Why hand sanitiser damages your car – and how to prevent it

Using hand santitiser

The coronavirus crisis has led to huge demand for hand sanitiser. And while nobody is suggesting you shouldn’t clean and disinfect your hands, that could be bad news for your car’s interior.

Ford engineers have warned that chemicals found in everyday products, including hand sanitisers, sun lotions and insect repellent, can cause interior surfaces to wear prematurely.

Many hand sanitisers contain ethanol, a simple type of alcohol.

Meanwhile, higher protection sun lotions contain greater quantities of titanium oxide. This can react with plastics and natural oils found in leather.

Another harmful chemical, diethyltoluamide or DEET, is found in insect repellents.

Gloves while driving

The net result is a chemical attack on your car’s interior. However, even in times of lockdown, there is a straightforward solution: wear gloves.

Disposable gloves may remove the need for hand sanistiser and protect your car into the bargain. Just remember to throw them away immediately after use.

As for the damage caused by sun cream and insect repellants, wearing long trousers or fitting seat covers could help.

At all times, prioritise your safety – and that of others – over the condition of your car.

Using sun lotion

Mark Montgomery, senior materials engineer at Ford’s Material Technology Centre, said: “From hand sanitisers to sun lotions to insect repellent, consumer trends are constantly changing.

“Even the most innocuous seeming product can cause problems when they come into contact with surfaces hundreds of times a year.”

The teams test at extreme temperatures to replicate the inside of a car parked at the beach on a hot day.

In other tests, the engineers subject samples with ultra-violet light, equivalent to the brightest place on earth, for up to 48 days.

Based on the findings, Ford reformulates the chemical constitution of protective coatings to protect the interiors. The same tests are also used for accessories, such as boot liners and plastic covers.

Sometimes what we do requires a bit of detective work,” said Richard Kyle, materials engineer, based in Dunton.

“There were instances of particularly high wear in Turkey. We managed to trace it back to ethanol potentially being a contributing factor, and most likely a popular hand sanitiser that contained 80 percent ethanol. That’s far higher than anything we’d seen before.

“Once we knew what it was, we were able to do something about it.”

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Could driving on hay fever tablets get you banned?

Advice for drivers with hay fever

Motorists who take take hay fever medication could risk prosecution or even a driving ban. That’s the warning as summer approaches and the pollen count begins to rise.

The same traffic laws apply to over-the counter drugs as illegal substances. If your driving is impaired, you could end up with a criminal record – not to mention the risk of causing an accident.

Neil Worth, road safety officer at GEM Motoring Assist, explains: “Some medicines, including those used to treat hay fever, can have an effect on your ability to drive safely. They could make you tired, dizzy or groggy, and they can compromise your vision and reaction time.

“That’s why it’s so important to check with your GP or pharmacist, and to read any warnings contained on the labels of the medicines you plan to take.

Advice for hay fever sufferers

GEM has issued a safety checklist for drivers who take hay fever medicine. Here’s a need-to-know summary:

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if a medicine might affect your ability to drive. Be particularly careful if you are using a medicine for the first time.
  • If you experience potentially dangerous side effects from a medicine, don’t drive. Organise a taxi or a lift from a friend if you need to travel.
  • If you find a medicine is making you tired, ask if there is a non-sedating alternative available. Studies have shown feeling sleepy at the wheel can impair your judgement as much as drinking alcohol.
  • It’s not just prescription medicines that can cause drowsiness and other potentially dangerous side-effects.  Check with your pharmacist if you plan to use an over-the-counter drug, too.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any risks first. If you’re unsure about any warnings on the medicine label, don’t drive.

A 2018 study by Confused.com found 58 percent of drivers who suffer from hay fever said they had driven a car shortly after taking medication, even though many remedies can impair performance behind the wheel.

A worrying 10 percent said they had noticed adverse effects of taking prescription drugs.

It is illegal to drive if you’re unfit to do so because you’ve taken legal or illegal drugs, or you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood. 

Legal medication is covered by the same drug-driving laws as substances such as cocaine and cannabis. Drivers are advised to consult the government website for a list of prescription medicines affected by the legislation.

‘Check the medication thoroughly’

Pollen season ahead for drivers

Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards at IAM RoadSmart, warns: “If you are stopped by the police after taking a hay fever remedy and driving whilst impaired you could find yourself falling foul of drug driving regulations.

“Be sure to check the medication thoroughly and see if it is suitable. But most importantly, concentrate on your route to recovery so you can get back onto the road sooner rather than later.”

IAM RoadSmart has the following advice for hay fever sufferers:

  • Ensure your car is clean and dust-free and that you operate the air conditioning or ventilation to your advantage. Changing the pollen filter regularly is important, too.
  • Arrange to see your GP if you feel under the weather. If you haven’t been diagnosed with hay fever but need medication, avoid driving.
  • Blurred vision and drowsiness can be side-effects of over-the-counter medicines. Popular remedies for a runny nose and sneezing symptoms can also affect your driving.
  • If you need anti-histamine, take non-drowsy ones. If you’re unsure, read the leaflet or speak to your pharmacy.
  • When you sneeze at the wheel, you travel up to 50ft with your eyes closed. If you need to get somewhere but don’t feel well enough to drive, ask somebody else to help. The risk simply isn’t worth it

If in doubt, talk to your pharmacist and always read the label.

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How to report an unsafe bus, coach or lorry driver

How to report lorry bus or coach driver

If you believe the driver of a bus, coach or lorry has broken safety rules, you can report them. 

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will deal with your complaint.

Reasons to contact the DVSA include:

  • Breaking drivers’ hours rules
  • Overloading vehicles
  • Using vehicles that are unsafe or unroadworthy
  • Using emission cheat devices
  • Carrying dangerous or hazardous goods without permission
  • Driving an excessively smoky lorry, bus or coach

What information is required?

The DVSA needs to know:

  • Who is involved (the driver or company name)
  • The registration number of the vehicle(s) in question
  • The reason for the complaint
  • When and where the incident took place.

There are three ways to submit the information:

  • Email: enquiries@dvsa.gov.uk
  • Telephone: 0800 030 4103 (lines are open Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 6pm)
  • Post: Intelligence Unit, DVSA, The Ellipse, Padley Road, Swansea, SA1 8AN

Can I report anonymously?

Reporting a lorry driver

The DVSA says it won’t ever ask for names or contact details, calls will not be traced and statements will not be required.

Also, if you wish to remain anonymous. you will not be called as a witness or have to appear in court.

However, anyone willing to supply details may be contacted for more information. And they could be asked to provide a statement or act as a witness.

What happens after a report is made?

The DVSA reviews the information before deciding whether or not to examine the case.

Other government agencies or the police might then get involved, depending on the severity of the incident.

You will receive feedback after the investigation, when official proceedings have ended. The DVSA cannot give feedback on an ongoing case.

How to report other crimes

The process is different for other, non-safety related offences, such as drink-driving, speeding and driving while disqualified. In such cases, contact the police first.

To complain about bus driver rudeness or buses not arriving on time, visit the Bus Users website.

Every different type and body style of car: explained

Motoring was once much simpler. Open a classic copy of the Observer’s Book of Automobiles and, with a few exceptions, cars could be split into a small number of categories.

Saloon, hatchback, estate, coupe, sports and off-roader, plus the odd odd supercar or luxury car: clear and simple.

Today, we’re faced with umpteen choices of all shapes, sizes and subcategories. 

So to help, we have explained 20 different types of car, and provided a definition for each one.

We’ve included a little background and an example for each classification. 

Hatchback

Our love affair with the hatchback began when Renault launched the iconic 4 in 1961. The wide-opening tailgate presented estate-like loading potential, and more than eight million were produced over three decades.

Initially, the saloon and estate refused to roll over and die, with innovative cars such as the Renault 16 and Austin Maxi failing to propel the hatchback into the mainstream. Things changed in the late 1970s though, when motorists finally saw the potential of the humble hatch.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the hatchback as: ‘a car with a door across the full width at the back end that opens upwards to provide easy access for loading’.

A hatchback might be classed as a three-door or five-door, depending on the configuration, with the tailgate considered a door in itself. Today, three-door hatchbacks are less popular, with designers working hard to disguise the rear doors. 

Hatchback buyers are spoilt for choice: the Ford Focus alone offers nearly 70 hatchback derivatives. The Volkswagen Golf (pictured above) is perhaps the archetypal hatchback today.

Hot hatch

Without the hatchback, there wouldn’t be a hot hatch, which provides the proof that practicality can be fun. Although these cars first flourished in the 1980s, there were fast hatchbacks before the term was used.

Models such as the Simca 1100 TI, Renault 16 TX, Chrysler Sunbeam TI and Renault 5 Gordini provided the necessary groundwork for the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Peugeot 205 GTI: the first cars to be labelled hot hatches.

For us, a real hot hatch needs to be front-wheel drive, ideally with three doors. That said, a modern hot hatch is just as likely to have five doors. 

Saloon

‘A car having a closed body and a closed boot separated from the part in which the drivers and passengers sit,’ is how the Oxford English Dictionary defines the saloon.

For generations, the family saloon was a familiar sight on Britain’s roads and the car you doodled in your sketchbook during double maths.

The boot opening is smaller than a hatchback, while the shape of the luggage area is shallower and less practical. However, many saloons are also offered in estate guise. See below.

The traditional three-box saloon might be a dying breed, but the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 keep the segment alive.

Estate car

It’s all about space in this load-lugging class. You get the same level of comfort and equipment as a hatchback or executive saloon, plus a furniture-friendly boot. Estate cars usually feel more agile than equivalent SUVs, too.

If you occasionally venture off-road, vehicles such as the Audi A4 Allroad arguably offer the best of both worlds: raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive without the weight, inferior fuel economy and social stigma of an SUV. Many also prefer the long, sleek profile of an estate car – even once-boxy Volvo wagons look stylish now.

What’s common to all is a wealth of practical touches, such as fold-flat seats, electric tailgates, boot dividers and retractable tow bars. Given the loads these cars are expected to shift, you’re more likely to be offered a diesel engine – so they should be decently economical.

MPV

Whatever you call it, what we class as a minivan, people carrier or MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) can trace its roots back to the Chrysler Corporation’s Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, launched at the tail-end of 1983.

It didn’t take long for the rest of the world to catch on, with Renault blazing a trail in Europe with the Matra-designed Espace. It spawned a multitude of competitors, designed from the ground up to carry many passengers – usually five or seven – and their luggage.

Compact MPVs soon followed, often based on the platform and components of traditional family hatchbacks. Examples include the Renault Megane Scenic and Citroen Xsara Picasso.

Today’s MPVs are characterised by flexible seating arrangements and often sliding doors. There will be room for up to seven people, plus lots of clever storage space.

While the market is in decline, cars such as the Volkswagen Touran, Ford Galaxy and Citroen C4 Spacetourer remain faithful to the concept of practicality over style.

SUV

An SUV is a Sport Utility Vehicle, a term used historically to categorise a 4×4 or off-road vehicle. The SUV has its roots in military-derived vehicles, such as the Willys Jeep and Land Rover.

As time moved on, the SUV became less workmanlike and more lifestyle-led. The Jeep Wagoneer pioneered the idea of a sport utility vehicle long before the term was first used, feeling more car-like than any other 4×4 on the market.

Other SUVs soon followed, most notably the Range Rover, which first appeared in 1970. Early SUVs offered an off-road bias, with some feeling a tad primitive and unwieldy on the road, but today we expect them to offer a perfect blend of on- and off-road capabilities.

They come in all shapes and sizes, from the compact Suzuki Jimny to the luxurious Bentley Bentayga

To be classed as an SUV, we expect a car to offer a commanding driving position, a practical interior and some off-road skills. Not all come with four-wheel drive, but as the majority spend their time entirely on tarmac, that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker.

Crossover

In essence, a crossover is a car with the lofty suspension and practicality of an SUV, but the running costs of a family hatchback. In other words, more urban-roader than off-roader.

The lines have been blurred by the increasingly car-like and more efficient SUVs, which spend more time on the road than off it. 

The claim that Nissan invented the crossover with the 2006 Qashqai is nonsense, although it unquestionably led to the introduction of the term.

In respect of a front-wheel-drive crossover, the Matra Rancho led the way, although the world wasn’t quite ready for a car with off-road styling but next-to-no off-road ability. 

City car

There should be no problems describing a city car, which is a small, fuel-efficient and best suited to urban driving. 

City cars are designed to carry two people comfortably up-front, but legroom can limited in the back. Expect a small boot, too. On the plus side, compact dimensions (less than four metres long) mean they can use a small engine, so fuel bills and CO2 emissions will be low. 

The BMW Isetta, Fiat Nuova 500 and Mini were early pioneers of the cutesy urban car concept, while today’s city cars might offer five doors and the level of kit you’d expect to find on something much larger and more expensive.

The near-identical Volkswagen Up, Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo triplets are recent examples of successful city cars.

Supermini

According to Austin 1100 Club historian, Chris Morris, the 1100 “was the first supermini, as we know them today.” You can understand the logic: here was a natural extension of the Mini, with compact proportions and a roomy interior.

Today, the Ford Fiesta is the archetypal supermini. Sized between a city car and a family hatchback, it offers cheap running costs and is as good to drive in town as on a long journey.

Coupe

A coupe is traditionally a sporty-looking two-door car with a fixed roof, either with two seats or with two additional seats in the rear (known as a 2+2).

The name itself is derived from the French word for ‘cut’, and refers to the steep angle of the rear screen, which gives the coupe its rakish good looks. Popular examples include the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series.

Some of the German brands have attempted to stretch the definition by creating four-door coupes (such as the Mercedes-Benz CLS), but in reality, these tend to be nothing more than four-door saloons with restricted rear headroom.

Convertible

In Europe, only the Germans purchase more convertibles than the British. Turns out our far-from-tropical climate is no barrier to getting the top down at any given opportunity.

A convertible – or cabriolet – is four-seater or 2+2 with a removable or folding roof. Examples include the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, Mini Convertible and now-defunct Range Rover Evoque Convertible.

The words are mostly interchangeable, with ‘cabriolet’ a French word first used in the 18th century to describe a light horse-drawn carriage. Convertible has more modern origins.

Roadster

Once again, the word ‘roadster’ has its origins in the equine world. In the 19th century, the term was used to describe a horse with an ability to draw a carriage over vast distances in a single day.

From an automotive perspective, a roadster is an open sports car with seating for two, with the MGB and Triumph Spitfire two prime examples from the past.

Today, the Mazda MX-5 is the roadster most people think of first.

Targa

A Targa top is a semi-convertible body style with a removable roof section and a full-width roll bar behind the seats.

The name was first used by Porsche when it unveiled the 911 Targa in 1965, with the German firm having the foresight to trademark the name before the launch.

The 911 wasn’t the first car to feature a Targa roof, however. In 1961, Triumph created a ‘Surrey Top’ for the TR4, with the equivalent of a rear section of a hardtop and a removable canvas to bridge the gap between the windscreen and the rear of the car.

Sports car

Things were simple in the black and white days of Terry Thomas. A sports car was an open two-seater with just enough power to perform. 

An MGB was a sports car. A Ford Capri wasn’t. A Porsche 718 Boxster is a sports car. A Ford Mustang isn’t. And yet all four cars were built in the name of fun, with practicality sitting further down the list of priorities.

Today, the term has been extended, to include hard-top coupes such as the Toyota GT86, Subaru BRZ and Jaguar F-Type Coupe.

Executive

Euro NCAP uses the ‘executive’ tag to categorise cars such as the BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. In other words, cars slightly larger than a typical company motor.

There’s an aspirational quality to the executive car, seen as a cut above the ordinary family runabout. Something for middle managers to aim for: the carrot used as a motivational tool by MDs and CEOs.

Today, as carmakers push further upmarket, the ‘executive’ tag is more far-reaching. Everything from the Ford Mondeo to the Tesla Model S can be classed as an executive, with size no longer a barrier to entry.

Which is why the ‘exec’ label fits both the BMW 3 Series and the 5 Series.

Luxury

There’s a distinct gap between a premium motor and a luxury car.

To be considered luxurious, a car must leave nothing to chance in the pursuit of perfection. The most exquisite materials, impeccable craftsmanship and, in today’s world, the most cutting-edge technology.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the BMW 7 Series, the Audi A8 are luxury cars, as is anything built by Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

Quadricycle

A quadricycle isn’t really a car. Instead, the EU places the four-wheeled vehicle in the same category as mopeds, motorcycles and motor tricycles.

There are two sub-categories: light and heavy quadricycles. Nip across to France, and you’ll find a multitude of these tiny, low-powered and lightweight vehicles. The predominant brands are Aixam and Ligier.

In the UK, the Renault Twizy is the most prominent example. 

Supercar

What was the first supercar? The Bugatti 57SC Atlantic of 1936? Maybe the Mercedes-Benz 300SL of 1954? How about the Lamborghini Miura of 1966?

A tough call, but the trio helps to form a definition of what makes a supercar.

What do you they have in common? An expensive price tag, exhilarating performance, drop-dead gorgeous styling and the capacity to make grown men (and women) go weak at the knees.

Above all else, if a child makes room on their bedroom wall for a poster of said car, then it is almost certainly a supercar.

Think Ferrari 812 Superfast, Porsche 911 GT3 and Lamborghini Huracan.

Hypercar

“We can agree that both supercars and hypercars are expensive, exotic and fast. The difference between them is really a matter of extremeness. And in the case of companies with multiple models, the car’s position in the model line.

‘No hypercar has a more expensive or more exclusive corporate sibling.’ Maxim presents a pretty decent summation of the supercar versus hypercar debate.

Maxim goes on to claim that the Bugatti Veyron was ‘probably the first bona fide hypercar,’ which is something many people would agree with. Although we’d also add an honourable mention for the McLaren F1.

It’s all about excess and pushing the boundaries. The McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari, Bugatti Chiron and Rimac Concept One are 100 percent hypercar.

Pick-up

We conclude our rundown of the different car classifications with an easy one: the pick-up.

There are various types – double cab, crew cab, single cab – but thanks to the Ford F-Series, the pick-up is the best-selling vehicle in the world.

How to buy a new car battery online in lockdown

Buy a car battery in lockdown

With the coronavirus lockdown leaving many vehicles left unused, a flat battery could be a problem when it comes to needing your car again.

If you have found it increasingly harder to start your car, or that it will just not start at all, you might need a new battery.

Read our guide on how you can order a new car battery online, and the options to get it fitted.

Why might my car battery be flat?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Although modern car batteries have features to help them preserve charge when left unused, the chemical reaction occurring inside will still cause it to slowly discharge over time.

Equipment like car alarms and even clocks take a small amount of charge, too. 

Alone these should not cause a healthy battery to flatten fully, but they may be enough to drain the life out of an old or weakened one. 

Leaving interior lights on, or devices plugged into charging sockets, will mean a much quicker route to a dead battery. 

How can I stop my car battery from going flat?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

The most obvious way to stop it going flat is to drive your car. However, current government restrictions mean driving simply to charge your battery is unlikely to be considered an essential journey. 

Manufacturers such as Kia have recommended allowing your car engine to run in idle for 20 minutes once a fortnight. Doing so should allow the battery to keep charged up.

Safety warning: this should be done outdoors, and with the car supervised at all times.

A dedicated battery charger, or a trickle charger, can also be used to maintain charge during extended periods without use. Some chargers also have the ability to ‘jump start’ a flat battery. 

Where can I buy a new car battery online?

Buy a car battery in lockdownIf all else has failed and your car battery is clearly in need of replacement, there are numerous options to order a new one online and have it delivered to your door.

Halfords offers a substantial range of new batteries, and the option to have it delivered to your home. The company also offers click and collect options designed to maintain social distancing.

Similarly, Euro Car Parts is able to supply various different car batteries with free delivery. Click and collect is available for key workers. 

The RAC Shop sells an extensive range of batteries, and can have one delivered to your door the next working day. 

What kind of car battery do I need?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Gone are the days of just sticking any 12-volt battery under the bonnet and forgetting about it. Modern cars have complicated electrical systems, and the right battery is needed to avoid the risk of damaging them.

Cars with automatic Start-Stop systems, which can turn the engine off when stationary at traffic lights for instance, need their own special type of battery. These will be marked as ‘AGM’ or ‘EFB’, and should be replaced with a similarly designated battery. 

Online retailers such as Halfords, Euro Car Parts and the RAC all offer ‘battery finder’ tools on their websites.

Simply type in your car registration number to find the best match for your motor, but make sure you check against what is currently fitted, just to be sure.

Can I fit a new car battery myself?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Again, the complexity of modern cars means fitting a new battery yourself is not necessarily a simple task. Cars with automatic Start-Stop need to have their battery management system reset when a replacement is fitted, which requires specific equipment to do. 

For those with older vehicles, the RAC has a comprehensive guide should you feel confident enough to fit a replacement battery yourself. 

If you are unsure about fitting a battery yourself, then leave it to a professional.

What if I want someone to fit it for me?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

If you decide to have a new battery fitted by someone else, you have multiple choices depending on your circumstances. 

Should your battery be completely flat, and you have breakdown cover, check if your policy includes battery replacement.

Both the RAC and AA either offer free, or low-cost, battery fitting for members. Certain policies will also include the actual cost of the battery, too. 

Non-members can also use the RAC and AA to supply and fit replacement batteries, with same-day services advertised. 

Halfords also offers mobile battery fitting through the Tyres On The Drive service.

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Should your car still be drivable, but with a battery that will need replacing, various retailers can fit a replacement for you. 

Halfords, Euro Car Parts, Kwik Fit, and ATS Euromaster are still able to offer battery fitting services. 

COVID-19 means these outlets are prioritising key workers and emergency services first, and a booking will be needed first. 

What if I own an electric or hybrid car?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Electric and hybrid vehicles typically feature two distinct batteries: a main lithium-ion unit for the electric motors, plus a regular 12-volt battery for accessories.

This 12-volt unit can also run out of charge, just like in a normal petrol or diesel-engined car.

If this 12-volt battery is flat, it may prevent an electric car from starting regardless of how fully charged the main battery is.

Some plug-in vehicles, like the Kia Niro, are able to jump start the 12-volt battery from the main lithium-ion battery.

Charging and replacing the 12-volt battery in an electric or hybrid vehicle is likely to be more complicated than a conventional car.

Read the vehicle handbook and owners manual for your specific model to avoid the risk of damaging electrical components.

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How to make your car last longer

How to make your car last longer

A car is the second most expensive thing most of us buy or finance, after a house or flat. And just as we maintain our properties, so too should you look after your car.

Here’s how to keep your car healthy and efficient for longer.

Stick to the servicing schedule

It’s advisable to service your car every 12 months, possibly sooner if you cover lots of miles.

That doesn’t just simply mean renewing the oil, either. A service may involve replacing multiple consumables, including the oil filter, air filter, cabin filter, spark plugs (if it’s a petrol engine) and more.

Servicing an electric car is simpler – and theoretically cheaper – as they have fewer moving parts. 

Top up the fluids

You should also keep the car’s fluids topped up. From windscreen wash to engine oil, 12 months is ample time for these to run low.

Regular fluid checks are essential to help your car live longer.

How to make your car last longer

Change the filters

Filters help keep the fluids your car uses clean. Oil, air and fuel all have their own separate filters, which need to be changed at varying intervals. Oil and air filters should be changed at every annual service.

Diesel cars also use a particulate filter (DPF), which can become blocked and is expensive to replace. However, most issues can avoided by simply driving your car. Click here for advice on DPF maintenance.

Replace the spark plugs

Spark plugs are an essential part of your petrol engine, and generally should be changed at every service.

Is your car running rough? It could be the plugs. Thankfully, they’re a relatively easy job to tackle in your garage at home.

Check your tyres

Safety should be reason enough to keep your tyres in tip-top condition, but financial savings are an added incentive.

Keeping your tyres inflated to the recommended pressures will save you money at the pumps. According to Michelin, tyres under-inflated by 15psi will lead to six percent more fuel used.

How to make your car last longer

Keep your car clean

Your car might be running like a watch, but keeping it clean is also good for its health. Road grime, salt, bird mess: it all adds up to, at best, sorry-looking paint. At worst, it will cause corrosion of your car’s bodywork and internal parts.

A clean car, both inside and out, will live for longer. It could also protect you from harmful bacteria and disease.

Use your garage

The best way to protect your car from the elements is to keep it away from them. Parking overnight in the safety of a garage will offer decent protection from birds and the weather, not to mention car crime.

It will still need to be washed from time to time, though.

Kick the clutter

Weight equals excessive wear and tear. Clear the clutter out of your car and it’ll handle, stop and drive better overall. It’ll also use less fuel.

Less weight makes everything better when it comes to cars, as Lotus has been telling us for years.

How to make your car last longer

Drive smoothly

Service, clean, and keep your car safe all you want; if you don’t drive it correctly, things will go wrong.

That means avoiding hard acceleration and anticipating stops so you don’t have to slam on the brakes. Don’t rush the gears or sling the steering wheel around. That said, your engine will appreciate a zesty drive every so often.

Use your car’s equipment

Use it or lose it. What’s true of your body also applies to your car. Features like air conditioning and electric windows can seize over time. If you drive a convertible, retract its roof every so often.

If nothing else, using certain features will confirm they still work, so you can get them fixed if not.

Keep the battery healthy

Batteries are fickle devices that need to be used to stay healthy. Leave your car for a while and the battery will go flat and degrade, especially in the UK’s highly variable climate.

If you know your car will be standing for a while, buy a trickle charger to keep the battery topped up.

How to make your car last longer

Don’t scrimp on parts

You’d be upset if you got second-rate organs for a transplant because they were cheaper. So don’t cut corners on car parts.

In general, OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts are best. If you’re buying aftermarket items, do your research – and only buy from reputable brands.

Rust-proof your car

Better to prevent now than fix later. Before your car rusts away, before you’ve even washed it for the first time, it’s a good idea to get it rust-proofed.

Paint-protection wraps work well, and touch-ups of stone chips and other exposed metal will keep the orange wolf from your car door. An inspection underneath and, if necessary, a coating of underseal could be a good investment.

Don’t modify your car

The original parts that came on your car have all been tested over hundreds of thousands of miles.

If in doubt, keep things standard, or your car may suffer for it. A modified car is likely to be worth less when you sell, too.

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Declare SORN and save money during lockdown. Here’s how

How to declare SORN

According to a recent RAC poll, 10 percent of people have stopped driving completely since the government enforced the COVID-19 lockdown.

With this in mind, it might make sense to take your car off the road. If nothing else, it will save you money on car tax.

You will need to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) by registering a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).

You’ll get a refund for any full months remaining tax – so it makes sense to do it before the end of the month.

How do I SORN my car?

The SORN process is quick and can be done online via the Gov.uk website. Have your 11-digit number from your V5C (vehicle log book) handy to declare SORN immediately – or the 16-digit number from your tax reminder (V11) for it to take effect at the end of the month.

With everything to hand, the process should take no more than a minute.

There are other ways to get a SORN notice, too – either by post or by phone. However, the DVLA contact centre is only accepting urgent calls from NHS workers during the coronavirus crisis.

Visit the SORN page on the Gov.uk website

Vehicles parked on driveway

Can I drive my car after SORN?

No, not until you tax it again. Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) is required to drive on the road – it’s simple as that. You need to be sure your car is already where it’s due to sit long-term, or have a trailer or low-loader to move it.

Under no circumstances should it be driven after SORN is declared. Nor can it be parked on the road.

How long does a SORN last?

A SORN, unlike vehicle tax, does not need to be renewed. It is indefinite until you tax the car again – be that weeks, months or years.

Once you’re ready to tax the car again, the process can be done online. You’ll need the vehicle log book (V5C) and a debit or credit card.

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Coronavirus: How to sanitise your car

How to sanitise your car

Motorists are advised to keep their car clean and sanitised during the coronavirus crisis. Doing so will help keep you and your family safe, while minimising the risk of spreading the virus.

To this end, Fixter has created a list of touch points to sanitise, both inside and outside the car. Gloves are an essential part of the cleaning process, but they should be disposed of immediately afterwards.

You should also avoid touching your face while cleaning.

The company says many cleaning products can be found in the home, but don’t use bleach, as this can damage plastics, vinyl and upholstery. Avoid using too much water, as it can cause mould and bad odours.

It’s important to remember to sanitise the car’s touchscreen. Using normal soap and water is recommended, as household glass cleaners can affect the anti-glare coatings.

Read on to discover how to sanitise your car.

How to sanitise the key touch points

Cleaning your car

  • Driver area – includes the steering wheel, centre console, levers, buttons, switches and internal door release
  • Front passenger area – includes glove compartment (inside and out) and the areas listed above
  • Rear seats – cup holders, arm rests, switches, cabin lights and internal door releases
  • Seat belt clips – an often overlooked area. Parents could spread bacteria by fastening belts for children
  • External door handles – the first point of contact with any vehicle. The boot latch is important after a food shop, as many don’t consider the risk of passing germs from trolley to car. Handles are also at risk after filling up with fuel. Wear gloves at the pumps, or better still, carry latex gloves in the car
  • Bonnet – bonnet release, engine bay, oil cap, windscreen fluid cap and oil dipstick
  • Boot – internal release, parcel shelf and spare wheel compartment
  • Car keys – can accumulate dirt, bacteria and viruses

Limvirak Chea, CEO of Fixter, said: “Since the government has advised to avoid public transportation unless absolutely necessary, more people are relying on their cars.

“While we offer a car sanitisation service, we want to share our professional insights with not just our customers, but with everyone.”

Sanitising the steering wheel

Damian Jeffries, head of driver operations at Fixter, added: “Cleaning your car is not necessarily something we look forward to doing, but during this time it is incredibly important.

“Isopropyl alcohol, for example, is one of the best products to use and it’s widely available. However, Isopropyl alcohol is not suitable for leather seats, so it’s vital to use special leather cleaning products for these.”

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How to apply for or renew a Blue Badge online

Disabled Blue Badge holders only

Disabled drivers rivers eligible for a Blue Badge can apply online via the government website.

A Blue Badge allows parking in disabled bays, so people with mobility issues can stop closer to their destination.

The online service should make the process of applying for one quick and easy. The Department for Transport (DfT) says it can be completed in less than half an hour.

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In the past, applicants were asked to send supporting documents in the post, leading to lengthy waits while the application was processed.

A survey found it took an average of 17 days for a driver to receive a Blue Badge – or 28 days if a medical assessment was required.

Now, all documents, including photographs and proof of identity, can be uploaded to the Blue Badge website. The process takes around 13 minutes, or up to 30 minutes if additional information is required.

Video guide to applying for a Blue Badge

To apply or renew, visit the Gov.uk website. You will need details of your current Blue Badge (if you have one), a digital or signed photograph, your National Insurance number, proof of identification, proof of benefits (if you receive any) and proof of residence.

The fee for a Blue Badge is up to £10 in England and £20 in Scotland, while Welsh motorists don’t have to pay. A badge usually lasts up to three years.

Note: you can save your application and return to it later if needed.

The process is also different if you live in Northern Ireland. Follow this link to apply if so.

How to keep your van roadworthy during the lockdown

How to keep a van roadworthy

Van drivers are helping to keep the country running during the coronavirus crisis. Whether it’s delivering groceries to properties or transporting essential items for the NHS, van drivers provide a vital service.

Any MOTs for vans which expired on or after 30 March have been extended by six months. This means certificates are still valid, but it’s no guarantee that the van is roadworthy.

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However, as the government points out, it’s the responsibility of the van owner or fleet operator to ensure the vehicle is safe to drive and roadworthy.

You could be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and get three penalty points for driving a van in dangerous condition.

With this in mind, Volkswagen has a list of tips for keeping your van roadworthy.

Van driver

David Hanna, head of service and parts at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “Extending the MOT is great news for many drivers who would be unable to book in for a test but it does put the onus on owners and fleet managers to ensure the vans on the road remain roadworthy.

“We’ve compiled these top tips which can be done at home to make sure you to stay on the right side of the law during the COVID-19 crisis. And even if your van isn’t being used at the moment, when you go back to work it’s just as important to complete these checks, too.

“And if drivers identify any serious issue, we’re proud that nearly all our van centres and authorised repairers across the UK are open during the crisis for essential maintenance for key workers.”

How to keep your van roadworthy

  • Tyres. Use a 20p coin to check that the tyres have at least 1.6mm of tread depth. If not, you’ll need to change at least one of the tyres.
  • Brakes. Any judder through the steering wheel could be a sign of warped discs. Also look out for excessive travel on the brakes, as this could be a sign of a hydraulic fault. Make sure the ABS light goes off when the van is running.
  • Lights. One of the most common reasons for a vehicle failing an MOT. Check front and rear bulbs, including brake and reversing lights. Also check the lights are properly aligned.
  • Steering. Serious squeals or judders are a sign of potential failure. Make sure the van isn’t pulling to the left or right.
  • Number plates. Make sure the plates are clean and be clearly read. Don’t forget to the check the number plate light bulbs – this is an MOT checkpoint.
  • Battery. Inspect the battery for any leaking, corrosion or loose cables. Weak headlights or a struggling starter motor are signs that the battery could need replacing.
  • Windscreen. Make sure the wipers are not smearing the screen. Any stone chips should be investigated – they could be repaired without the need for a new windscreen.
  • Fluids and oils. Check the brake fluid, engine coolant, engine oil and power steering fluid. Check for any puddles under the van.
  • Screenwash. An empty bottle is an MOT fail – keep it topped up.
  • Load bay and trailer. Check the door locks are in full working order. Also inspect a trailer, tow bar and any electrical fittings.

Click here for advice on how to pass an MOT at the first attempt

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