Car ownership

Pothole warning system: new virtual map to help drivers avoid car damage

Pothole warning system

Imagine if your car could warn you of a pothole like this. You could then avoid it

Think about how useful a pothole warning system in your car might be. We’ve all felt that sickening thump on hitting a pothole. The first thought is frequently whether the wheel is still attached to the car, let alone  how damaged. And with cold weather giving way to warmer temperatures, now is the time potholes begin to appear on winter-ravaged roads. But a new virtual map could make hitting potholes a thing of the past.

The idea is that the pothole warning system would rely on information supplied by drivers, crowd sourcing as it’s called. It’s similar in principle to the live traffic conditions displayed by many sat nav systems. This data would be displayed in real time on our in-car screens, giving users a virtual map of where the worst potholes are and warning when there is a particularly nasty hole in the road ahead.

The idea is from car maker Ford and it would work in conjunction with the company’s existing technology. On some Ford Mondeo, Galaxy and S-MAX models, a system known as Pothole Mitigation employs sensors to detect when the wheel has dropped into a pothole. The car’s on-board computer then adjusts the suspension in milliseconds to try to reduce the amount of damage caused.

How the pothole warning system works

The virtual pothole system would use cameras and more sensors to map where the potholes are. Each car would have its own modem which would enable pothole details to be uploaded to an online database. All cars using the system would then display that information.

Uwe Hoffmann, a research engineer for Ford, said: “A virtual pothole map could highlight a new pothole the minute it appears and almost immediately warn other drivers that there is a hazard ahead. Our cars already feature sensors that detect potholes and now we are looking at taking this to the next level.”

In the UK, a pothole damage claim is received by local authorities every 17 minutes. The average claim comes to £432. According to pressure group the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), it would cost £11.8bn to bring every road in the UK up to scratch. By 2019, that figure will have risen to £14bn, which the Local Government Association (LGA) claims is more than three times the entire roads and transport budget of local authorities in Britain.

£13.5m in driver compensation

The AIA says councils spent £118.4m filling around two million potholes in 2015. It also claims £13.5m was spent in compensation to drivers whose cars were damaged by potholes. The time it would take to repair all the country’s potholes has escalated from 10.9 years in 2006 to 14 years in 2016. Currently the average local authority in the UK would have to spend £69m to make its roads good, the LGA claims.

Although Britain is frequently called the pothole capital of Europe, the rest of the EU is almost as bad. According to Ford’s data, in 2011 there were 20 million potholes reported in Europe. However, only half of them were filled, at a cost of more than £1 billion. Ford is hoping its pothole warning system could prevent drivers damaging their cars. That will cut the number of claims to local authorities and mean drivers spend less time getting their cars fixed.

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How to shop around for cheap car servicing

Shop around

As with insurance, if you shop around for where you have your car serviced you’ll get the best price. It’s the simple law of supply and demand that not all businesses will charge the same for a job. A garage that is snowed under with work is likely to quote more than one where tumbleweed is blowing through the service bay. Equally, the spotless franchised dealership can cost more than twice the labour rate of the local garage that specialises in your car. The question is: how do you find the best garage for your requirements? Follow our guide to find out.

Main dealer or independent?

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Rotating tyres: is it a good idea and how do you go about doing it

Rotating tyres

Rotating tyres can be time consuming and some experts advise against it

Rotating tyres to get the maximum wear from them has been something canny drivers have been doing for years. But there is now some confusion over whether switching your car’s tyres around is the way to go or not.

Look up rotating tyres via the websites of the major tyre makers and they will give you information on how to do it. So will suppliers such as Blackcircles.com. However, Kwik Fit says it does not recommend tyre rotation. Those that do favour switching suggest it should be done every 6000 miles. Direct Line Group’s head of automotive technology, Nick Reid explained: “This is one of those jobs that really is down to personal preference.”

Here we look at why rotating tyres may not be such a good idea, how it can eke more life out of your rubber, which tyres you move where and how you go about it.

Rotating tyres is a bad idea

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How to prevent whiplash: a guide to adjusting car seat head restraints

How to prevent whiplash: a guide to adjusting car seat head restraints

Most drivers are well aware of the word ‘whiplash’ even if they’ve never experienced the physical discomfort it can bring. That’s because Britain has been called the ‘whiplash capital of Europe’, with 80 per cent of personal injury claims following a car crash involving whiplash.

The government says one whiplash claim is paid out every 60 seconds, and has launched a consultation as it attempts to tackle the problem. Things have got so bad, jokes have been made about the Britain’s drivers having the weakest necks in the world. But it’s no laughing matter.

The majority of whiplash claims are believed to be bogus claims, estimated to add an extra £1bn to UK drivers’ insurance bills – or £93 for every premium.

And according to Matthew Avery, an expert in car safety, only 10 per cent of claims are from people who have suffered serious injury with long-term side effects.

So how can drivers ensure they aren’t one of the few who suffer serious injury from whiplash?

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Speeding drivers: new law will mean bigger fines for drivers who earn more

Speeding drivers

The more you earn, the more money you’ll hand over if you get caught speeding

Speeding drivers will soon face much higher fines and stricter penalties. On April 24 2017, new guidelines set by the Sentencing Council will come into effect in the UK. Those caught driving at more than 101mph in a 70mph speed limit could be disqualified for up to 56 days and get a fine of between 125 and 175 per cent of their relevant weekly income.

Although the motorway fines have taken the headlines, drivers are most likely to be affected by the new fines and penalties on slower roads. If you are caught at between 31 and 40mph in a 30mph zone you will get three penalty points and a fine of between 25 and 75 per cent of your weekly income. Currently many drivers get away without points and a fine by paying for a speed awareness course.

How big are the changes for speeding drivers?

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VIN plates: what they mean, why they’re vital for all car owners

VIN

Rather like humans have finger prints, cars have VIN plates. These Vehicle Identification Numbers should be unique to every car. The first thing to know about this number is that it’s actually not a number at all. It’s a seemingly random collection of digits and capital letters. But as we’ll see, these characters aren’t random at all. And the VIN is actually the most important means we have of registering the true identity of a car. Here’s everything you need to know about your car’s finger print.

Where do you find the VIN plate?

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AdBlue: What it is, how it works and why it’s vital for some diesels

AdBlue

Run out of AdBlue and you might struggle to get going again

AdBlue is becoming an important part of our motoring life. And for drivers of diesel cars it could make the difference between miles of trouble-free, low pollution motoring and their car not working at all.

There are currently estimated to be more than 200,000 vehicles using AdBlue in Europe. This is because it’s been popular in the haulage industry for the past 20 years as a means of reducing poisonous exhaust emissions.

Although AdBlue is neither a fuel nor a fuel additive, cars that use it can stop running if they don’t have a sufficient amount in a special on-board tank. That’s because the AdBlue is designed to be injected into the exhaust fumes and remove the harmful nitrogen oxide gases. The trouble is, some drivers aren’t sure what AdBlue is and ignore the car’s reminders to fill it up. Sometimes when the AdBlue tank runs dry the car won’t start and they then have to call us out to get going again. Here’s all you need to know about AdBlue.

How do you know if your car uses AdBlue?

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How to check how many miles you drive each year and avoid invalidating your insurance

How to check how many miles you drive each year - and avoid invalidating your car insurance

If you’re unsure how many miles you drive each year, you’re not alone. More than a quarter of drivers could be guessing how far they drive and it may cost them dear, according to a survey.

The findings mean millions of drivers could be paying too much for their car insurance or, more worryingly, may be at risk of invalidating their policy.

The survey of 2,000 drivers highlighted how 27 per cent of Britain’s motorists ‘guesstimate’ how far they drive each year. It was conducted by uSwitch.

Why is it important to submit an accurate annual mileage to insurers?

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Diesel car ban: Will it really happen and what does it mean for drivers?

Diesel car ban

About half these cars will be diesel. Could they really be banned?

Will there really be a diesel car ban? It’s been a hot topic among drivers for the past couple of years and as time passes it seems to get ever hotter. At the end of 2016 it was revealed that by 2025 diesel cars would be forbidden from entering Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City. There are rumours that London could follow suit and the capital’s Westminster Council has already revealed it will charge diesel drivers extra to park.

Later this year, there will be a change to the congestion charge. Owners of older, more polluting vehicles will pay a supplement of £10 to enter to congestion charge zone. Five other UK cities have been told they can create clean air zones. These would also permit local authorities to charge diesel drivers for coming into city centres. So what do these proposals mean for owners of diesel cars and drivers considering buying them?

Why are diesel cars being punished?

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Big fuel savings for better drivers. We show you how to reap them

Fuel savings

Drivers who’re more aggressive at the wheel could use significantly more fuel

Drivers with a light foot can save themselves £562 a year according to a new report. By anticipating the road ahead better, drivers can save money at the pumps and almost halve the amount they have to fill up every year.

Insurer Direct Line compiled the findings using information from drivers with telematics ‘black boxes’ fitted to their cars. It analysed 319,000 journeys over a two-month period and concluded calm, less aggressive drivers can make big fuel savings of nearly £11 a week.

What did the report find out?

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