Winter Driving – How To Stay Safe

Winter Driving - How To Stay Safe

Winter driving is a skill. Wet weather, snow or ice can make your car feel unstable. You may find it tricky to keep your car under control. But fortunately, winter driving is a skill that can be easily learned. What it’s all about is car control and a smooth driving style. That way you can reduce the chance your car will lose traction with the road.

Here’s a couple of top tips that will help you on your way to tackle even the most horrendous weather conditions.

Braking in wintery weather

Gentle braking is key in wintry weather, that way it will be easier to keep your car under control. Anti-lock brakes will go a long way in preventing the brakes from locking up but will do little once the car skids sideways. Just remember, braking hard for no reason is one of the worst things you can do in these winter months.

A better option is to slow down and to anticipate other driver’s behaviour. In other words, learn to read the road so you can react quickly and appropriately.

If you are concerned about your brakes and if they are still in good condition, have them checked and get a brake pad or disk replacement for maximum safety.

Steering on slippery and icy roads

Steering in winter is all about doing it smoothly. Reduce your speed when approaching corners and gently steer through a corner. This will enable the tyres to do their job of gripping the road much better.

Remember, if the car does start to slide it will be hard to regain control. You can recover your car whilst it slides sideways, but it will take a lot of skill and practice to master this. As you’re probably not quite Lewis Hamilton just yet, the best cure, again, is prevention. Just direct your car smoothly and neatly around those bends.

Changing gear

Changing gear smoothly will help keep your car in check. If you have a manual gearbox then make sure to cut your use of the first gear down to a minimum. That way you’ll make it less likely that your wheels will spin through on a slippery road surface. Speed up with care and try to use the higher gears to improve traction and to stay safe.

Clothing

Make sure you wear clothes suitable for winter weather. If your hands get cold, wear gloves that grip well onto the steering wheel to maximise control. Also, consider wearing a pair of driving shoes instead of clunky boots which can make you lose the feeling for gentle braking and accelerating. What you want to prevent is your shoes slipping on the pedals.

Remove your thick winter jacket before you get behind the wheel. Wearing a thick coat or jacket will keep you warm but will also impact how securely your seat belt is tightened. Studies and tests have shown that in accidents a seat belt worn over a padded jacket can cause additional injuries.

Top-tips

Having taken all this into account bear in mind that driving in snow or heavy rain can still be pretty dangerous. And in many ways, it is probably just best to not drive at all. A good rule is to only use your car if you really need to. And if you don’t really need to go somewhere, consider using public transport or staying at home.

Of course, if you are in a rural area and do really need to use your car to get to places then make sure you’re prepared well. We would always recommend doing an advanced driving course if you are in any doubt.

Preparing your car for winter will help make sure it takes you safely through the winter months. It’s important to get things sorted before the first freeze kicks in.

If we look at our own data, it’s clear that in winter we get lots more requests for typical winter problems. Heater blower motor replacements and battery checks are high up on the list. Starting problems and frozen locks are common too. Which is not what you want if you’re rushing to an important meeting.

Many of these things can be nipped in the bud by maintaining your car well and carrying the right kit to tackle any problem.

Winter checks to do on your car

  • Antifreeze Check

Make sure you’re all topped up on antifreeze so that your engine does not freeze up overnight. Read our more in-depth guide here to find out why this is so important.

  • Windscreen wipers & Screenwash Check

Keeping your windscreen clear of debris is of course important to ensure you can actually see through your window. If there is frosty conditions then de-icing the windows is the first thing to do before setting off. Keeping your windows clean whilst driving is the second step. To do that it may be worth changing your wiper blades and screen wash.

  • Tyre Check

Check the condition of your tyres. Look at the tread depth, the legal minimum is 1.6mm, but it’s advisable to have more. That way you’ll have better traction on the road. Often it is worth getting a set of winter tyres if you live somewhere particularly cold and wet. If you’re not sure they would work for you then check our dedicated winter tyre blog.

  •  Lights Check

Check that all the lights are working properly and replace any bulbs that are faulty or are weak. It’s important to stay well visible in adverse weather conditions like hail or snow storm. Making sure the lamp lenses have no debris on them will help with that too.

  • Battery Check

Your battery is more prone to go faulty in winter than in summer. They are in fact one of the most common breakdown causes in winter. Checking the output of the battery is a good way to find out if it is up to the job. Remember, whilst your car may start fine one day, a flat battery may fail to start it the day after. Imagine that when you’re miles away from home and it’s freezing cold! Check our battery guide here.

  • Doors and Locks Check

One of the classic winter issues is that doors will not open. Just think back about the times you’ve seen your neighbour across the road pouring warm water over the door locks to defrost them. Here again, prevention is a much better alternative. Some water dispersant sprayed in your locks will stop them from freezing up. Lubricating your rubber door seals can help stop your doors from freezing shut.

Winter essentials

Apart from making sure your car is ready it’s important to make sure you’re ready to tackle bad winter weather. Here’s a couple of things you should carry with you in your car:

  • Ice scraper
  • Torch
  • Emergency car hammer
  • Gloves
  • Emergency food and drink: like cereal bars and water
  • First aid kit
  • Travel phone charger

Winter servicing

If you’re not quite sure how to tackle all the checks then a winter service for your car is the way to go. That way you can be sure the checks are done well and your car is all ‘winterized’. A winter check-up is a service offered by many mobile mechanics and garages.

Happy driving!

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Motorists in 2022

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Firework

The New Year is finally here and with its arrival comes the vowing of countless New Year resolutions from across the country. From leading a healthier lifestyle to breaking bad habits, Brits will be trying to make all sorts of changes for the better. As such, we felt it more than fitting to find the top 5 New Year’s resolutions for UK drivers. Read on to see how much of a difference can be made from behind the wheel this year.

Andrew Jervis, Co-Founder of ClickMechanic, said: “These resolutions can make a significant difference in terms of saving money, emissions and, most importantly, lives. Be sure to stick to them for the best start to 2022!”

1. Slow Down

Speeding Car

The majority of motorists recognise the dangers of speeding, yet few realise the full benefits of slowing down. It’s not only safer, but more cost effective for the driver as well – particularly if travelling on the motorway. Most cars are designed to drive at an optimum speed of about 55mph, which means driving any faster will cost more and generate additional emissions.

As such, driving at an average speed of 80mph on the motorway, as opposed to 60mph, will cost the motorist an additional £3000 in fuel over a lifetime and generate an elephant’s weight in carbon emissions on top of that. Not to mention, any speeding fines are going to add to this cost too!

2. Put Down the Phone

Phone in car

Any habits which distract the driver from the road should be broken immediately, including the handling of smartphones. Even if the driver is merely using the phone to control the music, or program directions into the map, this should never be done whilst driving if it involves handling it.

Being distracted for even a fraction of a second can cause a serious accident, and whilst many are aware of its being a crime, countless motorists are still caught with their phone in their hand. In fact, the DVLA reported that almost 16,000 drivers received points on their licence for using a mobile phone between March and August 2018.

3. Take Care of Your Car

Car repair

Many motorists will avoid car maintenance, including the most basic self-check-ups, and will only address any needs once it turns into a problem. Simple routine inspections, such as checking the tyre pressure, the oil level and the lights, can easily save drivers from an expensive bill down the line.

However, countless drivers still neglect to examine their car and ensure it’s in full-working order. In fact, our recent research found that 1 in 5 drivers ignore their manufacturer’s recommended schedule, whilst 3 in 10 will wait for up to two weeks or more before dealing with a check engine light. Offering a vehicle more care and attention can only save money over time and extend its life.

4. Don’t Idle with Your Engine Running

Engine running

Another great habit to break this year is idling with the engine running. The awareness and discouraging of this habit has risen recently, particularly in London; motorists will now be fined £80 fine if caught idling in Central London, and the City of Westminster introduced a #DontBeIdle pledge to reinforce the capital’s commitment to improving air quality. Not to mention, leaving the engine running is technically illegal; according to Rule 123 of The Highway Code, ‘You must not leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.’

Despite this, countless drivers are still guilty of this habit on a daily basis, particularly during the school run. Indeed, idling for 10 minutes with the engine running on every school day will equate to 1,520m³ of excess fumes a year, which is enough to fill two Jumbo Jets. Even 5 minutes of idling will fill an additional 23 shipping containers with fumes per year!

5. Take a Break

Sleeping in car

One of our recent surveys found that half of UK motorists will only take a break after 3 hours of driving. This is a worrying statistic considering that the Highway Code recommends a minimum respite of 15 minutes after just 2 hours on the road.

Taking regular breaks when travelling long-distance is imperative as the driver will inevitably grow tired, affecting their awareness and increasing the chances of collisions. Even if it’s just pausing to stretch the legs; it’s an opportunity to take a break from the road and refresh. So, as well as vowing to be more active this year, remember to take some healthy breaks too!

How Does The GB Number Plate System Work?

How does the UK licence plate system work, and what do all the letters and numbers mean? We show you how to decode the number plate system and also how to determine the age of the vehicle just by reading the number plate.

We’ll be covering the standard number plate and not personalised number plates that you may come across.

What are the different components of the number plate?

The current format for vehicle registration numbers was introduced on 1 September 2001 for all new vehicles being registered. The format is two letters, two numbers, a space and a string of three letters for the whole of Great Britain.

Number plate

The first two letters are the DVLA memory tag, the two numbers (the age identifier) indicate the age of the vehicle, and the last three letters are random.

Northern Ireland registrations have their own format, 1, 2, 3 or 4 numbers, paired with a block of letters that always contain an I or Z. The letter combinations work as an original area-identifier; for example, Enniskillen was originally allocated “IL” marks.

The DVLA memory tag:

The first two letters are called a ‘memory tag’, which is a location identifier for where the car is first registered. While this used to be determined by the DVLA office where the registration took place, however, the DVLA closed all its regional offices at the end of 2013 and now handles new registrations directly with car dealerships through an online system.

Other regions of England have their own letter codes; Reading-registered cars start with the letter R, Essex-registered cars start with an E, and so on. For example, if you’re buying a new car in Scotland, it will almost certainly start with an S. For cars registered in Wales, it will start with a C for Cymru.

The age identifier:

The two numbers are called the ‘age identifier’, which tells you in which six-month period the car was first registered.

The numbers change every six months, in March and September. The March codes are easy to remember as they follow the year of registration. For cars registered between September and February, it changes. The numeric code equals the year (as of September) plus 50.  So a car registered from September 2021 until February 2022 will have the number 71 (= 21 + 50). A car registered in September 2006 – February 2007 has the number 56 (=06 + 50), and so on. This pattern will continue until all possible variations are used.

The last three letters:

They’re really just random letters. However, due to batch allocation of new registration marks to dealers, it is common for cars with “neighbouring” letter sequences to be of the same manufacturer.

And that’s how you can find out the car’s age:

As you may have guessed by this point, you can find a car’s age using the third and fourth digits of the new number plates. They will either be the last two digits of the release year (16 for cars released March 2016, for example) or the last two digits plus 50 for cars released in September (66 for cars released in September 2016).

Other identifiers: 

It is not mandatory to have this but some cars have a green band on the left. This is a new initiative for zero-emission cars so most EVs will have this on the number plate to help easy identification of electric cars for the purpose of cheaper parking, etc.

Fun fact 1: When you change cars, you can keep your number plate. You need to do this BEFORE you sell your old car by filling out a V317 form and paying a fee to the DVLA.

Fun fact 2: If you ever need a repair or car service, you only need to enter your vehicle registration number along with your postcode and get an instant fixed price in seconds for a repair or service you need – it’s that simple! Head to our website and a trusted mechanic can carry out a repair or service at your choice of time and date.

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How To Prepare Your Car For Winter Weather

How to prepare your car for winter

Preparing your car for winter will help make sure it takes you safely through the winter months. It’s important to get things sorted before the first freeze kicks in.

If we look at our own data, it’s clear that in winter we get lots more requests for typical winter problems. Heater blower motor replacements and battery checks are high up on the list. Starting problems and frozen locks are common too. Which is not what you want if you’re rushing to an important meeting.

Many of these things can be nipped in the bud by maintaining your car well, and carrying the right kit to tackle any problem.

Winter checks to do on your car

  • Antifreeze Check

Make sure you’re all topped up on antifreeze so that your engine does not freeze up overnight. Read our more in-depth guide here to find out why this is so important.

  • Windscreen wipers & Screenwash Check

Keeping your windscreen clear of debris is of course important to ensure you can actually see through your window. If there is frosty conditions then de-icing the windows is the first thing to do before setting off. Keeping your windows clean whilst driving is the second step. To do that it may be worth changing your wiper blades and screen wash.

  • Tyre Check

Check the condition of your tyres. Look at the tread depth, the legal minimum is 1.6mm, but it’s advisable to have more. That way you’ll have better traction on the road. Often it is worth getting a set of winter tyres if you live somewhere particularly cold and wet. If you’re not sure they would work for you then check our dedicated winter tyre blog.

  •  Lights Check

Check that all the lights are working properly and replace any bulbs that are faulty or are weak. It’s important to stay well visible in adverse weather conditions like a hail or snow storm. Making sure the lamp lenses have no debris on them will help with that too.

  • Battery Check

Your battery is more prone to go faulty in winter than in summer. They are in fact one of the most common breakdown causes in winter. Checking the output of the battery is a good way to find out if it is up to the job. Remember, whilst your car may start fine one day, a flat battery may fail to start it the day after. Imagine that when you’re miles away from home and it’s freezing cold! Check our battery guide here.

  • Doors and Locks Check

One of the classic winter issues is that doors  will not open. Just think back about the times you’ve seen your neighbour across the road pouring warm water over the door locks to defrost them. Here again prevention is a much better alternative. Some water dispersant sprayed in your locks will stop them from freezing up. Lubricating your rubber door seals can help stop your doors from freezing shut.

Winter essentials

Apart from making sure your car is ready it’s important to make sure you’re ready to tackle bad winter weather. Here’s a couple of things you should carry with you in your car:

  • Ice scraper
  • Torch
  • Emergency car hammer
  • Gloves
  • Emergency food and drink: like cereal bars and water
  • First aid kit
  • Travel phone charger

Winter servicing

If you’re not quite sure how to tackle all the checks then a winter service for your car is the way to go. That way you can be sure the checks are done well and your car is all ‘winterized’. A winter check-up is a service offered by many mobile mechanics and garages.

Top 3 UK Road Trips To Enjoy The Colours Of Autumn

Autumn is here! In spite of the relaxed travel rules outside of the UK mainland in the last few weeks, most of us probably haven’t fully adjusted to the idea of overseas travel plans. The upside is that it will allow us to explore and appreciate the beauty in our own backyard further!

In addition to the beauty of nature in the autumn season, autumn makes for a great time to explore the country as you can generally avoid the traffic jams during summer and the harsh driving conditions of the winter.

You can take in some of the UK’s most gorgeous scenery from the comfort of your car on a well-planned road trip.

Here’s a list of the best road trips in the UK you can take this autumn:

Lake district – Kendal to Keswick

Lake district - Kendal to KeswickThe changing colours of autumn completely transform Lake District into a breathtaking spectacle. The Kendal to Keswick route along the A591 is one of the most popular driving routes in the UK – and for good reason! The route stretches for 30 miles with views of Lakeland fells and the banks of Windermere. The Lake District National Park website has helpful information that can help you with planning your road trip.

The North Coast 500
NC500The NC500 is Scotland’s ultimate driving route of over 500 miles that starts and ends at Inverness. There is loads to explore on this road trip including historic towns and villages all while discovering the best of Scottish food and drink on the way. Understandably, 500 miles is a long distance and can take months of planning so if you choose not to do the full 500-mile trip any time soon, there are shorter routes within the NC500 that offer equally stunning views during autumn. Here’s the official website of the NC500 with tips and tricks to help you plan your trip.

Cornwall – St Ives to Sennen Cove

Cornwall - St Ives to Sennen Cove

This 20ish mile-long route from St Ives to Sennen Cove is a road trip worth doing if you want the best of both worlds – the spectacular cliff-top landscapes on one side and autumn’s dramatic colours on the moorlands. Along with the changing landscapes, you also have an opportunity to explore castles and famous lighthouses on your road trip on the B3306.

From the charming seaside town of St Ives to the stunning views at the final stop in Sennen Cove, it’s surely worth giving the local food and drink a try – including Cornish pasties and Cornish ice cream. This helpful website can inspire some ideas for the route.

Going on a long road trip also means it’s critical to ensure your vehicle is in good shape to take on the challenges of the road, especially as temperatures start to drop further. Getting a Vehicle Health Check by a professional technician can help check if a vehicle is safe to drive.

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Increase your chances to pass the MOT test the first time

160215-dvsa-announcement-social

Always wondered what issue is most likely to fail your car when you take it for its MOT test the first time? Well, since the exact contents of MOT tests were determined by law in 2012, comprehensive records have been kept showing the most likely defects found. Governing body Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has recently disclosed this information to inform you and us in more detail about what you can do to prevent your car from failing on often minor issues, saving you the hassle and saving yourself from forking out for an MOT re-test. Our little guide gives you the key details of how your car can pass the MOT test with flying colours.

Lighting and signalling

fun_car_repair_1

A considerable 18% of the reasons cars don’t pass the MOT test are due to general lighting issues, like bulbs that have blown, inadequate reflectors, hazard lights, and other signaling issues.

To give your car a better chance of passing its MOT, and at the very least increase your own safety, it is therefore super important that these items are checked to make sure they are all okay. To increase your chances to pass the MOT test, simply test if the head and rear lights, brake lights, indicator and number plate lights come on and are working as they should. Any blown bulbs can easily be replaced, your car owners manual will tell you how.

Brakes

Brakes are arguably the most important safety feature on your car, hence any MOT test will require these to be in tip-top condition. There is a great chance otherwise you will fail, and indeed the stats show that 10% of MOT failures are due to inadequate braking systems. This does not only concern the condition of your brake pads and discs but also check if your handbrake is in good condition.

If there are any strange noises when you’re braking, or if the car doesn’t stop as it previously did, then chances are there is something wrong with the brakes. Usual suspects will be worn or damaged brake discs or brake pads that have worn beyond the manufacturer’s limit. If you’re unsure just ask a professional for an opinion.

Tyres

car-tyre

Apart from the fact that 8% of MOT failures in the last year are due to tyre issues, it only makes sense to ensure they are in a good condition in general and have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm (the current legal limit). There is an easy way to test if your tyres meet the legal standard using a 20p coin: insert the coin into one of the groves in the tread. If the outer rim is visible, then it is time to get your tyre replaced.

Remember, tyres are your car’s only contact point with the road surface and give your car the grip and stopping power needed to drive your car safely. Make sure that things like your tyre pressure, overall condition of the tyres and tread depth are checked out prior to the MOT test and have any issues addressed.

Driver’s view of the road

funny-Car-Wiper-Pulley1

Already aware that your windscreen wipers do not work properly or wiper blades are not as effective as they should be? Then there’s a good chance your car will not pass the MOT test on these items. Indeed, around 7% of MOTs fails were due to issues related to visibility in the last year and can range from windscreen wiper issues to damaged mirrors and window stickers.

With windshield wiper blades being some of the easiest and cheapest things to replace, make sure you sort out any aspects in the car that might obscure your view and easily increase your chances of passing your MOT test. Also, remember to top up windscreen washer fluid before you drive to the MOT centre.

Suspension

Whilst suspension issues will be more difficult to quickly check it is sometimes not hard to identify whether there is something wrong with the suspension. There may be strange noises when going over bumps or your car may be unstable if you go through corners. If you’re unsure exactly what the problem is then make sure to ask help from a professional, they will be able to find out more during an inspection.

The Dangers Of Driving With An Expired MOT

Not only is the MOT a vital safety check to ensure your car is safe and ready to drive, but you are also expected to have a valid MOT when using your car. Remember, when you drive without a valid MOT you risk:

  • A fine of up to £1000
  • Being banned from driving
  • Receiving 6-8 penalty points
  • Your car insurance may become invalid

To stay ahead of the curve, make sure you book your MOT well in advance. At ClickMechanic, we offer MOTs with home collection and delivery. You can book your MOT for only £25 when you book a service at the same time!

Do you think your car is ready for its MOT? Then consider getting one with free collection and delivery to the test centre, and save yourself lots of hassle. Get a quote for your region now at www.clickmechanic.com/mot

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Happy driving!

Top 5 Easy Car Cleaning Hacks You Need To Know

Owning a car is an investment and besides the money spent on fuel and maintenance, we often forget to give our vehicles the love and attention it deserves. Regular upkeep of your car is key to maintaining its value. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spend a fortune.

We’ve tested simple household items that can double up as brilliant cleaning hacks for your car:

Baby Wipes

Baby Wipes

Baby wipes can be used in multiple ways to keep your car clean. They are gentle and are great for cleaning the dashboard and the glovebox. Baby wipes are great to clean bugs off the car windows and windscreen too. They’re super cheap too – you can get a pack for about 50p each. However, avoid using this on sensitive surfaces such as infotainment and display screens.

Slime

Slime

It can be really hard to clean nooks and crannies just by vacuuming. One way to clean those hard-to-reach places is using the hugely popular kids toy product called ‘slime’ – the weird gooey substance that kids are so fascinated with. You can roll the slime through crevices of the interior where dust and dirt accumulate. If you don’t have this at home, there are loads of different options available online and in stores, including dedicated cleaning gel versions.

Cotton Buds

Cotton buds

Cotton buds are a handy tool for cleaning and picking up built-up dirt and dust in crevices. For example, you can use cotton buds to clean out crevices around the dashboard or gear stick. They’re also great to clean the dashboard air vents – you’ll be surprised at how much dust and dirt can accumulate!

Vinegar

Vinegar

If your car has cloth seats, a DIY vinegar and water solution can be a life-saver! Mixing equal parts vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle can help to get rid of stains and dirt.

Car Trash Can

Car trash can

This is more of a preventative measure, but we thought this product deserved a special mention. There are small car trash cans on the market, designed to fit perfectly in your cup holder. It’s super handy and makes keeping your car clean of random food wrappers, receipts, and other small pieces of trash a lot easier! A wide variety of options are available on places like Amazon or eBay.

Do you have any cleaning hacks that you use to clean your car? Let us know @ClickMechanic and maybe we can do a part 2 on car cleaning hacks!

If you ever need help with your car, ClickMechanic provides repairs and servicing with a 1-year warranty on parts and repairs. All you need to do is tell us about your car and a vetted mechanic can carry out the work at a location convenient to you and at a date and time of your choice.

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5 Checks To Prepare Your Car For Long Distance Drive

If you’re going on a long-distance drive it’s worth doing a quick maintenance check-up to ensure your car is all good to go, and for you to stay safe on the road. Here are 5 quick checks you can do yourself which help make driving long distances safer and without worries:

1. Engine oil level check

The oil in your engine helps to keep your engine running smoothly which is exactly what we want on a long drive. The engine oil acts as a lubricant to ensure all the metal parts can slide past each other smoothly. It’s essential the oil level is checked regularly. It’s easily done by way of checking the oil dipstick in your engine bay. The oil level should be between the recommended minimum and maximum level indicated on the dipstick. Check our full guide here.

“Check your oil levels at least once per fortnight and before really long journeys” – Russell from Birmingham with 25+ Years Experience

2. Tyre pressure check

Manufacturers advise to periodically check the tyre pressure, as pressures will drop over time. Deflated tyres lead to bad handling and increased fuel consumption and on top of that, your tyres will wear out quicker.

Having the correct tyre pressure, therefore, can help to make your car safer to drive over long distances, and will also help you save money. To check the tyre pressure you could get a portable tyre inflator, but you could just as easily go to your local petrol station where a pressure tool will be available as well. Read our complete guide to tyre pressures here.

3. Wiper blade check

As we’re in the UK, sudden downpours are more than likely to happen when you’re on a long car journey. To ensure road visibility is not impaired by bad weather conditions it’s important your wipers are working properly. In particular, make sure your wiper blades are able to move smoothly across your windscreen. Worn wiper blades will struggle to clear all the rain, and will leave streaks on the windscreen. Over time, worn wiper blades can even damage your windscreen. Getting them replaced regularly is vital, especially if you’re going on a long drive.

4. Coolant level check

The coolant in your car helps to ensure that your engine doesn’t overheat. It’s vital to ensure the level of coolant in the car is right to prevent expensive repairs. The coolant reservoir is easily accessible in your engine bay. Check that the level is between ‘full’ and ‘low’ (or ‘min and ‘max’). If the coolant has dropped below the minimum level, make sure to top up with fresh coolant before you leave for your long journey.

Learn more about coolant and why it is important in our comprehensive guide to car fluid.

5. Light check

If you’re going on a long-distance drive make sure that all your lights are working properly. You can do so by checking that all lights are switching on and that the intensity of the light is right. It’s probably best to get someone to help with that as you test the headlights, brake lights, indicators, and fog lights.

Apart from that, also ensure that the headlight lens covers are clear. Over time dirt will build up and scratches will appear, which can lead to a weaker beam.

Additionally, staying refreshed and sane while you drive is important for your comfort and, more crucially, safety. Here are our best tips to stay safe on a long road trip:

Plot your course

Most people will simply pop their destination straight into their sat-nav. On the whole, this is a pretty bad idea if you have a run-of-the-mill sat-nav, the likelihood you’ll get stuck in heavy traffic or you may find you have to make hour-long diversions to a service station. Be smarter, by planning the route to include service stations and fuel stations, where you’ll have a safe place to stretch, eat and use the toilet facilities. You may even plan your route to run by landmarks like Stonehenge. On the day you should also be aware of weather conditions and occasionally check traffic reports of the route, something quite easy to do with Google maps.

Get a good night’s sleep

Getting drowsy when driving can be very dangerous. 2 seconds asleep could have you move over 100 metres at high speed. Make sure you get proper sleep, and a strong cup of coffee to leave you energised to drive. Avoid alcohol or other depressant drugs which can leave you hungover or tired, as this will impact your reaction speeds.

Take regular breaks

The UK Government advise that you take a short 15-minute break every two hours of driving. This is especially important during the night, where your eyes are increasingly strained and the orange lights lull you to sleep.

A break may mean a quick stretch, a bathroom stop, and a cup of coffee to keep you going. It’s important to stretch your legs, as you may find blood doesn’t flow very well whilst you’re parked in your seat.

Share the drive

Many drivers loathe this, especially with a new car, but sometimes you have to just do it for safety reasons. There are the times you have had maybe a tipple too much or are obviously drowsy when others aren’t. You may decide this before or midway through your drive but it’s important you only drive for a maximum of 8 hours a day.

Give yourself time

Rushing not only is bad for your miles per gallon but can also cause a serious accident. Enjoy a slightly more relaxed drive at 50mph, where your engine works best. Leave time for service stations and other pit stops along the way. You’ll be sure to enjoy this drive more than a race to the finish.

Dress comfortably

Your clothes and shoes should be appropriate for the weather and the car. Shorts or skirts can leave bare flesh against leather seats which is very uncomfortable. A winter jacket can quickly leave you in puddles since cars heat up a lot faster than you think. You may even want to apply and reapply sunblock to your skin that is exposed to the sun. The front windscreen is usually not protected against UV rays, so make sure to get some good quality sunscreen!

Eat small but drink plenty (not alcohol!)

Heavy meals mean heavy trips to the toilet, and as you will know public toilets are never nice. Fast food can also upset your system, especially if the food comes from a side of the road seafood stand. Unfortunately, we do encourage you to drink plenty as this usually keeps you alert, and hydrated. The sun and the heat of the car can leave you a bit exhausted, this is usually due to dehydration. It may mean you’ll have to visit the service station toilets a bit more often, sorry ladies.

Crank up the AC or crack open a window

Fresh air is essential to staying awake and alert. It may even protect you from a faulty boot, which can leak exhaust fumes into the car. Fresh air also helps you feel refreshed, which helps to keep you comfortable in the process.

Pack an emergency kit

Emergency kits are vital to any car journey. They don’t take up much room but can save lives or keep you on the road when you otherwise might have been taken off. They will usually contain:

• a first aid kit
• puncture repair kit
• some spare fuses and bulbs
• a foot pump
• a pressure gauge
• some engine oil
• some snack bars
• a bottle of water
• and some blankets for the winter

Keep yourself entertained

Long journeys can be tedious and a droning BBC Radio 4 might not help that. A novel solution to car boredom is to get a lot of language learning audio or interactive audiobooks. These can be easily accessed online and plugged straight into your car for surround sound learning or adventure. It kills the time quite well whilst also being quite a pleasant and active experience.

Happy driving!

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Catalytic converter theft and how to prevent it

person under car

Did you know that catalytic converter thefts now account for 3-in-10 thefts from private vehicles in the UK? You might have noticed the spike in these thefts in recent local news updates. The thefts are generally due to the steep rise in prices of metals such as rhodium and palladium used in the production of catalytic converters.

ClickMechanic’s Mechanic in Residence team answers some of the most Googled questions by car owners about catalytic converter thefts:

Most Googled questions about catalytic converter thefts

  • What should I do if my catalytic converter has been stolen?

    • The first thing you should do is register the crime with the police, either via calling 101 or the online service. It’s also worth informing your insurance provider about the theft as it may be covered depending on the insurance policy. After that, if possible, take photos of the underside of the vehicle and the damage that has been caused during the theft.
    • Secondly, it can be that one or two exhaust sensors (known as Lambda sensors) have been stolen with the catalytic converter. These are screwed into the unit and these will need to be replaced as well. Make a note of any wires that are hanging down and relay this information to whoever you request a quote from.
    • In most cases, the repairs can be carried out by mobile mechanics, who, due to the volume of these thefts, are adept at carrying the work out “in situ”. Alternatively, you may need to arrange and pay for the recovery of the vehicle to a garage if you do not have cover for this in place so this cost needs to be taken into account.

  • Can you drive if the catalytic converter is stolen?

    The simple answer is no, you cannot. The catalytic converter is in front of the exhaust silencer, so the noise inside the car is not only deafening but also a major distraction to the driver. The other consideration is that the driver is knowingly using a vehicle on a public highway that would fail the emissions test (and the police can stop you, test this and fine you) and you may even get penalty points for driving a vehicle that emits a noise over 74db.

  • What cars are most targeted for catalytic converter theft?

    Any vehicle that has an underbody catalytic converter is at risk of theft. Cars such as the Honda Jazz, CR-V and Accord are particularly vulnerable along with some older BMW models and Toyota’s Prius and Auris.

  • Can you protect cars from catalytic converter theft?

    Whilst there are theft deterrent parts that can be applied to the vehicle, the majority of these only slow the thieves down by a short period of time, they can often lead to further damage repair work required on the vehicle. There is advice about parking in well-lit areas, areas with CCTV etc, however, the thieves expect this and are not put off by it. One thing that deters thieves is parking the car on a slope! This might sound a bit left field, but thieves do not like jacking a car up that is on an incline as it can easily move and come off the jack, trapping them underneath.

Some ways to prevent catalytic converter theft by (but not guaranteed!):

  • Parking closer to walls, other vehicles or close to the kerb, make climbing under your car more difficult.
  • Marking the catalytic converter with an engraved serial number can allow easier tracing as well making it harder to sell.
  • Welding the bolts if the converter is bolted on. This does not stop thieves but makes it harder to remove the converter using only a spanner. The downside to consider is that it not only makes it harder for thieves but also mechanics when they are working on your exhaust system.
  • Get a protective cover fitted to make it more difficult for thieves to remove the converter.
  • Get a catalytic converter alarm that is set off when the catalytic converter is tampered with.
  • Increased security measures, e.g. if possible park in a lockable garage, fencing, park in well-lit areas or CCTV.

If you’re looking to book a repair, ClickMechanic can help. To place a booking, head to our website and a trusted mechanic can carry out any work at a date and time of your choice.

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Happy driving!

UK’s Best Service Stations

With the warm weather (sometimes!) and school holidays in full swing, the UK is witnessing a staycation boom with people taking to the roads to explore Britain in the summer. This also means that for those travelling by car or coach, stopping at service stations will be an inevitable part of the journey.

Following a survey by consumer publication Which? of the best and worst motorway service stations, we checked out what the top three service stations in the UK have to offer in more detail to help you on your way. Here’s what we found:

  • Gloucester Services: M5, Brookthorpe, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, GL4 0DN

    Google maps
    Gloucester Services is almost too good to be called a service station. A second-generation family business, the food is home-cooked and made with ingredients that are locally sourced. If you’re heading to and from Cornwall and Devon, or even visiting the Cotswolds, Gloucester Services seems like a great place to stop by to get a feel of the local community.

  • Tebay Services: Westmorland Place, Orton, Penrith, Cumbria CA10 3SB

    If you’re travelling north on the M6, Tebay Services is a service stop (which is also a gorgeous farm) located in the Cumbrian hills. In addition to a farm shop that sells local produce, the website menu outlines an array of hearty meals and fresh salads that is sure to make one appreciate home-cooked meals over fast food joints.

  • Cairn Lodge Services: Douglas, Lanarkshire, ML11 0RJGoogle maps

    Further up north in Scotland, Cairn Lodge Services is located on M74 between Junctions 11 and 12. Voted as the 3rd best service station in the UK, the family-run filling station is currently open 24 hours for toilets, showers, hot drinks, food and snacks. The service station also houses a farm shop with locally grown produce and homemade cakes.

Do you have a favourite service station? Or have you come across a service station you were particularly impressed with? We’d love to hear about it! Tweet to us @ClickMechanic

If you’re going to hit the road for a long road trip, a Vehicle Health Check is a great way to ensure your vehicle is in good condition. With ClickMechanic a vetted mechanic can carry out a service at a date and time of your choice at a location that suits you.

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