Maintaining your car

Video revolution should help drivers get fairer deal from garages

video

New tech is designed to let mechanics show you what needs fixing without you being there

A virtual revolution is taking place in the UK’s garages with video becoming a workshop must have. Garages film what needs repairing. They can then show this to customers and seek approval before doing the work. The idea is to give car owners more control over repairs and reassure them that they’re not being ripped off. Here’s how it works.

Why video technology is needed

For most drivers, the dodgy reputation garages have is a worry. Recent research by online garage booking service BookMyGarage found that three quarters (74 per cent) of drivers felt hidden costs or paying too much for extra work were the biggest concerns when taking their car to a garage for its regular service. Drivers fear that unscrupulous operators can use superior mechanical knowledge to bamboozle them into repairs that don’t need doing. Continue reading

Polished with pride: the best way to spring clean a car

Polished with pride: the best way to spring clean a car

The birds are singing, the bees and buzzing and the bulbs are flowering: Spring is in the air. And that can only mean one thing; many of Britain’s drivers are looking at their car and hanging their heads in shame, unable to remember the last time they cleaned their motor.

If that sounds familiar, set aside a couple of hours one weekend, roll up your sleeves and treat your car to a thorough spring clean. Pick a sunny day and you might even put some colour in your cheeks.

You don’t have to be a professional car valeter, or detailer, to return a car to the showroom-sparkle finish it once enjoyed. Here are some simple tips to take the strain out of a spring clean.

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Choosing the best hands-free Bluetooth phone or sat nav kit

Choosing the best hands-free Bluetooth phone or sat nav kit

Keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel with voice-activated smartphone kits

The law on mobile phone use in cars changed at the beginning of March. The penalty for drivers caught phoning or texting without being hands-free has doubled, to six points with a £200 fine. But there’s no need to be hit with a costly fine and hefty points. There’s plenty of aftermarket equipment that will keep drivers on the right side of the law and safe on the road.

Bluetooth integration for mobile phones first made its way into our cars in 2001. For years, it remained an option that drivers would have to pay for with their new car. These days, it’s widely available as standard.

For anyone driving an older car without Bluetooth, there is a wide range of products to choose from, some offering much more than just wireless connection to a phone.

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Simple tips to prevent a flat battery in a car

Simple tips to prevent a flat battery in a car

On the face of it, a car battery is a boring piece of equipment that’s often hidden away and rarely given a moment’s thought. But drivers who don’t want to end up stranded at home or, worse still, at the roadside should pay more attention to their car’s battery, or it could go flat.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the battery is the heart of a car. If it goes flat, your car stops working. And flat batteries are the number one cause for technicians from Green Flag to be called out to rescue drivers.

The reasons car batteries are the number one culprit causing breakdowns are simple. Batteries don’t last forever; they typically have a working life of between five and seven years. And batteries are placed under increasing strain, as new cars offer a rising number of convenience features that can drain them with precious little warning.

Happily, you don’t have to be a trained technician to care for a battery. These are the simple steps any driver can follow to prolong the life of their car’s battery. Continue reading

Car exhaust system cleaning: is it worth using DIY products for catalytic converters or diesel particulate filters?

Car exhaust system cleaning: is it worth using DIY products for catalytic converters or diesel particulate filters?

Within your car’s exhaust system there are two areas that are hot spots for trouble and often need cleaning – the catalytic converter and the diesel particulate filter. Both of these cause problems for the efficient running of your car and can lead to it failing its MOT. In fact, Britain has a monthly peak of 43,000 cars failing the annual roadworthy test because of unacceptably dirty emissions from the exhaust.

Given the high cost of replacement parts, it’s no surprise that many drivers are embracing DIY cleaning products. These claim to return to good health congested catalytic converters or diesel particulate filters. We look at the options for drivers and ask whether they are worth using.

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Tyre pressure warning systems fail to alert drivers to flat tyres

Tyre pressure warning systems fails to warn of flat tyres

They have been hailed as miniature life savers but independent tests have shown that tyre pressure warning devices, known as Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS), may not work at all.

The systems are designed to alert drivers when a tyre is losing air pressure. In independent testing, a Volkswagen Golf, one of the UK’s best-selling cars, and a Fiat 500L family car were put through a series of trials on the road to assess how well the TPMS worked. The Golf’s system failed to detect an under-inflated tyre in 14 of the 16 scenarios; the 500L’s didn’t even manage to alert its driver once.

The tests were carried out by Transport & Environment, a group that campaigns to improve the sustainability of cars and transport policy across Europe. It accuses car makers of trying to cut corners and cut costs, after the TPMS technology became a legal requirement on every new car sold from 2014.

What is a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System?

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Expert advice: choosing engine oil for your car

Choosing engine oil

Your car needs engine oil. You need to choose the right kind

Cars are now so sophisticated that choosing engine oil has never been so important. Some require different oils to others. Get this wrong over a period of time and you could cause irreparable damage to your motor. On top of that, the engine oil you choose can make a difference to fuel economy and how long your car can go between services without performance deteriorating or vital components getting damaged.

On the upside, advances in engine oil technology mean that modern engines will cover ever greater mileages in their life time. Here’s my guide to choosing engine oil that will achieve that. Continue reading

Quiz: How well do you know car dashboard warning lights?

Quiz: How well do you know your car's dashboard warning lights?

Take the quiz and see whether you can identify our dozen dashboard warning lights…

We learn how to drive, repeat the mantra ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ and remember what road signs mean. But how many drivers know their car’s dashboard warning lights? 

When Green Flag surveyed more than 2000 drivers, earlier this month, only 27 per cent said they could immediately identify a warning light. Another 35 per cent checked their car’s handbook, and 21 per cent took their car to a garage for help in understanding what the problem was. Some even admitted to phoning a friend, an approach that could easily result in a dodgy diagnosis.

It’s important to heed any warning flagging up by dashboard warning lights. Typically, they give drivers the opportunity to have a mechanical or electrical problem investigated and repaired by a garage, before it becomes serious enough to cause lasting damage to a car.

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Dashboard warning lights and what they mean

Lots of brightly coloured lights but what are they telling you?

Lots of brightly coloured lights but what are they telling you?

It may be the one thing that every driver dreads, but an illuminated warning light on your vehicle’s instrument panel could save you and your car from expensive damage. This is what the symbols mean and what to do if they appear.

Chris Rutt, service delivery manager for Volkswagen UK says it’s vital drivers pay attention to their car’s warning lights. “They are designed to alert drivers to a fault with their car or van and aren’t as complicated as some drivers may think. A red light indicates the driver should stop the vehicle as soon as is safely possible to investigate further; an amber light is an advisory signal. So while there is no need to stop immediately, the reason for the light should be investigated as soon as is practically possible by a servicing agent.”

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The Scenic Route: Technician’s top tips for trouble-free touring

The Jump star Joe Swash spent two days taking the Scenic Route into the Scottish Highlands. Along the way, he swam in a freezing lake, took a heart-pumping ride along a zip wire and enjoyed an action-packed afternoon learning how to drive his Land Rover off-road. But he also had to cope with a couple of mechanical breakdowns. Our Scenic Route technician’s top tips are ways that every driver can prevent their car suffering a similar fate, as explained by expert Jamie Girvan.

Scenic Route technician’s tips: Don’t take your tyres for granted

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