Home>CARS & 4x4S>Expert Guide

Breakdowns

Lost key fobs
It's not unsual for motorists to lose their keys and then find that the car doors won't open. Keep keys safe and dry but also make sure you know the alternative method for getting into the car if the key fob fails. This is usually described in the handbook. 

Punctures
High temperatures heat up tyres and aggravate any exisiting damage to the rubber. Under-inflation compounds this, causing friction and added heat which can prove too much for weak spots, causing punctures and blow-outs.

Check your handbook for the correct tyre inflation pressures, especially when towing. 

Overheating
Aggravated by high temperatures, failure to keep coolant levels topped up, leaking coolant hoses and broken electric cooling fans can all result in overheating and temperatures fierce enough to cause sever and expensive damage.

Check the coolant reservoir level regularly (refer to the handbook if necessary) and look out for wet or white staining on coolant hoses. If the fan's broken it will soon become apparent when you meet slow moving traffic and the engine temperature starts to soar.

You can get a garage to check it or do it yourself by running the car to normal temperature and then allowing the engine to be idle for 5 to 10 minutes - the cooling fan should cut in automatically.

Quick checks before you go

- Check the brake, clutch and power steering fluids, oil and coolant levels are up to the mark (refer to the handbook if in any doubt).
- Clean the windscreen, windows, and mirrors. Fill the windscreen-washer bottle using a screenwash additive to help clear traffic film and dead insects.
- Check and adjust tyre pressures - increasing them for heavy loads if necessary. The correct pressures will be given in the car's handbook.
- If a service is due, get it done before your journey - repairs can be more expensive away from home.

Fuel saving tips

- Load luggage on your roof rack as low as possible and wrap the luggage tightly in plastic sheeting or consider using a roof box to reduce the effect on fuel economy. If you are staying in the same place, it is worth removing the roof rack/box before driving to tourist attractions - but make sure you don't lose any of the bits.
- Try your air vents first before opening windows: you may find that the airflow is enough to keep two people comfortable in the front of the car, particularly on a motorway.
- Don't use the air conditioning all the time: once the air conditioning has cooled the inside of the car, you may be able to turn it down or off. Don't start the air conditioning if doors or windows are open.
- If you are carrying extra passengers or heavy luggage, pump up the tyres to compensate for the extra weight. The car's handbook gives advice on this.
- If you park in the sun, using a windscreen shade and opening up the car as soon as you get back to it will help to cool the interior. Opening windows while you drive out of a car park may lower the inside temperature several degrees before you start the air conditioning. 

Fatigue

Driving fatigure is a hazard faced by all motorists particularly on long holiday journeys aggravated by high temperatures.

Many accidents are caused by tiredness. Recognise the symptoms of fatigue and learn how to prevent it. Fresh air, exercise or turning up the radio may help for a short time but are not as effective as the following:

- Break any journey of over 3 hours with a 20 minute break and on longer journeys, take a break every 2 hours or so.
-Frequent short stops (of at least 20 minutes) are better than one long stop.
- Avoid heavy meals before driving.
- Countr sleepiness by taking a short nap (up to 15 minutes) or drink two cups of water. 

Hayfever

Minimise the effect of hayfever when driving.

If you're doing 70 mph and sneeze you lose your vision for as much as 100 meters. Have a 'fit' of eight sneezes in a row, and you've just travelled 'blind' for nearly half a mile!

Hayfever is particularly bad in the summer but accidents could be minimised if suffers take action. 

- Only take medication which doesn't cause drowsiness.
- Get someone else to drive if you're having a particularly bad hayfever day.
- Enquire about pollen filters, if available for your make of car.
- Keep a box of tissues on or near the dashboard for easy access.
- Slow down and drop back if you're about to sneeze.
- Wear sunglasses to block out bright sunlight.
- Close windows and air vents to reduce pollen grains in the car.
- Vaccum car mats and carpets regularly during summer to get rid of dust.

Glare

Being blinded by sun glare causes many accidents, particularly under clear skies at dawn or dusk.

Keep a clean and unscratched pair of sunglasses handy but avoid Photochromic lenses, which darken in strong sunlight.

Buying a new or used car

The first thing you need to ask yourself when you set out to replace our car is whether you actually need to buy a new one.

- Depreciation is the single biggest cost in running a car. Even if you only buy a one year model, you'll be missing out on some seriously large losses as the biggest drop comes in the first 12 months.
- Look at the sums, and you might be able to buy a better equipped, more powereful version of the model you want by opting for a used model. You might even be able to upgrade a whole class thanks to big second hand savings.
- If you've got the budget and you're determined to buy new, haggle hard. Use the Cars with service history search box and set you target price to find the right car in your price range.
- A new car will come with the full balance of the manufacturer's warranty, which repairs many faults free of charge. This will usually give you three years peace of mind but it can also be as long as 7 if you opt for a Kia.
- A new car will be to your exact specification, and you can't put a price on sitting in your own new car for the first time.