When it comes to setting off for a holiday on the continent, drivers and families have a packing list as long as beach towel. But it’s easy to forget one or more vital elements. European insurance, breakdown cover, extra kit to comply with foreign laws and your driving licence are all indispensable. And unlike a missing tube of sun cream, these aren’t easy to organise abroad and missing them can take the joy out of a much-needed break.
That’s why it’s important that drivers write out a list of everything they and their car need for the trip. That way, there should be no danger of conking out on the hard shoulder only to find that your car insurance doesn’t include breakdown cover abroad. Or that the tool to release wheel nuts is at home in the garage.
Millions of Brits prefer to drive rather than fly, given the affordability, practicality and flexibility it gives them. Here are the things you’ll need for a road trip abroad.
For most of us, whether we’re talking about premium or budget tyres, a tyre is simply, well, a tyre. They’re round, black, and have a patterned tread on them. But that’s not the full story. For a start, tyres are the only direct connection your car has with the road. That little area at the bottom of the tyre – called the contact patch – dictates how your car goes round corners, how quickly it’ll stop on a wet road and even how much fuel it uses.
A car engineer once told me that the tyre can contribute as much as 50 per cent towards the way a car behaves when you drive it. So tyres are vitally important, but it can be difficult to tell the difference between the various kinds. After all, the most expensive tyres in the world can look very similar to the cheapest, so how do you know which to buy?
It makes for shocking viewing: an HGV swipes a tiny Nissan Micra in its blind spot then pushes it along the road. In another film, an articulated truck crunches onto a Toyota Yaris and drags it round the corner. They’re graphic proof that car drivers need to be aware that sitting in the blind spot of a large lorry can be very dangerous.
Put yourself in the cab of an HGV for a moment. Lumbering, unwieldy, and as athletic as a pile of logs, vision towards the rear is restricted and the thing you’re driving can weigh as much as 40 tonnes and might be nearly 19m long. In addition, it folds right behind your head. And anyone who’s ever towed anything in a car will know the problems that can present. So how can we as car drivers do our bit to help? We asked Laurie Moore from HGV driver instruction company Tockwith Training.
More than four out of five drivers want safety equipment such as automatic braking to be standard on new cars. And safety campaigners are urging drivers to buy only cars with it fitted as standard. They hope this will pressure car makers into fitting the tech more widely.
Currently, only one of Britain’s top 10 best-selling cars – the Mercedes-Benz C-Class – comes with automatic braking as part of its normal equipment. But research has found that when it’s an optional extra, car buyers ignore it. Instead they favour more tangible everyday kit such as sunroofs or upgraded sound systems. And according to studies, a fifth of car buyers refuse to pay extra for safety equipment.
Despite this, researchers for Stop the Crash found that 83 per cent of drivers actually want safety kit such as automatic braking to be standard. Chairman of Stop the Crash David Ward said: “This research shows how important safety is to the consumer. But it highlights how this often fails to translate into safety options being purchased in the showroom. Manufacturers must offer safety systems as standard with proven ability to save lives.”
Whether driving at night or motoring in the rain, fog or snow, one of a car’s most important safety features is its lights. The headlights in particular are a vital component for keeping drivers secure on the road. They dictate the view of the road ahead and surrounding environment, and help other road users see the approaching vehicle.
But as cars age, so do their bulbs. And nobody can have failed to notice that lighting technology has raced on over the past decade. The latest cars have ultra-bright LED lights. These can often make traditional halogen bulbs seem no more effective than a candle in a lantern.
If you’ve found yourself cursing your car’s lighting performance, or felt a pang of envy as you’ve shielded your eyes from other cars’ dazzling headlights, there is, ahem, light at the end of the tunnel.
Upgrading a car’s headlights is one of the simplest maintenance jobs drivers can tackle. It’s also highly affordable. And when you consider the safety benefits of changing a car’s bulbs for brighter items, it’s little wonder that sales of aftermarket bulbs are booming. Here’s how to do it.
Is road rage on the rise in Britain? Increasing numbers of incidents in the headlines suggest it might be. Often, these can be attributed to the boom in sales of dashboard and helmet cameras as video clips of confrontations are shared across social media and news outlets. But surveys have suggested that despite the UK’s roads getting safer in terms of accident rates, more people claim to have been a victim of road rage.
For the vast majority of drivers it can be a harrowing experience. Nerves are left frayed and a good day can be spoiled because another driver or road user’s temper has got the better of them.
The good news is, there are steps everyone can take to guard against road rage from others. Read on to help yourself stay safe and calm behind the wheel.
Buy a cloned car in good faith and it is likely to be impounded by the police, and you’ll have nothing to show for your money
Most people will be familiar with identity theft. Criminals gain valuable sensitive information about an individual in order to impersonate them and take out loans or credit in their name. But how many drivers have heard of cloned cars? And even if the expression is familiar, how do you tell a fake, cloned car from a genuine model?
A cloned car is a model that has been stolen then given a new identity. This is generally by replacing its number plates with those from a car that’s the same make, model, colour and even age. It means that the car won’t register as dodgy in basic ID checks such as those from police Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras.
It means that when drivers fail to conduct full and thorough checks of a used car, they can end up handing over a small fortune for a car that will be taken off their hands by the police, leaving them with no car and no money. Meanwhile, the crooks vanish into thin air.
One victim, a retired police officer, lost £17,000 buying a Mercedes. Another paid more than £18,000 for a BMW that turned out to be stolen and was soon returned to its rightful owner by police, leaving him penniless.
These are the steps every used car buyer should take to protect themselves from buying a cloned car.
Hard at work under the bonnet. Trouble is, you asked him to fix the suspension. Find out how to deal with a garage that doesn’t do what you asked
Thanks to a few dodgy traders, it’s reasonable to say garages don’t have the best reputation in the eyes of most car owners. The vast majority of mechanics are fair and honest. But over time, a small proportion have tarnished the industry’s image.
There are many ways you can end up out of pocket after dealing with a garage. They might damage your car while it’s in their care. They may charge you for work that you haven’t asked for. Or they might return your car with the problem fixed and another one introduced.
If you’re unlucky enough to encounter a problem with a garage, there are some steps you can take to ensure you don’t end up out of pocket. With the help of Citizens Advice we look at problems and solutions.
“Take the next left. Or is that right?” Sat navs aren’t always infallible
Sat navs are one of the wonders of modern motoring ‑ until they direct you to somewhere you don’t want to be. There are numerous stories of satellite navigation systems going bad. Drivers have been directed onto the middle of ski slopes, articulated lorries pointed down totally unsuitable country lanes and coach parties sent on 750-mile detours.
Research by uSwitch suggests that around four in five of us rely on navigation systems over maps. And more than half (56 per cent) use the navigation unit as a handy reminder of the speed limit.
However, systems aren’t 100 per cent reliable. Research carried out by uSwitch found that around one in five drivers (17 per cent) had been given the wrong speed limit by their navigation system. So why are we being misled by our sat navs? And what can we do about it?
How did you buy your car? If you entered into a finance agreement to help afford the model of your dreams, experts are warning that you could be a victim of the nation’s next potential mis-selling scandal.
Failing to explain the terms and conditions of complicated loan products and the true cost of borrowing could mean thousands of British drivers have been mis-sold finance products. It’s similar to the way payment protection insurance (PPI) was scandalously mis-sold.
Those are the warnings from analysts who allege thousands of drivers on PCP (personal contract purchase) deals may have been sold the loans without having the terms properly explained to them. The fear is they may be unable to keep up payments in an economic slump.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is now investigating the industry. It fears less well-off customers may be paying too much for credit. But its findings won’t be reported until next year. In the meantime, what measures can drivers take to see if they might be affected? Continue reading →