Maintaining your car

Expert advice: winter car faults and simple fixes to resolve them

winter car faults

When the weather turns cold you really don’t want this to be you (Picture iStock/Sestovic)

Here in the UK, we might have had an exceptionally warm summer followed by so far, a mild autumn. But winter car faults are just around the corner, waiting to plague our motors and interfere with our best-laid plans.

Every year at Green Flag we see an increase in call outs as the weather gets colder. And it’s always the usual suspects. But if you act now, you can ensure you and your car are prepared for winter’s worst. Here are four popular faults and solutions for them.

Winter car faults 1: Non-start, fuel flooded

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Expert advice: how to know when your brake pads need replacing

Brake pads

Emergency stops can be frightening enough without having dodgy brakes too (Picture iStock/RapidEye)

Braking and brake pads are vitally important when it comes to road safety. We’re frequently so consumed with how fast cars can go or the economy they return that we forget how important stopping is. And anyone who’s had any kind of brake failure will testify to what a terrifying experience it can be.

But some recent research revealed that the confusing way garages measure brake pads isn’t helping. It could mean drivers are leaving it too long to have their pads changed. Or they might even be changing them too soon, without getting the full amount of wear out of them.

How is brake pad wear measured?

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Part-worn tyres: nine in 10 chance of buying a dodgy one

Part-worn tyres

Tyres might be on the scrap heap but they can still be sold legally in the UK (Picture iStock/Birdofprey)

If your car needs new tyres you might be shocked at how much replacement rubber can cost. But while often cheaper than new, buying second-hand tyres can have serious safety implications. New research has found that nine out of 10 retailers selling used or part-worn tyres are trading in illegal rubber.

Charity TyreSafe and Trading Standards have spent the past five years investigating part-worn tyres on sale in the UK. They discovered that just 13 of the 152 dealers they visited were selling roadworthy tyres. TyreSafe chairman Stuart Jackson said: “As far as we’re aware there is no other retail sector with such an atrocious track record.”

What exactly are part-worn tyres?

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Stop unnecessary work on your car. Find out what jobs really need doing

Unnecessary work

If you’re not sure about repairs, ask the technician to point them out to you. (Picture iStock/Sturti)

Has a garage recently suggested you need new brake fluid, an anti-freeze drain and refill or a fuel and oil flush? If so, how do you know whether it had to be done or was unnecessary work? Research by Green Flag has revealed that UK drivers spend £3.4billion every year on work by garages to their cars that doesn’t need doing. That’s around £90 per car per annum.

The problem stems from drivers not having the knowledge about their cars to question whether work recommended by garages is really required. More than a third of drivers (39 per cent) say they have no idea what’s checked when their car has its annual MOT roadworthiness check. But this is when garages often say jobs need doing.

Read on to discover which 10 jobs Green Flag believes should ring alarm bells if they’re suggested by a garage. And find handy hints on how to check whether the work really should be done.

“Your brake fluid needs changing”

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Expert advice: how to replace a car’s battery

battery

Replacing a battery used to be so simple (Picture iStock/Igor-Kardasov)

We usually think that cold weather takes its toll on car batteries and causes them to fail. But it’s frequently hot weather that does the damage. Heat dries batteries out, causing them to lose their charge more quickly.

Then when temperatures fall, oil thickens up, it takes more current to turn an engine over to start it, the battery struggles to perform as it should and eventually fails.

One thing’s for sure: no one wants to be stranded with a dud battery. Bearing that in mind, it’s a good idea to think about replacing your car’s battery when the weather starts to cool. Here are some tips on doing that.

What kind of battery does your car need?

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Know your car jargon, learn to speak mechanic and don’t get ripped off

car jargon

They might both be talking English but does what he’s saying make sense? (Picture: iStock/photo_concepts)

Every industry has its own language; jargon that only the people working in the business understand. The car industry is no different. We’ve all had a mechanic take one look at our car, shake their head, suck air through their teeth and mutter something using words that might as well be in another language.

The result is people don’t trust garages. One study found that nearly half of drivers think technicians hiding behind confusing car jargon have ripped them off. According to property company Pentific, mechanics rank alongside politicians, car sales execs, journalists, estate agents and builders for being untrustworthy. But you need never be baffled again. Here we explain six pieces of commonly-used car jargon.

Big end

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Dangerous bacteria in air-con: drivers urged to get theirs cleaned

Dangerous bacteria

All sorts of nasties can come out of your car’s air-con (Picture iStock/Humonia)

Do you know what’s living in your car’s air-con? You may never have considered it but a car’s air-conditioning system is a haven for bacteria. Scientists have even discovered that some of the bugs can be dangerous, leading to meningitis, urinary tract infections and sceptic arthritis.

Our expert has already written this useful guide on why you can’t expect air-conditioning to work effectively if it’s not regularly serviced. But new research has found out exactly what inhabits our air-con. In America, where air-con has been common in more vehicles for longer, they even have a name for the effect that exposure to these bacteria can have: Sick Car Syndrome.

What is the most common bug in our air-con?

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Windscreen repair or replacement – all you need to know

Windscreen repairs

This is a familiar sight to many of us. What we do next depends on how big it is (Picture iStock/Flubydust)

Having a windscreen repair or replacement will factor in most our motoring lives at some point. Road debris flung up by vehicles in front or falling from bridges above can result in windscreen damage. Whether it’s a miniscule chip or a more substantial crack, the question for most of us is does our screen need repairing or replacing?

How you react to a damaged windscreen depends on the type of damage the screen has sustained. Some can be repaired but in other cases the screen must most definitely be replaced. Read on to find out what you might need.

To repair or replace?

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Most drivers don’t know about 2018 MOT changes, Green Flag finds

MOT changes

The MOT test changes this weekend but you can be forgiven if you didn’t know. New research conducted by Green Flag reveals that six out of 10 drivers (58 per cent) haven’t realised the MOT changes are happening.

More worryingly perhaps, nine out of 10 drivers (89 per cent) are unaware that driving a car with an invalid MOT might result in a £2500 fine. And a quarter (25 per cent) don’t realise that driving a faulty vehicle results in a penalty. Read on to find out more about the changes and how drivers might be able to save themselves money.

What are the MOT changes?

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Expert advice: Finding and fixing a broken fuse in your car

Broken fuse

Being able to fix a broken fuse in a car is one of the handiest pieces of knowledge any car driver can deploy. At some point in your motoring life a fuse in your car will blow. And very often you don’t need to pay an expensive motor mechanic to fix it.

You should be able to tell instantly if you’ve got a blown fuse because a function that you take for granted will stop working. It might be the 12-volt power socket, the windscreen wipers or the indicators. If it is the fuse that’s causing the problem, you may be able to fix it in a couple of minutes with a part that costs pennies rather than paying a mechanic. Here’s how.

Find the fuse box

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