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British drivers unprepared for winter breakdowns

Winter breakdowns RAC

A survey of 2,000 UK car owners reveals many are hopelessly unprepared for a winter breakdown. That’s despite 62 percent having broken down at some point.

The research by NFU Mutual, published by the RAC, found that drivers are more likely to carry an umbrella (50 percent) in their car, than basic safety equipment. They’re also far more likely to keep chewing gum and mints on board (30 percent) than a reflective triangle (26 percent), jump leads (23 percent) or a high-vis jacket (24 percent).

Just one in five drivers (21 percent) keep a blanket and warm clothes in their car. And sunglasses are more commonly kept (52 percent) than a breakdown service number (43 percent).

More than a third of drivers don’t have a spare tyre on board, while 50 percent don’t know how to change a tyre. Yet wheel changes are the most common cause of breakdowns.

Remember your winter FORCESWinter breakdowns RAC

The RAC has a one-stop acronym for fending off winter breakdowns: FORCES. It stands for Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics (especially lights) and Screenwash.

Make sure that all of the above are at the correct level (fluids), are in good condition (tyres, electrics), or are working correctly (electrics).

What you should carry in winterWinter breakdowns RAC

NFU Mutual has a list of winter driving essentials. It recommends you carry the below items, preferably in a waterproof bag:

  • Warm blankets, clothes and waterproofs
  • Long-lasting food and water
  • Red reflective warning triangles
  • High-visibility jackets
  • Jump leads
  • Torch
  • Sunglasses
  • A spare tyre and jack
  • Road atlas
  • Breakdown number on paper
  • In-car charger
  • First aid kit
  • Ice scraper/de-icing kit

Winter breakdowns RAC

“While brollies might be among the essentials for daily British life, don’t forget the safety fundamentals such as a torch, blanket and a spare tyre to prepare for a breakdown,” said Aleks Corr of NFU Mutual.

“Keeping basic safety equipment in your car could spell the difference between a minor inconvenience and a traumatically freezing and potentially hazardous family event.

“While technology can be a real lifeline, don’t completely rely on it. Poor signal or a low battery may mean it lets you down when you need it most. Always keep an in-car charger handy, but also equip yourself with analogue alternatives including a road atlas and your breakdown service number written on a piece of paper. Familiarise yourself with safety tips and what to do in an incident, such as how to park safely or how to find an SOS phone on the motorway.”

Air con

Why you may find water under your car in hot weather

Parked car in summerWith the summer weather now turning into a heatwave, some motorists may be alarmed to find pools of water beneath their cars – sometimes with drips still falling from the engine bay.

But don’t worry. Chances are, it doesn’t mean the radiator has sprung a leak and the car is about to overheat. You can take your head out of your hands.

More advice on Motoring Research

Rather, it’s most likely to be water dripping from the air conditioning system – and there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

It is caused by the air conditioning compressor working hard in hot weather: due to thermodynamics, the unit itself can freeze over as it takes moisture out of the car.

Air con

When the car is parked and the air con unit deactivated, the ice on its surface melts: this is what causes the puddle under the car (and the hotter the weather, the bigger and more alarming-looking the puddle may be…).

RAC spokesman Pete Williams revealed the motoring organisation had received lots of calls from drivers worried by pools of water under their cars.

“The advice is to check whether this is simply odourless water of if it has coolant in and a clear smell and colour.

If it’s is the former, then there should be no need to worry.”

Hopefully, that’s panic over. Meaning it’s only the sunshine that will leave you hot under the collar during this heatwave. 

Sod’s law: breakdowns more likely on a journey away than coming home

breakdowns RAC

A poll by the RAC of 2,200 drivers found 64 percent of those who had breakdowns that could not be fixed at the side of the road, had it happen to them on their way out rather than on the way home. In other words, if you’ve got something to be late for, you’re more likely to break down.

Far be it from us or indeed the RAC to comment on the laws of luck in the universe, but by the look of those figures, the odds are stacked against us.

Overall, as many as 46 percent of drivers have had a breakdown that cannot be fixed at the side of the road. Almost one in five of us are unlucky enough to experience that more than once.

Going somewhere?

So how did we manage? Ninety percent of those surveyed said they relied on recovery services to pick their vehicle up. And 77 percent of those were taken wherever they were going by the recovery, be that home or otherwise.

The best of the rest, the 18 percent, had to sort their own travel plans. Of that group, 28 percent didn’t actually make it to where they were going. Nearly two-thirds did, but were late in the end. Overall, very nearly half of those surveyed (47 percent) who broke down and had to sort themselves out, then failed to make their way to events like gatherings and parties.

As for where these people were going, one in five were driving to work, while another one in five were going to visit family or friends. Not as many, but still a significant amount, experienced an unfixable breakdown on the way to a UK-based holiday (11 percent).

However, it’s the unlucky two percent that we feel for the most, who broke down on their way to international travels.

“Sod’s law”

“Breaking down is always stressful, but finding your car can’t be fixed at the roadside is particularly bad news,” said RAC Breakdown spokesperson, Simon Williams.

“Our new research shows Sod’s Law also appears to have a hand in this type of breakdown, as they are more likely to happen on your way out from home than they are returning – pretty much a textbook definition of the law which says that things will go wrong exactly when you really want them to go right.”

'Frantic Friday' will cause chaos on UK roads, warns RAC

‘Frantic Friday’ will cause chaos on UK roads, warns RAC

'Frantic Friday' will cause chaos on UK roads, warns RAC

A culmination of people making Christmas getaways and motorists driving home from work will make this Friday a perfect storm for traffic chaos, says the RAC.

Dubbed ‘Frantic Friday’ by the motoring organisation, 1.25 million of us will hit the roads for leisure on the 22 December – on top of the usual commuter congestion.

“The roads are traditionally busy in the run-up to Christmas, especially when you have commuters, commercial and leisure traffic all competing for space,” said the RAC’s traffic spokesman, Rod Dennis. “Things tend to get worse on the last working day before Christmas, with ‘Frantic Friday’ this year falling on the 22 December – we strongly urge drivers planning long journeys to avoid this day if they possibly can.”

It’s not all bad news, though. With schools breaking up for Christmas at different times across the UK, the RAC predicts a fairly even spread of traffic in the run-up to the big day. An estimated 1.4 million of us will hit the roads every day between today and Saturday, with leisure traffic peaking on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself.

Dennis added: “We’re then expecting pre-Christmas leisure trips to peak on Christmas Eve, with getaway traffic combining with the inevitable dashes to the shops for last-minute Christmas presents. Highways England has announced that 99% of England’s strategic roads – that’s motorways and major A-roads – will be free of roadworks by this time which should ease things, but it only takes a single accident or breakdown in some locations to bring traffic grinding to a halt.”

Highways England says it’s doing its bit for Christmas, by keeping 99 percent of the road network free from roadworks.

“Over the past two years we’ve already added 190 lane miles of much-needed capacity and that will make life easier for those travelling around this month, as the festive countdown begins,” said Highways England’s customer service director, Melanie Clarke.

Read more:

Diesel fuel pump

Diesel car tax rise a ‘knee-jerk reaction’, say experts

Diesel fuel pump

Government plans to raise taxes on diesel cars have been labelled “a terrible misjudged ‘knee-jerk’ reaction” by the RAC. The response follows a report in the Financial Times outlining chancellor Philip Hammond’s decision to inflict higher taxes on diesel vehicles to raise funds for new air-quality initiatives.

The government is expected to announce the move as part of its autumn budget, although it’s not clear whether the chancellor will increase VAT on diesel cars or decide to implement a new levy.

Sales of diesel cars have plummeted this year, with the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showing a 30 percent fall in registrations, amid concerns over emissions and the threat of anti-diesel car charging schemes.

The RAC is urging the government to think again, arguing that diesel cars remain relevant for company car drivers and those who cover long distances.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “We might be just over 20 years from the Government’s own deadline for ending the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles, but it seems intent on dissuading as many of us from opting for diesel as possible.

“We are concerned that those who drive long distances, business drivers especially, might consider sticking with their older diesels given the superior economy they offer. It would be a terrible misjudged ‘knee-jerk’ reaction which could backfire and have the unexpected effect of encouraging these owners of older diesels and fleets not to upgrade to newer, cleaner diesels which offer significant benefits in reduced emissions.

“This isn’t what the Government, or any of us, want and is the opposite of what is needed from an air quality perspective. However, it would also be grossly unfair to penalise owners of current diesel vehicles.

“The irony is that the next generation of diesel engines which manufacturers are developing right now are likely to be as clean as their petrol equivalents – so while a new tax might be logical in the short term, this logic will likely not apply within a year or so.

“The possibility of a sudden rush to petrol engines also risks a new rise in CO2 emissions, precisely what previous governments tried to avoid by encouraging drivers into diesel vehicles.”

The chancellor of the exchequer will present his autumn budget to parliament on 22 November 2017.

NEXT> Diesel remains Britain’s favourite used car fuel

Young drivers warned: lie about your insurance and lose your car

Young drivers warned: lie about your insurance and lose your car

Young drivers warned: lie about your insurance and lose your car

The RAC has discovered that almost half of young drivers are willing to name a parent as the main driver of their car in a bid to save money on insurance.

The motoring organisation’s survey of 500 17 to 24-year-olds found that 47% didn’t see the problem with ‘fronting’ – despite it being an illegal practice that could leave your car uninsured.

This is despite the majority (57%) of young motorists questioned admitting they realise the act is against the law.

“Fronting is where someone other than the main driver of a car is said to be the policyholder,” said the RAC’s insurance director Mark Godfrey. “In the case of a young driver who is the most frequent driver of a vehicle, this tends to be a parent with a longer, proven good track record as a driver and therefore attracts a lower insurance premium than their son or daughter would.”

With 18- to 20-year-old drivers paying £993 a year for car insurance on average, it’s not a surprise to see young people resorting to desperate measures in a bid to save cash.

The RAC says that young men know more than young women about fronting – perhaps because of the myth that males pay more for their insurance than women.

Godfrey added: “It’s important for anyone who has done this to realise that it could result in invalidating the policy for everyone covered by it, not just the young driver concerned. What’s more, its illegal activities like this that increase the overall cost of insurance for all young drivers.

“The fact our research shows more young males are aware of fronting may be because they think their insurance premiums will be higher than young women’s which, of course, is no longer the case since the EU ruling that gender cannot be used in determining premium prices.”

If drivers are found to be fronting, their insurance company might refuse to pay out in the case of a crash, and could force them to compensate for damage caused to other vehicles.

You could also be refused insurance in the future, be charged more – and the police could hit you with a £300 fine and six penalty points for driving without insurance. Your car could also be confiscated.

The RAC says young drivers should reduce their car insurance costs by legal methods such as buying a car with a smaller engine or having a telematics ‘black box’ system fitted to monitor their driving behaviour.

RAC: incentives to buy clean cars 'fading away'

RAC: incentives to buy green cars ‘fading away’

RAC: incentives to buy clean cars 'fading away'

The RAC has said it’s concerned that incentives for motorists to buy ultra-green cars appear to be fading away – despite research suggesting drivers would support stronger action to reduce vehicle pollution in urban areas.

The plug-in car grant was introduced by the Government in 2011, offering buyers £5,000 off all plug-in cars (electric and hybrid) in a bid to encourage their uptake. The scheme worked – with ultra-low emission vehicles accounting for more 1.2% of all new car registrations in 2015, compared to less than 0.1% in 2011.

But changes from March 2016 means that many plug-in hybrids, including the popular Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV as well as the Toyota Prius plug-in and Volkswagen Golf GTE, are only eligible for a £2,500 grant.

That’s because these cars are classed as Category 2 low-emission vehicles, with a ‘zero-emissions’ range between 10 and 69 miles, and CO2 emissions lower than 50g/km.

Category 1 low-emission vehicles – those with a ‘zero-emission’ range of 70 miles and CO2 emissions below 50g/km – will only be eligible for a grant of £4,500. These include the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and Toyota Mirai.

Other incentives being lost include a controversial change in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED – car tax) bands from 1 April 2017, announced as part of former Chancellor George Osborne’s summer budget in 2015.

This means all cars which emit any CO2 from their tailpipe, including ultra-low emission plug-in hybrids, will be hit with a flat £140 fee every year. A plug-in hybrid Kia Optima, with CO2 emissions of 37g/km, will be charged the same road tax as a BMW 340i M Sport, which emits 179g/km CO2.

Low-emission cars will save money in the first year’s car tax, but all cars with a list price of more than £40,000 (including ultra-efficient vehicles) will be hit with a £310 charge on top of the regular VED for the first five years.

As a result, a plug-in hybrid Volvo XC90 T8 will cost £450 a year to tax for the first five years – despite emitting just 49g/km CO2.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “Today’s vehicles are the cleanest ever and even the latest diesels, which have come under the spotlight over the last 12 months, emit a tiny fraction of the nitrogen dioxide and particulates compared to previous generations of diesel vehicles.

“We are concerned that some of the incentives to encourage motorists to make the switch from older, less efficient vehicles are fading away.”

Drivers want action to be taken against the dirtiest vehicles

The RAC’s 2016 Reporting on Motoring has discovered that two thirds of motorists want stronger action to be taken to reduce vehicle pollution in areas where air quality is poorest.

Despite this, earlier this month the High Court ruled against the Government over its published plans for tackling poor air quality.

More than half (55%) of motorists surveyed by the RAC said that the dirtiest vehicles entering polluted areas should be hit by charges or banned outright.

Bizley added: “Our research indicates motorists, who are sometimes seen as the enemy when it comes to air quality, actually want to see more done to improve poor air quality that is blighting some local areas – suggesting they want to be part of the solution themselves. But we need a considered and consistent approach to tackling the problem.”

RAC: incentives to buy clean cars 'fading away'

RAC: incentives to buy green cars 'fading away'

RAC: incentives to buy clean cars 'fading away'

The RAC has said it’s concerned that incentives for motorists to buy ultra-green cars appear to be fading away – despite research suggesting drivers would support stronger action to reduce vehicle pollution in urban areas.

The plug-in car grant was introduced by the Government in 2011, offering buyers £5,000 off all plug-in cars (electric and hybrid) in a bid to encourage their uptake. The scheme worked – with ultra-low emission vehicles accounting for more 1.2% of all new car registrations in 2015, compared to less than 0.1% in 2011.

But changes from March 2016 means that many plug-in hybrids, including the popular Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV as well as the Toyota Prius plug-in and Volkswagen Golf GTE, are only eligible for a £2,500 grant.

That’s because these cars are classed as Category 2 low-emission vehicles, with a ‘zero-emissions’ range between 10 and 69 miles, and CO2 emissions lower than 50g/km.

Category 1 low-emission vehicles – those with a ‘zero-emission’ range of 70 miles and CO2 emissions below 50g/km – will only be eligible for a grant of £4,500. These include the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and Toyota Mirai.

Other incentives being lost include a controversial change in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED – car tax) bands from 1 April 2017, announced as part of former Chancellor George Osborne’s summer budget in 2015.

This means all cars which emit any CO2 from their tailpipe, including ultra-low emission plug-in hybrids, will be hit with a flat £140 fee every year. A plug-in hybrid Kia Optima, with CO2 emissions of 37g/km, will be charged the same road tax as a BMW 340i M Sport, which emits 179g/km CO2.

Low-emission cars will save money in the first year’s car tax, but all cars with a list price of more than £40,000 (including ultra-efficient vehicles) will be hit with a £310 charge on top of the regular VED for the first five years.

As a result, a plug-in hybrid Volvo XC90 T8 will cost £450 a year to tax for the first five years – despite emitting just 49g/km CO2.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “Today’s vehicles are the cleanest ever and even the latest diesels, which have come under the spotlight over the last 12 months, emit a tiny fraction of the nitrogen dioxide and particulates compared to previous generations of diesel vehicles.

“We are concerned that some of the incentives to encourage motorists to make the switch from older, less efficient vehicles are fading away.”

Drivers want action to be taken against the dirtiest vehicles

The RAC’s 2016 Reporting on Motoring has discovered that two thirds of motorists want stronger action to be taken to reduce vehicle pollution in areas where air quality is poorest.

Despite this, earlier this month the High Court ruled against the Government over its published plans for tackling poor air quality.

More than half (55%) of motorists surveyed by the RAC said that the dirtiest vehicles entering polluted areas should be hit by charges or banned outright.

Bizley added: “Our research indicates motorists, who are sometimes seen as the enemy when it comes to air quality, actually want to see more done to improve poor air quality that is blighting some local areas – suggesting they want to be part of the solution themselves. But we need a considered and consistent approach to tackling the problem.”

RAC Fuel Watch

Fuel price rise a ‘perfect storm’ of Brexit and OPEC

RAC Fuel WatchA ‘perfect storm’ of a Brexit-induced plummet in the pound and a threat of oil production cuts by OPEC and Russia has led to the average price of fuel increasing 3p in just three weeks.

The average price of petrol now stands at 116p, says the RAC – a huge contrast to just eight months ago, where petrol was around 102p a litre.

The least economical cars on sale

Fuel prices falling after 4 months of hikes

Is this as good as it gets for cheap fuel prices?

The days of £1 a litre prices, last experienced around Christmas 2015, are now but a memory, says the firm’s fuel price consumer champion, RAC Fuel Watch.

Spokesman Simon Williams told Motoring Research there’s a threat of further fuel prices too, as the 14 oil-producing countries that make up OPEC are due to meet on November 30th, where they could possibly agree on a cut in oil production.

“Even the threat of a cut has been enough to push up prices,” said Williams. “We can expect further increases in the cost of a barrel of oil if OPEC actually does agree to cut oil production.

“It’s possible Russia will agree to a cut in production as well,” he added – Williams also revealed that the UK imports 40% of the diesel sold here, and it comes mainly from… Russia.

‘Flash crash’

The biggest factor in recent price rises has, however, been the ‘flash crash’ in the value of the pound on 7 October. As fuel is traded in US dollars, it’s this that has hiked up forecourt prices by so much recently.

The last time prices rose this quickly was at the start of 2011, revealed Williams. “Less than four months later, the then Chancellor George Osborne took the step of cutting fuel duty by 1p to 57.95p.”

These days, fuel is around 20p a litre cheaper than it was back then, but the outlook still looks rather ominous, said Williams.

“If the Chancellor has been tempted to raise duty in next month’s Autumn Statement as a result of recent lower fuel prices, the current uncertainty should make him think again.”

RAC Fuel Watch

Fuel price rise a 'perfect storm' of Brexit and OPEC

RAC Fuel WatchA ‘perfect storm’ of a Brexit-induced plummet in the pound and a threat of oil production cuts by OPEC and Russia has led to the average price of fuel increasing 3p in just three weeks.

The average price of petrol now stands at 116p, says the RAC – a huge contrast to just eight months ago, where petrol was around 102p a litre.

The least economical cars on sale

Fuel prices falling after 4 months of hikes

Is this as good as it gets for cheap fuel prices?

The days of £1 a litre prices, last experienced around Christmas 2015, are now but a memory, says the firm’s fuel price consumer champion, RAC Fuel Watch.

Spokesman Simon Williams told Motoring Research there’s a threat of further fuel prices too, as the 14 oil-producing countries that make up OPEC are due to meet on November 30th, where they could possibly agree on a cut in oil production.

“Even the threat of a cut has been enough to push up prices,” said Williams. “We can expect further increases in the cost of a barrel of oil if OPEC actually does agree to cut oil production.

“It’s possible Russia will agree to a cut in production as well,” he added – Williams also revealed that the UK imports 40% of the diesel sold here, and it comes mainly from… Russia.

‘Flash crash’

The biggest factor in recent price rises has, however, been the ‘flash crash’ in the value of the pound on 7 October. As fuel is traded in US dollars, it’s this that has hiked up forecourt prices by so much recently.

The last time prices rose this quickly was at the start of 2011, revealed Williams. “Less than four months later, the then Chancellor George Osborne took the step of cutting fuel duty by 1p to 57.95p.”

These days, fuel is around 20p a litre cheaper than it was back then, but the outlook still looks rather ominous, said Williams.

“If the Chancellor has been tempted to raise duty in next month’s Autumn Statement as a result of recent lower fuel prices, the current uncertainty should make him think again.”