10 things you need to check before an MOT test

Pre-MOT checks

The annual MOT test is a legal requirement for all cars over three-years-old. An approved testing station will assess the safety of the car, along with the emissions to make sure they meet the minimum standards.

According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), around 40 percent of cars fail the MOT at the first attempt. Further MOT data reveals that around 50 percent of the faults could have been avoided by carrying out some basic pre-MOT checks.

Following an overhaul of the MOT test in May 2018, it’s never been harder to pass first time. Under strict new rules, faults are graded depending on how dangerous they are, with greater emphasis placed on diesel car emissions. As a result, MOT emissions test failures have nearly doubled.


This one is blindingly obvious, but so many motorists forget to check the lights before the MOT test. Indeed, a surprising 30 percent of faults found during the MOT test relate to lighting and signalling.

Make sure you check all of the lights – headlights, sidelights, rear lights, hazard lights and indicators – and be sure to include the brake lights in your inspection. Either ask a friend to press the brake pedal, or reverse up to a reflective surface. Make sure the high-level brake light is functioning correctly.

Number plates

Number plates (also known as licence plates) must show the car’s registration number correctly. You could be fined up to £1,000 and your car will fail its MOT if you drive with incorrectly spaced letters or numbers.

The number plates will also be inspected for condition, secure attachment and colour. Give yourself plenty of time to order a new set of plates – you can only order from a registered number plate supplier. You will need to prove your identity and show that you’re entitled to the registration number.

Wheels and tyres

Pre-MOT checks

Firstly, check that the wheels and tyres are undamaged – you can do this yourself or at a local tyre fitter. The minimum tyre tread depth is 1.6mm, and anything less than this will be marked as a ‘fail’.

However, we’d recommend changing the tyres when the tread reaches 3mm. While spare wheels and tyres are not inspected, it’s worth noting that cars first used on or after 1 January 2012 will be checked to make sure the tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is working.

Note: 10 percent of all MOT faults are related to tyres.

Seats and seatbelts

Check that the driver’s seat can be adjusted and that all seats are securely fitted. It’s essential that the seatbacks can be fixed in the upright position.

While you’re there, check the entire length of the seatbelt for damage and pull on them sharply to ensure that they react appropriately.


Take a look at the windscreen to ensure that there are no cracks or damage to the glass. Any damage larger than 40mm will result in a ‘fail’, as will any chips or damage wider than 10mm in the area swept by the wipers.


Checking a windscreen wiper blade

On the subject of wipers, make sure they are able to clear the windscreen of rain. If it’s not raining, use a watering can or a hose. The wiper blades should be free of damage or tears – it’s likely to be cheaper to buy a set of new blades in advance rather than relying on a distress purchase at the MOT test centre.

Note: 8.5 percent of all MOT faults are related to ‘Driver’s view of the road’. So, if you have stickers, toys or air-fresheners obstructing your view, remove them before the test.


Your car could fail its MOT for having no screenwash, so make sure the washer bottle is topped up in advance. You’ll also be turned away from the MOT test centre if the vehicle has insufficient engine oil or fuel. The MOT tester will also check the power steering oil.


Again, it’s a simple one to check, but when was the last time you used your horn? Make sure it works and is the suitable horn for the vehicle.

Warning lights

If your car’s dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree you could be in for a rough ride at the MOT testing station. A failed main beam warning light will result in a fail, as will the ABS light, engine warning light, brake fluid light and airbag warning light. Get all dashboard lights checked out in advance.

Suspension and brakes

Pressing the brake pedal

One in 10 of all MOT fails are related to brake issues, and you can minimise the risk by testing the brakes every day. If you hear any strange noises or the car pulls to one side, consult a garage.

Similarly, the MOT tester will check the suspension, so press down on each front wing to check for worn shock absorbers. If the car ‘bounces’ up and down rather than returning to the correct position, they may be worn. Also, listen out for knocking noises

These simple checks should only take a few minutes, but it’ll be more hassle arranging for any repair work to be carried out or booking a re-test. For a full list of the car parts checked during the MOT test, visit the government website.

Remember, an MOT test isn’t the same as having your car serviced and doesn’t provide an accurate description of the vehicle’s general mechanical condition. Regular service and maintenance will almost certainly improve your chances of an MOT pass and fewer advisories.

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London ULEZ charge: How to check if you need to pay

How to check if you need to pay the ulez

The 24-hour Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has been in operation in central London since early 2019. 

There are quite stringent emissions standards that cars have to meet in order to comply. Diesel cars from just five years old could be chargeable. Usefully, Transport for London has created an online checker to see if you need to pay the London ULEZ.

There is also the issue of ULEZ expansion, which will see the zone move outward to the North and South Circular roads in October 2021. Soon, the regulations will apply to many more people than those who live or in the established ‘Congestion Charge zone’.

Other cities are watching the performance of the ULEZ closely, and may look to operate their own schemes. The ULEZ concept could spread to city centres across the UK.

ULEZ compliance: what you need to know

The London ULEZ is coming

Drivers who enter the ULEZ in vehicles that do not comply with the emissions standards will be subject to a £12.50 fee – and that’s on top of the £11.50 daily Congestion Charge. This system replaced the T-charge scheme.

Unlike the Congestion Charge, the ULEZ is enforced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Vehicles affected are those with pre-Euro 6 diesel and pre-Euro 4 petrol engines. Motorcycles built before 2007 will also have to pay the ULEZ charge.

The ULEZ is enforced based on the declared emissions of the vehicle, but diesel cars that meet the standards are generally those registered after September 2015. Similarly, petrol cars registered after 2005 should meet the minimum requirements. The ULEZ is thus likely to hit diesel car owners hardest.

‘Out of pocket’

London Congestion Charge

If in doubt, you can also use an online tool from data firm HPI, which includes a breakdown of the different Euro emissions standards.

Fernando Garcia, consumer director at HPI, said: “Research has already shown that over a third of motorists had not heard of the Euro Emission Standard classification system, while two-thirds of those who had were unsure what category their vehicle fitted in.

“The changes around vehicle emissions could give motorists a real headache and leave them out of pocket.”

Diesel particulate filter warning light

Diesel particulate filters: why are they a problem?

Diesel particulate filter warning light

If you drive or are considering buying a modern diesel car, the chances are you’ll have heard about diesel particulate filters. But what are they – and why can they be a problem for motorists?

A diesel particulate filter (DPF) is designed to capture and store exhaust soot to reduce emissions from diesel cars. This prevents harmful diesel particulate matter from being pumped into the atmosphere.

A DPF has been a requirement of all new diesel cars since 2009 when the Euro 5 emissions standard came into force. However, particulate filters date back to 1985 when Mercedes became the first manufacturer to introduce them on the 300D sold in California.

Later, in 2000, the PSA Group re-introduced the principle when it used a cerium-based fuel additive for regeneration on the Peugeot 607 2.2 HDi. Today, there are two main types of DPF – passive regeneration and active regeneration.

Passive regeneration

Passive regeneration uses normal exhaust temperatures and nitrogen oxide (NO2) as the catalyst to oxidise particulate matter in the DPF. This tends to occur at high speeds, typically on a motorway or A-road, with the engine running for a good 30 minutes or more.

The main advantages of passive regeneration are that it requires no input from the driver, the process takes place automatically and there are fewer components.

However, it relies on the motorist making regular trips on motorways and A-roads, and without this, problems can occur. It’s for this reason that manufacturers introduced so-called active regeneration.

Active regeneration

Active regeneration uses the car’s ECU to sense when the filter is getting clogged with soot and injects extra fuel into the engine to raise the temperature of the exhaust, triggering regeneration.

This tends to occur around every 250 to 300 miles and will take up to 10 minutes to complete. In theory, this shouldn’t cause any issues, but problems will occur if the system is unable to complete the regeneration.

If the process is interrupted too many times, the DPF warning light will illuminate and you’re advised to take the car to a motorway, dual carriageway or A-road for 15 minutes for regeneration. If you continue to ignore the warning light, the car will go into ‘limp home’ mode.

There is a third form of DPF, which uses a fuel additive to lower the ignition temperature of the ignition temperature of the soot particles to enable the regeneration to happen at a lower temperature. The additive is stored in a separate tank or ‘bladder’ and should be replaced every 70,000 to 100,000 miles.

Make sure the tank is refilled when a warning light appears on the dashboard because, without the fluid, the DPF will become blocked.

Oil dilution

A significant disadvantage associated with active regeneration is the dilution of the engine oil caused by small a small amount of diesel during the post-injection cycles, where fuel is injected into the cylinder after the regular combustion. A thin layer of fuel can build up on the cylinder walls, which leads to premature engine wear, and drivers are warned to consider shorter oil service intervals.

There have been various studies into the engine oil dilution issue and the scale of the problem varies according to the make and model of the diesel car in question. Evidence suggests that the problem is worsened when the regeneration process is halted prematurely or when a car is used for short trips.

Modern systems should alert the driver via a dashboard message when the oil dilution reaches a certain level, but regular services remain critical to the long-term health of the engine. There have been some high-profile issues concerning some major brands, which will be explored in a later update.

The problems of a blocked DPF

Diesel exhaust

If regeneration doesn’t take place, the DPF will need to be cleaned or replaced, landing you with a bill upwards of £1,000. A quick trawl of some forums and discussion threads suggests you could be charged up to £5,000, which might be more than the car is worth.

Which means it’s vitally important to look after your DPF and to pay close attention if you’re buying a high-mileage diesel car. That’s because a well-maintained DPF should have a life of 100,000 miles, or significantly lower if the car has been used for shorter trips and regular regeneration hasn’t taken place.

How to avoid a blocked DPF

To avoid a blocked DPF, you can start by not buying an inappropriate car. Typically, if you drive less than 12,000 miles a year, a petrol, hybrid or electric vehicle would be more suitable for your needs.

Diesel cars are more expensive to buy and tend to be more economical on longer trips, making them unsuitable for short trips and urban driving.

If you’re driving a diesel car with a DPF fitted, read the manual to understand whether your vehicle uses passive or active regeneration, and make sure you know how to look after the filter. Using the right engine oil is very important.

The RAC says that performance modifications can damage a DPF, as can the use of low-quality fuel. Even running the car low on diesel can cause problems as the car may avoid regeneration to save fuel.

Can you remove a DPF?

Diesel particulate filter removal

It is an offence to use a vehicle modified in a way that it no longer complies the emissions standards it was designed to meet. To this end, the removal of a DPF would land you with a £1,000 fine for a car or £2,500 for a light goods vehicle.

Further issues include an immediate MOT fail if the DPF has been removed, along with invalid insurance as the car has been modified from original specification. Obviously, you need to be on your guard if you’re buying a high-mileage diesel car. Insist on seeing the latest MOT certificate – details are stored online – and check that the DPF is present.

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How to buy the right tyres for your car

How to buy the right tyres for your car

Tyres are the most important part of your car when it comes to safety. They’re the only bit of the car that actually touches the road, so every input you make – acceleration, steering, braking or otherwise – goes through them. 

The contact patch is smaller than you’d think, too – about the size of your computer keyboard across all four tyres.

There’s a reason all racing drivers are obsessed with tyres, then – and they’re just as important for road driving. Read our five-minute guide to make sure you choose the right tyres and stay safe.

Are premium brands better?

How to buy the right tyres for your car

Never has the mantra ‘you get what you pay for’ been more true than with tyres. They’re one of the few products where you really are better off plumping for a premium brand.

In a recent back-to-back test by Fifth Gear’s Jonny Smith, the dramatic differences between the name-brand and budget tyres was made apparent. Comparing two identical Mercedes-AMG C63 cars, the car with ‘premium’ Continental rubber performed much better in handling, braking and agility tests.

“Many people want to know why premium tyres are preferable to budget brands,” said Smith.


“With tyres the only part of your car in direct contact with the road, it makes sense to ensure they’re the best quality possible.”

It’s not all about the high-performance stuff, though. Some tyres won’t be the right fit for your car. The track-focused Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R is perhaps not the choice for a Toyota Prius, for instance. Likewise, an eco set from a well-regarded brand won’t carry a McLaren Senna to a blistering lap time.

In direct comparisons using the tyre energy label, however, it’s still name brands that do best. A good mid-range tyre that performs well across fuel economy, wet weather and noise should suit most needs.

Tyre energy labels: explained

How to buy the right tyres for your car

Speaking of the tyre energy label, what is it? Briefly, it’s a good way of comparing tyre performance – and performance per pound. 

Every tyre sold since 2012 comes with an energy label, much like you find on fridges and other white goods. This allows you to compare products at a glance, with simple graphics showing how they compare for fuel economy, wet-road grip and noise.

Fuel economy

This is based on a tyre’s rolling resistance – i.e. how much friction it generates with the road. Measurements are taken on a calibrated test rig: the lower the rolling resistance, the better the fuel economy. The most efficient rubber earns an ‘A’, while the least efficient are rated ‘G’.

Wet-road grip

Good grip is most important when the roads are wet, so this rating is based on wet-braking performance in a straight line. Experts say an A-rated tyre can stop in 30 percent less distance than a G-rated one. That’s potentially the difference between a near-miss and a dangerous crash.


Anyone who regularly drives the concrete section of the M25 will know just how noisy tyres can be. This final infographic puts the tyre into one of three categories, based on the noise it emits in decibels – measured from outside the car – when cruising at a steady speed. One black bar means a quiet tyre, while three bars is noisier – albeit still within legal limits.

Do I need certain tyres in certain weather conditions?

How to buy the right tyres for your car

The effects of the right rubber in the right conditions are immeasurable. Many experts believe that a two-wheel-drive car with winters will fare better than four-wheel-drive SUV with standard tyres. It doesn’t matter which wheels are driven if their drive isn’t put to the ground effectively. 

Winter tyres offer much-improved grip on snow and ice – and indeed on dry roads if the temperature is below 7deg C. Winter tyres are even mandatory during the colder months in some European countries. Just as slick rubber will dramatically increase performance on a dry track, so too will a winter tyre boost grip in colder, slushier conditions.

There is also rubber suited to all types of conditions. ‘All-season’ doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll only work in a blizzard…

We’ve had good experiences with the Michelin Pilot Sport 3, Uniroyal Rainsport 3 and Falken Azenis FK510 as strong performers in wet and dry conditions on the road.

Are your car tyres safe?

MOT advisories

The law says you must replace a tyre once the tread-depth drops below 1.6mm across three quarters of its surface. An easy test is to place a 20p piece in the groove of the tyre. If the outer band of the coin is hidden, your tyre is legal. 

However, bear in mind that a new tyre has a tread-depth of around 8mm, so grip will be reduced – particularly in the wet – well before it reaches the legal limit. Consumer group Which? recommends replacing your tyres when tread depth reaches 2-3mm.

You should also check tyre pressures regularly. Over-inflated rubber could increase your risk of skidding or having a blowout, while too little pressure will increase fuel consumption and have a detrimental effect on handling. In both instances, your tyres will wear at an excessive rate, too. The correct pressures for your car will be listed in the handbook. Alternatively, use the Tyre Pressure Checker tool on the TyreSafe website.

Regularly check for flat spots, bulges, cracking and rubber degradation. A sun-dried tyre can be just as dangerous as insufficient tread. Also check they’re are still in-date. Yes, tyres have a use-by date.

Part-worn tyres: should you take the risk?

How to buy the right tyres for your car

On the subject of safety, part-worn tyres are often a false economy. If you’re paying two-thirds of the cost of a new set for tyres with 4mm of tread left, you’re paying more than half the price for half the product. 

Recent research has also indicated that as many as 90 percent of part-worn rubber in the UK aren’t safe for sale.

It isn’t illegal to sell part-worn tyres. Talk of a ban is in the air, however. If you really must, check for the usual factors: tread depth, pressure, flat spots, bulges, degrading rubber and damage. Also check the date on the tyre.

Tyre sizes: explained

How to buy the right rubber for your car

Tyres come in a wide range of different sizes. Check your car handbook, or read the markings on the outer sidewall to see what size your replacement tyre should be.

For example, a typical tyre size is 195/50 R15H. Breaking this down gives you:

  • 195 – tyre width in mm
  • 50 – tyre sidewall profile, as a percentage of tyre width
  • R – stands for ‘Radial’. All modern tyres are radial-ply
  • 15 – diameter of the wheel rim in inches
  • H – speed rating (see below)

Regardless of the national speed limit being 70mph, you must fit tyres rated for the maximum speed of your car. Speed ratings are marked with letters and range from N (88mph) to ZR (over 149mph). You’ll find a full list of speed ratings on the TyreSafe website.

How to save money on tyres

How to buy the right tyres for your car

We really can’t say it enough – don’t scrimp on rubber. They are the most safety-critical part of your car, so buy the best you can. And there are ways you can avoid paying over the odds for good quality rubber.

If you need a tyre at short notice, the cheapest option will probably be an independent tyre fitter, rather than a franchised car dealer. Make a few phone calls to compare prices and ensure the fee you are quoted includes new valves, fitting and balancing. Remember, you can haggle.

If you have more time, buying online will almost certainly prove cheaper – and you may be able to have the them fitted at your home or office. Again, it pays to shop around as there are plenty of retailers competing for your business. Popular websites include Asda Tyres, Black Circles, MyTyres and Tyre Shopper.

How to save money on your car insurance

How to save money on your car insurance

Car insurance is one of the biggest expenses associated with running a car, so it’s natural that you’d want to know how to save money on your annual premium.

No specific advice can guarantee a low premium for all, but here’s our general guide on how to – legally – save money on your quote. And the things you definitely shouldn’t do…

Buy the right car

This seems obvious and, of course, there’s probably a whole other article here. Generally speaking, the bigger and more powerful the engine, the more expensive the insurance. Likewise, a more prestigious and expensive car will bump up the cost, as will any model considered an accident-magnet. Ask any new driver who tried to insure a Citroen Saxo after 2005.

If saving money on car insurance is your prerogative, food-blender-powered hatchbacks will be cheaper than gas-guzzling coupes. But for many reading here, that won’t matter. You have your car and simply want the cheapest quote. There is hope for you, though. Read on…

Shop around to save money

Too many are complacent about car insurance. We don’t put in the legwork, shop around, bounce between providers. That’s exactly what we should be doing to save money.

Get on the price comparison sites but also contact companies directly. It’s mostly up to chance which provider will give you the best deal, so it’s worth talking to all of them.

Get your story straight

cheap car insurance

There are a number of things you must tell an insurer about yourself and your driving career. These include: how old you are, how long you’ve been driving, if you’ve had any accidents and when, what you do for work, where you live, how much you drive, where the car is parked… All this and more comes in to play.

While you must tell the truth, there is leeway to be explored. Your career for instance, can be listed in a number of different ways. A photographer is a videographer is a multimedia assistant. A bricklayer is a builder is a labourer  and so on. Play with the variables, but don’t stray from the truth.

It’s worthwhile working out how far you drive, too. The number of miles you cover in a year can affect your quote. Lower is better, in most cases.

Different types of policy

There are generally two types of policy: third-party, fire and theft, and fully comprehensive. If your car is worth anything over £500, we’d recommend fully comprehensive.

Third-party policies do not cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle in the event of an accident – only the car or object you crash into. Third-party is often a last resort taken by new drivers to get their premiums down.

Multi-car policies are interesting, however. Whether you’re living with your parents or have flown the nest, they can offer significant savings, saving you money on your car insurance.

Young drivers can also get on their parents’ policy – fully-comp, with the ability to earn a no-claims bonus – for potentially a lot less than insuring themselves. Likewise, if you live with a partner and you both drive, it’s definitely worth checking whether you can share a multi-car policy.

Get a black box to save money

It’s not the most elegant or convenient of solutions, but having a black box watching your every move behind the wheel often prompts insurers to charge you less. It’s become a mainstay of the newly-passed young driver.

Move somewhere cheaper

car insurance

Location is a big factor in the cost of car insurance. Maybe you should consider moving away from Carjack Alley and closer to Upstanding Avenue.

Don’t crash

Obviously, not crashing is a good thing in general. Never mind the immediate stresses of a prang, for the next three years (at least), your insurance will be more expensive.

All thanks to the no-claims bonus that you shattered – along with someone else’s headlight…

Get older

With age and experience come a great many things, including cheaper car insurance. Both 21 and 25 are big milestones when it comes to lower quotes.

If all else fails and you can afford to go without a car, sit on your licence until you’re a bit older. Pass your test as early as possible, though. Remember, they ask how long you’ve had your licence when totting up quotes.

How not to save money on your car insurance…

Car insurance

Don’t lie on your policy, about anything – simple as that. Don’t lie about modifications, the miles you’re doing, where you live, what you do, where the car is parked and so on.

Any untruths will invalidate your policy in the event of an accident. It’s not worth the risk.

Electric car buyer’s guide: what you need to know

Electric car guide

Opting for a car that runs purely on battery power can feel like a risky move for many motorists. On the plus side, an electric vehicle (or EV) with zero tailpipe emissions will ensure you do your bit for air pollution, while also feeling suitably smug that you’ll never have to visit a petrol station again. Think of all the money you’ll save.

But you may also be asking yourself reasonable questions, such as how far can I drive before the battery is drained? Will I end up stranded on the roadside with no way to recharge it? And how long will it take me to recoup the extra cost of my advanced car’s elevated price tag? We’ve got the answers to all those niggly questions right here.

Do all manufacturers offer an all-electric option?

Not yet, but there’s an increasing number of electric cars on sale. From the Tesla Model X SUV to the humble Volkswagen e-Up city car, buyers have a huge range to choose from if they want to opt for an EV. That’s why 15,474 new electric cars were registered in 2018 – an increase of 13.8 percent from the previous year.

Nissan was the first to offer a truly convincing EV option when it launched the Leaf back in 2010. It was the first bespoke, mass-produced electric car in the UK, and it gained popularity thanks to its respectable range of up to 155 miles if you opted for the 30kWh version, and the fact that it drove like a normal car.

Electric car range UK

But an ever-increasing number of manufacturers have invested in the technology since, so you’ll now find electric cars on a number of forecourts across the UK. These include Renault’s Zoe supermini, Volkswagen’s e-Golf, plus BMW’s cutting edge lightweight i3.

In 2019, we’ll see a new raft of electric cars hitting the market, including the Jaguar I-Pace, Audi e-tron, Kia e-Niro, Tesla Model 3 and the Honda Urban EV.

What’s the typical range of an electric car?

Many electric cars go further than you perhaps think. It’s natural to have a little range anxiety when you’ve been used to filling up at ease on regular fuel, but modern EVs promise to run for between 150 and 200 miles in real-world use when fully charged. That figure does vary, depending on which model you opt for, but future models are likely to offer upwards of 300 miles.

Of course, using the air con, heaters and other battery draining in-car features will reduce that range further still, as will cold weather. But if you’re using the car for a commute, and there’s charging point at work, then you should never have to worry.

For long-distance journeys that are likely to stretch beyond that range, you’ll need to use a high-voltage power supply for at least half an hour for a reasonable recharge. Better still, plug it in overnight for a fully charged battery in the morning.

How much does it cost to recharge overnight?

Electric charging at home

You recharge your EV using the supplied adapter cable, which plugs straight into a special high voltage socket, which you can have fitted to the outside of your house or garage. The cost of the electricity used to recharge is then typically around £3 for a full charge, costing you roughly 2-3p per mile, depending on your EV’s range. Compare that to the cost of a tank of fuel, and you can start to see why this technology is such an appealing option to many motorists.

Where else can I charge an electric car?

If you’re struggling to find a suitable spot to park and charge, websites such as Zap-Map have them conveniently mapped out for you. Log on, and it will show you exactly where the chargers are located. These could be in town centres, supermarket car parks, motorway services stations and offices. It will also reveal how many charging points there are, the type of connector offered, and even user ratings.

As the availability of these charging points is often the deal breaker for motorists contemplating an EV, huge efforts have been made in the UK to keep their numbers rapidly rising year on year. At the last count, there were reportedly 7,000 charge point locations across the UK, providing nearly 12,000 devices and a massive 20,000 different connectors. On that note, if you’re unsure which connector you need, there’s also a search facility to find the right one for your model.

Of course, if you buy a Tesla then you’ll also have access to its ever-growing Supercharger network. Currently, there are around 1,400 sites that contain about 13,000 plug-in points between them. A half an hour charge here can add 170 miles to your Tesla’s range.

Where’s the best place to live in the UK if you own an EV?

electric Smart charging in London

Surprisingly, Scotland is in with a shout here! Although Greater London has 23.8 percent of all the UK’s connectors, Scotland is second with 14.1 percent. Next up is the South East with 13.8 percent.

In reality, the ease of locating a charging point in London is easier than anywhere else in the country, meaning there’s a little less risk of range anxiety if you own an EV in the South East.

Are there any roadside recovery services for electric cars?

Yes, most of the manufacturers offer their own bespoke breakdown and recovery package for the EVs that they sell. The major breakdown recovery companies, such as the AA and the RAC, offer EV-specific services as well.

What’s the typical lifespan of the battery?

The last thing you want is to end up with a car that, like a modern mobile phone, begins losing charge and becomes impossible to take out on anything but short stints. However, while EVs are not exactly new technology – let’s not forget that Sir Clive Sinclair was the trailblazer for electric car back in the 80s, when he unveiled the Sinclair C5 – they haven’t been on the road long enough to really know how those batteries will perform over, say, ten or twenty years.

Nissan Leaf

Some manufacturers – such as Renault and Nissan – offer a battery leasing scheme to alleviate those concerns. So if the cell fails, owners can automatically swap it for a new one. That also makes these cars much more attractive to second-hand buyers. While other brands will provide you with a separate warranty for the battery (typically five to eight years).

Are there any grants or subsidies for electric cars?

Yes! The Government’s Plug-In Car Grant offers up to £3,500 (or 35 percent) off the list price of an EV, while current Vehicle Excise Duty rules mean that EVs costing less than £40,000 are now the only cars that are road tax exempt.

Those with a higher price tag fall foul of a new Premium Model rate introduced in April 2017, however; albeit it at a discounted annual Vehicle Excise Duty of £310. That compares to a slightly higher rate of £450 a year for all other Premium Models. EVs are exempt from congestion charging in the Capital, and other cities which operate similar schemes, however.

Will an EV cost more to buy than its conventional fuel equivalent?

Volkswagen e-Up

Almost certainly. The increasing popularity of EVs means costs are coming down, gradually. But you should still expect to spend at least £20,000. As you can see below, the on the road price for the VW e-Up is around £7,000 more than its petrol-powered equivalent, even after deducting the government’s £3,500 Plug-In Car Grant. Although the price difference isn’t always this high between EVs and their conventionally-fueled equivalents, if you’re looking to reduce spend, opting for VW’s plug-in version of the Up might not make sense.

To be sure, you need to work out how long it would take to recoup your losses, opting for an electric version of this city car. To do that, you need to work out your annual fuel bill for both. Fortunately, we’ve done the maths for you (see below), and show that make an annual saving of £550 with the e-Up. Offset that against the £7,000 initial outlay, and you can see it would take around 13 years to recoup the extra initial outlay for the EV version of this car.

 VW High Up 1.0-litre 90PS (5-door)VW e-up 82PS electric motor
Price (OTR)£13,360£20,150^
Average fuel/charge cost120.6 per litre*£3
Combined mpg64.2mpg3p per mile
Annual fuel/charge cost^^£854£300

Of course, for most of Britain’s EV owners, the main decision to opt for an electric car is not a financial one. The big draw is these cars’ ability to ease motorists’ eco-conscience, thanks to their zero tailpipe emissions, and the impact that this ultimately has on reducing air pollution in the UK.

*Based on average fuel prices (March 2019)^Price includes £3,500 plug-in car grant^^Based on annual 10,000 mileage

Your guide to road gritters and how to minimise the risk of damaging your car

Road gritter spreading salt in winterDriving in winter means you are, at some point, likely to encounter a road gritter. For those who care for their cars, passing one can be terrifying: the noise and clatter are cringe-inducing.

But is it as bad as it sounds? Does passing a road gritter mean instant stone chips and damage to your car? And what’s the best way to pass a road gritter in order to minimise damage and maximise safety?

Here’s what you need to know when following a road gritter – including how to pass it with minimal risk to your vehicle. 

What is road grit?

Close-up of a road gritter spreading salt

Don’t worry. Road grit is not actual ‘grit’. Years ago, it was a mix of sand, small stones and salt, but these days, rock salt is used. This is softer and less damaging than stones; the sound you hear is often the ‘splatter’ of salt rather than the impact of gritty stones.

Some authorities use a product called Thawrox+. This is a mixture of rock salt and a food-grade agricultural by-product produced in the sugar refining process. The manufacturers say it gives a smoother flow with less binding, so the spread pattern is more efficient. It also gives less ‘bounce’, so the spread rate can be reduced – again helping lessen the risk of damage to passing cars.

Sometimes, grit is ‘wetted’ before being spread, so it starts acting on the road surface more quickly. Again, this is less likely to damage passing cars.

Rock salt is largely mined in the UK from three huge mines deep underground. It is ground away by machines rather than by hand. Before being transported to stores, it is treated with an anti-caking agent.

How do road gritters operate?

The most efficient speed for gritting a road is up to 40mph. Gritters will try to stick to this speed, even on motorways. On three-lane carriageways, gritters will drive in the middle lane, so all three lanes can be treated equally.

Usually, when a gritter is spreading salt, its amber lights will be flashing.

Salt spreading is automated and adjusted by speed. When the gritter stops, it will cease spreading salt until it moves again. The equipment at the rear contains an ‘agitator’ to ensure salt is spread as evenly as possible.

Will following a road gritter damage my car?

Road gritter on the motorway

Yes, following a road gritter is a horrible sensation, and it sounds like your paint and windscreen is being chipped to pieces. But, thanks to a combination of the latest road grit and salt spreader technology, it often sounds worse than it is.

If you’re careful about how you follow a gritter, the risk of damage should be minimal. You just need to go about it in the right way…

What is the safest way to pass a road gritter?

The smartest way to pass a salt spreader is to minimise your time exposed to danger. In this case, it’s the spray of salt out of the rear of the vehicle. Therefore, hang back out of the way of the road grit and then, when it is safe and clear, swiftly overtake. 

Your objective should be to minimise the ‘clatter’ noise you hear. If you’re on a single carriageway, leave a clear distance until you overtake; on a motorway, do the same, but without ‘lane-hogging’. 

On four-lane motorways, gritters will often travel in the second lane. Experienced drivers will travel in the fourth lane with a second car in the third lane acting as a ‘shield’ between them and the gritter. It’s very satisfying when you manage it…

What can I do if I think a gritter has damaged my car? 

The government has a comprehensive guide for motorists who think their car has been damaged by a road and want to seek compensation. However, it also has a disclaimer: “You can’t claim compensation if debris from another vehicle caused the damage. Contact your insurer instead.”

It is unlikely that any claim for chipped paint or broken windscreens you think has been caused by a road gritter would be accepted – although if you could provide clear evidence, such as dashcam footage, it could still be worth trying a claim. 

How do I spot a road gritter?

Road gritter spreading salt on a British road

You would think spotting a road gritter would be obvious. Not so for some: last winter, there were nearly 40 incidents involving people driving into gritters. Often, the expensive salt-spreading equipment at the rear was damaged, taking that gritter out of action.

Following research with the Transport Research Laboratory, Highways England is now painting its gritters in one block colour: bright orange. This emphasises the ‘solid’ shape of the vehicle, which the research indicated would help salt spreaders stand out as much as possible.

How advanced are the latest road gritters?

Highways England is taking delivery of a new generation of road gritters built by Romaquip. They feature new technology that allows specific route information to be pre-programmed, using GPS.

This means salt is spread automatically, taking into account bridges, road features and other specific landscape details. It means salt isn’t wasted, drivers can fully concentrate on the road and, theoretically, there’s less risk of ‘stray’ salt being splattered onto cars rather than the road.

How many gritters does Highways England operate?

The UK’s biggest operator of road gritters is Highways England. It runs 535 winter vehicles to cover 4,400 miles of motorways and A-roads.

What about gritting local roads?

Highways England is only responsible for motorways and A-roads; local roads are the responsibility of the relevant local council.

If you live in England or Wales, you can find out which roads your council will grit by entering your postcode into a GOV.UK tool

What should you not do when you encounter a road gritter?

Remarkably, Highways England says there are a growing number of instances where drivers are taking to the hard shoulder in order to avoid a road gritter.

Quite apart from being illegal, this is highly dangerous as stranged cars could be hidden from view, and also foolish: if the road is untreated, the area most likely to be icy is the unused section of the hard shoulder…

What to do if you fill your car with the wrong fuel

wrong fuel in car

Putting the wrong fuel in your car sounds like the kind of problem that happens to somebody else. But, according to the RAC, it happens every three minutes in the UK – affecting around 150,000 motorists every year.

It’s surprisingly easy to do, especially when it concerns putting petrol in a diesel car, because a petrol pump nozzle will fit into most diesel car filler caps. That’s not to say it’s impossible to put diesel in a petrol car, but the diesel nozzle is larger than the majority of petrol filler necks, making it far less common.

In both cases, do not start the engine. The severity of the problem will depend on how much incorrect fuel you have put in the tank and whether you’ve put petrol in a diesel car or diesel in a petrol car, so we’ll take each scenario in turn.

Putting petrol in a diesel car

filling up with petrol

Around 95 percent of wrong fuel mistakes occur when petrol is poured into a diesel tank. Sadly, petrol in a diesel car causes more damage, so your wallet is likely to take more of a pounding. Not to mention your pride.

Whatever you do, do not start the engine. Do not even switch on your ignition, as this could kickstart the fuel pump, circulating the mixed fuel around the engine. In a diesel car, the diesel acts as a lubricant, whereas petrol acts as a solvent, causing damage to the fuel system.

Without lubrication, the fuel pump will create internal friction, with the high-pressure injectors also affected. A replacement common rail injector system could set you back thousands of pounds – potentially more than the value of the car.

As soon as you notice your mistake, stop fuelling. If you’ve added a small amount of petrol to a diesel tank, you could get away with filling the rest of the tank with diesel. That’s because a mix of 5 percent petrol and 95 percent diesel is unlikely to damage the fuel system and engine.

Better to be safe than sorry, mind, so inform the staff at the filling station counter, who will either put a cone behind your car to warn other motorists that the pump is closed, or arrange for the car to be pushed away. Remember, do not start it, although turning the key from ‘lock’ to ‘accessory’ might be required to release the steering lock.

petrol station at night

Next, call your breakdown provider or one of the misfuelling companies listed on the internet. Alternatively, if you have taken out misfuelling insurance cover, get in touch with your insurance provider who will arrange for the draining and removal of the contaminated fuel.

Insurance cover is unlikely to be provided by your standard policy – research conducted by GoCompare in 2015 found that just 9 percent of comprehensive policies covered the cost of draining and cleaning the tank. A further 3 percent of the policies would provide cover as an optional extra.

Whether you’ve contacted a breakdown company, a misfuelling expert or your insurance provider, wait with your car for help to arrive. Cleaning and flushing the system should take anything from 30 minutes to an hour and will set you back around £200.

Once the system has been drained of petrol, the tank will need filling with diesel and primed to remove any air from the system.

In the worst case scenario – say you’ve started the engine or have driven the car before noticing a problem – you may have to be towed to a nearby garage for further investigation and repairs. This could mean a total bill running into the thousands.

Putting diesel in a petrol car

filling up with diesel

Filling a petrol car with diesel is a less serious mistake – and the damage isn’t as severe – but you should follow the same steps.

If you start the engine, the spark plugs and fuel system will be coated in diesel, leading to a misfire and smoke from the exhaust, before the car grinds to a halt. Alternatively, the engine will fail to start or just stop.

Again, don’t start the engine – simply call for help and follow the instructions outlined above. The good news is that the damage won’t be serious and no lasting damage will be caused.

How to prevent misfuelling

Most misfuelling errors occur after a lapse in concentration or after a motorist has switched from one type of car to another. Always double check the nozzle before filling up.

If you drive a diesel car, consider buying a misfuel prevention device, such as a Fuel Angel. It replaces the existing filler cap and prevents a petrol nozzle from fitting into a diesel filler neck. They cost £40, which is far cheaper than the cost of flushing the system or more expensive repairs.

Electric car MOT

Does an electric car need an MOT?

Electric car MOT

You’ve bought an electric car. You’ve ducked road tax, saved money on fuel and, on top of all that, the government paid a contribution towards the cost of your car (although that scheme won’t last long). How else can driving an EV save you money? Does one even need to pass an MOT test?

The short answer is ‘yes’, but that doesn’t mean an EV can’t save you money at the MOT test station.

Every car over three years old needs an MOT certificate to be deemed roadworthy. No car over this age can legally drive on the road without one, except in very specific circumstances or if the car is more than 40 years old.

The MOT covers everything from exhaust emissions (on a conventional car), to how well the wipers clear the windscreen. Testers check for structural integrity, the operation of the lights, seatbelts, steering, brakes and suspension, the condition of the tyres and much more. The test covers every safety-related aspect of your car.

How is an electric car MOT different?

Electric car MOTWith no exhaust pipe, an electric car doesn’t need to pass the emissions test. And it won’t trouble the decibel meter for noise readouts either. So you’ll save time at the test centre – if not necessarily money.

Depending on how advanced your EV is and how you drive it, however, you should save on brake replacements. Regenerative braking, as found on some EVs, uses the momentum of the car to charge the batteries via the electric motor, in turn slowing the car down.

Regenerative braking doesn’t actually use the brakes at all. It’s closer, in fact, to engine braking in a petrol or diesel car. Use a bit of foresight and you’ll rarely need to apply the brakes, especially around town. Reduced wear and tear means lower costs at MOT time.

How could the electric car MOT test change in future?

Electric car MOT

This is purely speculative, but given the MOT covers roadworthiness and safety, we suspect the introduction of a test showing the car can charge safely isn’t unlikely. Examining how quickly the batteries discharge compared with when new is also a possibility – particularly as pressure on charging sites increases.

Overall, driving an electric car can save a lot of headaches and a reasonable amount of expense. They aren’t, however, exempt from the harder realities of motoring, like the MOT test. They won’t even be exempt from road tax forever.

However, with fuel savings, fewer components to worry about, less wear and tear, tax deductions (for now) and a cleaner conscience, we think the incentives are sufficient. Just make sure you buy an EV that suits your needs. Here’s an up-to-date list of electric cars sold in the UK, arranged in order of range.

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Why are car V5 registration documents being sold online?

Why are car V5 registration documents being sold online?

Why are car V5 registration documents being sold online?

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) holds a register of all vehicles on UK roads. Each car has an individual logbook (also known as the V5 or V5C) which contains an extract of the information the DVLA has about that vehicle – such as its original registration date, colour and the address of the current registered keeper.

Although the V5C is not proof of ownership per se, you should insist on seeing one when buying a secondhand car. The seller will then notify the DVLA that they’ve sold the car so the registered keeper can be changed to you – updating the DVLA’s records.

When you scrap a car, you must inform the DVLA by filling in the V5C/3 part of the V5C. Alternatively, you can notify the DVLA online – but you must destroy the V5C when you do so.

Unfortunately, it seems to be becoming increasingly popular for drivers to sell the V5C rather than destroying it when they scrap a car. This process isn’t illegal in itself – although there are no ethical reasons why anyone would want to buy a V5C, despite a search of online auction websites revealing there’s clearly a market for them.

“The registration certificate (V5C) is not intended to have any intrinsic value,” a DVLA spokesperson told Motoring Research. “It is an extract of the information that is held by DVLA.”

Fake identity

Fake identity

The main reason people want to buy a V5C is so that they can use the identity of the scrapped car on another vehicle. This might be because the new car has been written off and can’t legally be returned to the road, or because it’s a classic car and the identity from an older vehicle will give it tax or MOT exempt status.

It could also be used for something more sinister, such as to help hide the identity of a stolen car. By changing the number plates on a stolen vehicle to match the details of a V5C bought online, an unsuspecting buyer could easily be fooled into buying a car they believe is legitimate.

The DVLA added: “When a vehicle is sold it is the responsibility of the registered keeper at the time to inform the DVLA, by completing the details of the new keeper in section six of the V5C and returning it to the address on the V5C. This allows the register to be updated with the revised information and a new document issued.

“It is an offence if the registered keeper fails to notify DVLA of these changes mentioned above.”

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