Maintaining your car

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.

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How to zap tree sap: top tips for shifting marks on car paintwork

How to remove tree sap from a car's paintwork

If you’ve ever left your car parked under trees on a hot day you’ll know just how tough it can be to remove sap from its paintwork.

If left in place, sap can damage bodywork, eat through the wax and clear coat finish that sits on top of the coloured paint, and leave unsightly blemishes that look a little like a water stain.

Sap transports vital water, nutrients and hormones through a tree, and can leak from the tree naturally or be produced after pruning. Given that many trees are pruned in the autumn and winter, it means that sap isn’t only abundant in hot weather, when pressure builds in trees.

So drivers who find the sticky goo on their car should roll up their sleeves and use a spot of elbow grease to get rid of it. Here’s how.

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How to charge and care for a car battery

How to charge and care for a car battery

A car battery is a bit like the family pet dog. With the right care and attention, it will be faithful and obedient. But drivers who don’t give it a moment’s thought could find it lets them down and goes flat when they need it the most. And unfortunately, that’s most of us: a flat battery is one of the most common causes of car breakdowns for Green Flag members, and the most common in winter.

That goes some way to explaining why this Thursday (18 February) has been named National Battery Day. Knowing how to care for a car battery means knowing how to charge it from time to time. Researching the charging process will throw up all manner of well-meaning amateur and professional advice with conflicting guidance. So this guide is intended to help drivers understand how to better care for their car and charge its battery. Continue reading

Advice for new parents: check your car’s tyres before leaving hospital

Parents

Janine McCarthy’s car rolled six times after a tyre burst; she urges mums-to-be to check their car’s tyres (Picture © TyreSafe)

When it comes to offering advice to new or first-time parents, everyone has words of wisdom to speed mums and dads towards a blissful time with baby. From sleep routines to feeding, pushchairs to car child seats, the parenting tips come think and fast. But it’s rare that those who mean well would ever advise checking your car’s tyres.

However, that’s the message to proud parents across the nation, as a safety campaign gets under way, aimed at parents of the 695,000 babies born in England and Wales each year. It suggests that checking the condition of car tyres is just as critical as making sure babies are taken home from hospital in an appropriate child seat if travelling by car.

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Car servicing: save money and get the best service by shopping around

Car servicing: a Which? investigation found drivers can save over £200 in many towns and cities by shopping around 

Most drivers appreciate the need to have their car serviced on a regular basis. They will follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended service intervals, or with modern digital systems, keep an eye on a display in the dashboard which counts down the miles or days until a car next needs servicing. But when the time comes to have the job done, how many of us shop around to save money and get the best standard of work?

The answer is probably not many. It’s all too easy to go with convenience, such as a local garage. And with younger cars, drivers are often swayed by sticking with franchised dealers.

However, the hourly labour rates that greatly influence how expensive a car’s servicing bill vary greatly.

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To chill or not to chill: when to use a car’s air-conditioning in the winter

Driving in winter with air conditioning

Once upon a time, air-conditioning in cars was the ultimate luxury, available only on the most expensive motors. Now it’s a standard feature in the most affordable cars on our roads: the small Dacia Sandero, Skoda Citigo and Vauxhall Viva city cars offer it. But drivers often think that it will be more economical and save on fuel if they don’t use it over winter, when the air rarely needs cooling. So the question is this: to chill or not to chill in winter?

Should you switch a car’s air-conditioning off in winter?

Air-conditioning expert Sam Sihra from Alpinair, in West London, has been servicing cars’ air-conditioning systems since 1972. In his view, switching off a car’s air-conditioning system for weeks on end when the weather is cold, and perhaps only running it occasionally, is a mistake.

Why should drivers use air-con in winter weather?

Air-conditioning is the best way to dehumidify, or dry, damp air. With it running, the inside of a car’s windows won’t mist up; switch it off and it could seem as though you’re driving in dense fog. Equally, using the air-conditioning is a great way of de-misting the car if it steams up when you first get in it on a cold day. Continue reading

Vauxhall Zafira fire fears: advice and contact information for Zafira drivers

Vauxhall is offering a free safety inspection to owners of the Zafira B (above) built between 2005 and 2012

Vauxhall is offering a free safety inspection to owners of the Zafira B (above) built between 2005 and 2014 (Picture: © Vauxhall)

The Vauxhall Zafira is one of the most popular family cars of its type, bought by drivers who typically need to ferry a small army of children on the school run during the week and then zig and zag their way to dance classes and swimming lessons at the weekend. But owners of the MPV (multi-purpose vehicle or people carrier) have begun a high-profile campaign on social media after their cars burst into flames.

Approximately 130 people have reported overheating problems occurring behind the glovebox. A number of cars have suffered more seriously, bursting into flames as they were being driven, prompting the car maker to examine around 20 burned out Zafiras.

Vauxhall has now responded to the potentially deadly issue. The Luton-based car maker has issued advice to Zafira owners, and if you’re one of them, or have a friend or member of the family who drivers a Zafira, here’s what you need to know.

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Expert advice: Do-it-yourself checks to prepare your car to pass an MOT test

How to carry out DIY checks on your car before an MOT

Even without a ramp at home you can easily carry out DIY MOT checks

 

Carrying out DIY checks on your car before you take it for its actual MOT inspection is surprisingly easy to do and could save you money. Passing the test is a legal requirement for all cars more than three years old. But for many of us, the MOT is a bit like having the outside of your home painted; we know we need to do it but we don’t look forward to it because it can bring to light remedial work that will hit the wallet hard.

According to the Driver Vehicle Services Agency (DVSA), which oversees the annual MOT test, around 40 per cent of cars fail. Yet many flunk their MOT for reasons that even a novice mechanic could spot. Follow my tips for your own basic DIY MOT test, and you could stop your car failing on the simplest points.
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Convertible roof repair: cleaning, caring for or replacing you car’s hood

Convertible roof repair
With the chimes of Hear Comes The Summer now a distant memory, drivers of soft-top cars should think about convertible roof repair before the winter weather sweeps in.

The life of a fabric or vinyl hood for a convertible, cabriolet or roadster can be greatly extended by cleaning it correctly and then reapplying a waterproofing agent. At the same time, any nicks and tears can be patched up, much like a child’s pair of jeans, and electrical or mechanical problems can be fixed without resorting to a complete replacement of the hood.

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Should I fill my car with premium fuel?

Should you fill your car with premium fuel?

It’s a familiar scenario. You drive onto a petrol station forecourt and pull up alongside the pumps. Staring back at you is a range of multi-coloured nozzles labelled with an equally confusing array of names: Fuel Save, V-Power Nitro+, Synergy, Synergy Supreme+, Regular Fuels, Ultimate, Momentum. The list goes on, with all retailers offering standard and premium fuels. The question is: should drivers fill their car with premium fuel?

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