Maintaining your car

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.

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

DIY car cleaning that looks like it’s been done by a professional

DIY car cleaning

Cleaning your car to a professional standard is easy when you know how

The changing British seasons, with their equally changeable weather, also mark a time when drivers all over Britain go in for some DIY car cleaning.

But washing a car is not as straightforward as most of us like to imagine. At least, that’s the view of expert car cleaner, Sean Longworth-Smith of Ultimate Finish. The car care and detailing company, based at Brands Hatch in Kent, has been helping drivers primp and preen their cars for 15 years. And Sean knows what it takes to give any car the professional finish.

“You have to establish a routine – cycles – and stick to it each time you clean the car. That way you won’t miss anything and you’ll get the best finish for the bodywork,” says Sean. Here’s an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to cleaning a car.

Continue reading

Can you change a wheel? Majority of British drivers say they can’t

55% of British drivers say they can't change a spare wheel

55% of British drivers say they can’t change a wheel

Complaining about the state of Britain’s roads is one of the most familiar grumbles amongst motorists. Whether it’s collapsing verges that can drag cars into hedgerows, potholes that will swallow a wheel whole or drains that seem to do a better job of acting like a plug than, well, a drain, there’s no shortage of hazards that can cause damage to cars.

So the results of a survey of 1000 British drivers paint an alarming picture. Despite our cars most vulnerable parts coming under daily assault, the majority of drivers admit they don’t know how to change a wheel.

Continue reading

Parking perfection: how to fit parking sensors to a car

Guide to fitting parking sensors to cars and the best systems available

According to a survey, the majority of British drivers are hopeless at parking and admit that poor parking etiquette is their worst driving habit.

But in defence of drivers, is it any wonder most of us find parking brings us out in a cold sweat? Cars have grown and parking bays haven’t. The average car is now said to be two inches wider than the minimum 5ft 11ins gap they have to squeeze into.

So despite parking systems becoming increasingly common, it’s little wonder that thousands of motorists regret not choosing a used car fitted with parking sensors, or wish they’d spent that little bit extra on a new motor and added the sensors as an option.

However, help is at hand. Parisian-style bump-and-grind parking can be banished by fitting aftermarket parking sensors to a car. Here’s how to attain parking perfection.

Continue reading