Expert Advice: all about turbo trouble in your car’s engine

turbo trouble
This is what a turbocharger looks like inside an engine (Picture iStock/Kool99)

Ever more cars use turbocharging on their engines. And that makes turbo trouble a problem some drivers might face for the first time. A turbo is a way of getting a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine to match the power of a larger capacity unit.

To work their magic, turbos have to work at high speeds, high temperatures and high pressures so they can be susceptible to failures. But if a turbo packs up, the engine won’t necessarily stop. Here I look at what a turbo is and the kinds of problems your turbo car might experience.

What is a turbo engine?

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Valentine’s Day 2020: great gifts to show your car you care

valentine's day
Do you love your car as much as he does? (Picture iStock/HbrH)

How about giving your loved one something really special this Valentine’s Day? No, we’re not talking about a gift for your partner… We mean a present your trusty (hopefully) companion who’s by your side through thick and thin, come rain or shine.

The best gift you can possibly give a car is to have it serviced. But assuming you’ve already done that and a service isn’t due for a while, we’ve got some more ideas. Read on for six great gifts for your car. In some cases, they’ll pay it back for the sterling work it does on your behalf. Oh and some of them might just come in handy for you too.

New mats

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Green Flag and smart motorways: how to stay safe

Green flag and smart motorways

The debate about smart motorways is currently raging, so I wanted to clarify Green Flag’s policy on them, and provide the latest information on what happens if you do break down on one.

A quick explanation of smart motorways

Smart motorways are split into three categories:

Dynamic hard shoulder motorways have a hard shoulder on the left-hand side; however, it can be opened for traffic to ease congestion.

Controlled motorways will have variable speed limits shown on screens above the lanes themselves.

All lane running motorways don’t have a hard shoulder, as every lane is used for traffic. You’ll find yellow-painted ‘emergency refuge areas’ every 600m to 1.5 miles. Any driver can use these areas if there is an emergency or they break down.

If you ever see a red X on the screens above the lane, that means the lane is closed. There may be a breakdown or people working on the roadside. Do not drive on this lane until told otherwise (you’ll usually see the red X replaced with a speed limit).

What to do if you break down, but can still drive your vehicle

If you know there’s a problem, but you’re still able to drive safely, try and leave the motorway and then contact us.

If this isn’t possible, then either use an emergency refuge area or move to the left-hand side of the motorway.

Use an emergency refuge area:

If you’re unable to leave the motorway, aim for one of the emergency refuge areas. As these areas can be up to 1.5 miles apart from each other, it’s worth noting when you last passed one so you can work out how close your next area is.

Every emergency refuge area has a phone that you can use to contact Highways England, or you can call them using your mobile on 0300 123 5000. This should always be your first step if you’re broken down in one of these areas.

When you’re in this area, make sure you leave room behind and in front of your vehicle to allow emergency vehicle access.

Move to the left-hand side of the motorway:

If an emergency refuge area is not available, but you can still drive, the next best thing is to move to the left-hand side of the motorway. Use a hard shoulder if it’s available, or get your vehicle as close to the left-hand verge, boundary or a slip-road as possible.

If it’s safe to, have everyone leave using the left-hand doors, and if there’s a safety barrier, get behind it. Move away from the vehicle and stay at a safe distance from the motorway.

Once safe, call Highways England on 0300 123 5000.

What to do if you break down on an active lane

What happens here depends on what lane you are in.

If you’re on the left-hand lane (lane one):

If you break down on the left-hand lane (also known as ‘lane one’), we will be able to come to your rescue. However, there are some steps you need to take to stay safe.

Where possible leave the vehicle by the left doors and follow the instructions above.

If this is not possible, and you can’t safely exit the vehicle, then do the following.

First, make sure your seatbelt is left on and that you’ve put on your hazards. Second, contact Highways England on 0300 123 5000. They will be able to close the lane (using the red X mentioned before) to help keep you safe.

We will come to your rescue, with the help of a fend-off vehicle. This vehicle will sit further back on the lane to help shield you from other vehicles. This fend-off vehicle will come at no extra charge to you.

We will never attempt fix a problem on the lane. We will tow your vehicle off the motorway to somewhere safe. This minimises the amount of disruption to other traffic and enables our technician to inspect your vehicle safely.

If you’re on lanes two, three or four:

Breakdowns on these lanes need to be dealt with by Highways England or the police, as all lanes will most likely have to be closed.

If you are unable to move to any of the areas previously mentioned, make sure you remain in your vehicle with your seatbelt and hazard lights on, then call the police immediately on 999.

If you’re unable to call, stay calm. Smart motorways have control centres that use cameras to monitor the motorways. They will see the problem and will work to get you help as soon as possible. However, always call the police immediately if you are able to.

The future of smart motorways

The smart motorway debate is an ongoing one.

At Green Flag, our priority is – and always will be – customer safety. That’s why we’re an active member of SURVIVE (Safer Use of Verges In Vehicular Emergencies). This is an industry body made up mainly of government agencies and breakdown companies.

I personally sit on this, and we regularly discuss all areas of the breakdown process from the industry’s perspective.

We’re currently debating how well Highways England, which manages the motorway network on behalf of the Government, can support us in trying to increase driver awareness about smart motorways.

In the meantime, I’d like to reassure all drivers that we’re doing all we can to help ensure smart motorways are as safe as possible for everyone.

Read more about smart motorways here.

Damon Jowett is Green Flag’s head of service delivery – rescue

Safety information from GOV.UK (c) Crown Copyright https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/

Drivers warned about using unofficial websites for motoring admin

unofficial websites
Unofficial websites can charge many times what the official sites cost for simple admin tasks (Picture iStock/Rowan Jordan)

Drivers who need to renew their driving licence, tax their car or even book driving tests might be paying way more than they have to because they’re using unofficial websites.

The government is warning drivers that these websites can charge many times the official cost. Even so, the companies running them are doing nothing wrong.

What are the unofficial websites?

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Tomorrow’s world today: new technology we’ll see on our motors in 2020

new technology
Cars monitoring their driver for tiredness is becoming increasingly common (Picture Mazda)

The car industry is developing new technology faster than ever before. Here we investigate some of the great kit that will be fitted to new cars and should be available to buyers during 2020. It’s making cars ever safer and more user friendly. Read on for eight innovations that are on their way.

Upgrade your car after you’ve bought it

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Cars are ‘better value for money’ than they were

value for money
New MINI has much more kit that its 60-year old predecessor (Picture MINI)

If you’ve decided 2020 is the year you’ll upgrade your motor, you could be in for a nice surprise. On paper, cars might look scarily expensive. But they’re actually more attainable for most of us than they’ve ever been. And new research suggests they offer better value for money too.

When we buy a modern car, there’s a very good chance it’ll be safer, comfier, more reliable, better equipped, more environmentally friendly and use less fuel than its equivalent from previous decades.

Car maker Mini has found proof of how the real cost of cars hasn’t really increased over the last 60 years, despite dramatic improvements in technology.

The cost of cars in 1959

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Expert advice: how to get more trouble-free miles from your motor

trouble-free motoring
We can’t guarantee this won’t happen to you but follow our tips and it’ll be a lot less likely (Picture: iStock/Ljubaphoto)

How many trouble-free miles has your car covered? And perhaps more importantly how many more is it good for? Records by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) show there are more high mileage Skoda Octavias in the UK than any other vehicle. That’s currently 1950 UK-registered Octavias with a valid MOT that have done more than quarter of a million miles.

But how do you get that many trouble-free miles out of your car? It certainly doesn’t happen by accident. Here are my tips.

Have your car serviced regularly

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10 top car parking tips for hassle-free shopping all year round

car parking tips
Parking can be the hardest bit about shopping. Follow our top tips (Picture iStock/BrettCharlton)

Whether it’s Christmas shopping or enjoying the Boxing Day sales, Green Flag research shows the largest proportion of people (46 per cent) will drive. And that means having to park in shopping centres or on busy high streets. Here are our 10 car parking tips for ensuring a hassle-free shopping experience, whatever the time of year.

Research before you go

One of the most wasteful bits of parking is using fuel doing laps of a town centre looking for somewhere to stop. Research where you’re going to park before you go and have a list of parking places in order of convenience.

Where you park

Try to choose a car park that’s been approved by Parkmark for its security. If you’re worried that a car park isn’t safe, try to park near to the lifts or the exit where there are likely to be more people around.

car parking tips
Ideally you don’t want to be doing laps of a town centre or car park trying to find a space to use (Picture iStock/Bim)

Check parking times

Some councils suspend charges over the Christmas period to encourage shoppers. Others don’t. You don’t want to be caught out with a parking ticket at any time of year, least of all Xmas, so make sure you know where and when charges are enforced.

Have change

Not everyone’s comfortable using the new style parking meters where you pay using a smartphone app. If you’re not, make sure you have change in the car. If you do leave coins in the car, stash it somewhere it can’t be seen.

Don’t be rushed

Don’t allow yourself to be hassled by other drivers. When you spy a free parking spot, indicate early. If you’re parking on the street or in a crowded car park, you may well hold up the traffic behind. But it’s better to take a few seconds longer to park than to damage your car or someone else’s. Always remember, if anyone’s getting impatient with you, they too will hold up traffic when they park. And you will have been held up by other people parking. In this instance, what goes around really does come around.

Reverse in

When you parallel park, it’s much easier to reverse in than to go in forwards. Equally, in a car park, it’s usually easier and quicker to reverse into a bay than to go in forwards. The downside of this is boot access may not be as easy. But there are two big benefits.

It’s safer because when you leave it makes it much easier to spot hazards such as other cars or pedestrians. And if you’re in a car park, as most people park nose in, it’ll mean your driver’s door is adjacent to the next car’s driver’s side. If there are big cars in small bays, this means you can position your car to give yourself room to get out of the car knowing the driver of the car next to you will have room to get in too. And if you are tight to the car on your passenger side, their driver should still be able to get in.

car parking tips
Perhaps don’t park like this… (Picture iStock/simonkr)

Think about others

If everyone parked in the middle of the bay, how easy life would be. But as we’ve reported, parking bay size isn’t keeping up with the ever-expanding girth of our cars. When you’re stopping in a car park, try to position your car in the middle of the bay if you can. If you leave your car right on the white line, chances are, the person in the bay next to you will have to do the same thing. And there will come a point where bays next to walls or bollards become unusable.

When you’re parallel parking next to a kerb, look at how the cars in front and behind are parked. If you can, leave some space for the car in front’s owners to put things in their boot.

Keep valuables hidden

Remember: most car crime is the theft of things from vehicles. If you’ve bought some presents and you’re heading off somewhere else to do your shopping, put them in the boot. That should keep them away from prying eyes.

Equally, a fifth of people asked in our survey said they use their car to hide presents in. If this is you, make sure you hide them in the boot.

Remember where you’ve parked

It sounds obvious but in the rough and tumble of Christmas shopping, it can be easy to forget where you’ve left the car. Most smartphones have a function that will show you where your car is and guide you back there using a map. Alternatively, in a multi-storey car park, take a quick snap of the sign by the door; at least that way you’ll know which floor you’ve parked on.

Use your smartphone

Use your smartphone as your handy assistant once again. If you’ve parked on the street and have paid for a certain amount of time on the meter, set your phone’s alarm. It’s easy to get carried away buying presents and this will remind you to get back to your car before the parking attendant can get busy with the ticket.

General election 2019: who’s offering what to Britain’s drivers

general election 2019
More electric car charging points feature strongly in all manifestos (Picture iStock/PlargeDoctor)

It may not have escaped your notice that there’s a general election this week. In the UK there were 45,775,800 people eligible to vote in December 2018. Of those, latest Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) figures show 40,861,015 hold driving licences.

With 89 per cent of voters also drivers, what do the political parties have to offer them? We’ve combed the manifestos of the eight parties represented in the UK Parliament until the general election 2019 to see what they’re promising drivers. The parties are ranked in order of the number of seats they currently hold.

The Conservative Party

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