Car ownership

Have you given away your personal data when selling your car?

personal data
Cars are increasingly data hubs. But how do you keep control of personal info? (Picture iStock/oonal)

Modern motors are technical marvels that are more than capable of storing our personal data. And new research has revealed that when they sell their car, thousands of drivers are giving away potentially delicate information such as friends’ and relatives’ names and addresses. Read on to find out if you’re in danger of doing that or have perhaps already done it.

How do cars store personal data?

Increasingly, cars let drivers pair their smartphones with them via Bluetooth. This enables owners to listen to their favourite music, make phone calls and send and receive text messages – all perfectly legally and without touching their mobile phones.

For added convenience, most cars give their owners the option to download their contact information to the car’s computer drive. This enables drivers to access their phone’s call records and people’s contact details via the car’s screen. The study by Which? found that 54 per cent of drivers had synced a mobile phone to their car using either Bluetooth or a USB cable.

Why is this problematic?

The potential for trouble arrives when the owner comes to sell the car. If the phone is not disconnected and the account on the car and any additional information that’s been downloaded deleted, the new owner or owners could access it.

Is this a big problem?

Researchers from Which? discovered that more than half of drivers (51 per cent) didn’t bother unsyncing their phones after selling the car. Nearly a third (31 per cent) didn’t even bother wiping their personal data from the car.

More worryingly, four out of five drivers (79 per cent) haven’t followed the factory reset instructions on how to permanently remove data from their car. And more than half (58 per cent) didn’t bother to manually delete any data.

personal data
Cars give us ever more data to make our lives easier. But drivers must wipe cars’ systems when they sell them (Picture Volvo)

What about in-car apps?

An increasing number of cars can be linked with apps that you install on your mobile phone. This enables drivers to pair their phone with their car’s main functions. It means they can track their car’s location or unlock and drive the car using their phone as a virtual ‘key’. Some even allow access by other specified people, using their phone as a key.

Researchers found that 68 per cent of sellers didn’t bother doing a factory reset to uninstall the app. And half of drivers didn’t even bother unpairing the app from the car when they sold it.

What should drivers do?

First thing is to delete the connection between your phone and the car. This is simple to do, usually involving finding connected devices on the car’s screen and deleting the appropriate ones. You can also delete the connection on your phone.

You will know the car has downloaded your contact details if you search on the car’s screen for a contact or access the recent calls menu. If these have information in them, they’re in the car’s memory.

Wiping the information from the car might be a little involved. But the car’s user manual should tell you how to do it. And if it doesn’t, you could pop into a manufacturer’s franchised dealer. Deleting the data will be the work of a moment for someone who knows your make of car.

Is this going to get worse?

By 2026, it’s estimated that every new car will have the ability for owners to connect electronic mobile devices to them. CIFAS, the UK’s largest cross-sector fraud protection organisation, says identity theft using people’s personal data is already one of the UK’s fastest growing crimes.

What the expert says

Editor of Which? Harry Rose said: “If cars are not treated the same as a smartphone, tablet or other connected devices when it comes to data security, motorists risk giving away a treasure trove of information about themselves when they decide to sell their car.”

Quiz: How should you look after your car?

You should regularly check the oil level in your engine (Picture iStock/Moyo Studio)

One in 10 UK drivers say they never perform any kind of safety check on their vehicle. And 14 million licence holders check their cars once a year or less. Those are the shocking findings following some recent research by Green Flag and road safety charity Brake.

To help, Green Flag is offering all drivers the chance to have their motor given the once over with our free vehicle health checks. You can have the 10-point inspection done at a garage near to you and it will include checks on battery health, brakes and tyre condition.

In the mean time, if you want to test your knowledge of car maintenance, why not try our quiz? It’s fun and it’ll help give some tips and pointers for what you should do to keep your car in top shape – other than taking it for a free vehicle health check.

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New E10 petrol on sale in 2021. Will it be a problem for your car?

e10 petrol
E10 is already sold alongside super unleaded in fuel stations on the continent (Picture iStock/Dutchphotography)

Hundreds of thousands of drivers could be hit by the introduction of new petrol in the UK next year. The fuel, called E10, will become the forecourt standard petrol throughout the UK from 2021. However, it may not be suitable for older cars. Read on to find out if you’re going to be affected.

What is E10?

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Expert advice: all about replacing an engine’s timing belt

timing belt
Here’s what your timing belt looks like inside the engine (Picture iStock/Warut1)

The cambelt or timing belt is an integral part of many engines. It also needs replacing on a regular – if thankfully not too frequent – basis. Read on and I’ll explain why the cambelt is so important, how you know if your car has one (not all do) and why replacing them is an absolute must-do.

Why is the timing belt so crucial?

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Surveys reveal most reliable cars and best garages

reliable cars
Coming out of lockdown it’s important to have a trustworthy garage (Picture iStock/FG Trade)

Reliable cars are vital for most of us. And garages plus the quality of service they offer are just as important. The last thing you want is to buy a new car and find that it either lets you down or when you need help, the garage offers shoddy service.

There’s an easy way to discover how dependable cars and their dealers are and that’s by asking the people with real-life experience of owning the cars. This is where surveys come in. We’ve combed reports compiled by Auto Express and What Car? to distil the information you need to know if you’re buying a new car.

Best garages

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Insurance groups: what are they, who sets them and which is your car in?

insurance groups
How cars behave in crashes is fundamental to which insurance group they are in (Picture iStock/monkeybusinessimages)

If you’re thinking of changing your car, how much you pay for insurance may be important to you. To help with this, all cars sit in insurance groups. Knowing about a car’s grouping will enable you to do an accurate, back-to-back comparison with other models you might be interested in.

Read on to find out what an insurance group is and how to find out what group a car is in.

What is an insurance group?

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MOT extension to end over unfit cars? Do your own vehicle health check

mot extension
Many MOT testing stations are open for business (Picture iStock/Marbury)

The UK’s six-month MOT extension might end early because of fears about increasing numbers of unroadworthy cars. Car owners are also being warned that if they don’t keep their motors in a fit state to be driven, their insurance may not cover them.

In the latest report by Green Flag and road safety charity Brake, an alarming number of drivers revealed gaps in their knowledge about vehicle maintenance. Around one in 10 drivers (9 per cent) claim they never carry out any vehicle safety checks.

One in four (27 per cent) said they care for their car just once a year. More worryingly, a fifth of drivers (20 per cent) said they’d knowingly driven an unroadworthy car.

We investigate why the MOT extension might end early and how you can ensure your car is roadworthy.

Who wants the MOT extension abandoned?

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What to do if your keyless entry doesn’t work

Modern cars are often accessed using remote fobs and keyless entry. But what do you do when it doesn’t work?

Thankfully, these vehicles are fitted with a key blade inside the fob, and a lock that’s either visible or hidden behind a cover on the door.

Below, we’ll show you some examples of what to do to gain entry to your car, and how to start it if the key is not detected.

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Falling petrol price: why it’s coming down and why it could go further

petrol price
The price of filling up is falling but how far will it go? (Picture iStock/AscentXmedia)

The petrol price is plummeting to below £1 a litre. However, some believe there’s room for it to fall further.

Since the beginning of the year, the price of crude oil – the raw material used to produce petrol and diesel – has more than halved. But although the cost of petrol at the pumps is falling, it hasn’t kept pace with rapid drops in oil prices. Here are two reasons why fuel prices might stay higher than you’d expect.

Reason 1: Fuel stations are suffering

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