Has My Car’s Handbrake Cable Snapped?

Has My Car's Handbrake Cable Snapped?

A snapped handbrake cable is one of the most common faults on older cars. Unlike most newer cars, which have an electronic parking brake, older cars have a handbrake cable. The handbrake cable runs from the handbrake lever to the back wheels of the car, and are prone to failure.

Traditional handbrake cables are usually made out of metal. Their condition will inevitably deteriorate over time. After all, the cables are fitted underneath the car and are exposed to the outside. That means all kinds of road debris and water is thrown at them. The cables can start to rust after a while, which will weaken them a lot. If the tension put on them gets too much for the cables then the most likely result is that the cables will snap.

How Do I Know If my Handbrake Cable Has Snapped?

Checking whether your handbrake cable is on its way out can be a bit tricky. After all, you can’t actually do a visual check without getting underneath the car. When using the handbrake it may be that your car stays put and everything feels fine. When looking up close, however, it can be that it is dangerously close to snapping.

Checking the condition of the cable is the best way to find out if it is one its way out. This will usually be done as part of a service when you bring in your car to the garage. That said, there are ways to check without a visual check. For example, a good sign that the cable is deteriorating is when you have to pull the handbrake lever up higher than normal to stop the car.

When a handbrake cable does completely snap the consequences can be catastrophic. It will mean that there is nothing to lock the car in its place when stationary. If you live somewhere where’s it’s flat it’s less of a problem, but imagine what would happen if you park on a slope. Your car will most likely just roll off without you!

It’s something you want to avoid of course. Replacing a handbrake cable often doesn’t take much luckily. The cables are often easily accessible from underneath the car. So a quick fix done mobile is often not a problem.

It’s important to get the problem fixed as soon as you notice any issues. Get help from a mechanic if you’re not sure which of the handbrake cables is needed. They will be able to tell you exactly what needs to be done to resolve the problem.

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Faulty Brakes Are the Most Common Vehicle Defect in all Road Accidents, but Defective Tyres Takes the Top Spot for Cars

We have analysed the latest figures from the Department for Transport and can reveal that faulty brakes are the number one vehicle defect to contribute to 2016’s road accidents. However, looking just at cars, flawed tyres are in fact the most common defect to cause an incident.

With a total of 446 incidents, faulty tyres are the primary vehicle defect and contributing factor to car accidents in 2016. This is followed by defective brakes with 365 incidents, imperfect steering or suspension with 180 accidents and overloaded vehicles with 54 incidents. Defective lights or indicators (46 accidents) and mirrors (8 incidents) are less common and feature at the bottom of the table.

Looking at all recorded vehicles in road accidents, damaged brakes are more likely to cause an incident. This is because other vehicles such as motorbikes, buses and particularly bicycles, have recorded more issues with brakes than tyres. However, interestingly all vehicles in the UK are much more likely to have an incident involving defective tyres on the motorway, rather than as a result of imperfect brakes (85 incidents versus 17). This is because under inflated tyres will overheat quickly, particularly at high speeds, and can consequently ‘blow out’ and cause an accident. Whereas on A Roads, faulty brakes assume the top spot once again, as drivers brake more regularly.

Focusing on location, the South East has the highest number of accidents caused by vehicle defects, with 297 incidents. In contrast, the North East appears to take better care of their vehicles as only 46 vehicle defect related road accidents are recorded. Looking at our capital, defective brakes (85 incidents) are much more likely to cause an issue than faulty tyres (34 incidents); the constant braking and lower speeds when driving in London perhaps being the greatest influence to this. The only two regions in which defective tyres are significantly more likely to cause an incident than faulty brakes are Scotland and the East Midlands.

Andrew Jervis, Co-Founder of ClickMechanic, said: “Tyres and brakes control the movement of the car and so can easily cause a collision if they’re not in proper working condition. Being the top two occurring vehicle defects in 2016 emphasises that some UK drivers are not servicing their car regularly, or conducting simple checks, such as measuring the air pressure in the tyres. All drivers should follow their manufacturer’s recommended schedule and ensure that any anomalies are assessed by a professional as soon as possible. Doing so severely reduces the likelihood of these defects and keeps both yourself and other drivers safe on the road.”

The Ultimate Guide To Car Fluids

The Ultimate Guide To Car FluidsLike us, cars need to stay hydrated, however, it isn’t just water that they need. Cars have been getting more efficient and reliable, but they still need some maintenance. Fluids play a massive role in keeping your car running smoothly, from the brakes to the engine. Make sure to top them up to keep your vehicle in top shape. There is a number of fluids to check, for example:

  • Engine coolant
  • Engine oil
  • Power steering fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Transmission fluid
  • Washer fluid

Popping the bonnet and checking the fluids can help to keep your vehicle running well and at a lower risk of breaking down.

Let’s go through the fluids, how to check them, and how to top them up:

Engine Coolant

Coolant keeps your engine cool, which is important for efficiency, emissions, and most importantly to reduce wear and tear within your engine. Protecting the engine from overheating means you won’t be stuck with a nasty repair bill.

You should only have to check this fluid regularly, preferably every month, although this can be sooner because of a leak. You may also want to check the coolant during the summer, where leaks can be exacerbated by the overworked cooling system.

Warning: Never check your coolant while the engine is hot. You risk personal injury.

Under the bonnet, you should see a clear, or opaque container. It should have a min and max reading on the side, with the level of the liquid visible. If below the min line you will need to fill it to the max line, with a mix of water and coolant. If there is no container then you need to open the radiator cap to see if the coolant reaches the top.

Make sure any coolant you use is approved for your vehicle, and when opening the radiator, leave for a minute to release any trapped air bubbles.

To fill up on coolant, you have to unscrew the reservoir, and for most cars pour in a 50:50 mixture of water and coolant. The mixture does differ across car models so make sure to always check your car’s service manual. If you only have water to hand then this will work for a few miles but you should urgently seek out a nearby garage who will top you up with coolant.

Low levels of coolant may mean there is a leak in the system, which you can find by checking around a cool engine to find wet patches.

Engine oil

The parts in your car’s engine rotate and move up and down several times a second. This requires a lot of pumps, cylinders and other moving parts. All these moving parts rub together. Oil helps protect the system from wear and tear, while also making the parts work better, by lubricating joints and friction points.

You should be checking the system once every month or so, since the check is relatively quick. This helps avoid any issues with leaking oil or dirty oil.

Advisory: Run the car for 5 minutes or around the block so oil flows through the system first.
Check your owner’s manual to find the dipstick. Pull the dipstick out and wipe it down with a towel or rag. Reinsert it, then pull it out to check the level of oil in the tank. The dipstick should display a normal range of oil.

If the oil is below the range, then fill the oil tank with an oil designed to work with your vehicle. Make sure not to overfill the system as this will mean more leaks.

Low levels of oil could indicate a leak in the system, but dirty oil may mean components are starting to wear down. The oil should be yellow, or amber. Brown or dark oil may mean you need an oil filter replacement.

Power steering fluid

Turning an older car was a very heavy and exhausting task, as your arm muscles were responsible for a large part of turning the wheels on the ground. Modern cars have power-assisted steering, to make the steering of the car much easier by making it lighter. Power steering makes turning easy at any speed, using hydraulic fluids to make the wheels turn.

Usually, the power steering fluid doesn’t need to be replaced often, but spotting early signs of a leak could save your life. Since the fluid is crucial to the maneuverability of your car, you may slowly notice that turning becomes more difficult at low speeds, and a 3 point turn is more like a workout.

Just at the base of the windscreen, there is a small tank. If you can’t find it or are unsure about what it looks like then consult your owner’s manual. There should be an indicator on the tank, where you can see the minimum and maximum levels of fluid. If this isn’t the case, then you will need to open the cap.

Warning: Before you add the new fluid, clean the area around the opening to avoid contaminating the fluid.
Use the power steering dipstick to check the level of power steering fluid in the tank. Simply, remove the dipstick, wipe it down, reinsert it and then check the level.

Low fluid levels will need to be topped up, but it is essential that you use hydraulic power steering fluid that is specifically suited to your vehicle.

Having only a little power steering fluid left will have a noticeable impact on how easily your car steers. The low levels may indicate a leak somewhere in the system.
Brake fluid
Brake fluid acts as a pressurised step between your foot on the pedal and the brake rotors. This helps you brake more instantly and with less effort.

You shouldn’t have to check the brake fluid at all, but spotting a leak may just save your life from faulty brakes. Over time, brake fluid can become contaminated. Water, for example, will cause the brake lines to rust resulting in the fluid becoming contaminated. The dark fluid is a serious sign that the system needs a mechanic.

You can find the brake fluid reservoir near the back of the engine compartment. In most cars, the container will be opaque, with clear max-min lines.

Warning: Before you add the new fluid, clean the area around the opening to avoid contaminating the fluid.

Open the reservoir, and check that the fluid almost fills the tank. Top it up with the right fluid, consult your owner’s manual if you need some guidance.

Transmission Fluid

Similar to the engine oil and power steering fluid, the transmission fluid lubricates and cools components in your car. The transmission system contains gears, clutches, and valves that must move seamlessly while driving.

Transmission fluid should last the lifetime of the car but may begin to leak due to a knock or crack.

Your vehicle should have another dipstick to check the transmission fluid level. You should remove it from the system, wipe it down, reinsert it then check the level of fluid. Additional checks should be done on the colour, dark, cloudy or gritty fluid requires a mechanical diagnosis by a mechanic.

Top up the transmission fluid by pouring your vehicle specific transmission fluid into the fill tube. Run through the gears to let the new transmission fluid flow through the system. This can be a tricky job, if it not carried out correctly it can damage your transmission, leading to extra repair costs. It is advisable to get help from a professional mechanic to carry out the work if you’re not sure how to do it.

Low transmission fluid can cause rough shifting, odd noises when switching gears, and uncontrolled surges (in case of an automatic transmission).

Windscreen washer fluid

Windscreen wiper fluid might not be vital but it is important to your windscreen. Dirt builds up, and a little British rain doesn’t quite keep the glass clear. Windscreen washer fluid polishes your window to ensure there is greater clarity to your vision.
You may have to check on the amount of this every few months and even more in the summer.

Luckily, it’s the easiest to top up since the washer tank bottle is easy to find and normally doesn’t require a specific type of fluid.
Under the bonnet, there will be an opaque tank, usually labeled “washer” or “windscreen”. Pop the lid open and check the amount of fluid. If you are low simply pour more washer fluid in. You can use soapy water, but this will slightly damage the system, so only use it in emergencies.

Going without washer fluid will mean your windscreen slowly piles on layers of dirt. Windscreen wipers only cover a certain amount of the glass, so eventually you build up “dirt goggles”

Fuel is the most important fluid in cars at the moment although, your other fluids are also vital to your car running well. Make a schedule to check the different fluids around your vehicles, and make sure to stick to any recommended service schedule. If you suspect there is an issue with a system, then get a Clickmechanic diagnostic inspection.

Happy driving

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4 Signs Your Car’s Brakes Need Replacing

Maintaining your brakes is essential for safety, you never know when you might need to stop in an emergency. In order to save time and money, it’s important to know the signs that your car needs new brake pads, shoes, drums or calipers. Here’s the most common ones, and how quickly you should get them fixed by a qualified mechanic.

Brake Noise When Stopping

Noise when braking is common, and it can either mean that your brakes are dirty or that your brake pads are worn down. If you hear squeaking when stopping, but the performance is unaffected, your brakes may just need cleaning. However, if you hear a loud squeak or a scraping sound then it’s probably because your brake pads or shoes have worn down and the metal is scraping against the disc or drum. If this is the case you should book in urgently as it can affect your ability to stop safely.

The Pedal Feel Soft When Braking

This is often caused by a lack of braking pressure. It can be very disconcerting, as you’ll need to press the brake pedal further to stop the vehicle. The cause is usually leaking calipers, brake cylinders or air in the braking system. The lack of pressure can mean that the vehicle takes longer to stop, so be sure to get a mechanic to check it out as soon as possible.

The Steering Wheel Shakes When Braking

This is a common issue, a shaking steering wheel is usually a sign of a warped brake disc. This can be fixed by having the disc replaced. It’s best to get it fixed quickly, though, to stay safe.

The Car Pulls To One Side

This could happen when the brake lines are damaged or uneven. If you can feel the brakes dragging, then the likely cause is contaminated fluid in the system, or brakes that haven’t been adjusted properly. These issues can be dangerous, particularly if you have to stop suddenly.

To get any issues with your brakes sorted, simply head to ClickMechanic and make a booking. It only takes a couple of minutes and we’ll find the perfect mechanic to get your brakes sorted.

How To Extend The Lifespan Of Your Car Brakes

How to prolong the lifespan of your car brakes

Working brakes are essential to keeping safe on the road, and could even be the difference between life and death. It’s impossible to make your brakes last forever, most brakes will lose their effectiveness after 25,000 miles. However, it’s possible to extend this lifespan by adapting your driving style to reduce the strain on your brakes.

Smooth driving

Driving your car smoothly can have a big impact on how long your brakes will last. Everytime you brake your brakes will wear down a bit. It is therefore important to ensure that you only apply your brakes if you really need to. This may sound self-evident, but there will be times where really you could just let your car roll to a stop, instead of braking. Further to that remember that driving a car is all about anticipating what could happen next.

Braking technique

When slowing for a junction or at traffic lights, it’s better for your brakes that you come to a complete stop, instead of allowing the car to creep forward. The constant friction means that you’re engaging the brakes for longer, and this causes them to wear out more quickly.

Though it may sounds obvious, ensure that you’re never accelerating and braking at the same time, not only will it wear your brakes out, but also your tyres. So leave left foot braking to the Formula 1 drivers!

Removing weight & planning your route

In addition to changing your driving habits, you can also extend your brake’s lifespan by removing weight from your car. Ensure that you leave any unnecessary luggage (and passengers!) at home and you’ll reduce friction for your car’s brakes. You can also reduce wear and tear by planning routes that have less congestion and fewer junctions. The less you use the brakes, the slower they will wear out.

Not only will these tips help you to increase your brake’s longevity, they’ll also improve your fuel efficiency, meaning you’ll be saving your hard-earned pounds! To keep your brakes in top condition, you’ll need to get them maintained regularly and ensure the fluid level remains topped up.

If you’d like to get your brakes checked out, then don’t hesitate to book in. We’ll send a mechanic to ensure everything is in working order and fix it if not.

What Should I Do If My Brake Warning Light Comes On?

There are 2 main warning lights for the brake system, though many manufacturers combine these to simplify things. One let’s you know the handbrake is still on, and will have a “P” symbol, whilst a “!” means that there is an issue with the system.

What does the warning light mean?

If you have a single warning light, then it could simply be that the handbrake is still engaged. Ensure that it’s fully off, and if the warning light remains, then it’s likely there is an issue with the braking system. Usually, this is an issue with the brake fluid.

There is a sensor in the brake fluid reservoir that helps to ensure there is enough fluid in the braking system. Over time, your brake pads wear down and this means more fluid is pushed into the brake lines. This means less fluid is in the system and therefore the reservoir will dip below the level required to trip the sensor. It could also be indicative of a leak in the system, which will cause the fluid level to drop.

What should I do if the warning light comes on?

When the light comes on, first check that your handbrake is fully disengaged. If that doesn’t fix it, check the fluid level in the reservoir. If your fluid level is low, then have the car inspected for leaks or worn out brake pads or lines. If the fluid level is fine, then you should get your parking brake cable inspected.

Is it safe to drive my car when the brake warning light is on?

This depends on how severe the issue is. Low fluid levels will mean that the braking system won’t be working as effectively as possible, and you could have trouble stopping the vehicle safely. If the handbrake isn’t fully disengaged, the constant resistance can cause damage to your vehicle’s drivetrain and could lead to a costly repair down the line.

If you’re unsure about your issue, book an inspection and one of our mechanics will diagnose the issue for you and get your car sorted.

How Often Should Brake Pads Be Replaced?

How often should brake pads be replaced?Brake pads are guaranteed to wear over time. It is less clear, however, how often brake pads would need to be replaced. Most manufacturers say they would need to be replaced every 20,000 to 50,000 miles. But this will of course completely depend on your model of car, the replacement interval may be higher or lower than that. How quickly they wear will depend on a number of factors.

Brake Pads Can Wear Faster Due To Your Driving Style

One of the main factors that will impact brake pad wear is the way you drive. This may sound a bit unlikely, but how you use your brakes can have a big effect on how quickly your pads wear down. General rule would be, the more you use your brakes, the more they will wear. That said, low speed stop-and-go traffic in the city will put less strain on the brakes than braking hard on the motorway.

The Quality Of The Brake Pads Matters

Fitting cheap brake pads can be tempting, but remember that you get what you pay for. As a general rule cheaper brake pads will also have been made out of cheaper material, which may mean that they will wear quicker. Apart from that quality also matters in terms of safety; bad quality brake pads can get damaged more easily and cause brake failure. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that good quality pads are fitted. Mechanics are best placed to advise on which pads to use, they will use their expertise to choose the right ones.

How Do I Know When The Brake Pads Need Replacing

Generally you will find that your front brake pads will need to be replaced more often than the rear ones. Primarily that is because the brake balance is adjusted towards the front, so that your car remains stable during braking. On the other hand, the weight of the car is also transferred to front under braking. That means of course that a lot more strain is put on the front pads, hence they need replacing more often.

Whilst it is important to stick to your car’s service guidelines on replacing brake pads it can be that they wear quicker than the suggested interval. It is worth therefore keeping track on how the car brakes. If you notice any issues make sure you get it checked out by a mechanic. Remember, having your brakes checked out regularly is the best way to stay safe.

Brake Problems: How To Find Out What’s Wrong

Brake problems: how to find out what's wrong?

Brake problems are some of the most common issues on cars. Reduced stopping power is usually the biggest issue. But braking issues don’t stop there, there is lots of signs that can indicate there is something wrong with the brakes. Brake problems are usually accompanied by squealing and grinding noises and vibrations. Sometimes the brake pedal will feel very hard to press down, and other times there may be no brake pressure at all.

Finding out what is wrong with the brakes can be tricky. There are, after all, lots of parts that can go wrong. But there is some checks you can do by listening and hearing to diagnose any issues:

1. Check Brake Performance

Listen for any noises when you’re braking. Any squealing or grinding noises can be due to issues with the brakes. It may just be that the brake pads have worn down to much, or that the discs have not worn evenly.

If you feel a judder under braking it is likely that your brakes have worn unevenly. The discs may for example have warped due to excessive heat build-up. This can have a knock on effect on other brake parts and is best resolved quickly.

2. Check Noise When Driving

If you’re driving and not braking and you still hear a scraping noise continuously then there is a chance there is also something wrong with your brakes. It could be that the brake pads have not returned to their normal position after braking. Often it means that a brake caliper has seized and that it continues to push the pads against your discs.

3. Check Brake Hydraulics

Checking the brake pedal can help to find out if their is any issues with the hydraulic system which power the brakes. It’s important that the brakes engage long before you press the brake pedal to the floor. If the brakes only start to kick in late on and they feel spongy then it’s likely you have a problem with the hydraulics. In that instance there may be air in the system.

If you brake hard and you feel that the pressure on the brake pedal slowly decreases, then it’s likely that there may be a leak in the system. This ‘sinking pedal’ issue could mean that the master cylinder or a brake hose is leaking somewhere.

4. Check Brake Discs

The brake discs are usually visible through the spokes in your wheel. When checking them look out for any grooves and ridges or uneven surfaces. The discs should be flat and smooth. If they are not, they might have suffered from scoring. Worn brake pads will be the cause of this. It’s important to get this repaired as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the discs and to stay safe.

5. Check Handbrake

Last but not least make sure to check your handbrake. It is vital in ensuring that your car can be locked in place when stationary. If you have to pull the brake handle higher than usual then it’s likely that the tension on the cable is off. Often readjustment is needed or new brake shoes.

Professional Diagnosis

For a deeper inspection of, for example, the pads, calipers or brake lines, parts will have to be removed. That way wear or damage to any parts can be found quickly. For that reason it’s probably worth just getting a mechanic to check the car over. If you don’t want to drive the car at this stage then perhaps it’s time to consider a mobile mechanic. They could come out to you to do a diagnostic inspection to find out exactly what’s wrong.

How To Tell If You Have A Seized Brake Caliper

How to tell if you have a seized brake caliper

Brake calipers are a vital part of your car’s braking system, unfortunately, a seized brake caliper is a common fault. The pistons inside the brake caliper can seize and reduce the car’s braking power over time if the brake calipers are not maintained properly. It’s important that the calipers are kept in good shape. The brake caliper, after all, transfers the pressure you put on your brake pedal when you brake into stopping power.

How Do You End Up With A Seized Brake Caliper?

The calipers can seize due to a number of issues. Remember, it is exposed to the elements and has to cope with constant heating and cooling as you drive the car and brake. That takes its toll, specifically on the caliper’s piston boot which will crack or harden if it deteriorates too much. If this is not addressed moisture will be able to get to the caliper’s pistons which can start to corrode and eventually seize.

Often the calipers seize if the car is not used regularly. It’s easy for corrosion to progress in such a situation as any corrosion that develops is not cleared regularly by braking the car.

How Do I Know If The Brake Caliper Needs Replacing?

In most cases, a seized brake caliper manifests itself as reduced braking power. Usually, when a brake caliper seizes, the brake pad on the side of the caliper piston will wear excessively. Eventually, the brake pad will wear down so much that it can affect the brake disc which will get damaged.

When you have a seized brake caliper, the discs and pads on the other side of the car will have to take over a lot of the braking to stop your car. You might feel that the car’s brake balance is off and that the car pulls to one side when you brake hard. Which might lead to dangerous situations on the road. Also, if one side of the brakes have to do all the work they might overheat and eventually fail.

If you think you might have a seized brake caliper, make sure you get it repaired as soon as possible by a mechanic. Not only because of the danger but also because a seized brake caliper can cause lots of wear to brake parts that otherwise would not have had to be replaced. Simply put, to stay safe and potentially save money in the long run, make sure to get the calipers sorted. If you’re not sure if your caliper needs replacing then make sure to get help from a professional mechanic. For example by getting a diagnostic inspection.

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How Long Do Brake Pads Last?

How long do brake pads last?

Your brakes are the most important safety feature on your car, for that reason it’s vital to know how long brake pads last. Often brake pads can last for more than 50,000 miles, but in other cases brake pads will only last around 20,000 miles. When you need to replace your brake pads will normally depend on the quality of the brake pads fitted, your driving style and the type of car you own.

Reasons That Will Determine How Long Your Brake Pads Last

Brake pads are probably the parts on your car that wear the most due to the massive pressure they’re under when you stop your car. That’s why the way you brake and the kind of braking you do are the biggest factors that determine how long your brake pads will last. Stop-and-go traffic in the city will have a different effect on the brake pads than braking when you go downhill. The latter amplifying the strain on the brake pads as they try carry out the already tough task of reducing the speed at which your car travels.

Apart from that, the quality of the brake pads used can also have a real impact on how long the brake pads on your car will last. Brake pads made from materials with an inconsistent quality will usually wear quicker than those with high grade materials. It’s normally advisable to use high quality aftermarket parts of OEM quality or equivalent, parts that ClickMechanic selects as standard.

Why Front Brake Pads Will Usually Last Longer Than Rear Pads

If you have owned a car for a while and have had several brakes replacements you will probably have found that the replacement of the front brakes is a far more regular affair than the rear ones. This is because front brake pads are subjected to a lot more stress as they are tasked with the majority of the burden to stop your car.

Manufacturers specifically engineer braking systems so that most of the braking is done by the front brakes for this simple reason that it will ensure your car remains stable when braking. That is why the front brake discs usually have a larger diameter than the ones at the rear, all to increase that stopping power at the front. With that the front brake pads are also subjected to a lot more stress, and therefore will wear down quicker than the rear ones.

Other Factors That Will Reduce How Long Your Brake Pads Will Last

Apart from those factors listed that will cause the brake pads to wear, it is important to keep in mind that what might seem like minor brake wear now may develop in major brake wear rapidly. If your pads are worn a lot, they may even damage your discs. If that is the case, then it is advisable to replace the brake discs and the pads at the same time. Not replacing your brake discs but only your pads in such a scenario will guarantee that those brand-new brake pads will wear down much quicker.

The best tip we can give you to ensure your brake pads will last longer is to keep on top of any brake issues and use your brakes intelligently, it may save you money on brake pad repairs in the long run.