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 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 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 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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How to care for your car during the lockdown

How to care for your car during the lockdown

There are a number of things you need to consider to keep your car in good condition during the coronavirus lockdown.

We’ve explained how to maintain your car tyres when not in use, but what about the battery and brakes?

Kia has published guidance on what actions to take if your car won’t be moving for a while. The advice includes specific guidance for hybrid vehicles.

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Caring for your car during the lockdown

  1. Ensure that the car’s doors and tailgate are shut. Also make sure the interior lights are switched off and you’ve secured the vehicle with the remote transmitter.
  2. Avoid running a petrol or diesel engine for short periods. It is preferable to keep it running until full temperature is achieved – refer to the water and oil temperature gauges.
  3. Charge the 12v battery at regular intervals – fortnightly is recommended. Alternatively, use a trickle charger, as this will maintain the health of the battery.
  4. If you don’t have a battery charger, leave the engine to idle for 20 minutes, switching off unnecessary electrical items. That said, we’d recommend running the air conditioning for a few minutes to maintain the health of the system.
  5. If you have a flat battery, recharge it using a charger. If you use jump leads, refer to the vehicle handbook for specific advice. Damage to the stop-start system can occur if you fail to follow the instructions.
  6. For electric and plug-in hybrid models, it is recommended that the high voltage battery is left in a fully charged state.
  7. Specific advice for the Kia Niro hybrid: on no account should a charger, jump pack or jump leads be attached to the vehicle. Instead, use the battery reset switch. Refer to the vehicle handbook.

Kia is also keen to point out that surface corrosion on the brake discs is normal. Initial brake resistance will occur when you pull away, but will clear after a few brake applications.

We’d recommend keeping an eye on your car’s bodywork. Bird droppings can damage the paintwork if left untouched, so remove them when you spot them.

It’s worth remembering that MOTs for cars, motorcycles and light vans due from 30 March 2020 have been granted a temporary six-month exemption. Click here for more details.


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How to care for your car tyres while not driving

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The requirement to stay at home during the coronavirus lockdown presents new challenges for looking after your car.

Tyres are among the components that can suffer most from sitting still, so here is how to keep them healthy when the car isn’t in use. These tips are provided by Falken Tyres.

Visually check your tyres

It sounds obvious, but you should be doing this regularly – regardless of the pandemic. If you’re not driving much, or at all, this may be a good time to source replacement tyres if needed.

If the tyres are worn, cut, bulging, have flat spots, are cracking, or are out of date, it’s time to change. Check they are inflated to the recommended pressures and wearing evenly, too.

Valve caps

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The valve cap is another important part of the tyre. This stops dirt and moisture getting in and causing damage to the stems. They are, however, small and easy items to lose.

Over-inflate your tyres

To make sure your tyres don’t get too low while the car stands for a while, over-inflate them by around 15 PSI.

For most cars, this will take the tyres to between 40 PSI and 45 PSI. Over-inflation can also prevent flat-spots.

Jack up your car

Look after your tyres in the lockdown

Another way of avoiding flat-spots, or excess pressure loss, is to put your car on axle stands.

This takes the weight off the tyres, relieving the load. ‘Tyre trainers’ can also help. 

Store your car in a garage

One of the best ways to protect your tyres is keep them out of the sun. If leaving your car for a long period, park it in the shade, or in a garage.

If you have spare tyres, such as winter tyres, make sure they are stored appropriately as well.


The steering wheel is your key contact point with your car

Coronavirus: How to clean and protect your car from disease

The steering wheel is your key contact point with your car

Amid the current concerns over coronavirus, many are taking a closer look at how they could pick up and spread dangerous diseases such as COVID-19.

While sneezing into the crook of your elbow and regularly washing your hands for at least 20 seconds are highly publicised pieces of advice, many invisible germs could also be lurking in your car.

A car’s cabin is a particularly compact environment, where diseases like coronavirus can exist for an extended period of time.

How dirty are our cars? 

How bad are our cars for harbouring diseases?

CarRentals researched exactly how dirty cars are, first surveying 1,000 American motorists, then collating figures for the number of microbes found in vehicles. 

On average, it discovered steering wheels are SIX times dirtier than the average mobile phone screen.

They’re four times dirtier than the average public toilet, plus two times dirtier than public elevator buttons. 

The average CFU number (colony-forming units per square centimetre) on a steering wheel is 629. Other areas in our cars can be very nearly as grubby.

The cupholder for instance, sits at 506 CFU. Seatbelts are 403 CFU, while the door handle is 256 CFU.

Even door handles are worse than public toilet seats, which were measured at 172 CFU. 

Keeping your car clean

How bad are our cars for harbouring diseases?

Naturally, you’ll now be wondering how you can clean your car at a microscopic level. All the usual chores apply: vacuum it out and mop the mats. However, it’s also worth sanitising primary surfaces you often touch. 

A couple of rub-downs for your gearshifter, steering wheel, oft-used buttons and door handles with sanitiser wipes could do a world of good. Lastly, consider changing your pollen and air filters, and spraying disinfectant in there.

Research suggests almost one in three don’t clean their car even once a year. And more than one in 10 said that they never clean inside their car.

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Toyota GB has produced a video highlighting the 40 key touch points – both inside and outside a vehicle – where germs gather.

The list includes everything from the obvious, like door handles and the steering wheel, to the less obvious, such as the rear-view mirror and fuel cap.

You’ll need some antibacterial wipes, a dry microfibre cloth and a pair of gloves.

Other areas of motoring that expose us to bugs

How bad are our cars for harbouring diseases?

What you may not have considered is where else in your motoring life you could be exposed to bugs. Petrol pumps, and the buttons you operate them with, are touched by hundreds of people a day. They are some of the dirtiest surfaces we could come into contact with on an average day.

Buttons to operate petrol pumps can have up to 2.6 million CFU. Pump handles can have up to two million CFU. That makes your car’s steering wheel seem nice and clean.

Also, consider ride-shares (6,056 CFU) and rental vehicles (2,001 CFU). Better get yourself some hand sanitiser, if it hasn’t already sold out…

How to protect your car during the COVID-19 lockdown

How to prepare your car to sit during the lockdown

The UK’s coronavirus lockdown may mean your car isn’t driven for three weeks or more.

Here’s how to keep it safe and roadworthy for when you need it – and for when the lockdown lifts.

Protect against bad weather

How to prepare your car to sit during the lockdown

The basis for this advice comes from Euro Car Parts, but we’ve added some notes of our own. The first point is that your car needs protection from bad weather.

Older or classic cars in particular don’t take well to a battering from the elements. If possible, parking in a dry, sheltered location is best.

A car cover may be a worthwhile investment, too, if a canopy or garage is unavailable.

Clean your car before storing it

How to prepare your car to sit during the lockdown

A proper clean will do your car good. Leaving grime on the bodywork, especially at this time of year when it may be lathered in road salt, can cause damage over time.

Euro Car Parts also emphasises the importance of cleaning your tyres. This will get brake shavings, grease and mud off, which can all cause damage after a while.

As ever, use the two-bucket method, rinse with free-flowing water and dry with a leather chamois for a tidy finish. As well as being good for your car, it’ll be a productive task to keep you busy at home.

Clean and protect the interior

How to prepare your car to sit during the lockdown

Your car interior can be a petri dish for dangerous microorganisms, including the coronavirus. Give the interior a spring clean while you’re in lockdown. It’ll stave off bad odours that you don’t want to smell on your return – and prevent damage to cabin materials.

Using a sunny day to air the car can really help as well. It’s surprising how quickly damp, and eventually mould, can build up in a car that doesn’t move. Put some moisture-absorbing silica gel in there for good measure.

Tyres, handbrake and more

How to prepare your car to sit during the lockdown

There are little things you can do, that will make a big difference to your car’s condition. Leave it in gear, with chocks behind the wheels instead of with the handbrake on. This will save your handbrake cable from stretching, and your brakes from binding over long periods.

Keep the car fuelled up, to prevent moisture from developing in the tank and leading to rust.

Also pump your tyres up to avoid flat spots developing if it isn’t being used.

Keep your battery charged

Indeed, the best thing you can do when leaving your car for long periods, is not actually leave it. Running your car will help keep the battery charged, but you should only drive during the lockdown if strictly necessary.

The most common failure on cars that stand for a while is a dead battery. Left flat, car batteries can develop dead cells, with a replacement costing at least £50. If you have one, plug in a trickle charger to keep the battery topped up.

How to stay healthy and safe when driving

Stay healthy behind the wheel

We recently revealed how dirty car interiors really are, and how effectively they harbour bacterial and viral illnesses. However, extended periods of time behind the wheel can make you ill in other ways, too.

Firstly, your commute can get you down in terms of stress and a poor diet. According to TUC data, Mancunian commuters spend 48 hours a year stuck in traffic, while for Londoners it’s 50 hours.

Stay healthy behind the wheel

“People have longer work commutes than ever before so it’s important that you do everything you can to reduce frustration on the road and make your commute as enjoyable as possible,” said David Johnson, director of Nationwide Vehicle Contracts.

“Quite often a work commute is unavoidable, so by putting simple measures in place, you can make your car a welcoming environment, which in turn, directly impacts your health and mood.”

So, here’s how to stay healthy on the road, and make your commute work for you.

Take some time for yourself 

Stay healthy behind the wheel

One of the advantages of a long commute is you have time to yourself. How you use that time in your own head, while of course paying attention to your driving, can be the difference between a bad drive and a good one.

Time for reflection is helpful, without the distraction of social media and technology. Enjoy the downtime and you’ll hit the ground running when you arrive at work.

Long commutes are also the perfect opportunity to educate yourself with audiobooks, podcasts and music. You could learn a new skill, develop a new interest, or simply broaden your knowledge. 

Make your commute more fun

Stay healthy behind the wheel

It may sound obvious, and maybe a bit silly, but a good first port of call for a pick-me-up on the road is putting on your favourite tunes and having a good singalong. A study by Nature Research has found that listening to ‘heroic’ music can up your mood. Line up that Avengers soundtrack…

Listening to music too loud can get you in trouble, though. Bradford council tried to pass a law that would see drivers playing loud music fined £100.

Take up a hobby

Stay healthy behind the wheel

Being crafty around your commute can free up time. Finish work at five, but traffic doesn’t calm down until half-six? Get a gym membership near your work, so you can either get in early, or leave late. Either way, that hour-and-a-half commute could shrink to 50 minutes if you devote a bit of time to your fitness.

The other plus points are well-known. Burning calories will keep you healthy, and a bit of exercise releases good endorphins. A good mood, made better by clear morning or evening roads. A win-win.

Work in the city? Break up your commute by leaving your car on the outskirts, then walking or taking public transport. It could save you time, money (depending on where you are) and boost your mood. A bit more exercise is never a bad thing.

Give yourself enough time 

Stay healthy behind the wheel

Needless to say, a rushed drive is a stressful drive. And you’re more likely to make poor decisions behind the wheel. Get ahead of the traffic, roadworks and any other obstacles by leaving with time to spare. 

Then there’s the obvious problem of the law. Driving carelessly can land you in hot water, with a £100 fine and three points. The job of driving should always be top of your priority list. 

Keep your car tidy

How bad are our cars for harbouring diseases?

We’ve saved the nagging for the end, but it’s necessary all the same. Maintain the place where you spend two hours of your day, and your mood and health will likely improve. 

From crumbs to clutter, you’re better off without it all. Have a good clean-out and rediscover your car’s cabin.