Five Common Car Problems That You May Have Overlooked

common car problemsThere are many top ten common car problem lists out there, take your pick from: AA, Auto Express and Honest John just to name three.  Our article though is slightly different and focuses on five common car problems that may get overlooked.

Brakes

Are you finding it more difficult to brake quickly or an increase in braking distance? Get your brakes looked at immediately as any lowered performance could be critical.

Other signs your brakes might not be performing well:

  • Brake light on – a red or yellow light may just mean it is due an inspection but could also be alerting you to a problem
  • Noises such as squealing, grinding or squeaking are tell-tale signs
  • When you brake there is a wobbling or vibration
  • Brake fluid is leaking
  • The car pulls to one side when you brake
  • There’s a burning smell when you drive

Fluid Leaks

Keep an eye on where you park your car (driveway, garage, road) for fluid drips or leaks.  Leaks are common in older cars but watch out for them on newer cars too.  Spill marks could be oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and others.  We’ve also mentioned in a previous article that foxes have a penchant for chewing brake cables and drinking the fluid. Other fluid lines can be easily ruptured in a minor collision.

Any suspicious drips, bring your car in for a check-up!

Spark Plugs

Spark plugs may be small but they are an essential part of your car, making sure your car starts when you turn on the ignition.  Spark plugs which misfire mean your engine power and fuel economy may be affected, or even worse you could damage your catalytic converter.

A misfiring spark plug causes your engine to sound “rough” when idling or you might experience problems to start your car.

Transmissions

Definitely one to keep an eye on as could be the most costly repair if it goes unchecked. Transmissions controls the application of power ensuring timely, efficient and complete gear changes.  Keep an eye out for the following to avoid a hefty bill:

  • Clutch slipping (when it revs) or sticking
  • Trouble getting into gear

Wheel alignment

Misalignment can affect the wear and tear of tyres, decrease your ability to steer properly and sometimes cause slow leaks in the cases where there is severe damage.

The main causes for wheel misalignment are pot holes, bumps and other obstacles in the road.  As a check-up is fairly inexpensive, do get your garage to do the once over every year.

MEB are here to help you with any car problem, no matter how common!

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Training and Apprenticeships at MEB

apprenticeshipsIn an age when apprenticeships might be considered an old-fashioned mode of learning a trade, at MEB we still think that it is still of huge importance.  So important in fact that we have been continuously taking on apprentices and training car mechanics since 1992.

What are Apprenticeships?

The government’s definition of an apprentice is someone over 16, living in England and not in full-time education.  Apprenticeships combine studying (usually one day a week towards a qualification) and on the job training (with a low wage and holiday pay).

There are however adult apprenticeships out there geared up to those looking to change career, and they say you are never too old to take up an apprenticeship (although do bear in mind that funding for over 24 year old’s is different).

How we work with apprentices at MEB

At MEB the Motor Centre, we have chosen to work in partnership with North London Garages GTA  who have been serving the needs of London’s motor industry since 1970.  NLGGTA is London’s leading motor industry apprentice training group and have supplied us with many successful apprentices and trainee mechanics over the years.

We treat our apprentices as any other staff member except that one day a week they go off to NLGGTA’s training college to work towards becoming a qualified mechanic.

Why we choose NLGGTA

 NLGGTA can not only supply us with trainee mechanics but also can help us find qualified professional staff.  If we feel that our motor technicians need to brush up on some training then they also run cost-effective training courses.

Why trainee mechanics stay with MEB

As a small independent garage, we like to look after our staff.  MEB is a motor mechanics’ family, and apprentices often stay with us at the end of their apprenticeships.  We offer help, support and guidance in order for them carve out their careers.  If trainees show an interest in becoming MOT testers then we will guide them down this path.  It is both beneficial to us as a garage to have happy staff who perform well, and the staff are safe in the knowledge that they are supported in their career choices.

We also respect the wishes of those who choose to leave our garage, often to set up their own repair and servicing establishments.  We think of it as a sign of success!

If you want to hear more about our apprenticeships, please do get in touch.

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New UK Speeding Laws

speeding lawsApril 2017 saw the introduction of new speeding laws in the UK and they are much tougher than they were before.

After a period of consultation, the Sentencing Council decided to introduce the changes because it felt the currently punishments did not reflect the potential harm speeding can cause. You can read the official guidelines here.

The new laws equate to an almost zero tolerance policy on speeding. Whereas previously police would have allowed a margin of error previously, for example 35 in a 30 zone, now this will not happen.

Now, if someone is going at 71mph on a motorway they could face a Band A fine which is around 50% of a weekly income, and 3 points on their licence. As the speed increases so does the punishment – but there is less room for error. So not only will drivers be facing harsher fines, they could find themselves being disqualified! This has brought some criticism, particularly for motorway driving. For one, it is thought drivers will focus more on their speedometer than on the roads. Which is a valid concern seeing as going just 1mph over the speed limit could see them with points on their licence. A driver will want to make sure they are sticking to the limits.

The legal speed limit on a motorway is 70mph but according to statistics the average speed is actually 85mph. However, under new laws drive at 85mph and be caught by a camera and you could face a fine of 100% of your weekly income, 4-6 points or even a short disqualification. It is said that there is no need for this as according to driving experts the UK already has the safest roads in Europe.

These changes come about as part of a shake up in road traffic laws. We have recently seen bigger fines for those using mobile phones at the wheel (see previous article), an increase in the prison sentence for those convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and more measures are set to be introduced in relation to drink driving and driving without insurance.

What do you think? Should UK drivers be punished for driving 1mph over the speed limit?

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Our Night at the UK Blog Awards 2017

UK Blog Awards FinalistIn January 2017 we found out that we were a UK Blog Awards 2017 finalist.  A massive thank you to all who voted for us, we couldn’t have done it without you.

Judging took place in February by the industry judges.  For the automotive section, Ray Massey (Motoring Editor at the Daily Mail) and Al Clarke (Automotive Consultant) spent time reading 13 car-related blogs in the individual and company sections.  We then went along to the Westminster Park Plaza hotel on Friday 21st April 2017 to find out who the winners were.

CarWitterAutomotive Individual Winners

Car Witter won our category with Take to the Road and Wheels for Women being awarded the highly commended titles.

Commiserations to our fellow category compatriots:  Car Crazed Fool,  ResCars, The Used Car Guy and We Blog Any Car.

automotive judgesAutomotive Company Winners

Meanwhile over in the Company category of the Automotive Section, the winner was The Car Expert.  Well done also to the highly commended Carkeys and  MyCarNeedsA.com.  Best of luck to next year to the other category entrants: Jennings Motor Group, Talk Torque, The Glove Box and Motor Range Express.

Here are some photos of our special night:

Our blogger Mel Pretorius

The Red Desk team representing MEB Motors

Automotive Category Individual Finalists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The UK Blog Awards are held to recognise social media content for individuals and companies. Follow them on Twitter @UKBlogAwards using . They also have a  for networking each week.

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Changes to Mobile Phone Driving Laws

mobile phonesMarch 2017 saw the introduction of new legislation in relation to using mobile phones behind the wheel.  It is now illegal to use your mobile phone whilst driving or riding a motorbike, unless you have hands-free access. 

This includes stopping at traffic lights and queuing in traffic. If your engine is on, your phone must not be in your hand.

If caught you can now get 6 penalty points on your licence and a £200 fine. This means, for any drivers within their probationary period, they will lose their licence.

It has taken some time to come to this point and a lot of research has been done in to the potential hazards the use of a mobile phone poses. We have all seen drivers with one hand on the wheel and one hand to their ear. According to research drivers are four times more likely to have a crash if using a mobile phone, are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards on the road and shockingly, reaction times are two times slower if you text and drive than if you drink and drive! So, in relation to road safety this new law is a welcome addition to current road traffic laws.

But what if you use your phone as a satnav? Many people do. Well, as long as it is hands-free then it is still legal. However, if it still distracts you, and you are caught driving dangerously then you could still be prosecuted by the police.

So what is the best course of action? Ideally, leave your phone in your bag or in the glove compartment. However, if you must use the pre-programmed satnav then it is recommended you attach it to your dashboard so you can remain hands-free. You can buy the in-car kits in your local petrol station. If you have Bluetooth then you can set it to direct you through the speakers in your car without the necessity to hold your phone.  This is what many taxi drivers do.  And should the satnav send you off in the wrong direction and need resetting, pull over to a safe place, switch your car off and then reset it.

Happy hands-free driving in 2017.

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Good Garage Scheme in Springtime

Do you struggle to find a decent garage you can trust? Well the Good Garage Scheme has been running since 2006 and has a membership list of garages local to you. Every member garage must perform its services in accordance with a strict code of conduct. The scheme was set up to ensure high standards in the car servicing market to ensure consumers get a fair deal.  You can read more about it here.

MEB are members of the Good Garage Scheme and so therefore you know you are working with a garage you can trust.  We’ve recently updated our page, including a new picture and new reviews.

What does it mean to be a member?

good garage schemeIf you see this logo, you know that the garage is following this code of conduct:

1)      To provide full business details to the Good Garage Scheme administrators including ownership, premises, staffing and trade activities.

2)      To demonstrate a commitment to deal with customers fairly, courteously and in keeping with good business practice.

3)      To notify customers before work is undertaken if the business does not accept particular forms of payment.

4)      To deal with complaints from customers within 2 weeks of receiving a complaint.

5)      To make parts replaced during service or repair available for inspection by the customer.

6)      To comply with the Industry Standard Service checklist on all services and include products that remove contamination.

7)      To provide a completed service checklist following the service.

8)      To offer the customer a feedback leaflet.

9)      To provide the customer with a Good Garage Scheme service record.

10)   To display in a prominent position the Good Garage Scheme Code of Conduct.

Source: http://www.goodgaragescheme.com/code-of-conduct

Spring Checks

The Good Garage Scheme runs regular campaigns on driving safety. Now we are heading into Spring, one of the issues the scheme, and MEB want drivers to be aware of is the change in driving conditions.  Driving on the road has taken its toll on your car.  So now is the time to make sure everything is in working order ready for your Spring driving. Take a look at the 21 point check list that we, as Good Garage Scheme members adhere to.

So if you want a local garage that you can trust, book your car in for a service or MOT at MEB the Motor Centre.

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Spring Checks at MEB the Motor Centre

According to the AA, Spring is the best time to clean your car inside and out. The interior of the car could have been damp for the winter, with the outside suffering from mud splatters and salt on the roads. For full details on how to get the best out of Spring cleaning your car, take a look at our separate article.

Spring checksOnce you have cleaned your car, there are some checks you can do yourself:

  • Check for any damage to bodywork, lamps and trims. Get damage repaired if necessary to avoid any rust build up and further corrosion to your car.
  • Check your windscreen wipers. If they need changing you can do it yourself or take your car to your local garage.
  • Check your screen wash. The sunnier days make for more glare on the windscreen. Extra dirt and grime will affect visibility.
  • Check your oil levels and top up if necessary. This is a year round check but the new season is a good reminder that oil regularly needs to be checked.
  • Check your tyres. Spring means more rain and more water on the roads. The cold weather may have reduced tyre pressure during your winter driving. If your vehicle has winter tyres then they will need to be changed for ones more appropriate for Spring driving.

You may want to visit your local garage for these checks:

  • Brakes – Salt on the roads during winter can actually corrode brake parts so we can check them for any damage. Then we’ll inspect the brake fluid and brake pads. If there are any strange noises – then it’s definitely time to change them!
  • Batteries – you don’t want the battery to be a cause of a breakdown. At MEB, we can check your battery and replace any older weak ones. Signs of a weak battery include dimming headlights and slower electric windows.
  • Car air conditioning – we have written an entire article on this subject. You can read it here

You probably didn’t use the air conditioning during the winter months so there are checks that need to be done before using it, to ensure it works smoothly once you do.  At MEB air conditioning health checks are part of our Spring Checks. Again, see our separate article for more details. 

So contact us today and book in with your favourite Crouch End garage to make sure you are ready for Spring driving.

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EU Driving Laws

EU driving lawsBrexit? Will we or won’t we leave the EU? Recently it was ruled by the Supreme Court that Article 50 cannot be invoked without Parliament having it’s say. This means that the situation is far more complicated than initially thought and is likely to take a lot longer than originally planned.

So, until we DO leave the EU we are still bound by the laws and regulations.

WHAT NEW EU LAWS DO WE NEED TO BE AWARE OF FOR 2017?

A new Directive has been passed which will affect MOTs. In 2012 the MOT changed as a result of the EU but changes for 2017 will be down to the Government and what/how they choose to adopt the changes.

We could see changes around the way vehicle emissions are checked. In addition, the way in which safety functions such as brakes are checked could change. 

Additionally, if a car is deemed too dangerous to drive then it could actually lead to a ban from the road.

Uninsured drivers could be set to receive compensation under new EU rules. The MIB (Motor Insurance Bureau could soon pay claims for damage sustained by uninsured drivers, and that includes damage to cars which are uninsured, according to reports from The Times and Daily Mail. This will mean more pay outs and potentially higher premiums.

These changes are not yet set in stone so we cannot say how drivers will be affected.

Now, just because a law isn’t in place in this country, you still must abide by any rules and laws in the countries you visit and drive in. For example, we recently found an article on emission reduction in Paris. New rules have been rolled out in the countries capital to cut air pollution. If you travel to Paris and are brave enough to drive there you will need to display a ‘clean air’ sticker on your windscreen or potentially face a fine of up to £117. The stickers can be ordered online (currently only in French) and have six different categories depending on the type of car you have (electric, petrol, diesel etc). Some cars don’t have any categories and are completely banned from driving in the city! We will wait to see if this idea catches on in the UK.

Always check before you travel and Happy Driving!

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Driving in the Snow

driving in the snowYou have probably seen the recent weather forecasts for the big freeze in Europe. Well according to the experts the very cold weather could head our way. Which means a change in road conditions. Here are our top tips on how to drive safely in snow and other bad weather conditions.

  • Before driving make sure your car is well maintained with these basic checks:
    • Check the antifreeze
    • Check your tyre tread depth using the 20p test (the tread should come over the rim on the 20p like in this video).
    • Ensure your windscreen wipers are working.
    • Check the lights in your car are working correctly.
  •  If it has snowed already then you will need to remove it from your car:
    • Clear the snow off all windows and mirrors (including  the back ones in case you have to reverse)
    • Clear the snow from the car lights (both front and rear)
    • Clear most of the snow off the roof as you don’t want an avalanche down your windscreen if you brake suddenly
  • If you need to defrost your car before you leave here are our brief do’s and don’ts.
    • DO: Use an ice-scraper and a de-icer spray
    • DON’T: Pour boiling water onto your windscreen – it can cause cracks.
    • DO: Clean ice off the side and rear mirrors for better visibility.
    • DON’T: Use hands to demist windows – you’ll only leave a smeary mess and diamond ring scratches
    • DO: Clean misted up windows with a lint-free absorbent cloth
    • DON’T: Drive away with misted windows as driving with limited visibility can be extremely dangerous. Wait until you have full visibility.
  • Only make the journey by car if it is completely necessary and drive according to the conditions. Make extra time for the journey and take it slowly.
  • Use common sense to prevent accidents:
    • Keep your lights on to make sure you can be seen (but dipped so you don’t dazzle oncoming vehicles).
    • Look out for debris on the road if there are strong winds.
    • Keep safe distances from cars in front and be aware of oncoming traffic (if they brake hard there is a risk of skidding on ice).
    • If you find the car behind is driving too close to you, pull over where you can and let them pass.
  • Before leaving for a long journey give your car a once over. Check the fluid levels, oil and make sure there is enough fuel in the tank in case you get stranded somewhere. 
  • Finally, be sensible. The cold weather can cause accidents, road blocks and you may find yourself stuck somewhere for some time. Be prepared and pack a breakdown kit in your car. It could include:
    • A shovel for snowy conditions
    • A torch
    • De-icer and scraper
    • Blankets
    • Walking boots/shoes in case you have to walk to safety
    • Spare food and drinks
    • Keep a mobile phone fully charged in case you need to call out the emergency services.

Remember, only make the journey if completely necessary. And safe driving this winter. 

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New London Mayor’s “T Charge”

T chargeLast year the Mayor’s Clean Air Consultation received over 15,000 responses.  London’s new mayor will be introducing the £10 “T Charge” on the capital’s most polluting vehicles.

What is the T charge?

The “T Charge” is a toxicity charge (also known as Emissions Surcharge) which will be introduced by new London mayor Sadiq Khan to improve London’s air quality as soon from 23rd October 2017.  It will cover the same area as the current congestion charge zone, use the same cameras to identify the worst offenders, and the same payment options will be available.  This fee will be on top of the current congestion charge fee.

How much will it cost?

Details have now been finalised and you can check if your vehicle is affected on this new TFL link. Cars, vans, lorries and motorcycles who are in excess of these emissions limits will be charged £10.50.  This means that some drivers could be paying as much as £21.50 to drive in central London.

Why is the new mayor doing this?

As part of his successful mayoral campaign, Khan said he would reduce levels of NOx (nitrogen oxide) and particulate emissions from cars and commercial vehicles driving in central London.  It is reported that 9,400 die a year due to polluted air in London.  In Putney High Street for example the NOx levels are so high that they breached the EU level for the year in just the first week into 2016!

What else is the mayor doing to combat air pollution?

London’s new mayor also wants to extend the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) as far as inner boundary of North and South circular roads, almost doubling it in size (original plan was to have the ULEZ in just the congestion charge zone).  He has also hinted that it could be brought forward by one year to 2019 as opposed to the original proposition of 2020.

Khan is also working with Transport for London to see how to introduce a scrappage scheme of the most polluting diesel vehicles; and from 2018 he wants to buy only hybrid or zero-emission double decker buses.

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