Car ownership

Proposed MOT changes: drivers reject idea to change first test

MOT changes

The annual MOT enables technicians to perform vital road safety checks

Drivers have come out against a government proposal for MOT changes. Ministers are considering switching a car’s first MOT from three-years old to four. But experts say this could mean up to 500,000 more dangerous cars on the road. And in a survey for industry body the Society of Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), three quarters of car owners (76 per cent) snubbed the idea of delaying a car’s first MOT.

Why is government proposing MOT changes?

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Expert advice: car window tinting. All you need to know

Car window tinting

He might think he looks cool but in the UK, heavily tinted front windows could get you in trouble with the police and your insurer

Tinted windows or privacy glass are becoming an increasingly popular option for new car buyers. But if you decide to have the windows of your existing car tinted, you have to be really careful. The law is strict about car window tinting. And rightly so because excessively shaded glass can reduce a driver’s ability to see in the dark. It can also prevent drivers confirming through eye contact that they’ve seen other road users and pedestrians.

Although the tint of car windows isn’t part of the MOT test, you could still end up breaking the law and invalidating your insurance. Here’s what you need to be aware of.

Which windows does it apply to?

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Will a scrappage scheme be introduced for diesel car drivers?

Will a scrappage scheme be introduced for diesel car drivers?

As London brings forward the introduction date of its new Ultra Low Emission Zone and the government prepares to unveil “toxin taxes” on diesel cars driving into cities across England, rumours persist of a diesel scrappage scheme for motorists.

Up to 35 cities across England could introduce charges aimed at reducing pollution from diesel-powered vehicles, following the lead set by London. The move is an attempt to address chronic air pollution in parts of the UK, which is said to contribute to the deaths of up to 40,000 people a year.

Now politicians, industry representatives and driver groups are calling for a UK scrappage scheme, to help drivers replace the oldest and most polluting diesel cars.

The last scrappage scheme, in 2009, helped breathe life back into a flagging car industry, by giving £2000 in return for any car over 10-years old that was part-exchanged for a new vehicle. Could a similar incentive help replace the oldest diesel-powered cars?

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Voice control: what it is and why it’s the future in our cars

Voice control

Voice control is fitted to a lot of new cars but the system is still fairly primitive

Any driver with voice control in their car will know that it can be a bit hit and miss. Ask it to dial mum at home and you’re just as likely to end up with directions to Mundham in Norfolk. But that could all be about to change. Car companies believe voice control has enormous potential and are increasingly turning to tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon to help make it work in our cars. Here we look at voice control, what it is and how it’s going to change.

What is voice control?

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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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New speeding fines won’t work without more police say drivers

Speeding fines

More than four times as many speeders are caught on camera than by officers

A fifth of drivers (21 per cent) think new speeding fines will have little effect. Three quarters (73 per cent) of those believe the lack of police enforcement means drivers will ignore the new fines, even though they could be hit harder in the pocket if they are caught. And 74 per cent of drivers want the speed limit on UK motorways to be increased to 80mph.

Research into the attitudes of British drivers to speeding by Green Flag revealed that new speeding guidelines, which come into effect on April 24, 2017, are unlikely to yield the desired results. The government made the changes after some local authorities in the UK reported a significant increase in drivers caught speeding compared to the previous year.

New fines will see drivers hit with a penalty that could cost them up to 175 per cent of their relevant weekly wage. According to Government figures the average weekly wage is £507. It means a driver who exceeds 101mph could be banned for 56 days and receive a £887.25 fine. Green Flag’s Simon Henrick said: “Even though this new fine structure could leave some out of pocket, drivers seem to think speeding is such a serious offence that it deserves more rigorous enforcement by the authorities.”

More speeders caught by camera

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Mobile phone dangers: even hands-free can be hazardous for drivers

Mobile phone dangers

Using a hand-held phone at the wheel is dangerous but it’s not great using hands-free either

Mobile phone dangers at the wheel aren’t just limited to drivers who hold handsets. Research shows that even drivers who talk using hands-free kits can be less safe.

Highlighting how dangerous using a mobile phone while at the wheel can be, the penalty for using a handset was increased at the beginning of March 2017. The fine was doubled to £200 and six penalty points for drivers caught phoning or texting. It means anyone caught twice for the offence could lose their licence.

However, research shows that simply the act of talking on a phone while driving can lead to greater distraction and taking longer to react to hazards.

Why is talking on the phone while driving dangerous?

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You’re nicked! Things that can be illegal if you do them at the wheel

Illegal

She won’t be laughing quite as much if he’s fined for eating at the wheel

Most drivers are aware that it’s illegal to drink drive, break the speed limit and use a mobile phone at the wheel. But what about other things you can’t do while driving?

The action of reaching for something on the back seat when motoring along isn’t illegal. But it could risk a charge of careless driving if there’s an accident or a police officer deems it to be dangerous. And they might have a point. Research in the US has found that a driver trying to get an object from the back makes them eight times more likely to have a crash, the same as if they were using a mobile phone.

Here are six other things drivers do, sometimes innocently, that can land them in hot water with the law.

Dirty number plates

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Shifting up a gear: rising cost of motoring hits drivers

Shifting up a gear: rising cost of motoring hits drivers

If you’re convinced that the cost of driving has been creeping up, you’re not imagining it. At least that’s the conclusion of new research, which says that even owners of the cheapest cars have seen everyday motoring costs creep up by 10 per cent, over the past year.

Research carried out by CAP HPI, the vehicle valuation specialist, looked at the running costs associated with owning a car, rather than the purchase price of the car.

The price of scheduled servicing and general wear-and-tear maintenance were calculated, as were bills for fuel (petrol or diesel), road tax and the drop in value of the car – known as depreciation. Once combined, they were used to produce a pence-per-mile figure.

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Expert advice: what the digits and letters on your tyre sides mean

Tyre sides

If your car suffers one of these you’ll need the characters in the picture below

 

You may never have looked at the writing on your tyre sides. And if you have, there’s every chance you’ll think they’ve been written in another language. But strange as these codes may look, they’re important because if you have a puncture, or your tyres wear out, they give you all the information you need to choose a replacement.

If you look at the side of a tyre, you’ll see characters like 205/55 R16. This is the most basic information you’ll need to tell a retailer if you’re hunting around for new tyres. But other details are vital too. You must choose a load index that is right for your car. Use tyres with the wrong one and you could invalidate your insurance.

The speed rating is important as well. If you have the wrong speed rating and you suffer a tyre failure, you may not be covered by your insurer. You’ll be able to find the correct load index and speed rating for your car in its user manual. Here’s my guide to what the most important characters on your car’s tyres mean. Continue reading