What should I do if I breakdown?

It is something that most drivers dread, and many drivers try to prepare for, but it is still very worrying when your car breaks down by the roadside. If you do have the misfortune to break down do you know what to do?

Hopefully you will have previously organised breakdown cover with a reputable organisation and have the details of your cover and the relevant telephone numbers on hand. A phone call to the operator with details of your car and location will be the first thing to do and help should be on its way often within the hour.

If you are carrying an emergency triangle it is a good idea to place this a few metres from your car to warn other motorists of the hazard along with switching on your hazard lights. It is essential, especially if you breakdown on a motorway that you do not stay inside the vehicle but stand some metres away in case your car is hit by another vehicle.

Should you not have breakdown cover you will need to either phone a family member or friend to tow you to garage not to be attempted by the fainthearted or ideally phone a local garage to recover your vehicle.

Buying a used car for your grown-up child

When your child first passes their driving test, they will no doubt be eager to own their own car. It may be that, as parents, you are in a financial position that enables you to buy the first car for them but usually this will have to be a used car. The physical size of the car, engine size and fuel type will all need to be taken into consideration.

It is important firstly to think about what the car will be used for. If it is only used on short local journeys a smaller car will probably be sufficient but if the car is going to be used for longer motorway journeys a more reliable, fuel efficient model will be more suitable.

The cost of insuring a young persons’ car is a significant outlay and so a car with a smaller engine may mean that savings can be made. A tracker can be fitted to the car by a representative from the insurance company which measures the mileage covered, speed the car is driven at and the time of day journeys are undertaken. This feature can result in a reduced insurance premium for the driver and peace of mind for the parent too.

Smart motorways, are they safe?

Smart motorways have been about for a number of years now and in the last five years there has been 38 deaths which surely says there is a need to rethink them. A section of the M25 that has been turned in to a smart motorway has seen a 20 fold increase in near misses since the hard shoulder was removed. The idea of these smart motorways is to open up the hard shoulder to be used by motorists as another lane. It someone breaks down in a lane then a sign on a gantry will illuminate a red x to show drivers that the line is closed, and they need to move in to another lane. This was first piloted on the M42 where the Emergency Refuge Areas were every 500m, without consultation this was changed to only have them every 2500m instead which may have contributed to the number of deaths that have occurred.

It can take up to 17 minutes for the control room to spot a broken down vehicle and hit the button to display a red X, it can then take another 17 minutes for the car to be rescued and bought to safety which means you have well over half an hour of time where you are in a very dangerous position.

Advances in motoring could be the first step to cutting down on breakdowns

Breakdowns are not only an inconvenience but sometimes they can also be very dangerous, If you break down on the motor way for example then you are at high risk of being involved in a another accident. This is why it is very important to try and find ways to cut down on unexpected breakdowns.

Over the last few decades there have been a number of huge advances in the motoring industry such as improved safety features and environmental features such as electric cars.

Many of the new cars that are on the market have colour coded speedometers not only displaying your speed on a digital display but also showing you if you are driving economically or not.

Another handy little device that may be worth purchasing is one of the portable real time diagnostic boxes that many of the breakdown companies are offering. Companies such as the AA and Green Flag have created these boxes that plug directly into the diagnostic port on your vehicle. They are set up to read any error codes that come up on the ECU of your vehicle and report them to you in real time. This may be by sending you a text message or a phone call. They can read data such as battery issues, engine management fault codes and even driving styles

How much does break down cover cost?

Breakdown cover is something that many drivers skim on and either neglect to get it at all or find the cheapest quote and go with that, but in doing this you are playing a dangerous game which could end up costly.

Unlike car insurance, break down cover is not compulsory in the UK but even so, it is something that we should all take out for added peace of mind. Even new cars suffer breakdowns so regardless of the age of the vehicle you should get breakdown. Some policies even cover you when you are a passenger in someone else’s car so need not worry about ever get stuck.  If you break down on the motorway, you must get your car recovered as soon as possible and if you cannot provide details of the company that is recovering you then you may have to pay the recovery charges issued by the highways maintenance service. This is often a lot higher than the annual fee you would pay for breakdown assistance and they will often only recover you to a local garage or safe place to leave the vehicle.

The average break down policy costs as little as £9 per month so it really won’t break the bank and in with this you may also be given extras such as a hire car or overnight accommodation. If you want extra peace of mind be sure to opt for a package that recovers you to any UK destination and also home start.

Can you discover the service history for a car you own?

If you have a vehicle and have not been given the service schedule book then you may have no idea what if any services have been done on it. Most cars are usually kept up to date with the services for at least the first three years after which time some people can become a little complacent and miss one or two along the way. A service is important to ensure that the car is working as efficiently as possible and to try and prevent the unnecessary wear of parts.

If you have just bought a car but have no service history for it you can do some investigation work and try to find out yourself information on past services. If the car came with any receipts, then have a good look through them first and see if you can find an invoice for a service. If you know where the car has been taken for repairs you could ring that garage up and ask them if they have any service history for the vehicle. You can sometimes order a duplicate service book online for the make and model of your vehicle but be sure to then try and contact the servicing garages to ask if they would be willing to stamp it for you.

Diagnosing what is wrong with your car

Intermittent faults on a car can be very frustrating. Often you may notice that something is not quite right but then when you take the car to the garage, they cannot replicate the fault. This can result in costly investigation costs and may mean you have to go without your car for a period of time whilst they complete their investigations.

Most cars are built with a type of on board computer that can be linked up to a diagnostic machine that will check the system for faults. This will then create a diagnostic report listing any fault codes it has found. The fault codes will refer to a problem with a specific part or function of the vehicle. Not all garages will be able to do a diagnostic on your car so it is worth checking with them first. Once you have the results of the diagnostic you can then make a decision as to what you want to do with the vehicle. If it is quite old, you may feel that it is not worth repairing and better to cut your losses.

A diagnostic can cost around £20-£40 depending on where you take it and you need to bear in mind that the diagnostic will not pick up everything that is wrong with the car just faults that have been recorded on the on-board computer.  

Hire care fuel economy

When hiring a car you want to make sure that you get the most fuel for your money as you would if you were driving your own car at home. Many hire cars come with a certain amount of fuel in them and when you return them, you usually have to return them with the same amount back in. If you return them with less fuel then you will usually get charged for this.

Be prepared for your next car hire by reading these top tips to help improve your hire car fuel economy. Some you’re probably aware of, some you might have forgot or been unaware of. They’re all handy to know!

Sounds simple, but when the weather is hot try to park in the shade rather than out in the open as this will reduce fuel evaporation. Plan you journeys in advance and look out for traffic. Making sure you take the shortest route may help you save on the fuel you use. Carrying unnecessary weight will increase fuel consumption. It can be easy to leave those bags of unwanted clothes in your hire car for days forgetting to take them to the charity shop but each day this is costing you money.

Cost of replacing brake pads

Brake pads are a common component that needs replacing usually every couple of years, maybe more depending on how much you use your vehicle. The cost of replacing brake pads can vary drastically from car to car and they always need to be replaced in pairs as if you only replace the one, the car will not brake evenly when the brakes are applied and the car may swerve or skid.

If you take your car to a main dealer you may end up paying in excess of £300 to have the brakes replaced. If you take the car to an independent garage it will probably be around £200 for new pads all round.

The job of changing brake pads is fairly straight forward, and if you are feeling confident then you may wish to have a go yourself. Although the job isn’t too difficult, it is vital that you get it right. Be certain that you know what you are doing, and ideally have them checked over by a mechanic once you have completed the change.

You can save quite a bit of money in buying the brakes and fitting them yourself. The parts will probably cost you around £75 – £100 and then it is just a case of your time.

The importance of changing you cam belt

As a car owner it is your responsibility to ensure that your car is maintained and road legal. There are many things that can go wrong with a car from time to time and one of the more costly jobs is often involving the cam belt.

A cam belt is the belt that drives the cam which synchronises the rotation of the crankshaft and the camshaft so that the engine’s valves open and close at the proper times during each cylinder’s intake and exhaust strokes.

Most cars have a rubber belt but some are fitted with a chain belt which means they are much less likely to break. The rubber cam belts will often need replacing at certain intervals and may need tensioning in-between changes. If this is not done you run the risk of the belt snapping or loosening too much and causing internal damage to the engine, which can often be enough damage to make the car a write off and beyond economical repair.

Some cars need the cam belt changing approximately every sixty thousand miles or so where as other may only need it doing every one hundred and twenty thousand.

Always get the cam belt changed as soon as possible on a second hand car unless you can be certain it has been done recently.