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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Autumn Driving Conditions

autumn drivingGoodbye Summer, Hello Autumn.  There is certainly a change in the air so time to get used to new driving conditions and autumn weather hazards.

Leaves

Who’d have thought that leaves could cause so much damage?  Well they can.

Dry leaves – these can get stuck in tight places in your vehicle’s undercarriage. Dry leaves can also be a fire hazard, so don’t park near a pile in case your car’s catalytic converter ignites them!

Wet leaves – Did you know that wet leaves could be as dangerous as hitting standing water so reduce your speed before driving onto a patch. Wet leaves are slippery so avoid skidding by not braking or accelerating hard.

Leaves can also hide other road hazards such as a pothole so go easy when driving over them.  Also make sure that your windscreen is leaf-free as they can get stuck under the wipers causing a smeary mess if you are trying to clean your screen.

Driving in the Dark

Part of your evening’s commute will most likely now be in the dark.  If you are driving on an unfamiliar route, take extra care on windy roads or on hills, plus be super-vigilant for other motorists, pedestrians (including school children), cyclists and animals.

If the weather is turning chilly then there is a risk of ice.  If you are crossing a bridge then this will most likely ice over before the rest of the road.  Little puddles of water could also contain black ice.

Make sure you get your lights tested and you know how they work.

Road Trip Prep

As we always advise, do ensure that you have either booked your car in for a basic inspection (see our Autumn checks article) or that you give the following a good once over: the fluids, tyre pressure, windscreen wipers, brakes and engine.

Headlights should be cleaned, in good working order and aligned correctly. Also keep an emergency car safety kit in your boot.

Despite the change in weather, sunrises and sunsets can be spectacular but rather dazzling.  A pair of sunglasses kept in the car can help you drive in comfort and avoid that glare caused by bright sun.

If there is fog, ensure your headlight beam is set on low which aims the light down towards the road so as not to dazzle oncoming drivers.

So get out there and enjoy the autumnal colours before the leaves drop off altogether!

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Car Insurance Invalidations

car insuranceIt is the law in this country to have valid insurance for your car. But did you know, even if you have the correct insurance in place there are things you could be doing to invalidate it? According to uSwitch, there are many common mistakes we make as drivers. Take a look at our list to see if you have committed any of these car insurance clangers.

1. Wearing inappropriate footwear. It’s summer, it’s hot, you step outside in your shorts and flip flops and get into the car to drive. Or maybe you’re headed out in a lovely pair of high heels. These shoes can be quite difficult to drive in and therefore fairly dangerous. If you have an accident your insurance could be invalidated by wearing these items.

2. Leaving the car unlocked. Sounds simple – you park and lock the car. But many people forget or just think they’ll nip inside quickly while the car is running. Don’t. If your car is stolen you won’t be covered.

3. Not maintaining your car. Sounds obvious again but if you ignore problems and they then turn into bigger problems it may be that your car insurance policy won’t pay out. Your car should be kept in a safe condition.

4. Out of date MOT – forgetting to renew your MOT invalidates your insurance. Not having the relevant MOT is also an offence punishable by a fine. The same goes for tax. You must have up-to-date car tax.

5. Mileage – when you take out your policy you give the insurance company an estimate of your likely mileage. Although it is accepted by the insurance companies that it is an estimate, it could invalidate your policy if you go over the mileage limit.

6. Report all accidents, even minor ones. People are often reluctant to report an accident in order to avoid losing their no claims discount. However, it could invalidate any future claims if you don’t report. You don’t need to make a claim, just inform the insurance company that your car has been in an accident, albeit minor.

7. Do you have fluffy dice or anything else hanging from your rear view mirror? Did you know it could invalidate your insurance. It’s because it’s considered an obstruction to your view so best to take those fluffy dice down and keep the view clear.

8. Inform your insurer of any change in circumstances – a house move, change of use for your car (ie, if you start to use it for a commute), change in parking position (garage to road). If they aren’t kept up to date then claims on the policy could be considered invalid.

9. Who is the named driver? There was a practice where people would declare themselves as the main driver on the policy of insurance for another driver. It’s known as fronting and insurers are on to it. It was used to reduce the premiums, for example, parents placing their names as main drivers for their children’s cars. It’s actually considered fraudulent so is illegal. So be upfront and honest about the main driver.

So these things do seem obvious but according to the uSwitch survey these are the things drivers are most likely to do to invalidate their insurance policies.

Stay insured and happy driving .

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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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