Whether you’re now travelling to work again, or if your car is still sat idle, following the advice below is vital to keep your vehicle safe and ready to go when you need it.
Cars are designed to be driven. Some parts rely on regular use to stay in tip-top shape. That means during the COVID-19 lockdown, your car will need some attention to stay fighting fit and ready for any essential journey.
How long you can leave a car parked and expect it to work as it should depends on what condition it’s in. But follow my tips and when you can drive your car, there’s a much greater chance it’ll start first time after a lockdown lay-up.
The country is in lockdown due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. The government has told people to work from home where possible and suspended all but essential services. What does this mean for car owners? Read on to find out about MOTs, what’s happening with petrol stations, and what other motoring services are and aren’t available.
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.
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.
explanation of smart motorways
Smart motorways are split into three categories:
Dynamic hard shouldermotorways have a hard
shoulder on the left-hand side; however, it can be opened for traffic to ease
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).
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Drivers shouldn’t just be worried about having their car stolen. They’re actually more likely to have something pinched from their car. And that could include the catalytic converter.
Figures from London’s Metropolitan Police reveal that in the first six months of 2019, thefts of this component, which makes up a part of the exhaust system, were nearly double the same period in 2018. We investigate the problem and give tips on how you can avoid being a victim of car (and CAT) crime.
Some recent research reveals faulty brakes is the most common vehicle defect to end up causing an accident. The study of official figures by brake maker Pagid showed that dodgy brakes caused 15 deaths in 2018. In the last five years it says 64 deaths have been caused by brake trouble.
We should all check our brakes regularly and if you have any doubts about the system working properly, stop driving and have your car seen to by a professional. Here are some of the main symptoms of faulty brakes, what they mean in real terms, and what you should do about them.
One high tech feature of all modern cars that I never hope you see is the airbag. These are designed to inflate milliseconds after an impact and work with the seatbelts to prevent you hitting any hard surfaces in the car.
They can go wrong but thankfully it’s not something we see
very often. But it’s still worth knowing a bit about airbags.
Whatever you think about the government and local authorities clamping down on pollution with exhaust emissions zones, we can’t escape them. And as time goes by, restrictions are only going to become tougher. We’ve already heard of some customers being caught out and fined for driving in London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). Read on to find out what you need to know.
Do you remember what you were doing 25 years ago? What car you were driving, how much you spent on fuel and how congested the roads were?
Even if you don’t, you may recall signing up for cover from a
new breakdown company. It was called Green Flag and caused a splash by sponsoring
the England football team.
Twenty-five years later and Green Flag is still offering the same great service. Motoring, however, has changed significantly. It might not be quite beyond all recognition but things are certainly very different.