Best Free Car Apps

car appsWe were recently inspired to write a blog on the best car apps when a Facebook friend bragged about “being able to switch the aircon in the car on 5 minutes before you get in, from your phone.”*  Here are our top 5 free car apps, including one for air conditioning!

AIR CON APP

We quickly realised that the average car either has no use for an air conditioning app (it only takes a few minutes to hop in the car and adjust the temperature or it isn’t geared up to the technology).  Aside from forking out for an all-singing-and-dancing Tesla, the other option is to go for a brand like Volkswagen which has a whole range of e-vehicles which can be installed with Car-Net, allowing you to set the temperature and ensure your car is cool before hopping in.

PETROL PRICES

If you are looking for the best petrol prices in the UK, then an app like PetrolPrices does the trick.  Perhaps not as popular as the US version Gas Buddy, it is still pretty handy if you are driving around in an unfamiliar town. It also helps you find the cheapest fuel along a journey, so you avoid overpriced pumps when you run low.

WAZE

If you want an alternative to a Sat-Nav then Waze is our pick (over 50 million users can’t be wrong).  The app updates you on live traffic situations (crowdsourced from other Waze users), maps, road hazards and lets you know if a Facebook friend is driving in the same direction!  The app also has the added bonus of enabling Spotify so you can stream the music you love whilst avoiding all that congestion.

DRIVESAFE.LY

With new fines introduced for those caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel of car, we think an app like DriveSafe.ly is the way to go.  You can listen to incoming text messages, emails, Twitter updates, Facebook messages and Google text messages.  You don’t need to press any buttons to listen to anything, the app takes care of that itself, leaving you to the ideal hands-free driving experience.

CARCORDER

Ok, not technically free but for £1.49 it is so much cheaper than a DashcamCarcorder turns your phone into a Dashcam, giving drivers the ability to record your journeys thus providing hard evidence in the event of an accident. Users are able to record locations via GPS and switch between different resolutions.  A perfect choice until you are willing to commit to a Dashcam.

MEB love technology so want to know what your favourite car app is.  Do let us know.

 

*He had just bought a Tesla

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Volvo Goes Electric

volvoVolvo have recently announced that they will exclusively produce electric or hybrid cars from 2019.  Their aim is to sell 1 million electric vehicles by 2025 – including plug-ins, hybrids and purely battery-powered cars. (source the Guardian). 

It has long been believed that the electric car was the future. In 2015 the Guardian posted this article.  It would seem over estimations were made about the number of electric cars that would be on the road. And the technology and infrastructure wasn’t in place to support them. So what’s changed, and are electric and hybrid cars really a more environmentally sound choice?

INFRASTRUCTURE

As electric cars run on batteries, they need charging.  One concern has been the lack of charge points around the country – that as a whole the UK hasn’t been ready for the electric car revolution. But is that the case? A great website, Zap Map shows all the charging points around the UK which are being added to daily. According the website stats there are currently 13,041 connectors in the UK and these have gradually increased from 9,125 in February 2016 to nearly 12,000 in January 2017.  So it would appear the UK electric car infrastructure is certainly improving. Volvo must feel confident enough in it to have made their announcement.

ELECTRICTY

But with all this charging required, is there enough electricity? According to a report from the Green Alliance, the National Grid is not yet prepared for the surge in requirements from electric cars. Changes in Vehicle Excise Duty recently means that drivers may be more likely to purchase ultra-low emission vehicles in the future so the ability to provide electricity needs to be in place. And it would appear it is not yet in place.

ENVIRONMENT

Finally, what is the environmental impact? According to the EPA, transportation accounts for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions – not just cars. Trains, planes and ships all use petrol and diesel. But if the entire motoring industry followed Volvo’s suit it could certainly make a huge difference in emissions and demand for oil.

So with Volvo’s announcement it is likely other manufacturers will follow suit.

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Our Top Tips on Car Hire this Holiday Season

car hireThe summer holidays are nearly here. If you’ve booked a holiday and are looking at car hire, now is the time to start thinking about it.  Rules vary from country to country so it’s good to be aware and be prepared.  Here are our top tips for avoiding any hire car hiccups this holiday season:

  • BOOK EARLY

To avoid disappointment book in advance. Take time to look around for the best deals. Generally hiring at the airport as you land can be very expensive. If you do your online research you may find vouchers and discounts available. Give yourself time to look for the best deal.

  • DRIVING LICENSE

You may remember when the DVLA did away with the paper copy, there was a slight panic in the car hire world.  To streamline things, they moved their checking systems online.  Essentially this means you need to remember to apply for a check code which allows the car hire company to check your license record. The code will be valid for 21 days. This applies to those who also hold the old style pre-1998 paper licences.

Other handy advice for driving abroad on the government’s website

  • INSURANCE

Most car hire companies will expect you to pay for any accident or damage claim. You can buy the hire companies super insurance but that can prove to be expensive. If you plan in advance you could find your own cheaper car hire excess reimbursement insurance.

  • FUEL

Generally there are two options, as follows:

Supplied full and returned full

Supplied full and return empty

The choice will depend on the amount of driving you will be doing. And keep receipts of fuel bought.

  • CHECK THE STATE OF THE CAR

Do a proper check of the car and make your own checklist so you know that you’re returning the car in the same state you hired it in.  Check for any damage and take photos if necessary. Ensure any scratches or minor damage is noted in the rental agreement. A quick five minute video (or photos) at the beginning of your holiday could save you lots of money if there is a disagreement at a later date.

  • HOW THE CAR WORKS

All cars are different. Check you understand how the controls work and if there is anything you don’t know then ask.

  • PAPERWORK

Check the paperwork carefully. Check for any hidden costs you don’t understand and query them before signing the documents. Sometimes hire companies charge extra for car seats, sat nav, tolls for crossing international borders, cleaning charges and also VAT.

  • RETURNING THE CAR

Check the fuel gauge and make sure they hire company notes it down.  If in doubt take a photo of it.  Do the same with any damage to the car.

Finally, if you’re driving in Europe its best to use a hire company that is a member of the European Car Rental Conciliation Service Scheme. 

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What to do in a Car Accident

car accidentBeing in a car accident can be devastating. Even if it is a minor one. The damage to the car, possible injuries, insurance claims. There is so much to think about at a time when emotions are probably running high.  So be prepared, have a list in your mind of what you would need to do if you did find yourself in this situation.

LAW

If you are driving and a person other than yourself is injured, there is damage caused to another vehicle or property or an animal has been killed which belongs to another then the law states you must stop and remain at the scene for a reasonable amount of time, give your vehicle registration and personal details to anyone who can take them, and if you don’t exchange details at the scene you must report it to a police station as soon as possible but within 24 hours.

SAFETY

Of course, your first priority at the scene of an accident will be yours and your passengers safety. Before assisting others, or leaving your vehicle if possible you should ensure you can do so safely.  It is best to call the emergency services as soon as possible. 

DETAILS

Once everyone is safe, and if you can do so you should collect names and contact details of those involved in order to make insurance claims. Additionally, you could collect details of witnesses and take down any information about the accident they may have. Of course, if it is a serious accident the police will do this. 

It is also advisable to take pictures of all damage to ensure no fraud or exaggerated claims (better to be safe than sorry).

We recently posted an article on dashcams. These can prove invaluable in an accident for capturing exactly what happened and therefore who is at fault. 

INSURANCE

Check the details of your insurance.  You should know this already. It is important to see what sort of cover you have, whether you have legal cover and what you will need to do in the case of an accident.

REPAIRS

Hopefully your vehicle is repairable.  If you have comprehensive insurance then any damage should be covered by the policy. 

At MEB we will carry out any accident repair work to the highest standards, using the latest technology to ensure the highest quality finish.  Our skilled and experienced in-house body shop technicians will ensure any damage or deterioration to your vehicle will be dealt with.  

Hopefully you will never find yourself involved in an accident, but it is always better to be prepared in case you do so.                     

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How to Reduce Crime with a Dashcam

dashcamSo, what is a dashcam?

A dashcam or dashboard camera is a camera that sits in the car and continuously records through a vehicles windscreen. It can be attached to the dashboard or to the window.

It can provide evidence in the event of an accident or even a criminal offence by providing first hand evidence of events.

Are dashcams legal?

Yes they are. You simply buy one, attach it, plug it in and you are ready to go. The only proviso is that you attach it correctly and so it does not obstruct your view.  If it is deemed to be an obstruction then the police could stop you and fine you. 

What are the positives of a dashcam?

Well, as well as providing a first hand eye-witness account of what happened in an accident, it can also serve as evidence in criminal offences taking place on the road. In 2015 the UK Courts saw their first jail sentence handed down as a result of dashcam footage.

Here are some ways in which dashcam footage can prove useful:

SCAMS

Scams such as crash for cash claims are on the rise, where criminals brake suddenly in front of another car, causing it to crash and then claiming it on their insurance. In cases such as this both front and rear dashcams could prove invaluable in proving liability. 

DANGEROUS DRIVING

Even if your vehicle is not involved in a hit and run, the evidence from the dashcam could prove invaluable in proving a case that might otherwise be unsolvable.

Road rage is sadly on the rise with as many as nine out of ten drivers saying they have been subject to some form of it.  A dashcam could provide the police with essential information on drivers and licence plates.

Effects on Insurance

Some car insurance companies believe those with dashcams are more likely to be careful drivers. And as such will offer lower premiums on car insurance policies. The RAC for example offer a £30 discount on car insurance for drivers with a dashcam. 

So have you used a dashcam? What are your experiences of driving with one? Let us know by tweeting us @MEBMotors

 

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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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