Spring: Time to get out and about and enjoy your car

get out SpringSpring is almost here (hoorah!).  If you’ve not been out and about much during the winter, now is time to dust off the driving gloves, take your car out of storage and get out and enjoy the beautiful countryside.

Advice to those not used their car in Winter

If you didn’t use your car in Winter because it was either under a pile of snow, or you just didn’t fancy getting out and about, now is the time to carry out a few basic checks before your first Spring outing.

  • Batteries tend to go flat if they are unused for a long time. If you have access to electricity you could use a smart charger which will charge your battery when it needs it and this device can be left on without the risk of overcharging.  If your battery is totally dead then you can try jump starting it, follow our steps.
  • Anti-freeze – check the concentration levels (it should be 50/50 anti-freeze/water) either by buying a kit and following these instructions or have your local garage do it for you.
  • Tyre pressures – check them as the winter weather may have caused them to under inflate.
  • Tyres that haven’t been used for a long time may also develop flat spots. This means that when you first use your car you might hear “thump, thump, thump” for the first 20 or so miles.  If it continues after this then you will need new tyres.
  • Check when your next MOT and service are due (if your car has been out of your mind for Winter then so may this practical information).
  • Check that your car tax and insurance is also valid – there would be nothing worse than driving down the road and remembering it expired last month.
  • Check that nothing has made its home under the bonnet or chewed through a pipe or hose –read about the various ways animals can damage your car.
  • Check all fluid levels (oil, screenwash etc)
  • Check all brakes including the handbrake – it may have seized if you had stored your car with the handbrake on over winter. You can try putting your car into gear and driving slowly.

MEB the Motor Centre Advice

Over the previous years, we have also shared the following advice with you:

We look forward to seeing you for your next service or MOT.

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Potholes

potholesAhhhh don’t you just love winter weather!  One minute it is snowing, the next minute it is raining.  What is more depressing on a February morning is spotting the potholes that appear overnight.

How potholes are formed

Potholes are likely to appear in winter and spring when ice and running water disrupt the soil layer beneath the road surface.  Cars driving over these weak spots in the road cause the top layer to deform, crack and chip away. The holes in the road surface start off small but can potentially grow deep or large enough to cause damage to cars.

Pothole damage to cars

If you are unlucky enough to hit a pothole then you will need to check over your car for the following areas of damage:

  • Tyres – sidewall bulges, tread separation or flat tyres
  • Wheels – chips, cracks or bends caused by the hard angles of the hole
  • Suspension – misalignment (your steering wheel may be off centre), broken ball joints, damage to shots or struts
  • Exhaust – dents or holes in your exhaust pipe, muffler or catalytic converter

How to report them

If you do hit a pothole then do make sure you report it.  If it is around a town then you can find the contact details on the GOV.UK website. However if it is on a main UK road or motorway then you will need to phone 0300 123 5000 or email info@highwaysengland.co.uk.

How to claim for pothole damage

If your car does suffer damage from a pothole then you should be able to claim for compensation although this does depend on the following factors:

  • If the council are aware of the pothole in question – this is why it is important to report them (as they are under no obligation to award compensation for ones that aren’t reported)
  • If you have fully comprehensive insurance

Follow these steps to make your claim:

  • Take comprehensive notes about the size, location and depth of the pothole. Do a sketch or take a photograph
  • Get details of any witnesses
  • Get quotes for repairs and keep these along with garage receipts and repair bills
  • Make your claim
  • If your claim is rejected then do take a look at the comprehensive advice on Money Saving Expert website

Tips to avoid potholes or drive safely over them

The best way to avoid pothole damage to your car is to avoid driving over them.  However this is not always possible so here are some tips to make your drive as smooth as possible:

  • Keep your tyres inflated properly as they hold up much better than ones which are under or over inflated
  • Slow down if you see a pothole but don’t break directly over it as this is likely to cause your car damage
  • Drive straight with a firm grip so as not to lose control
  • When driving over water, use caution as it might be hiding a pothole (remember Dr Foster when he went to Gloucester!)

 

MEB the Motor Centre have been repairing and servicing all makes of cars in Crouch End for over 40 years. Contact us on 020 3322 2426 to talk about how potholes may have damaged your car.

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Three Driving Law Changes for 2018

law changes for 2018 A new year brings new legislation into force.  At MEB the Motor Centre, we’ve taken a look at the biggest motoring law changes for 2018 so that you know where you stand.

Driving Test

Perhaps the most publicised and controversial changes are around the driving test.  There are four changes which will affect you if you are taking your test in 2018:

  • Increased independent driving – from 10 to 20 minutes
  • New satnav section – candidates must follow directions from a satnav
  • Reversing manoeuvres
    • “reverse around a corner” and “turn in the road” have both been scrapped
    • You may be asked to:
      • Parallel park
      • Reverse in and drive out, or drive in and reverse out of a parking bay
      • Pull up on the right hand side of the road (against the flow of traffic), reverse for 2 car lengths and then rejoin the traffic
    • Safety questions
      • “tell me” questions will happen before you set off – for example how to find the correct air pressure for a car’s tyres and how to check them
      • “show m”e questions will happen on the move like how to operate the windscreen wipers

MOTs

In May 2018, classic cars will be exempt from MOTs.  Cars over 40 years old will not have to take the yearly road test. Around 1.5% of cars on the road will be driving legally without an MOT.

Drones

Ok, not strictly a vehicle but someone still has to pilot/drive it… The UK government is introducing new laws so that users will have to not only register their drones but take a basic online safety test in order to use it.  These changes come into play because of the health and safety fears surrounding these unmanned aircraft.

A look back at 2017 laws

2017 saw many changes in motoring laws, here’s a rundown on what laws were introduced in 2017:

  • March 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.
  • April 2017 saw the introduction of new speeding laws in the UK and they are much tougher than they were before.
  • Road tax changes – The old system was largely scrapped in 2017.  It was replaced by a three band system and will applied to vehicles registered after 1st April 2017, so essentially new cars.  The aim of the changes is to make it fairer to for drivers with older or second hand cars.
  • There were new laws surround booster seats

MEB the Motor Centre is a local independent garage in Crouch End offering MOTs, repairs and services to all makes of car.

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Winter Driving Conditions

Winter At MEB the Motor Centre, your driving experience is one of our foremost thoughts. We have already discussed in previous articles about winter driving checks and what should be in your winter breakdown kit, this article focuses on the type of weather you might encounter in winter and how best to cope.

Fog

Fog is the most dangerous driving hazard in existence (statistically speaking):

  • Make sure you know where your fog lights are and when to use them
  • Drive at a safe speed and check your mirrors before entering a fog patch
  • Use dipped headlights, windscreen wipers and demisters

Do take a look at our longer article on how to drive safely in fog for more tips.

Sleet and Snow

If you know it is going to sleet or snow before you set off then the best thing to do is to get prepared:

  • Give the car the once over (antifreeze topped up, windscreen wipers working, do any of your bulbs need replacing, the tyre tread passes the 20p test)
  • Check over your winter survival kit (should contain a shovel, de-icer, spare food and drinks etc)
  • Plan your journey and listen to local weather warnings and traffic updates

If it has snowed already then do make sure you clear the snow off the car fully before setting off.

We have a dedicated article for tips on driving in the snow here.

Rain

If you get caught in heavy rain this winter then beware of the following:

  • Avoid using the brakes as much as possible to avoid skidding or aquaplaning
  • Turn on your headlights, even in light rain. It will not only help you see the road but also for others to see you
  • Wipe the soles of your shoes before setting off so you get a good grip on the pedals (wet shoes could slip)
  • Make sure your windscreen wipers work properly – they should be replaced at least once a year

Ice

If the forecast for ice then you need to think about if your journey is really necessary.  If it is then be prepared:

  • Tyre grip is hugely reduced on icy roads so get your tyres checked over for the correct tread
  • Brakes need to be fully working as well since distances will be a lot longer
  • Drive as smoothly as possible
  • Look out for potential hazards and keep your speed down
  • A higher gear can aid grip on packed ice

Hail

Hail is extremely dangerous to drive in and should be avoided at all costs.  If you are caught in a storm whilst driving, do the following:

  • Stay in your vehicle as hail falls fast and can cause injuries
  • If the storm is severe, pull over so that you minimise the risk of your windscreen shattering. Find a space under a bridge to wait for example.
  • Avoid ditches as water can rise fast
  • Angle your car so that the windscreen faces the storm – your windscreen is reinforced but not the side and back windows

We hope you don’t have to experience too many of these types of weather this winter but if you do then be prepared.

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Motoring New Year Resolutions

New YearWe’ve raced through yet another year of car repairs, services and MOTs at MEB the Motor Centre.  Time to take stock of what went well in 2017 and how you can improve your motoring experience in 2018.  In addition to reminding you of our 2017 practical resolutions for car owners, here’s a few more suggestions for 2018.

#SpeedDown

Brake’s Road Safety Week campaign for 2017 was all about keeping your speed down.  We think this is a good resolution to stick to, especially in built up areas.  We know that 20mph does at times feel a little bit slow but it is the only safe speed to drive at in heavily built-up areas used by pedestrians and cyclists.  20mph gives you a better stopping time.

Supporting More Local Businesses

We’ve also been reminded to “shop local” in December around the time of Small Business Saturday.  According to a survey carried out by What Car in September 2017, once cars reach 7 years old, they have moved over to an independent garage.  Our garage prides itself in being able to repair cars which have been turned down by franchised dealerships.  So, if you aren’t already using a local garage, why not book in with one for an MOT or service in 2018.

Brush Up On Your Car Insurance

Are you one for driving in flipflops?  You might think twice about doing this if you knew that your car insurance provider thought of it as inappropriate footwear.  Take a look at our article that runs through 9 car insurance validations that you might not have known about.

Buy and Use a Dashcam

Did you get a dashcam for Christmas?  You might get a discount for using one when you are out and about driving.  For example the RAC are offering a £30 off their premium if you use one, as you are considered a more careful driver.  Dashcam footage can be used to help reduce scams (eg cash for crash) and report dangerous driving.

Common Car Problems        

Familiarise yourself with the signs of common car problems you may have overlooked to save yourself expensive repair bills. Learn the signs of brakes not performing well, keep on suspicious drips from your car, educate yourself about spark plugs, keep an eye on transmission controls and find out about what happens if your wheels aren’t aligned.

Happy New Year and happy driving!

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Christmas Gifts for Car Owners

giftsAre you struggling to think of gifts for your loved one?  If they spend as much time with their car as they do with you then check out our alternative car owners’ gift list.

Map

In an age of sat-navs and other map-related technology, have you thought about what happens if your device fails?  There might be the rare occasion that batteries get flat, the signal drops or the whole system crashes.  If this happens, do you have a trusty map of the UK in your car?  We advise having one as a backup.  Auto Express have done the hard work for us, reviewing a number of UK road maps.  Their choice is A-Z Great Britain and Northern Ireland Super Scale 2018.

Power Bank for Phone

Have you thought about what would happen if you broke down on a country lane?  It’s ok (kind of) to break down on the motorway as you will have access to phones, giving you a hotline to recovery vehicles.  However, if you are in the middle of the countryside, you will be heavily reliant on your mobile.  If your child has drained the battery playing games then what do you do?  Having an external portable charger or power bank could be the solution.  Just plug your phone in and your phone will transfer the power stored in this device.  Expert Reviews have reviewed the best power banks for 2017.

Jump Leads

Be the knight in shining armour and be the one to help those stranded with flat batteries (quite common in winter).  Jump leads are an invaluable piece of kit so ideal for those motoring mad in your life.  Don’t forget to brush up on how to use them safely.

De-icer kit

This could be the perfect stocking filler for your other half.  Having a de-icer spray and ice-scraper to hand will discourage the use of credit cards and hands.  The last thing you want is ring scratches all over your windscreen.  Invest in a decent de-icer kit to save your windscreen! Halfords 6 piece winter essentials set comes with lots of goodies including a chamois demister.

Our Gift to You

If you are a Picturehouse member, we are offering 10% off the cost of service labour.  Just show your membership card at the time of booking.

To book in for a MOT or service, please call 020 3322 2426.

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Small Business Saturday: Support Your Local Businesses

small business saturdayIt’s Small Business Saturday coming up again (Saturday 2nd December).  A time of year when we celebrate the small independent businesses in our local area.

At this time, supporting small businesses is more important than ever to us.  Not only are we awaiting the outcome of a planning decision which could see our current premises closed due to a suggested redevelopment into housing. We also lost our dear neighbours Muddy Boots which announced a shock closure of their 5 stores over London on Sunday night.  

We may need to find alternative premises within the area which would not be as big or maybe search further afield.  Therefore there might be one less garage training apprentices within the area.  We have successfully trained apprentices since 1992 and currently employ young trainees from the North London training group.

We give 4 fantastic reasons why supporting your local independent garage is important in our article we published last year for Small Business Saturday.  Not only are you contributing to the local economy but we are local and convenient for many who live and shop in Crouch End.  Our customers return to us year after year because of our reputation and that we are members of the Good Garage Scheme and a Which Trusted Trader.

According to a car servicing satisfaction survey carried out by What Car in September 2017, 92.2% of customers are satisfied by their non-franchise servicing experience.   Car owners believe they get better value for money from independent garages.

From looking at the statistics in their survey, some brands such as Porsche, Alfa Romeo and Audi are far happier taking their cars to be serviced at independents rather than franchised dealerships.

It is also interesting to note whereas 90% of motorists choose a franchised dealership for the first year’s vehicle service, the trend seems to be to switch to independents as the cars age.  Once cars reach 7 years old, almost 50% have shifted to using an independent garage.

If you are a motorist in the Crouch End area, do get in touch about your vehicle MOT and servicing needs.  We are 163 Tottenham Lane, open Monday – Friday 8am- 5.30pm.

 

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Road Safety Week – 20th to 26th November 2017

Road Safety WeekThe 20th to 26th November 2017 is Road Safety Week.  Why is there a week dedicated to road safety and what events will be running?

#speeddown is this 2017’s Road Safety Week campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of driving too fast.  Focusing on the following:

  • speed causes deaths and serious injuries on our roads
  • rural roads are not race tracks
  • 20mph is the only safe speed in heavily built-up areas used by pedestrians and cyclists
  • going slow = stopping in time
  • speed is scary and noisy. It stops communities being enjoyable places for children and families to walk, talk and play
  • speed cameras work. They save lives.
  • Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) is an important development that is likely to be fitted to all vehicles in the future

You can read more about the campaign here.

 

These are things we can all do as drivers to stay safe on the roads and reducing our speed is certainly one of the most important things.  But what about our cars? Regular maintenance and repairs are an essential part of keeping your car road worthy and safe:

–          Services keep your car in regular check.  A service is done in line with the car’s manufacturer guidelines. A service keeps the car running safely and efficiently. The garage will check levels of anti-freeze, oil changes, engine coolant levels.  It will check the brakes to see how long they will last.

–          Regular MOTs are a legal requirement.  They are an annual basic check of vehicle safety, roadworthiness and emissions. An MOT keeps the car safe. But for a more thorough check you need to take a car in for a regular service too.

–          Tyre safety is essential. Monitor your tyre pressure every week to ensure they comply with the UK standards. These can be found in your vehicle handbook and it is an easy check you can do yourself. The minimum tyre tread depth requirement in the UK is 1.6mm.  The correct tyre tread will keep you safe on the road. 

–          Other self-checks:

 a) You can check your own oil levels by ensuring they are in between minimum and maximum marks on the dipstick.  Do this once the car has cooled down though.

 b) Water coolant levels – another weekly check to do when the engine is cool. And when the weather turns cold, get the anti-freeze checked and topped up if necessary.

 c) Windscreen – You want to see where you are going! Glare from bright sun can show up any dirt on your windscreen and make driving very difficult. Ensure your windscreen wash is topped up for regular cleaning on the go. Also, make sure your windscreen wipers are in good condition and replace them if they are worn.  Also check for any small chips and get them fixed straight away.

 d) Lights – to ensure no bulbs need replacing. Especially important in the darker winter months.

 

These checks are straight forward and will keep your car running safely.  You can do them yourself but if not, book into your local garage.

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Car Driving Myths

car driving mythsYou may know the Highway Code but do you know what you can and can’t do whilst driving?  Some of you may be surprised to learn that driving in flip flops could invalidate your car insurance but what about other common scenarios?  MEB are here to bust some car driving myths.

Can I have the light on in my car?

This scenario may seem familiar to you… It’s dark, your passenger needs to look at map so puts on the interior light.  After a few minutes you ask them to switch it off as you say that drivers mustn’t have their inside lights on when they are driving.

This is actually a myth, also there is no law stating this but it can be distracting to the driver as it can cause glare on the windscreen.  Again if you are pulled over, the police officer can ask you to turn it off as they believe it is a distraction.

Does the 10% speeding rule exist?

Until recently UK motorists were allowed some leeway on speed due to inaccuracies in equipment that measures speed such as the car’s speedometer.  However it was never an excuse to speed. 

Since April 2017, new speeding laws were introduced in the UK and they are much tougher than they were before. 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.

Our advice, stick to the speed limit!

Women are better drivers than men

We don’t want to get into a gender-slanging match but let’s look at this myth objectively. There have been many studies out there and according to Octagon Insurance, women are better drivers.  Although you can then take a look at Cheap Car Insurance who argue in 10 ways that men are better drivers than women.  Until a study looks at every factor involved in driving, we think it is too close to call.

Women may have been put off by the news that they would no longer be automatically given cheaper car insurance but actually it now means that insurance is based on the individual rather than the gender.  This then renders this myth as false.

You should place your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel

Cast your minds back to your driving lessons.  Do you remember what your instructor said about hand placement?  Perhaps you practised on a dinner plate when you weren’t in the car?  You need to get to grips with the wheel and the “10 to 2” was the preferred method as taught back in the day.

However since cars virtually all now have power steering (thank goodness), placing your hands at 9 and 3 is the more comfortable and sensible method.

What’s your favourite car driving myth?  Do let us know by tweeting us @mebmotors

 

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Tyre Safety Month – October 2017

Tyre Safety MonthIt seems like only a few months ago we were writing about Tyre Safety Month 2016.  Anyway it is October again so time to support the guys at Tyre Safe.  So what’s in store for Tyre Safety Month 2017?

Well this year, Tyre Safety Month is all about correct tyre pressure: Are you having a Good or a Bad Air Day?  Regular tyre checks should be part of your monthly maintenance but there are a large number of owners who are only replacing tyres when they’ve become illegal and dangerous.  Regular tyre checks could avoid them being a danger on the road.

Here are some facts and figures provided by Tyre Safe:

  • 3% more fuel used when pressure is 6 psi below recommended inflation
  • For every 10% a tyre is under-inflated. Its wear can increase by 10%
  • £600 million wasted yearly on fuel costs by British motorists driving with under-inflated tyres
  • 8% of car tyres in the UK are at least 4 psi below recommended pressures

How to check your tyre pressure

Firstly you need to know what your correct tyre pressure should be.  This can be found in your vehicle’s handbook, inside the fuel cap and also stamped into the sill of the driver’s side door.

Secondly you will need a tyre pressure gauge or you can use the gauge at garages and petrol stations (on the inflation equipment).

There are two different sets of pressures to check – One for “normal” driving conditions and the other for loaded vehicles (ie with extra people or heavy items). 

If you are checking your tyres with a tyre pressure gauge, you can check each tyre pressure individually.  Just remove the valve cap and attach the pressure gauge to it.  You can then verify what the reading is.  Air can be then added if you are underinflated at most petrol stations.  Tyres which are overinflated (ie too much air), use the tyre gauge/inflator (at the garage) and press the equipment in half way to let a little air out so that the tyre pressure is back to the recommended level.  Once you have the correct air pressure level, just remove the air hose and reattach the tyre valve cap.

You can always watch a video to make sure you are getting it right.

For more information on tyre pressures, do take a look at our article on 6 facts about tyre pressure.

So make sure you check or get your tyre pressure checked this October (we will happily carry this out for you at MEB).

 

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