Thursday, 28 March 2013

Rain, rain, go away

When April comes, April showers arrive. Great news for gardeners and the general public alike. A welcome change from the bitter cold of this winter. Good news – I hear you say, except for the inconvenience of wet shoes and frizzy hair. A suddenly very wet road surface increases the chances of slipping when braking or steering, which is a problem not just for motorists, but cyclists and motorcyclists too.

Rain makes the windows mist up in seconds, so adjust your heater controls before you set off. You don't want to be squinting through condensation, driving rain, and fiddling with controls when you should be concentrating on the road.


As in all bad weather, slow down.  In the rain your stopping distance should be at least doubled.  Giving yourself more space helps you to avoid spray, especially when following a large vehicle. And be especially cautious after prolonged dry spells – surface rain on dry roads is dangerously slippery.


Keep your eyes on the road ahead and plan your driving so that you can brake, accelerate and steer smoothly – harsh manoeuvres will unbalance the car. If you see pools or running water on the road, don't brake or accelerate into it. Ease off the accelerator as you cross it, grip the steering wheel firmly and steer straight ahead.


Avoid using cruise control on wet roads – it may create problems if you start to aquaplane.


In stormy conditions, it is more difficult to see other vehicles, road signs and the road itself. Make sure you can see and be seen. Put your lights on – whenever you use your wipers you probably also need your headlights. Before overtaking put your wipers on their fastest setting.

Even if the water on the road looks shallow, it may be much deeper than you think. Before driving across a flooded patch of road, ask yourself if there is another way. If you do need to carry on, drive on the highest section of the road, but don't set off if a vehicle is approaching you through the water. Remember, the water will hide other hazards such as potholes.

Once you are in the water, give room to other cars and pedestrians to avoid swamping them, and drive slowly but maintain momentum – taking your foot off the accelerator in deep water could allow water to travel up the exhaust pipe.  In a manual car, keep the revs high by keeping the clutch partly engaged while in the water. Once you're out of the water, dry the brakes by lightly applying them several times, after checking there is no traffic close behind you.


Making sure your car is properly maintained will make a difference too. Check your wipers regularly, that your tyres are properly inflated and have enough tread, and that all of your lights work. By law, you must keep the windscreen washer filled, but remember, to keep your windows clean, you must do the inside as well.

Spring into action

Road safety charity the IAM is offering weekly motoring tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week, he is advising on preparing yourself and your car for springtime driving.

  • April is well known for its showers. Stopping distances are increased on wet roads – allow at least twice as much time as usual to stop if the road is damp.
  • The clocks go forward this Easter weekend, so you could be driving to work in the morning in darker conditions than you are used to. Do a thorough check of all of your lights, and give them a spring clean too to maximise visibility.
  • Keep your screen wash topped up at all times. This way whether your car's dirty due to springtime downpours or covered in insects in the heat – you're prepared.
  • Country roads are a favourite at this time of year, but not only for car drivers. Be on alert for motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders, and give them all plenty of space.
  • Mud on the road means that farm vehicles or animals have been out and about. Look out for vehicles or animals emerging from field entrances. It's slippery stuff too!
  • Rabbits, hedgehogs and other animals are more likely to be seen in spring and summer. Don't swerve uncontrollably if an animal darts out in front of you - it's better to have a broken fog light or a dented bumper than a loss of control and a big crash.

Rodger said: "In spring you are more likely to see a variety of road users out and about, from bikers to pheasants. Preparing yourself to expect them and being on the lookout for vulnerable road users will ensure a more enjoyable drive and a safer environment for everyone."

Monday, 25 March 2013

Motorists want government to reinvest in roads

Ninety-one per cent of motorists do not trust the government to reinvest money made from tolls on new roads, according to a survey by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).

Sixty per cent of motorists do not support toll roads, and seventy-nine per cent of motorists would not support the introduction of tolls on existing roads.

Forty per cent of motorists would back more expensive tax discs instead of charging tolls on roads. Forty-one per cent wouldn't support toll roads even if other types of tax were reduced.

Motorists were divided on using toll roads. Forty-seven per cent of motorists said they don't plan their journey to deliberately avoid using toll roads, while forty-four per cent of motorists do.

Motorists feel strongly about toll roads in their local area. Fifty-six per cent of respondents said that they would use rural or local roads to avoid the toll charges, if a toll was enforced on their local motorway.

IAM chief executive Simon Best said:  "The cost of motoring is currently at an all-time high, and it's clear that the idea of bringing in toll roads has no support among everyday motorists. A toll on motorways, our safest roads, may force motorists on to more dangerous rural roads, to save money."

"The government has a very hard job ahead to convince drivers that tolls are the only way to deliver new roads and improve existing ones.  Only by reducing other motoring taxes can this policy gain the support of the motorist."

Preparing your car for spring

It might not look much like spring out there, but eventually the sun will shine and the flowers will bloom. So before that happens, get your car prepared for brighter weather.

At any time of year you must check all of your lights are working, and that your tyres have enough tread, aren't damaged, and have the right pressures.

Now is a good time to treat your car to a spring clean. Salt is a corrosive and will cause rusting if left on the bodywork. If possible take your car to a car wash that specialises in under-car cleaning to get rid of every trace.

The UK pollen season is coming and can be a miserable time for hayfever sufferers. Replacing your car's pollen filter annually is a vital investment, and keeping your air-con well-maintained will help.

Flies make a sticky mess on the front of your car, and can leave the windscreen smeary and difficult to see through. Make sure your washer fluid is always topped up, and give the windscreen and headlamps a wash when you stop for fuel.

Old wiper blades not only sound annoying, they can scratch the windscreen, so replace them regularly

Cleaning off 'debris' – bugs, sap, bird poo

Make sure your washer fluid is always topped up, and give the windscreen and headlamps a wash when you stop for fuel.Clean it off regularly rather than letting it build up.

Modern car paint is more environmentally friendly, but it is easily damaged by bird droppings, particularly in warm weather, so clean them off as quickly as possible.  Try not to park under roosting points such as telephone wires & poles or trees.

Sap from trees is a problem in the spring.  It is hard to remove once hardened, so a wash as soon as possible is advisable.  Using hot water and a sponge will help dissolve the sap. 

If the sap has hardened, the paint will feel rough to the touch.  Use a colour restorer (e.g. T-Cut) and a lot of elbow grease or an electric polisher.

Lots of car cleaning pads and sprays are available for a few pounds and these make bug removal very easy. But make certain the pad specifies that it is suitable for car paint – most household cleaning pads will ruin car paintwork.

And when you're on the move don't sit with the engine off, but the air con running. You risk flattening the battery

Friday, 22 March 2013

AA chief's car wrecked by 'sorry state' of Britain's roads


AA chief's car wrecked by 'sorry state' of Britain's roads

The AA's president had to call out ONE OF HIS OWN VANS after potholes completely wrecked his Mercedes-Benz.

This comes just days after he addressed the media, saying, "Potholes are popping up faster than daffodils."

Edmund King was filling up with fuel at a Morrisons garage near St Albans, Hertfordshire, when he heard a "sudden whoosh" sound.

Mr King said, "I was just filling up when I heard a really loud sound. I just assumed it was the car wash or the air pump, and carried on filling up with fuel.

"I saw the cashier in the garage was looking at my car but I didn't realise where the sound had come from until I walked around the front and noticed the body was touching the wheels. The front of the car was resting on the tyres"

Mr King now joins the growing ranks of motorists left out of pocket after hitting potholes in Britain. In a recent survey over one third of motorists said their car had suffered damage from potholes in the last two years.

"It was a relief it happened while I was stopped and not driving," said Mr King. "When the car drops like that you can't steer left or right, only go straight ahead, and it would have caused more damage."

However that relief was short lived, as he has had to pay for the repairs himself. A Mercedes-Benz specialist confirmed the damage was caused by wear and tear from potholes, meaning two new springs at a cost of over £300.

Mr King said "Like many motorists I am unable to get that cost back from my insurance as it would affect my no-claims bonus, and that is worth more to me than £300.    The irony is of course it was only days ago I was addressing the media on the sorry state of Britain's roads"

President's armoured limo taken out - by a tank full of diesel


President's armoured limo taken out - by a tank full of diesel

President Obama's presidential limo had to be carted off by a flatbed lorry – because red-faced staff filled the tank with the WRONG fuel.

The bulletproof fortress-on-wheels, known as The Beast, is designed to withstand huge blasts and bio-chemical attack, but was unable to cope when the tank was filled with diesel instead of petrol.

Embarrassed security staff had to call a local break down firm to collect the stranded limo.

"We experienced mechanical trouble with one of the cars," confessed Edwin Donovan of the Secret Service.

President's armoured limo taken out - by a tank full of diesel

The $300,000 armoured limo is the pride of the American motor industry. Built by Cadillac, it has armour plating to protect it from gunfire and also features a complex air conditioning system to protect its occupants from bio-chemical attack. In the refrigerated boot, a blood bank stores samples of the president's blood group, along with an oxygen supply and fire-fighting system.

Each door on the limo is armour plated and up to eight inches thick – with cubby-holes for pump-action shotguns.

The fuel tank is armour plated and filled with fire-preventing foam, but obviously had NO defence for a drop of diesel

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Drivers to be charged for world's most expensive car crash

Drivers to be charged for world's most expensive car crash

Headline-hitting pictures emerged of what was to become labelled the world's most expensive car crash, involving no less than eight Ferraris as well as a Lamborghini Diablo and three Mercedes.

What started as a supercar cruise through the picturesque countryside of Japan's Yamaguchi prefecture ended in the near complete destruction of ten sports cars, with a total bill of around £2.6 million.

The accident occurred after the lead car in the exotic convoy lost control on the Chugoku highway, causing a massive pile up with the vehicles that were following close behind.

A total of fourteen cars were affected, including a Nissan GT-R and an innocent Toyota Prius that was travelling in the opposite direction.

Luckily, and rather surprisingly given the mass of tangled metal at the scene, no one was killed or seriously injured on what was meant to be a simple drive to a supercar event in Hiroshima.

Now police want to charge the ten drivers, who are aged between 38 and 61, for excessive speed and careless driving (unfortunately destroying a Ferrari is only a moral crime).

Case files have been sent to prosecutors, who will have the final decision on whether to charge those involved.

Police official Shinji Tanaka said "It's rare to see a chain-reaction accident like this involving expensive cars. Some of the drivers told us they didn't really know the specifications of their cars or just how powerful their acceleration was." - giving weight to that old adage that the size of your wallet doesn't determine the size of your driving talent.

Monday, 18 March 2013

We’re all going on a Easter holiday

The Easter break is a great time to brush the cobwebs off your old camping gear and take the family away for a long weekend in the UK. This year, I suspect, regardless of the mid-winter climate, will be no different.

If you're driving somewhere nice this Easter to indulge in a spot of egg rolling and family feuding over whose fault it was that the Easter eggs were left next to the heater, consider taking some time to prepare yourself and your vehicle for the trip.

At any time of year it is important that you check that all of your lights are working. You should also ensure that your tyre pressure is correct and that they have enough tread – particularly since you are likely to be facing some post-April-showers damp road surfaces.

What better time to give your car a spring clean? The grains of salt which have been spread on the roads over the winter period will inevitably have made their way onto your vehicle like tiny corrosive stowaways. Leaving a salt build-up can be damaging to your car, causing rust to appear. It may be worth taking your vehicle to a car wash which specialises in under-car cleaning.

When packing your vehicle for your expedition, try to carry as little unnecessary weight as possible as this will increase your fuel consumption – do you really need that 15th pair of shoes? Pack your things as compactly as possible; making sure that nothing obstructs your view through the rear window.

On your cross-country drive you are bound to get flies and other insects dive-bombing your car, which will make a sticky mess and can leave the windscreen smeary and difficult to see through. Make sure your washer fluid is topped up before you leave, and give the windscreen and headlamps a quick clean when you stop for fuel.

If you're taking the kids with you, it's worth gathering up some tools to keep them occupied during the long periods spent on the road, in which you will need to concentrate, and they will need to be entertained. Portable DVD players and cordless games consoles are perfect, but don't forget the headphones as the Super Mario Brothers tune may start to grate after an hour or two.

If you feel your eyelids getting heavy whilst driving, it's likely that opening a window or turning the radio up will not cut it. Pull over somewhere suitable and safe, drink some strong coffee, and have a 20 minute nap while the caffeine takes effect. Sharing the driving is also a great option, if possible.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Car boat sail

The IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) offers weekly driving tips from Britain's top advanced driver, Peter Rodger. This week, with many people taking their St. Patrick's Day celebrations overseas, he offers advice on taking your vehicle on the ferry.

IAM Chief Examiner Peter Rodger said:

  • During busy times, such as religious holidays and festivals, the ferries will fill up quickly – book in advance to avoid disappointment on the day.
  • Measure the length, height and width of your vehicle beforehand, as you may be ask to specify the dimensions when you book your tickets.
  • Be aware that you may be charged more for taking your vehicle on the ferry if it is fitted with a rear bike rack or a roof rack. These should be included in the dimensions of your car.
  • When you are boarding the ferry, you will be asked to park as close as possible to the vehicle in front – but be sure to leave a small gap to lessen the chances of a bump.
  • Although carrying a spare fuel can may seem like a sensible idea, be aware that some ferry companies do not permit fuel cans on board, so it's best to leave it at home.
  • Be patient when going to disembark the ferry as other vehicles may have parked very close to you, meaning you will have to wait for them to leave before disembarking yourself.
  • If someone else does get a bit too close, your insurance policy should cover any damage to your car while on any recognised ferry route. 

Rodger said: "The ferry can be an efficient and cost-effective way of travelling within Europe with the added convenience of having your car with you. Following guidelines and procedures throughout your journey will ensure you have a hassle-free and enjoyable St' Patrick's Day weekend. And remember, if you're driving, don't drink – make it none for the road."

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Woman gets hand caught in glovebox; phones fire brigade


Woman gets hand caught in glovebox; phones fire brigade 

When you think about it, firemen (and women) have to put up with a lot of strange call-outs. Cats stuck up trees, people trapped in lifts, children getting heads stuck between railings – the list goes on.

Who knows what the Stockport crew must have thought upon arriving at a scene on Sunday, then – as a woman found herself trapped in, of all things, her car's glovebox.

Trying to retrieve something from her car, which was parked outside her home, the 49-year old somehow managed to become stuck – with the glovebox refusing to let go of her arm.

After attempts by a nearby man failed to free her, it was decided that there was no choice other than to call 999 – much to the pair's embarrassment, we can imagine.

"She wasn't able to move her hand - either to push it in or pull it out," said crew manager Stewart Hall.

"There was a man there with her and he tried for a long time to no avail so they had no other option but to call us."

The fire brigade was eventually able to free the woman – removing her watch and enabling her to slide her hand out.

"As soon as the watch came off it was fine, they were a little embarrassed as we were a last resort. But if someone is stuck they are stuck, they can't stay there all night.

"We don't train for something exactly like this but we will always be able get get people free somehow."

It's not known how her hand became stuck in the glovebox, nor the particular car involved. Still, we can bet she'll be keeping her boiled sweets in a different place from now on.

Women more likely to swear when behind the wheel than men?


Women more likely to swear when behind the wheel than men

A new study by insurance specialists Direct Line has found that almost half of women (48%) swear when behind the wheel, compared to just 40% of men.

One of the major causes for women turning air inside the car blue is satellite navigation systems which, according to the research, makes 55% of owners swear while using one.

More than a third of woman questioned also admitted that they would use foul language when they were 'cut up' by another driver, compared to just over a quarter of men.

The study also found that there is a large divide when it comes to the age of those using expletives behind the wheel. Over half (58 %) of those aged 20-29 swore when driving, compared with just 15% of those aged 40-49.

Direct Line car insurance spokesman Simon Henrick said: "People often use bad language during times of stress and many normally mild mannered people use expletives to express their irritation when behind the wheel.

"The concern is that the use of aggressive language and offensive gestures towards other motorists can escalate an already stressful situation and it can also quite feel intimidating for passengers in the vehicle."

According to the study, only one motoring incident irritated men more than it did women and that is when motorists use the overtaking lane when they are not overtaking. More than double the number of men (15%) than women (7%) admitted this makes them resort to bouts of bad language

New 'magic box' can detect and pre-empt breakdowns

New 'magic box' can detect and pre-empt breakdowns

In a move that appears to go against the RAC's business model, the renowned breakdown recovery firm has released a piece of technology that aims to detect faults with vehicles before they conk out at the side of the road.

The telematics and diagnostic system dubbed the 'magic box' (real name RAC Advance) is a small, matchbox-sized device that will act as an early warning system that can connect the stricken car to the RAC's engineers who will be able to determine faults before arriving on the scene.

Most news cars already have built-in diagnostic software that mechanics and garages use when a vehicle goes in for a service or maintenance, but RAC Advance goes one step further and transmits this information via a sim card.

Detailed readings and vital information can then be sent to the breakdown firm or even the user's mobile device in an attempt to pre-empt parts failure.

It is also hoped the device will also make drivers appreciate the importance of driving more economically - potentially saving £327 a year (based on driving 12,000 miles) - by providing drivers with useful information on their driving efficiency and ways to improve it.

It takes minutes to install, according to RAC technical director David Bizley. He said: "Offering peace of mind in a box, RAC Advance will revolutionise how we deal with members. We know that some breakdowns can be avoided with a pre-emptive warning and intervention and this will significantly advance how we are able to deal with an actual breakdown or accident, reassuring our members that they are in safe hands.

"With an accurate fault diagnosis and vehicle location, our patrols will be able to reach members more quickly and where possible, prepared with appropriate replacement parts.

"Our promise is to be the motorist's champion and our aim is to make it easier, safer, and more affordable for our members to own and run a car."

EU's new 'green petrol' could drive prices up and damage engines


EU's new 'green petrol' could drive prices up and damage engines

Britain has signed up to a new EU directive that will introduce E10 fuel to forecourts – an environmentally friendly alternative that features 10% ethanol that has been derived from sources such as corn.

Although, a study by think-tank Chatham House has said that the fuel returns fewer miles per gallon and could lead to families paying extra to travel the same distance.
According to the Daily Mail, Chatham House warns: "The increased use of ethanol in petrol to meet EU sustainability targets is resulting in drivers paying extra at the pump."

But the increased cost to the consumer isn't the only concern, as the Department for Transport believes up to 8.6 million vehicles may not be compatible with the new fuel and could cause some components – especially in older vehicles – to cease and fail.

The EU's Renewable Fuel Transport Obligation requires 5 per cent of the fuel supply of member states to be renewable by 2014.

This is due to increase in the next seven years under the EU's Renewable Energy Directive, which requires 10 per cent of transport energy from renewable sources by 2020. Oil companies have decided to use ethanol as this renewable source.

Most comes from the US, where it is made from corn, while some comes from Brazil's sugar cane and a small amount from British sugar beet.

The report by Chatham House calculated if the EU policy of supplying 10 per cent of transport energy from renewable sources had been applied in the UK in 2011-12, it would have cost motorists some £1.5billion, or around £80 a year more per family.

The news comes after David Cameron hinted that he may cut or freeze fuel duty in the upcoming budget.

Speaking to workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant on a recent visit, Mr Cameron said: "People look at the price of petrol and diesel... and it's still a very big amount we are paying. So we've got to do everything we can to help."

Monday, 11 March 2013

Follow the signs


Follow the signs


Red triangles for warning, green boards for destinations, blue circles instruct, brown boards direct you to tourist spots and red circles tell you what you're not supposed to do. Yes, you guessed it; I'm talking about road signs. Road signs are a central part of the road design. But they're not there for decoration and certainly don't stand there to look pretty. Neither are they particularly informative when they are cluttered on one side of the road. We've all heard stories of the roads full of signs offering you an abundance of information which serve only to confuse motorists. But road signs will help you to be prepared during your journey and find your way to your destination. Unlike your sat nav they'll inform and warn you of the road in a way that your sat nav simply will not. Here's some advice on tackling the signs.


When setting out on the road, try and look well ahead. The more time you give yourself to see the signs, the better. The extra time you have will give you enough time to respond appropriately if you need to. Remember, signs will give information and guidance on hazards, road layouts and directions – so don't ignore them.


Be careful where there are temporary signs – they are there for a specific reason. We've all experienced those times when you're driving to work and suddenly it's taking you much longer to reach work because of road works. These works would usually be signalled through signs. They can often affect speed limits and road layouts – so pay attention.

Whilst signs are incredibly helpful, there are some which are just not being looked after. If you notice a sign that is misspelt, is misleading, overcrowded or hidden by dirt and foliage, report it to the council. The message has to be clear so that drivers can act on the information immediately.

Read the road signs to double check your route – don't rely too heavily on your sat-nav in case things have changed. If you have missed the turning for your destination, never make a last minute manoeuvre that could be dangerous. That means no sharp turns, sudden braking or u-turns. It's always better to drive on until you find a safe place to turn around. This way, you're not putting yourself or anyone else in danger and can use signs to redirect your route.

Road signs are often seen as one of those things you only learn for your driving test. While you might not know what each and every sign means, it's always good to brush up and read the Highway Code every once in a while. Understanding signs can make your journey a lot less stressful.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Driving with kids in the car

Forget changing the channel on the radio or eyeing up the talent on the pavement, kids in the car make it all too easy to take your eyes off the road.

If you've got a getaway planned for Easter, plan ahead so you keep the littlun's quiet and contented - especially on long journeys.  The trick is to keep them occupied as much as possible and to keep your attention on the road.

A second adult to look after the children makes a huge difference, leaving the driver to drive. This also may allow you the opportunity to share the driving if you're heading somewhere far away from home.

However tempting, don't turn round to deal with fighting kids.  Find somewhere to stop first. If anyone needs to pick up a child, make sure you stop and don't let any adults travel with a child on their lap.

Portable games consoles or in-car DVD players will keep kids occupied for hours. But add some headphones – the soundtrack on the monitors can be just as distracting as the kids.  You might like the Spongebob Squarepants tune now, but after a few plays in the car it'll really get on your nerves.

If you are planning a long journey, make sure you're organised, remembering to pack plenty of food and drink. Have a plastic bag (without any holes) at hand for travel sickness.

Play games that promote and reward quiet behaviour without needing the driver's direct involvement.

Always leave a gap of at least two seconds between you and the car in front. Following too close cuts the time you'll have to react should something happen. You'll be more able to spot hazards and keep your kids safe.

Allow extra stops. Find somewhere for them to let off steam such as a playground.

Don't forget that child seats or restraint must be used. Check the rules but, depending on their age, some sort of seat or restraint should be used until a child reaches the age of 12 or 1.35 metres in height.  Never put a rearward-facing baby seat in the front if there is a passenger airbag