and more fuel to accelerate. Even when you have reached a good cruising speed, on the motorway or a dual carriageway, under-inflated tyres cause you to use more energy maintaining that speed. Low tyre pressure means that you have to fill up with fuel more often and, like the cost of tyres that are wearing down quickly, all of this ends up costing money.

Find out the correct air pressure for your car

The correct air pressure for your car can be found in the owner’s manual or on a tyre panel. This is usually located on the edge of the driver’s door or in the glove box. Some models of car have it handily displayed on the inside of the fuel filling cover. Remember that – with some models – you have to inflate the car’s rear and front wheels to differing levels for them to be correct. For van owners, it is essential to adjust the tyre pressure depending on the weight of the load that you carry in the back, because heavy loads can cause problems for tyres which are over-inflated.

About the Author
My name is Emily Cole. I am an avid blogger. I love to write about the automotive industry, travelling and tips and tricks on how to take care of your vehicle. I believe that keeping your ride well maintained can save you from unforeseen events and can help in saving money!!

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Overcoming battery problems in the winter

Car batteries can be temperamental at the best of times – especially in old cars – but during the winter months a flat battery is the biggest cause of breakdowns. There’s not a lot that’s more annoying than waking up on a dark, cold winter morning and having to defrost and then jump start your car because the battery’s died overnight.

Cold weather is really bad for your car’s battery because it slows down the chemical reactions that cause your engine to roar into life. Even though your vehicle’s battery is perfectly capable of functioning in all kinds of weather, sometimes the cold can degrade even the most high-quality batteries and render them useless.

However, this isn’t something that you have to put up with as there are a number of ways you can protect your battery against failure during the winter.

Battery age

Assessing the age of your car’s battery is really important before the really cold weather hits. Most car batteries will last between five and ten years so if your car is several years old and still running on the original battery, it might be an idea to have it checked and potentially changed before you find yourself late for work one morning.

You can easily get hold of the correct battery for your car by entering your vehicle’s details into sites like Euro Car Parts. Make sure you aren’t swayed by more powerful batteries and only choose one that’s suitable for your car because more power won’t necessarily equate to better starting.


Check your engine for corrosion as this can also prevent your car from starting. Corrosion around the battery can be caused by a fault that allows the battery acid to leak and corrode the areas that it touches. In order to avoid a problem like this, it’s essential to check the battery regularly, if there are any leakages then you need to make sure you clean away any corrosive residue and ensure that the battery compartment is correctly sealed.

Battery blanket

Installing a battery blanket is a great way to prevent the battery fluid from freezing. Open up the battery cover and wrap the blanket around the battery itself. There should be a cord with a plug at the end which can be plugged into a mains switch. This will help the blanket generate enough heat to prevent the battery from freezing and therefore ensuring it works the next morning.

Minimise in-car battery use

Starting the car with the heaters and radio on can take valuable power away from the engine, preventing it from being able to start. Using in-car accessories such as these when trying to start the car takes power away from the alternator which, on cold winter mornings, needs all of its energy to be concentrated on charging the battery.

Disconnect the battery

If you don’t use your car a lot and it’ll be in storage for the majority of the winter then it’s a good idea to disconnect the battery so that the cold weather doesn’t cause it to degrade. A lot of people don’t realise that useful in-car devices like clocks, temperature gauges and the alarm system continue to drain the battery of power so if you won’t be driving it enough to recharge the battery then it’s likely to be flat when you return to it. If this is likely to be the case over the winter then it’s a good idea to disconnect the battery in order to reserve its power before you put your car into storage.

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Winter Classic Car Care

For most of us the daily grind will involve driving somewhere. We have become used to our cars starting and performing properly, even in the depths of winter, such is their dependability. Classic cars however require a rather more dedicated approach.

Any car over, say, twenty years old, is likely to be feeling its age and the astute owner will ensure that pretty much any small problem or minor breakdown can promptly be resolved by ensuring that the car is equipped for the job. These days motorists are complacent and are rendered helpless when it comes to DIY repairs; but, to be fair, modern cars are way too complicated for most anyway and we need to rely on specialists in vehicle servicing. This is not the classic car way.

It’s important to remember that auto science has moved on in leaps and bounds and older cars were more likely to suffer problems even when new. With a classic car it makes sense to check all the fluids, belts and moving parts before setting off on any journey and going tooled-up when on the road. It’s obviously impossible to carry the entire contents of the garage in the boot but it is a good idea to take some essential items to deal with the odd eventuality.

Packing a toolbox with a generous selection of the right tools is a no-brainer but it’s easy to get carried away. Don’t forget those basic items that are always needed but never seem to be at hand. Also, as anyone who has ever suffered a breakdown knows, you are rarely wearing overalls at the time. A pair will roll up easily into a corner and could have a pair of those snappy rubber gloves in the pocket.

All classic owners need spare parts and your local specialists can usually find the most obscure things. Seeking out appropriate parts that are manageable at the roadside makes a lot of sense. Fan belts, starter motors and fuel pumps are all notorious, although, of course, there’s a limit to what can be carried. The serious minded may feel that a portable power pack – which these days are light and compact – wouldn’t hurt either.

Finally, a little box containing the usual bits and pieces is essential. Fuses, wire (assorted) and gaffer tape, for example. Often, a lot can be achieved with very little but there is one thing so important, like life itself, that cannot be omitted and that’s a can of WD40. Whoever came up with that should go down in history as the patron saint of drivers!

If none of the above works then a tow rope and a mobile should be your last resort. In the meantime it pays to remember that winter can take its toll on any classic or vintage car and it may well be that the best course of action is to lay the car up over the darker, damp months. Correct car storage is a bit of an art form. You can leave it to professional storage firms or, with a bit of thought and planning, your garage could become a place of hibernation. Use the winter months for maintenance and be ready for the Spring when you can take to the road again. Just don’t forget the toolkit and some wet wipes.

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Let There Be Light

An estimated 2.6 million cars are being driven illegally on the roads with defective lights, a survey has found. Over one in ten vehicles checked by the authorities across ten major UK cities was found to have a failed headlight, sidelight, rear or brake-light which would significantly increase the risk of an accident.

The scale of the problem is also reflected in MOT failure rates with 1.16 million cars tested in 2012 falling short of required standards because of the condition of their lights.

The survey coincides with trade reminders for drivers to prepare their cars for winter weather and darker driving conditions. It’s a simple enough job – and inexpensive – to fix these things and if you really can’t do it yourself well, there are plenty of professionals to do it for you.

Glasgow fared worst in the study, with just under one in eight of vehicles having defective lights. Newcastle was a close second with more than thirteen percent of cars observed with blown bulbs.

London proved to have the best maintained vehicles with just under seven percent revealed with faulty lights, but even this would mean thousands of drivers in the capital were breaking the law and potentially causing a danger on the road.

Latest figures from the Department of Transport, compiled from police records, show that in 2010, 357 accidents were blamed on vehicles not displaying lights at night or in poor visibility. Over 25,000 accidents were the result of drivers misjudging other vehicles’ speed, often as a result of failing to slow down.

During the survey, researchers monitored cars over a set period of time at busy junctions in the early evening rush hour and recorded the number of cars with faulty lights. The penalty for the offence is £60 and three points.

Missing or non-working brake lights, which can leave drivers unable to judge when the car in front is slowing, showed up as the biggest problem followed by non-functioning headlights.

Owners don’t know when a light has gone out so regular checking is essential, especially in these increased hours of darkness and often more difficult and hazardous autumn and winter conditions. It is an easy job to wander around the car checking these thing out. If in doubt get a family member or friend to help.

In these difficult financial days motorists are delaying essential repairs and waiting for the dreaded MOT but this is a false economy and, frankly, a danger to all. Get them fixed before it’s your life lights that go out or you see the image above in your rear view mirror!

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The Hidden Costs Of Car Ownership

As we’ve mentioned before on Motor Blogger, cars used to be simple and many owners would routinely service and fix them at home. Over the years the vehicles we drive have become increasingly complex and the dark arts of home mechanics, have, to a large extent, died out. We rely on manufacturers to make cars that don’t need fixing and, on those rare occasions when they fail, we rely on garages to sort it out. At a price, obviously.

That’s all fine and generally everyone accepts this as the way things are; but have we now reached a stage in the technological advances in auto manufacture where we don’t really know the long term effects and potential issues of those advances? What follows in just one example of what we mean.

Car engine flywheels function on one of the simplest principles in the world of physics: objects in motion tend to stay in motion. The flywheel helps an engine to run smoother and last longer. Without it the vibrations from the internal combustion would drive us all mad. That’s the short version. Historically, all being well, the flywheel would last the lifetime of the car.

Thanks to the modern rise of diesel and some petrol engines that are extremely frugal yet very powerful, the basic flywheel has had a bit of a make-over and become a dual mass flywheel. Car manufacturers are wringing the maximum amount of performance from the minimum amount of fuel. This in turn means that the force of the ‘explosions’ in the vehicles’ cylinders has increased necessitating more complex flywheels to cope.

Dual mass flywheels, as the name suggests, means a conjoined pair – one attached to the crank and the other to the clutch. They are joined by a series of springs to act as cushioning and it is these which weaken over time. The result of this is that many dual mass flywheels may need replacing – unlike their simpler predecessors – somewhere around the fifty to seventy thousand mile mark. This is an additional cost brought to you by modern technology. It could mean that the money you save on fuel will be needed to pay for flywheel replacement.

The only good thing about it is that dual mass flywheels tend to fail around the same time as the clutch. As they work in conjunction with one another then it is as well to have the flywheel changed when your clutch goes. On a big diesel Audi, as an example, the cost of replacement of the flywheel alone would be something of the order of £1000, give or take.

Clearly, most technology is tried and tested before it appears on our cars but as things get more and more complex – without wishing to sound like alarmist doom-mongers – we simply cannot know what the long-term outcomes will be. All we can do is wait and see.

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Service Your Car Before It Goes For Service

Just lately, as we have reported on Motor Blogger, car dealers are having a tough time of it and are cutting their profit margins right down to the bone. This is particularly hard on them because, in reality, they don’t make that a great deal of money on a new or used car sale anyway, such is the competitive nature of the market. In fact, they make much of their coin from selling ‘add-ons’ at the point of sale or, later, on servicing, parts and the like.

Anyone who has owned a car for a while knows that the annual service is usually a costly exercise – and these days something that many drivers are postponing to try and save cash. Nevertheless, correct servicing is vital to the longevity and resale value of the car so it has got to be done; but you can help mitigate the cost by giving your vehicle the once-over before you take down to the service bay.

For example: If you make sure the windscreen washer bottle is completely full then the garage won’t have to top it up, will they? They charge more than the average owner might think for this very simple job. A bottle of neat screen wash from your local supermarket will cost pennies by comparison.

If the car tyres are looking a bit threadbare and need changing – it’s a straightforward job to check tread depth and sidewalls – take the trouble to find a cracking deal at your local fitters or online and get it done first. If the garage ‘phones up and informs you that tyres need replacing they are very likely to charge maximum retail for the product and may not even consult about brand or type.

This is the problem. In order to make a living, main dealer garages will charge the absolute maximum price for any item fitted or replaced. Have a good hard look at the servicing schedule for your car. Is there any aspect to it where money can be saved? It’s a bit of a cheek but if you’ve got the front for it, perhaps you could try asking the dealer to let you supply your own consumables, like the correct type of oil, on the basis that it can be purchased cheaper elsewhere. They will probably be a bit offended but hey, it’s your money. Maybe you could quote a bone fide price you’ve seen and ask them to match it. Yes, it’s come to that.

Alternatively you could go to an independent garage that definitely will be cheaper – making sure they have a good reputation first, obviously. If a car is under warranty it doesn’t matter where you have the job done as long as it’s done properly. It has been known for manufacturers to refuse to honour a warranty because of this – citing things like unapproved parts being fitted. Once the warranty has expired maybe an independent is the way to go.

If in doubt, ask the garage to supply a schedule of work before the job is done and ask for an itemised bill afterwards. It may at least prove to be of benefit next time.

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Spoil Your Dad This Coming Father’s Day.

You know your Dad, right? He’s that suspicious looking old guy sitting at the computer reading Motor Blogger and paying scant attention to your long-suffering Mother. The one who leaves oily engine parts on the kitchen table and towels on the bathroom floor and who consistently refused to lend you his wheels when you first passed your driving test. Your Dad. The man who has driven you crazy but has also driven you all over the country; to friends and sporting venues and nightclubs and A&E. The man who, possibly through gritted teeth, bought you your first car. Well, once a year you are officially allowed to show your appreciation. June 16th is Father’s Day, so get planning.

Forget the male grooming products, he gave up on that caper as soon as he said his marriage vows; but there are many gifts available that are auto-orientated and will bring a smile to his face – but you have to get it right. For example, if he drives a Suzuki there is a whole range goodies available in the form of clothing or merchandise with a subtle Japanese motif; but not all Dads drive Suzuki’s. Most manufacturers have a selection of products.

It is not possible to separate a man and his motor so how about some driving music? There are many compilations out there but they have to have a driving beat so none of your soppy Coldplay or that incessant EDM racket. Dads are like Lemmy from Motorhead: old and warty but always ready to rock. Inside every middle-aged man there lurks a head-banger just under the surface. In true Jekyll and Hyde fashion this ‘dad-dancing’ alter-ego often appears at weddings and family celebrations.

If you’ve got some cash on the hip, why not treat him to a race or rally driving experience day at your local circuit or venue. Times are hard and there are some great deals on offer. Or you could rent him a classic car for the day or take him karting – there are a wealth of opportunities to spend some time together.

If however you are cash-poor or just irredeemably tight-fisted then how about doing something for him? Cleaning the car is always appreciated. A proper clean mind, no taking him to the supermarket to get one of those trolley blokes to do it. Give his pride and joy a good going over with some familial TLC.

There is nothing like some parent/child activity, no matter what your age and remember – Mum’s appreciate the children taking Dad out on Father’s Day too. They see it as a form of respite.

What do you mean you’re too busy? It’s one day of the year for pity’s sake. So give the old guy a break. Treat him. You never know – if you don’t have a car of your own he may lend you his before the tears of pleasure dry in his eyes. It’s called bonding. Get used to it.

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Dad – What’s That Noise?

It is one of the great truisms of life that, when transporting the mother-in-law in the family car, she can always smell petrol and becomes convinced that she is about to be consumed by fire. Thereafter she will always smell petrol when riding with you, even on a tandem bike. Similarly, no one can be an experienced driver and not have had a relative in the car who asks about a curious noise that the driver had been studiously ignoring in the forlorn hope that it would go away.

The fact is a car will always tell you when something is wrong; mostly only after it is too late admittedly, but it will speak up for itself. Funny noises or smells, irksome rattling and general auto dyspepsia means the car needs at best a service and at worst, radical surgery. As we head into another delightful motoring Summer maybe it is time to investigate any strange automotive phenomena fully before that big family holiday and that big breakdown (see gratuitously posed image).

It’s a known fact that a percentage of car accidents are caused by some failure on the car, usually tyres or brakes but other parts like suspension or steering could be at fault. Listen to the car and try to grasp what it is telling you. For example, a growling noise that changes in pitch could well be a wheel bearing and it is essential this is dealt with immediately. A competent home mechanic should be able to handle this job.

A mysterious creaking or a nagging whine could be a track rod (part of the steering) or maybe a ball joint. Either way they are signals that something is not right and needs attention. A high-pitched squealing – assuming it isn’t children – will possibly be brake related. Hissing, after the car has been shut down, could subsequently result in smoke or steam issuing from under the bonnet. That can’t be right.

It is not always easy to diagnose a car. Groaning could be suspension and a loud humming noise could be a faulty or worn tyre and so on. The trick is not to simply turn up the stereo and hope for the best but rather to stop and investigate. The fault may not be apparent but it is a fairly safe bet that it’s there. Home mechanics have an ear for this sort of thing but when in doubt consult your local friendly garage.

Over the years the staff will have become experts in assessing the many and varied car impersonations that customers make. They can solve all dilemmas just by kicking the tyres and writing down large numbers with pound signs in front of them. Be pro-active, make sure the car gets its regular service on time and in full. Good dealers should always check over a car for safety’s sake. The car is used to transport the family and it is the driver’s job to keep them safe. Even the mother-in-law.

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MOT – No Nasty Surprises

Once a car passes the age of three years it moves into the realm of the dreaded MOT. With the complexity of modern cars this can be a worry but now, thanks to a new campaign, motorists can at least be forewarned by completing a simple series of checks on their own vehicles. Obviously, inspecting a car won’t effect a miracle cure but it does mean that used car owners won’t waste time and additional money on unexpected MOT failures.

The scheme called ‘Minute-or-Two’ is supported by over five thousand main dealers around the country. Their technicians will be happy to advise any customers who are unsure of how to make the checks themselves. The list of checks is straightforward and means that owners can talk to their dealers about individual problems that can be rectified in advance and help prevent that heart-sinking feeling when the fail certificate is handed over. These are the points to watch:

Roping in a friend or family member, make sure all headlights, sidelights, reversing and brake lights and the indicators are all functioning as they should. Don’t forget the number plate light. That’s a very simple home-fix which, if missed, could mean a failure. Plates, incidentally should be clean, legible and conform to the standard.

The importance of sound wheels and tyres shouldn’t be underestimated. Tyres should have at least 1.6mm of tread across their width (ideally, the sensible driver changes them at 3mm) and they should be undamaged in other ways – from kerbs for example. Your dealer will be happy to check these for you.

Seats should have all the forward and backward movement they came with and be firmly in position. Seat belts must be tip-top and functioning correctly. The way to check this is by giving them a hearty tug to ensure they will lock up in the event of a collision.

These days windscreens come under close scrutiny. Any damage (a stone chip for example) anywhere that is greater than 40mm will be a fail and in the ‘swept’ area that figure drops to 10mm. This is a tricky one to assess by eye. Again your dealer should be prepared to advise FOC. Ditto the wipers: they should be in good nick and clean the area fully. Remember, top up the washer bottle before the test.

Always ensure the car has enough fuel for road-testing and, of course, fluid and oil levels should be maintained at the correct level. A low brake fluid level for instance could signify a bigger problem. Finally, check the horn for correct function. To make the task a bit less onerous, try testing it when your ‘check-assistant’ is least expecting it. How they’ll laugh!

Follow theses checks and avoid nasty surprises come MOT time. It’s good that dealers are participating too. Clearly, it’s in their interests but at least they are helping with your safety and may well save you money in the long run.

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