Nick Reid

Expert advice: all about air-conditioning and how to keep cool this summer

air-conditioning

You’ll quickly know if the air-con is working or not in hot weather

Air-conditioning in our cars is something we’re beginning to take for granted. But for many drivers the hot summer sun is going to expose a problem they didn’t know they had: their air-con isn’t up to the job.

The reason for this, and something not every car owner realises, is that air-conditioning needs regular servicing. And it’s not usually attended to when a car has its regular service.

Why does air-conditioning need servicing?

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Expert advice: premium or budget tyres – which should you go for?

Budget tyres

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?

Start with the label

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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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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

Expert advice: Defrosting cars – all you need to know

Defrosting cars

Iced up car windows are all too familiar at this time of year

Defrosting cars is something we all have to do at some point in the year. Although it sounds simple and should be relatively straightforward there are still some dos and don’ts. Here are my top tips to ensure you defrost your car and get going, even in the toughest conditions.

How to defrost your car

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Expert advice: How to prevent car battery trouble

Car battery trouble

Battery trouble is the number one reason that Green Flag’s technicians are called out to broken down cars. So it’s true to say that the battery is the weakest link in a car. New research by parts company Mopar shows that every year, around a fifth of car batteries in the UK need to be replaced.

The reason people get caught out by battery trouble is that frequently there are few pointers that it’s about to strike. That’s why Green Flag’s new AlertMe technology is such a breakthrough. It can tell drivers when a car battery is on the verge of failing in sufficient time for them to do something about it. If you don’t have AlertMe, here’s why your battery is the power behind your engine.

How the battery starts your engine

Up to the 1960s, pretty much every car had a hole in its front bumper where you could slot in a starting or cranking handle. By putting your back into it and turning this you turned the engine over and hopefully it fired into life. That job is now done by a starter motor which is powered by the car’s battery. Although the starter motor doesn’t operate for long, it can sap a lot of power from the battery. Turning an engine over does require a bit of oomph. Anyone who’s done the job using a cranking handle will know. And the bigger the engine and the colder the weather, which makes the oil thicker – think running in mud!– the more effort that’s required to get an engine going. Once the battery has done that main job, you might forgive it for feeling a little jaded. Continue reading

Expert advice: In-car must haves

In-car must haves

A mobile phone and reflective jacket could save your life if you break down

Many of us treat our cars like a home away from home. Yet frequently we don’t have even the most basic equipment to cope with the unexpected. So I’ve created my own list of in-car must haves. These are the essentials that I carry in my car and I recommend that you do too. You can buy most of them for less than a fiver. It could end up being the best money you’ve ever spent.

First aid kit

I read somewhere that fewer than one in five of us know even basic first aid. I like to think that I do know the basics and I always carry a first aid kit just in case. For a start, you never know when something as simple as some bite or sting cream will come in handy. Equally, if you’ve got kids, plasters can be needed when you least expect it. And if you have bandages at the scene of an accident and you don’t know what to do with them, someone else might. Continue reading

Telematics: How new Alert Me is helping to make cars clever

Green Flag Alert Me

Breaking down could become a thing of the past with telematics

Technology that only a few years ago would have seemed like a dream is now coming to a car near you. The latest can predict if your car is going to break down. It’s estimated it could save British drivers 38,000 hours waiting for roadside rescue with their conked-out car.

Green Flag Alert Me plugs into the car’s On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) port. From there, the matchbox-sized device monitors the car’s battery and electronic brain. This enables it to record changes such as the battery failing to hold its charge before the driver would ordinarily notice them. If it does see changes, Alert Me reports it to Green Flag over the mobile phone network. Green Flag then notifies the driver via a smartphone app or text message. Continue reading

Expert advice: How to make your car last forever

Car last forever

If the last owner had looked after it a bit better, this might still be running…

It would be great if we could make a car last forever like Irvin Gordon did. The American driver and Guinness World Records holder, runs a Volvo P1800S coupe that has clocked up more than three million miles and counting over the last 50 years. That might be pushing it a bit for most of us. But there are plenty of things we can do to keep cars healthy for as long as possible.

Whether your car is brand new or more than 10 years old, there are simple steps to keep it running smoothly: from being gentle with an engine as it warms up, to treating it to a regular wash. These are my tricks of the trade when it comes to making a car go the distance.

Make a car last forever: regular maintenance

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Expert advice: choosing engine oil for your car

Choosing engine oil

Your car needs engine oil. You need to choose the right kind

Cars are now so sophisticated that choosing engine oil has never been so important. Some require different oils to others. Get this wrong over a period of time and you could cause irreparable damage to your motor. On top of that, the engine oil you choose can make a difference to fuel economy and how long your car can go between services without performance deteriorating or vital components getting damaged.

On the upside, advances in engine oil technology mean that modern engines will cover ever greater mileages in their life time. Here’s my guide to choosing engine oil that will achieve that. Continue reading