Motoring

Expert advice: what the ECU does and why it’s so vital for our car

ecu
All this is computer controlled. The ECU is normally positioned at the top and back of the engine bay (Picture iStock/jaym-z)

Modern cars are more like computers on wheels and central to that is the ECU. If the engine is the heart of the car, the Electronic Control Unit or ECU is its brain. Your car may develop a fault that you think is mechanical but actually the real culprit could be the electronics, caused by a malfunctioning ECU or one of its sensors.

The ECU is now such a crucial and integral part of our cars that I think it’s worth understanding exactly what it does.

What’s in a name?

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Car sickness and how to cope with it on long journeys

car sickness
Car sickness can turn a dream holiday into a nightmare (Picture iStock/imgorthand)

It’s coming up for holiday time but if there’s one thing that can spoil a long journey for all concerned, it’s car sickness. No one’s quite sure why some people feel it and others don’t. But that won’t be much consolation to whoever the victim is; whoever has to keep pulling over for the sufferer to redecorate the roadside; or other passengers who have their holiday delayed. Here we look at what car sickness is and what you can do about it.

What is car sickness

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Quiz: How much do you know about driving abroad

quiz driving abroad
A driving holiday abroad can be great. But there are some strange rules and regulations (Picture iStock/georgeclerk)

Over the summer holidays, thousands of drivers will be either taking their motors abroad or driving a hire car while on holiday. But how well do you know the rules of the road when it comes to driving in Europe? Our cunning quiz poses 10 travel teasers that will help you warm up to driving abroad. And if you get any wrong, try again. Knowing the right answer might save you a few quid!

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Car tyre fragments could damage our health, experts say

tyre particles
Tyres give off particles of different sizes. Even the smoke contains tiny fragments of plastic (Picture iStock/Toa55)

We’re frequently told that cars are bad for the planet. That’s why we’re being pushed towards driving electric cars. But exhaust emissions aren’t the only nasties to come from our cars. Every time we drive, tiny bits of rubber fly off our tyres and into the atmosphere. In some cases, these particles are so small they’re considered to be microplastics. Read on to see if they really pose a threat.

How do tyres release fragments?

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Do you play fuel station roulette? All about when the low fuel light is on

Low fuel light
50 miles left, 5 miles or completely empty? Fuel gauges vary (Picture iStock/Akchamczuk)

We’ve all driven around with the low fuel light on. Some people even play fuel station roulette on a regular basis, driving as far as they dare with the orange light on and their car running on the dregs of its fuel. But do you really know how many miles of range your car has when the low fuel light comes on?

What is your car’s fuel light range?

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Driving on Britain’s motorways in 2019: how to stay safe

motorways
The M6 is one of the first motorways to have a ‘live’ hard shoulder with moving traffic (Picture iStock/Vision4ry-L4ngu4ge)

Our 2000 miles of motorway are changing to accommodate the predicted 60 per cent increase in traffic expected by 2040. And that’s posing drivers with a different challenge when it comes to staying safe.

‘Smart’ motorways don’t have a traditional hard shoulder. In 2017, official figures show there were 16 crashes involving stationary vehicles on our 400 miles of smart motorway. There were 29 crashes on the hard shoulder across the rest of England’s motorways.

The stats also show that there’s been an increase in crashes on unlit sections of motorway. Here we look at what drivers should do for improved road safety.

What is a smart motorway?

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Law changes wanted to crack down on drivers not wearing seat belts

Around a quarter of people killed in car crashes aren’t wearing seatbelts (Picture iStock/Skynesher)

Chances are, every time you get into a car you put your seat belt on. More than nine out of 10 of us do. But the small number of drivers who incredibly don’t buckle up in case they crease their clothes are dramatically increasing their chances of dying in a car crash.

The risks of not belting yourself into a car are revealed in a new report by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) in association with Direct Line. The panel of MPs wants the government to increase the penalties for not wearing safety belts.

The most high-profile victim not properly restrained in a car was Diana, Princess of Wales. But she died in 1997 and road safety campaigners believe drivers need to be reminded of the dangers of driving without seat belts.

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Punctured tyre? We look at the best solutions

Punctured tyre
This doesn’t have to be you if you’ve had a puncture (Picture iStock/Bobex-73)

Had a punctured tyre recently? If so, how did you deal with it? Chances are you didn’t change the wheel at the roadside. Not because you couldn’t be bothered but because spare wheels are considered old tech by most car makers now.

More than 90 per cent of new cars are sold without a spare wheel as standard. Drivers can often specify one as an optional extra (they cost between about £100 and £300 depending on the car), so it’s worth checking whether that box has been ticked by a previous owner if buying a used car.

If it hasn’t, what are your choices and are they any good? We investigate three puncture solutions.

What is a run-flat tyre?

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Expert advice: cheap car checks to do before the Easter getaway this year

cheap car checks
You really don’t want your bank holiday to end up like this (Picture iStock/Jimdoberman)

This Easter bank holiday weekend thousands of drivers will take to the road for breaks with or to see family. At Green Flag we’ll be super busy attending breakdowns, many of which drivers can avoid by performing some simple checks before setting off.

I’ve compiled this list of routine maintenance because according to research by Select Car Leasing, fewer than a third of car owners (31 per cent) check their tyre pressures at least once a month. And in the 18-24 age group, more than a quarter (27 per cent) don’t know how to check their tyres. Read these simple car checks for safer – and cheaper – motoring this Easter.

Check your tyres

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