Even a basic tool kit can prevent you being stranded roadside. A working mobile phone is an important part of it (Picture: iStock/South_agency)
This might sound very old school but I think carrying a basic tool kit can be one of the most sensible things a driver does. I’m not suggesting here that you go out and buy a full socket set. And I’m not advocating dismantling a conked out car at the roadside. But a simple tool kit might make the difference between a car being repaired roadside and it being recovered to a garage.
Of course, all cars come with a rudimentary tool kit. But buying and checking a used car can be stressful enough. We often don’t have time to find out what tools it does and doesn’t have. Frequently handy tools get lost during a car’s life time and you only find out they’re not there when you need them. Here’s what I suggest you have in your tool kit.
Jack and wheel brace
We all know running a car is an expensive business. But exactly how costly is it? Over an average driver’s lifetime, do you think motoring will cost tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of pounds?
Now we’ve got some answers. Two lots of research have come up with figures. While neither agrees with the other, both concur: running a car is more costly than many of us think. According to finance company MyJar, people will start forking out for motoring aged 17 and go on until they’re 80. MoneySuperMarket meanwhile looks at the cost over a car’s lifetime. Read on to find out what they think you’ll spend.
How much is the cost of motoring over a lifetime?
There are certain car faults you associate with cold weather and brake trouble probably isn’t one of them. But in the recent spell of extreme cold weather Green Flag saw a dramatic increase in call outs to do with braking systems.
The number of cars experiencing calliper problems increased by 52 per cent. And drivers having trouble with handbrake cables was up by 77 per cent. Read on to find out how brake faults happen and what you can do to rectify them.
Why do brakes jam on?
It’s a funny advert with a serious point. A family boards its flight for a holiday. Over the tannoy the pilot explains he hasn’t bothered making any pre-flight safety checks to the plane. Cue panicked faces and unbuckled seat belts as everyone scrambles to leave.
The ad has been produced for Highways England. The organisation, responsible for the safety and management of the nation’s main roads, is trying to raise awareness among drivers to perform safety checks to their car before every journey.
The logic is sound. Driving is inherently more dangerous than flying. So why would you get into a car without knowing that crucial things like its lights, wipers and tyres are all working or safe?
The harsh reality of ignoring your car
No time off allowed. He’s in for a busy March in 2018
If your car is due its MOT this month you won’t be alone. In fact, it might be an idea to book its test in advance. Record numbers of motors are due to have their annual roadworthiness check this March in an unprecedented MOT rush.
The phenomenon is prompting garage chain Kwik Fit to warn that MOT testers will get very busy over the coming weeks. Kwik Fit’s Roger Griggs said: “March is always a peak month for MOTs, but this year it will be busier than ever as the record-breaking new-car sales of 2015 feed through.” Find out all about the 2018 MOT rush here.
Why is March the month?
A mobile phone could be a life saver
As the Beast from the East bites and many of us wake up to almost unprecedented winter weather, I thought it a good idea to put together a snow set. And along with the equipment drivers should carry in their cars, I’ve also given some advice if they get stuck.
Of course, the best thing to do is to get the fire on, relax and watch the TV until the thaw sets in. But as appealing as that sounds, it isn’t always an option. If you must drive, here are some tips.
Put your snow set together
If there’s one thing other than breaking down that’s guaranteed to set drivers steaming, it’s finding out that their car has a serious problem. After all, serious problems frequently mean big repair bills.
Knowing which cars are expensive to fix can give drivers a head-start. It lets them choose a car that will help them stick to a motoring budget that already has to allow for fuel and insurance.
To help car owners make an informed decision about car costs, we compare both the average and most expensive repair costs revealed by garages and warranty companies.
It pays to avoid cars with shocking repair bills
You probably don’t imagine cold weather and car suspension failures go hand in hand, but they do. During December, Green Flag witnessed nearly six times as many call outs for front suspension problems as in November. The number from December 2017 was up by nearly a quarter (24 per cent) compared to the same time the year before.
For our customers, this represents a significant problem. There isn’t just the cost of having expensive suspension parts replaced. It’s the inconvenience of the problem occurring in the first place. That’s because broken suspension isn’t usually a roadside fix: cars must be recovered to garages to be mended. Read on to find out more about this phenomenon.
How do you know if your suspension is broken?
Once upon a time this would have been a humble family runabout…
We all like to give things our personal touch and modifying cars is no different. But while it might please you to make parts of your car bigger, brighter, faster and louder, it could land you in hot water.
For a start, the law takes a dim view of cars that aren’t considered roadworthy. And insurers may even refuse to pay out if you modify a car without telling them. Here we look at what you can and can’t do to your car. And whatever you decide, make sure you do it with safety in mind and that you inform your insurer.
Putting the wrong type of fuel into a car is easy to do. Known as misfuelling, it tends to happen when drivers are in a hurry or distracted. You’re not in your usual motor, maybe it’s your partner’s, a colleague’s, or a hire or courtesy vehicle. Your mind might be on other things and out of habit you lift the petrol pump from its holder and start filling your diesel vehicle. Hopefully you’ll realise your mistake before you drive away…
The good new is, it’s virtually impossible to put diesel in a petrol-engined car. The neck of the petrol filler is tighter than a diesel pump nozzle. The bad news is the wide neck of a diesel fuel filler easily takes a petrol pump nozzle. The even worse news is that putting petrol into a diesel does far more harm than the other way around. Read on to find out all about misfuelling and how to prevent it.
Why is misfuelling so harmful?
Back in the day, oil was oil. It came out of the ground and as long as it was the right viscosity for the engine, we’d trust it to do the job. Now there are effectively three kinds of oil: mineral, synthetic and semi-synthetic. And I’m frequently asked: “Should I use synthetic oil for my car?”
I’ve already spoken about the grade of oil drivers should choose for their cars. But once you’ve decided on that, what are the benefits of synthetic oil?
What is synthetic oil?
If your car has ever needed a replacement exhaust you’ll know just how expensive this essential mechanical component can be. As it’s such a pricey part, it pays to know what to look for and it’s important to shop around. That might seem daunting, but the potential price savings alone should convince you research is time well spent.
The exhaust is an essential part of your car. It keeps the engine healthy and ensures the emissions being pumped out do as little harm as possible to the surrounding environment. But over time, the effects of high temperatures, water and grime, the occasional bash from a speed hump and general wear and tear from continuous movement mean it can end up needing replacing.
Here’s the exhaustive low down on repairing or replacing a car’s exhaust.
Signs you need a replacement exhaust
Drivers are vowing to do a lot less of this in 2018
The majority of us make New Year’s resolutions. For many these might involve joining a gym, quitting smoking, drinking less, eating more healthily or stopping swearing. But for some of us, resolving to change and be better human beings might include something to do with motoring.
Some new research conducted by pre-17-year old driving school Young Driver found that older motorists still think they’ve got plenty to learn. Although one in five (18 per cent) confidently claimed to be perfect drivers, plenty of others felt they had work to do. Read on to find out what the most popular New Year’s resolutions for drivers are.
Performing regular car checks
If a car starts, then refuses to start again almost immediately afterwards, it could be flooded with fuel
How do you start your car in the morning? Many of us have the same routine. And for some drivers, that could be the cause of a potentially inconvenient breakdown.
I love cars but my job as vehicle and customer data insight manager is all about figures and statistics. It involves analysing numbers and seeing how people – our customers ‑ use their vehicles on a daily basis. The results can be fascinating. Read on to see how the way you start your motor could leave you stranded at the roadside.
The mystery breakdown
Cars could automatically fail their MOT if they haven’t had important recall work done. A government body has recommended that all MOT testers should check cars for any recall work. If this hasn’t been done, they will then be able to refuse to give the car a valid MOT certificate.
While car owners will bear the brunt of this, the move has actually been proposed to put pressure on car makers. The government wants them to work harder to ensure all recall work is carried out. The House of Commons Transport Select Committee has put these plans to the government. It is expecting to hear back by the end of March 2018.
The proposals come after Vauxhall was slammed by the Transport Select Committee for the way it handled fires affecting its Zafira B model. Chair of the committee, Lilian Greenwood MP said: “The public needs to be confident that their safety comes first.” Here’s what the changes could mean for drivers.
What is a recall?
The colder the weather gets the more drivers should consider the coolant in their car. This is because engines need liquid circulating through them to keep cool. But freezing weather can turn that fluid to ice, rendering it useless.
Coolant is vital because when a car is going at speed, pistons travel at around 40mph, shafts whizz round and bearings are under extreme pressure causing heat to build up. To stop this becoming so intense that metal parts begin welding themselves together, coolant is used. Here’s all you need to know about it.
Is coolant the same as antifreeze?
Next year the UK government is planning to bring in MOT changes. The tweaks to the annual vehicle roadworthiness test have been designed to make life easier for drivers preserving historically interesting ‘classic’ cars.
But critics say they will increase the number of unsafe cars on the country’s roads. Further changes are afoot too. The Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is currently considering the results of a consultation paper on the age that cars first take their MOT. Read on to find out more about the changes.
What are the changes to the MOT 2018?
Water can make its way into a car in all sorts of ways. Here’s how to find a leak
One of the most frustrating elements of car ownership is when you discover a leak. You might be alerted to it by a stale musty smell. Or perhaps the carpet feels damp. Or you may notice that the car steams up of its own accord when there’s no one in it.
All are depressing because cars are supposed to be like a home from home; something that will keep you dry and warm whatever the weather. Finding water on the inside of a car is as unsettling as having a leak in your home. But leaks in cars are trickier to find than those in a building. Cars have lots of hidden pipe work and virtually every wall is an outside one. But it is possible and here’s how.
Where is the water gathering?
Going off to college can be a great adventure. Our tips will help ensure your car doesn’t spoil it
I’m sure there are some exceptions to every rule, but I’ve never yet met a student who’s rolling in money. And running a car that keeps on conking out can be like having a hole in your pocket. The key with cars is prevention rather than cure. Keeping on top of regular maintenance will prevent all manner of mechanical mishaps.
But more than that, a regular maintenance routine will actually help save you money. Tyres that are properly inflated don’t wear out as quickly and mean your motor won’t use as much fuel. And having the oil and filters changed when the maker suggests will guarantee your car performs as economically as possible. Read on to see my top car care tips.
New tech is designed to let mechanics show you what needs fixing without you being there
A virtual revolution is taking place in the UK’s garages with video becoming a workshop must have. Garages film what needs repairing. They can then show this to customers and seek approval before doing the work. The idea is to give car owners more control over repairs and reassure them that they’re not being ripped off. Here’s how it works.
Why video technology is needed
For most drivers, the dodgy reputation garages have is a worry. Recent research by online garage booking service BookMyGarage found that three quarters (74 per cent) of drivers felt hidden costs or paying too much for extra work were the biggest concerns when taking their car to a garage for its regular service. Drivers fear that unscrupulous operators can use superior mechanical knowledge to bamboozle them into repairs that don’t need doing. Continue reading