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.

Hands free kits and driving

The law is hotting up on drives who use mobile devices whilst driving. It is against the law to drive a car whilst using a mobile phone, unless it is using a hands free device. There is still quite a valid argument though that using a hands free device is still not completely without risk and may not be as safe as you would like to think. You are certainly better off not to use your phone at all, but often this is not possible especially for people like reps etc who need to be able to have the ability to make and take phone calls when on the road all day.

There is a huge selection of hands-free devices out there which range in price and functionality. If you have a stereo that has an aux port on it or a micro usb / Apple connection then you should be able to link your phone directly to the car stereo.  If you are intending using your hands free a lot then it is recommend that you invest in a good quality one that may cost a bit more. Some newer vehicles also have a blue tooth connection to allow you to link your device that way. These systems often will link to your phone book allowing you to ring contacts in your phone.

Adding personality to your car

For some people a car is just something that gets them from A to B and as long as it is reliable, they don’t worry too much about what it looks like let alone stylising it. For others, their car is their pride and joy and they do not mind spending money on make it look better and adding their own personality in to it.

When buying a new car you often have the option of choosing the colour, trim level, interior colours and materials and wheels, allowing you to style it how you wish. With second hand cars, you don’t get the same options so you may look at other ways in which you can make your car fit your personality. There are so many accessories you can buy for your car and many of them you can personalise.

Car mats can change the look of a car interior, and some people are opting for ones with their name or initials on. Steering wheel covers, seat belt covers, car seat covers and even baby seats can all be changed to create a matching look and feel.

If you want to go all out you could even have the vehicle reupholstered although this is often not a very cheap option and not always worth doing on older vehicles.

The minefield that is car insurance

Car insurance is something that we all need if you are driving a car on the roads or even just having it parked up outside your house. Prices for insurance can vary drastically depending on the car you want to insure, the area you live in, the experience you have and points on your license (just to name a few). It can be an expensive annual or monthly fee for a car or van owner and with many of us relying on our cars to get to and from work, owning a car is a must.

When looking to take out a new car insurance policy, it is recommended that you shop around for the best price as different insurance companies can offer vastly different quotes for the exact same policy.

Once you have found the best quote, be sure to check the small print for other fees you may incur during the policy. The excess is something that can vary quite a bit from policy to policy. Most insurance policies have a compulsory excess and then a voluntary. You may find that by increasing the voluntary excess, the annual price for the insurance drops down. Some insurance companies will charge an admin fee for changes, such as changes of address, vehicle or convictions etc. They will also charge a fee to cancel a policy and this can be anything from £20 upwards of £75.

Where is the best place to pick up a used car?

If you are in the market of looking for a new car then you may have to be on the lookout for a second hand one. Although owning a new car is a luxury that many of us would like to do, the hefty price tag attached to new vehicles often puts them out of budget for many people. Buying a second-hand car is always a bit of a risk as you do not know its full history and often you have little or no warranty with it (if it is an older vehicle and not bought from a main dealership).
When looking at any second hand car you should always carry out a HPI check on the vehicle which will check to see if it has outstanding finance on it, has been written off or had plate changed, amongst other things. If buying from a reputable garage, then they should have done this when they bought the vehicle or took it in part exchange, so you can always request to see it. If you are buying from a private buyer then you will probably need to do this yourself. You can do a HPI on any vehicle and it usually costs around £15.
Buying from a garage does often give you a little bit more security than buying a second hand car privately as you should get a three month warranty as minimum from most reputable dealers.

Getting your vehicle ready for an MOT

It is important to always know the date when your MOT is due. Ideally you want to get your MOT done a bit early as after the date has passed you will no longer be allowed to drive it without a valid MOT. Having the MOT done on the same day it is due is risky if you need the car back soon as it may need work doing to it and then a retest should it fail, which may take longer than a day to complete.
Before taking your car in for an MOT there are a few things you can do yourself to try and make sure it doesn’t fail on anything simple. Checking that your washer level, oil and coolant levels are correct is something you should do often anyway but be sure to check and top up if required prior to your MOT. Check your tyres are in a good condition, have enough tread on them, no damage and are inflated correctly. You should also check your lights are all working as if not this can be a failure for something that is easily rectified.
You may wish to take your car to a garage that does MOT’s only and no repair work as some people feel that they are less likely to try and find things to fail it on as they will not make any money off repair work.

How easy is it to change a light bulb on your vehicle?

If you notice you have a light out on your vehicle you may assume that it is a very simple job to do. Most vehicles have quick release panels that allow you to easily access the back of the light fitting, remove the dud bulb and replace it with a new one, but unfortunately, this is not the case for all makes and models of vehicles.

Some vehicles require you to remove the plastic covering held in place by studs around the wheel arch. This can be quite hard to do and often locating and replacing the bulb is not always straightforward. There are also a few makes and models of cars that require you to complete part of the front bumper to access to the front light assembly. Often vehicles where you are required to do this, are best taken to a garage to complete.

Be sure that you always buy good quality bulbs and double check that they are the right fitment before purchasing. Places such as Halfords sell bulbs for most vehicles and even offer a fitting service for a small fee. Driving around with a headlight or indicator bulb out, for example, is an offence and if you notice that one is not working you need to get it replaced as soon as possible.