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The Motorists' Guide

The Motorists Guide

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  1. Specialist motor insurance loss adjuster, Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA), which recently became part of the QuestGates Group, is warning of an increase in the ‘bogus buyer’ vehicle theft method, particularly in the South East of England. The scam sees criminals targeting vehicle owners advertising their car, van or motorbike for sale privately, via local newspapers or online marketplaces. The victim, being a considerate seller, helpfully gathers everything the crook wants – the vehicle, keys and documentation –in one place. The sting commonly comes via a request for a test drive, with the criminal seizing any opportunity to jump into the driver’s seat and speed off. In the worst cases, it can involve threatening behaviour or violence. Philip Swift, a former detective, now Technical Director at CMA, said: “The bogus buyer method is as old as the hills and unfortunately it is on the rise again. It starts with deception, taking advantage of peoples’ good nature, and ends with a brazen theft. It generally follows some haggling, sufficient to keep up the pretence. Once a small price reduction is agreed, the seller’s spirits are up and their guard is down. The unscrupulous perpetrator then casually asks for a test drive, constantly looking to a manoeuvre a situation where there is no one near the car and they have the key. They only need a moment and they’re gone. “With the UK stolen vehicle recovery rate currently at an all-time low of just 23%, down from 80% in 2006, the chances of you ever seeing your car again are not good. And there’s a further potential kick in the teeth in that, while your insurance company may pay out, the process might well be delayed by the need to acquire paperwork related to an ongoing police investigation. “Our best advice is that prevention is better than cure. Be aware that some potential purchasers are less than honest. Did they arrive alone or get a lift? If they got a lift, is their mate still there? They will not want you to see that car as it links to them. It is good practice to always have a friend with you and keep hold of the keys and paperwork until the payment has hit your account. Additionally, please consider the wisdom of offering a test drive when selling privately under any circumstances, whether your buyer is bogus or not. Are they insured to drive your car? Do they even have a licence? If they crash it could well cost you, not only in terms of breaching your insurance policy and losing your no claims bonus, but in breaking the law and getting six points on your licence as well.”
  2. Check out the latest Motorcycle Book offerings on Transporterama https://www.carbooks.store/collections/motorbikes
  3. Winter has arrived - is your Car Battery up to it on these cold mornings? Check out the range in eBay
  4. Have the Pot Holes been repaired in your local area? Let us know...will be nice to see the stats on this one
  5. I'll start then.....Harley Dyna Street Bob 103 and Honda Africa Twin 1000 DCT There, that wasn't painful ! Although the running costs and cleaning are exactly that 🙂
  6. 20% off this Black Friday The day of deals is here! Save on better than new tech & more. Use code BUYBETTER20
  7. Make sure your lights are in good working order now the winter nights are getting darker eBay link below will take you to the official eBay site for Bulbs and LED lamps Search for Bulbs here
  8. Why tune your engine? What’s the best method to tune your car? What are the overall benefits? Electronic engine tuning is the modern method of obtaining more horsepower from the engine without replacing any parts. Many years ago, tuning a petrol engine was carried out by replacing Carburettors, Exhaust and Inlet Manifolds and tweaking the Distributor in order to liberate more power. This of course led to a variety of problems that maybe you didn’t have previously, including having to ‘tune the engine’ on a regular basis, reliability, poor starting, difficult to drive in traffic and on occasions resulting in destruction of the engine. The problem that existed with tuning an engine with traditional methods was that the engines were very rarely able to generate, and handle much more power beyond standard and generally involved having much more involvement with strengthening the mechanical components within the bottom end and also lightening components to get it rev higher. Additionally, Diesel engines were not able to be tuned apart from maybe adding a larger turbo and water injection. Nowadays, engines are designed to handle more power than they sent out of the factory with. Vehicles in standard form are produced with a specified power output in order to comply with strict production, emissions and tax regulations and also to enhance reliability and durability. There is, however, a potential ‘window of opportunity’ provided by the manufacturers, allowing the owner the potential to squeeze out some additional horsepower with no resulting damage to the engine, and in most cases allowing the improved torque to enhance the overall driving experience. It’s not all about horsepower increase, it’s the torque benefits that allow improved driveability and provide more flexible gear changes. Torque increase can also lead to improved towing capabilities and load carrying without necessarily putting excess strain on the turbocharger. The more torque, the more pulling power! Will you get your money back and how long will it take? Economy is an important factor to consider the decision to spend money in order to save money. With increased torque, more flexible gear changes and increase pulling power should all lead to less throttle required and therefore better economy figures. With up to 20% fuel economy increase claimed for the DTUK system, it shouldn’t take too long to reclaim the financial outlay if the annual mileage is quite high. Are there any downsides? With electronic tuning (or fine tuning) of the engine, there are no mechanical parts to wear, drift out of calibration and all of which should contribute to maintaining overall vehicle reliability. What methods are there for achieving more power from your engine? Remapping the ECU – where a computer is connected to the vehicle ECU and a programme is downloaded which overrides the original ‘map’ with a revised one to increase the power/torque. Another method is to install an electronic chip (EPROM) inside the ECU which overrides the original ‘map’ to provide more power/torque. And yet another method is to plug in a Tuning Box which is interfaced with the injector wiring to fine-tune the fuel injection to allow additional fuel into the engine. All of these methods have their benefits and drawbacks with considerations such as cost, transferability of the tuning enhancement to another vehicle and ensuring the validity of any manufacturer warranty. Will it affect my Insurance or Warranty? It is advisable to contact your insurance company to advise them of any modifications, but more than likely with the popularity of performance enhancements to vehicles nowadays, a moderate upgrade would be recognised and quite easily listed on the policy. Failure to inform the insurers could lead to a claim being invalid in the event of an accident. Manufacturer warranty is I suppose down to individual vehicle brands but some do promote their preferred after-market Tuning specialists and accept that it is becoming a more popular trend. However, if a failure occurs with any component and that it could be remotely linked to a modification by the owner, I’m sure that could lead to a claim being declined. Tuning Box DTUK® manufactures a Tuning Box that refines the injection process by altering the injection pulse width modulation to fine tune the fuel quantity to gain more power and torque. Using a new multi-channel with dyno proven software written and developed in-house by DTUK® The system is fully adjustable for both Petrol and Diesel and can deliver up to 40% gains in power, torque and up to 20% improvement in fuel economy. Lower emissions are also promised as the engine is running smoother and more efficient, therefore, lower CO2 output. An improved throttle response should lead to a smoother drive and an improved low rev range torque and provide a smoother drive especially when towing. The system is suitable for vehicles with Automatic Transmissions and those equipped with a DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter). The DTUK® Tuning Box takes around 10 minutes to fit with minimal tools and is also transferable to another car if required. Installation All DTUK Systems have been designed to be compact and easy to fit they are supplied complete with the correct OEM wiring loom and connectors for the vehicle application and can be installed with the minimal of mechanical ability thus making it an ideal DIY project, most units can be fitted in around 10 minutes and they come complete with full support. Once the engine cover is removed, it is easy to then gain access to the fuel injector electrical connections. It is then necessary to remove the connectors and interface with the Tuning Box wiring loom, ensuring the connections are in sequence and not crossing over. Also, be careful not to position the wiring over the fuel injector pipes or any other wiring loom as electrical interference may occur. Connect the Tuning Box to the wiring loom connection and then connect to the vehicle Battery (ensure positive lead is securely routed away from earth points, unlike in the photo!) Ensure the Tuning Box is secured in a dry area within the engine bay and away from any electrical units that may cause electrical interference. Place inside the waterproof bag supplied with the kit. Review of DTUK Tuning Box How did it perform? Once installed, I never want to remove it! Not that I ever had much of an issue with the performance from the Honda in the standard form, but since driving it with the Tuning Box installed, I would categorically state that I could never go back to how it was in standard form. The increase is from 103Kw (140PS) to 128 Kw (175PS) and torque has changed from 340 Nm to 420 Nm, which is a very noticeable increase. The performance was instantly noticeable from the moment of installation with improved acceleration but also more importantly, the smoothness of torque delivery has dramatically changed the way the car drives. Longer gear changes are a result of the improved torque curve along with the decreased fuel consumption. On average, it has improved in the short term by around 10-12 %. I say in the short term, because the CR-V has a defective clutch that occasionally slips when put under too much load (common fault with Honda diesels). Once the clutch is replaced, then the consumption should decrease even further. On one end of the Tuning Box are some serial jumpers which you can move around to increase or decrease the power output. I have personally left it ‘out of the box’ as the settings appear to be more than adequate for my requirements. However, it does allow you to alter the settings to achieve the desired output to suit both the car and driver.
  9. Different cars require different types of oil Choosing the best oil for your car's engine can be tough, given the large number of options available. Our guide can help you make the right choice Oil is one of those mysterious substances for many car owners. Unless you’re an enthusiast, you may well open your car’s bonnet only when something goes wrong – you’ve run out of washer fluid or there’s an alarming amount of smoke coming from somewhere. But keeping the car well lubricated is one of the most important maintenance jobs, because unwanted friction in a fast-moving engine usually leads to bad, potentially expensive news. Advanced mechanical technology in modern cars means that modern oils are more complex than ever, according to David Wright, director general of the United Kingdom Lubricants Association. He says increased regulations on vehicle emissions and increasing demands from consumers for performance uncompromised by advanced fuel economy have meant that the lubricant industry of oil blenders and marketers has had to keep up with manufacturer demands as they chase better efficiency. “Smaller oil sumps mean we are all using less oil each year but the oil we are using has to work twice as hard,” Wright says. “Car manufacturers today are demanding thinner and lighter engine oil viscosities to achieve enhanced fuel consumption in a smaller, more powerful engine while at the same time reducing emissions.” This means that getting the right oil for your car is more important than ever. Get it wrong and while you won’t see instant disaster as you would if you’d put diesel in a petrol car, you will subject your engine to excess component wear. “You won’t see an issue immediately. It’s not like putting contaminated fuel into your vehicle,” says Wright. “But within 20,000 miles, you could have severe operational issues.” What kind of oil you need depends on the engine. All new cars will come with a recommended grade listed in the manual and usually a recommended manufacturer, too. The grade will be shown in numbers, separated by the letter ‘w’ – for example, 5w40. “Put simply, the viscosity of an oil gives you an indication of its resistance to flow at given temperatures,” Wright explains. “The ‘w’ rating, preceded by a number, gives you an indication of how the oil flows at winter temperatures and the last number indicates flow in summer temperatures.” However, the viscosity alone isn’t enough to indicate how well an oil will protect your engine. There are numerous tests that car manufacturers go through to formulate engine oils and these are ratified by an organisation called the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, known as the ACEA (an acronym of the organisation’s French title). The ACEA determines the exact requirements needed to meet the demands of different types of modern engine. The specifications, known as ACEA Oil Sequences, are renewed every four years but are backwards compatible for older vehicles. “The high costs of investment in engine oil technology run into six or even seven figures for a set of engine tests. Oil blenders, manufacturers and marketers have to be certain that the lubricants they sell are suitable for a given application,” Wright says. Each ACEA specification is denoted by a letter, followed by a number, which identifies the class of oil and a category within that class – for example, ACEA C3. This specification will be indicated on the oil packaging and the car manufacturer's manual will again specify which you should go for. But what if you can’t find the exact recommended oil? Wright says drivers should tread carefully, because using the wrong oil can cause damage to your car’s engine. The problem is that the oil industry is self-certifying. The ACEA defines the specifications, but it’s up to the manufacturers to make sure that the products they put out meet them. A technical organisation called ATIAL spot-checks products of its members every few years, but largely it’s down to the industry to self-police. Some lesser known oil suppliers have been known to label their products as a certain specification but not meet the standards. “Sometimes it distorts the marketplace if you get some less reputable new entrants into a market selling product below the cost price of other, more reputable blenders. That’s when you get some questions raised. “If something looks too good to be true, then it probably is,” Wright says. “If you have been offered the latest specification, fully synthetic engine oil in the pub for £1 a litre, then it probably is too good to be true.” Read more: Why engine downsizing doesn't always work To combat such products and to check the quality of products, the UKLA launched the Verification of Lubricant Specifications (VLS) service. Anyone can suggest a product for it to test, and if it’s found to be wanting, the UKLA will ask the marketer to quarantine or recall the product, and relabel or reformulate it. Wright says that since the VLS was launched in 2013, it has made a positive impact on the quality of lubricants sold in Britain. “I think we’re almost there,” he says. “Some of the newer companies are marketing strange formulation that need investigating but, on the whole, the UK market is quite compliant.” Conversely, some manufacturers produce oils that go beyond the required specifications. “Some manufacturers will blend to the base line and some will look to exceed it, to develop some form of quality positioning around their brand,” Wright explains. “It’s usually the multinationals, the big companies that will make them even better than the specifications. So if an oil specification says it’ll last for 15,000 miles, they’ll make it so it lasts 20,000 miles, for example. They’ll put a richer mix of additives into the formula to make sure that not only does it not produce wear in an engine, but it’ll help protect the engine over time, too.” Quick questions How does oil vary? Oil comes in different viscosities, signified by a grade number, such as 5w40. It’s also blended for different types of engines, signified by an ACEA specification, such as ACEA A1/B1. What oil suits what car? The type of oil recommended by the car manufacturer will be listed in the manual. It may recommend a particular brand, but the grade and ACEA specification are the important things to look for. Does brand matter? As long as the grade and ACEA specification is correct, you should be fine. However, David Wright of the United Kingdom Lubricant Association recommends choosing reputable manufacturers. Some firms will blend more advanced, expensive oils that exceed the specifications on the packaging. What about cheaper brands? Again, as long as the grade and ACEA specifications are correct, then everything should be okay. But oils from some newer, less reputable brands on the market have been found not to meet the claimed specifications. The UKLA’s VLS service investigates complaints and tests products to see if they’re compliant and has an archive of its findings on its website - http://www.ukla-vls.org.uk. What happens if you use the wrong oil? Using the wrong oil will put undue stress on the mechanical components of your engine. Badly lubricated parts will wear faster and so decrease the life of the engine. How often should you check your oil? There’s no set rule. Those who drive more should check more often. David Wright suggests everyone should check their vehicle's oil levels at least once a month. How often should you change the oil in your car? This will vary from car to car and will be mentioned in the car’s manual. Glossary of terms ACEA - European Automobile Manufacturers Association. An organisation that represents European vehicle makers and determines the requirements for modern lubricants. Specifications for different types of oil are denoted by an ACEA figure on packaging, such as ACEA A1/B1. ATIEL – Industry association of European lubricant manufacturers and marketers. The acronym comes from the French “Association Technique de l'Industrie Européenne des Lubrifiants” Grade – the viscosity of your engine oil, signified by two numbers that indicate oil flow in winter and summer temperatures (eg 5w40). The lower the numbers, the thinner the viscosity. SAE - Society of Automotive Engineers. The US-based body that defines how oil viscosities are defined and regulated. UKLA – United Kingdom Lubricants Association. Body representing businesses in the British lubricant industry. VLS – Verification of Lubricant Specifications. A non-profit service launched by the UKLA to investigate complaints of non-compliance with lubricant specifications.
  10. As the UK government has instructed the nation to stay at home and only venture out for specific, essential reasons in light of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) situation, many of us are being encouraged to park our cars if we can. Some owners of Toyota hybrids might be wondering what will happen to their car during long periods without use, particularly when it comes to the level of charge in the batteries. The reassuring news is that no difficult car maintenance is necessary. However, there are some tips that, if followed, can help ensure your Toyota remains in tip-top condition during an extended layoff. To recap, Toyota hybrids generally contain two batteries: a 12-volt battery (which powers systems such as the headlamps and audio) and a high-voltage hybrid system battery (which supplies the power to start the combustion engine and drive the electric motors). The simplest way to maintain charge in both of these batteries is to simply go through the normal start procedure: press the ‘Start’ button with your foot on the brake and ensure the ‘Ready’ light is illuminated on the dashboard. We recommend you put the car in ‘Ready’ mode for about 60 minutes before switching it off again and repeat the process at least once a week, providing you can carry out this procedure while adhering to the government’s advice regarding social distancing and Coronavirus (Covid-19). Please do not leave your car unattended when it is in ‘Ready’ mode. During the time that that car is in ‘Ready’ mode, you may hear and feel the internal combustion engine kick in; this is a normal part of the self-charging process. You might be tempted to switch on the radio to pass the time, or turn on other systems, but bear in mind these will consume small amounts of electrical power so it is preferable to leave them off. Ensure the handbrake is on; there’s no need to go for a drive, although we must stress that this procedure should take place in a well-ventilated area – something to consider if you park your vehicle in a garage. What if my Toyota isn’t a hybrid? Our petrol and diesel cars only have a 12-volt battery, which provides the power to start the engine in addition to the other systems mentioned above. Regular start-up of the vehicle on conventional petrol and diesel engines needs approximately 20 minutes of running to put back into the battery what you remove on start up, so to maintain this battery we would suggest 60 minutes of running at least once a week. Is there anything else I need to do? Whether you own a hybrid or a Toyota equipped solely with an internal combustion engine, there are a few other easy car maintenance points that can ensure your Toyota hybrid remains healthy and happy during an enforced hibernation. Again, please adhere to the latest government advice regarding social distancing. Check the tyre pressures are fully inflated to the recommended level and top-up if necessary. It can be a good idea to repeat this process when you first drive your car after a long period of inactivity. Clean the car thoroughly inside and out. If you are storing your car in a garage, make sure the vehicle is completely dry before you put it away. If you do plan to store your car in a garage, ensure the chosen storage area offers plenty of ventilation. If the space is secure, you could consider opening one of the car’s windows a small way to ventilate the interior. If you do this, you might have to change your car alarm’s setting to prevent it setting off the intrusion sensor – please consult your car’s manual for more information. It can be beneficial to leave the vehicle with the parking brake disengaged to prevent the brakes from binding, but only do this if you are certain the car is on level terrain and isn’t going to move. Ensure the transmission is set to ‘P’ for park and place wedges or chocks, if you have them, under the wheels. If you have a 12V battery trickle charger, or a solar panel charger, and are confident using them, then these are a good option to keep the battery fully charged while the vehicle is stationary for a period of time. If your vehicle is equipped with smart entry and start but the system isn’t operated for a long time, a battery-saving function will automatically be activated to prevent the electronic key battery and the 12-volt battery from being discharged. Battery depletion in the key is minimised by stopping the electronic key from receiving radio waves. On many models equipped with this system, it is possible to manually put the key into battery-saving mode, so please consult your car’s handbook for more information. If you aren’t planning to drive your car for a long time, consider putting the smart key in a safe place and not carrying it around with you in your pocket. This will prevent the car from ‘waking up’ unnecessarily should you happen to walk near it in your garage or driveway. If the vehicle will be kept on private property (such as inside a garage) for the duration of its storage, you could consider applying for a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). This informs the DVLA that the car is off the road and you will receive a refund of any remaining full months of tax. However, you won’t be able to drive your car legally until you tax it again, so it is only advisable if you are positive you won’t use your car for a long time. You can read more information about how to SORN your car here.
  11. Steve has a detailed look at vehicle service books and how they're not only for getting stamped. For the most part vehicle service books are often a forgotten item buried at the bottom of a glovebox on a day to day basis, and which only sees daylight at service time or car buying/selling time. Vehicle Data A genuine manufacturer service book is used with the vehicle from the point of manufacture. within the book on the inside front cover of adjacent pages you should find the vehicles key data which includes: Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Model designation Engine code Gearbox code Paint Code Delivery Date Delivery dealers stamp Servicing Now without stating the obvious, the service book is to log any services the vehicle has carried out a garage. Once the work has been carried out the garage should stamp the book to confirm the work was completed. There is usually an array of tick boxes which the garage should tick depending on what work has been carried out or what has been inspected. some of the key boxes are: Oil filter air filter cambelt/waterpump pollen filter A line to note when the next service is due Occasionally a comments box if your service book does not have these boxes you might find it will have a tick boxes for minor, major, interim or long life services. Under the service section in your service book you should find what each of these services include. for example a minor service is an oil and oil filter change, whereas a major service includes oil, oil filter, air filter and pollen filter change. In the servicing chapter you will also find your servicing interval for your specific vehicle. For example the intervals could be 12,000 miles/1 year or 20,000 miles/1 year. There will also be information on when key components such as cambelts should be changed. For example it could be 5 years/120,000 miles which ever is soonest. The service section will also include other servicing items not related to the engine which include brake fluid changes (usualy recommended every 2 years) or gearbox oil changes. it goes without saying it is imperative to adhere to the recommended servicing schedule set out by the manufacturer so in order t keep your warranty valid, keeping the vehicle reliable and lastly for a higher resale value. Warranty It goes without saying that you need to keep a car serviced to keep the manufactures warranty valid but it goes further than that. Besides the mechanical warranty, the service book also includes a service record for bodywork which is usually found at the back part of the booklet. so in order to keep your anti perforation/paint warranty valid the dealership should carry out checks on it and sign it off similar to a normal service record. this is proof that the car bodywork is in good condition or if issues are found they are rectified accordingly. this service varies from manufacturer, but some do the checks free of charge whereas other manufacturers charge for this bodywork inspection. It is worth doing as it will help you if you find there is a manufacturing defect within the bodywork fit/finish or paint. Buying/selling When you are buying or selling a vehicle the service book is one of the most important documents as it proves whether or not the car has been maintained. However, it only offers a glimpse and should be backed up with the matching invoices from the garage which corollate with the stamp in the service book. If the service book is incomplete this can put off potential buyers or cost you money as buyers feel they are taking a great risk with a car that's not been serviced as per manufacturer recommendations.
  12. Steve takes a look at a small, yet vital component that every modern car has abd is crucial to smooth running of your engine. What is a Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor? A Mass Air Flow Sensor measures the flow of air entering the engine so inorder for the engine ECU to provide the correct amount of fuel when both the air and fuel mix within the cylinders. The MAF Sensor takes into account the quantity, quality abd temperature of the air to help with the correct amount of fuel. Thus, allowing the engine to run as smoothly as possible. Where can I find the MAF Sensor? The MAF sensor is located on your air intake system, often not far from your airbox and before the throttle body. There are two different types of MAF sensor as per the pictures, but they do the same job. Does it go Wrong? The short answer is yes, but when a MAF sensor starts to fail it will cause the vehicle's engine to run rough or have an erratic idle because the ECU cannot correctly determine how much fuel the engine needs to make the vehicle run correctly. It can also cause the engine to cut out when driving. Can it be cleaned? Yes it can be cleaned, but I would only recommend using MAF sensor cleaner as other cleaning products could damage the sensor. Be careful when you handle the MAF sensor as it is a delicate piece of kit. Is it easy to replace? Usually very easy to replace as the MAF sensor is screwed into the air intake system. Depending on the type of MAF fitted to your vehicle you may need to dismantle the air intake system, such as removing the airbox for example. This is a part that can be changed by someone with very little or no mechanical experience with a selection of conventional tools such as a screwdriver.
  13. Steve takes a look at the 4 towbar options available in the UK with the pros and cons of each, to help you choose the right one for you. Towbars, are a very useful commodity on cars, not only for towing a trailer, caravan or boat but they can also be used to mount cycle racks and add extra strength to a vehicle in the case of a rear end shunt. Here are the 4 most common towbar types available: Fixed Flange Towbar Pros: Often the cheapest towbar style. Can be used with a cycle carrier even when towing. Tow ball can be upgraded to be used with AL-KO stabiliser. Pin system can be installed for towing plant trailers or generators. Can be used with height adjustable couplings, spacers or drop plates to adjust the towing height or clearances. Can be fitted with a bumper protection plate. Can be fitted with a butterfly step on commercial vehicles. Cons: Can interfere with parking sensors Can look unsightly compared to other Towbar options Both tow ball and electrics can be seen at all times on the vehicle. Detachable Flange Towbar Pros: Can be used with a cycle carrier. Tow ball can be upgraded to be used with Al-Ko stabiliser. Pin system can be installed for towing plant trailers or generators. When detached the tow ball won't affect parking sensors Cons: Detachable towbars are more expensive than their fixed counterparts. If you loose the neck attachment they are often expensive to replace. Fixed Swan Neck Towbar Pros: Look more sleek than the flange type towbar. Can be used with towbar mounted cycle carriers. Becoming increasingly popular both here and in Europe. Compatible with stabilisers. Less likely to interfere with parking sensors. Cons: More expensive than a flange type towbar. Cannot use cycle carriers whilst towing. Cannot fit couplings, steps or height adjusters on all variants of swan neck towbars. Detachable Swan Neck Towbar Pros: Can be removed making the vehicle appear to not have a towbar. When removed it will not affect rear parking sensors. Look more sleek than the flange type towbar. Can be used with towbar mounted cycle carriers. Becoming increasingly popular both here and in Europe. Compatible with stabilisers. Lock into place to prevent it from being stolen. Cons: Usually the most expensive type of towbar. Height cannot be adjusted. Tow balls cannot be changed. If you loose the neck they are expensive to replace. Less common Towbar types: Automatic Vertical Detachable Towbar This type of towbar allows the neck to be inserted vertically but when removed makes the towbar invisible. When installed it locks into place to prevent theft. Compact Detachable Towbars Made by Westfalia this type of towbar neck fits horizontally and also locks into place. Electric Swivelling Towbar Also made by Westfalia this type of towbar is electronically adjusted from inside the car. Automatic Horizontal Detachable Towbar Just like the vertical detachable towbar this is also invisible when the neck is removed and as the name suggests it's inserted horizontally. Pin System and Nut System Towbars Both are similar to a normal detachable towbar except being locked into place with a pin or but as apposed to a key. Overview I'm sure you'll agree there's a wide selection of towbars available to cater for all uses and budgets and I hope I've made it clearer for you when choosing your next towbar.
  14. Steve takes a look at Diesel Particulate Filters. Diesel Particulate Filters or DPF for short has become a dreaded talking point for diesel car owners in recent years, so what are they, how do they go wrong, and how can you prevent your DPF from failing. What is a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF)? The DPF can be found on vehicles made from 2009 onwards which come under Euro 5 emissions standards. Its purpose is to reduce soot deposits from entering the atmosphere from the cars exhaust system. The DPF collects the soot within the filter and when it is at least 45% full the car will automatically carry out what is known as a regeneration of the DPF. The regeneration uses the heat from the engine/exhaust system to burn the soot, thus preventing it from entering the atmosphere. You will know when a regeneration is taking place as you may experience a higher idling speed, vehicle fans running, lower MPG or a burning smell from the exhaust. Where can I find the DPF? The DPF is located underneath the car on the exhaust system and looks like a cannister as per the picture below. Does it go wrong? The DPF can become clogged with soot and eventually stops working. this is often caused by the car not being used for long journeys which allow the engine to get up to full operating temperature, such as only being used for town driving only or short commutes of 10 miles or less. It is therefore important that a diesel car gets a good motorway run at least once a week to allow the engine to get to operating temperature so it can carry out a DPF regeneration. if the DPF has become blocked your car may develop a loss of power or go into limp mode as well as an engine management light illuminating on the dash. Picture below shows what the DPF light on most vehicles looks like. Can it be cleaned? yes it can and can be done in four ways, firstly by giving your car a good motorway run at least once a week for 30 minutes making sure it reaches full operating temperature. This form of regeneration is known as a passive regeneration. However your vehicle may do an active regeneration which involves the car pumping fuel into the engine thus increasing the heat of the exhaust and ultimately burning off the soot. Secondly, running DPF cleaning additives in your fuel to help keep it clear. The third way is getting a mobile DPF cleaning specialist to come and do a forced regeneration and clean of the DPF. The forth way is more time consuming and requires the DPF to be dismantled and physically cleaned. Is it easy to replace? The replacement of a DPF is a time consuming job but can be done by an experienced DIYer. Alternatively a garage can replace your DPF but be warned, the bills can run well over £1000 dependent on manufacturer. Also be aware that removing the DPF completely is illegal and fines can be upto £1000, plus it will void your insurance/MOT.
  15. Steve takes a look at Exhaust Gas Recirculation Coolers. Exhaust Gas Recirculation Coolers and valve or EGR for short has become a dreaded talking point for diesel car owners in recent years, so what are they, how do they go wrong, and how can you prevent your EGR from failing? What is an EGR Cooler? It's purpose is to cool the exhaust gasses by passing it through cool air similar to a radiator. After being cooled the exhaust gasses a recirculated to the engine to cool the cylinders this reduces stress on the head gasket and exhaust valves which ultimately reduces the nitrous oxide emissions on diesel engines. Where Can I find the EGR Cooler EGR coolers are located directly on the engine and connected to the exhaust system. Does it go wrong? The short answer is yes, and can do so in various ways. 1. The gaskets can fail causing exhaust leaks. 2. The EGR can become blocked with carbon deposits which flow through it along with the gases thus preventing the gases from flowing properly. This can then cause the engine to overheat. 3. Engine Management Light comes on detecting fault 1 or 2 or because the EGR has another issue that may have caused the engine into limp mode. 4. Poor fuel economy because the cooler can't work efficiently. 5. Poor throttle response, again because the EGR is blocked. 6. Loss of coolant. 7. White smoke from the exhaust. Can it be cleaned? Yes it can but be warned it's a tedious job, and no guarantee it will be 100% effective at resolving the issue. But could save you thousands of it does! Is it easy to replace? The replacement of an EGR is a time-consuming job but can be done by an experienced DIYer. Alternatively, a garage can replace your DPF but be warned, the bills can run well over £1000 depending on the manufacturer. There are EGR delete kits available but, be aware that removing the EGR completely is currently a grey area in law, and they could make this illegal similar to DPF removal due to potentially increased emissions. If it is found to affect your car emissions for the worse then this will void your insurance/MOT.
  16. Steve takes a look at the development of car suspension and the most common types found on vehicles. Leaf Springs Also known as cart springs, leaf sprung suspension comprises of a layer of rectangular metal bars, bent and attached at both ends to provide a spring effect as per the diagram above. It is very rudimentary yet durable and most commonly seen on pickup trucks or vans. This is partly due to increase the carrying weight of the vehicle but predominantly to help the vehicle achieve a cheaper tax class in certain counties. The drawback of this suspension is that it does not offer the same ride comfort of that as springs and damper suspension. Furthermore, the leaf springs can split due to wear and tear caused by age or corrosion. McPherson front Struts McPherson Strut suspension Has been the common suspension choice for manufacturers since the late 1960s. Comprising of the spring around a damper and fitted together within a unit which is bolted directly to the car it offers both good ride characteristics as well as reduced repair costs as the unit can be removed from the vehicle very efficiently. When this suspension is used on the front of vehicles the rear often comprises of a spring and damper which are fitted separately to one another band attached to the rear wheels and axle. As the suspension wears out, the springs can crack or snap due to corrosion and the dampers can start to leak hydraulic fluid. You can tell if a spring has snapped as the car will be lower to the ground on the side with the broken spring. Leaking dampers can affect the handling of the vehicle. Air Suspension Commonly used on commercial vehicles, executive SUVs, modified cars, 4x4 or executive saloon/estate cars air suspension comprises of 4 individual rubber airbags as opposed to springs and dampers. Depending on the vehicle it may be supported by additional dampers, mainly on estate cars or those designed for towing or carrying extra load capacity. The beauty of air suspension is that the driver can adjust the ride height of the vehicle at a touch of button, either to lower or raise the vehicle height depending on road conditions. The system works by compressed air being pumped into the airbags to improve ride comfort or adjust ride height. However, air suspension can be very complex and less durable than other types of suspension. Thus, meaning, that repair bills are often greater and can run over thousands of pounds to repair. You can often tell if there's a problem with your air suspension as the car will sit low to the ground or may not adjust its ride height. If it fails you will normally get a warning message on the dash. Hydropneumatic /Hydrolastic Suspension This used to be commonly found on Citroen's, Rolls Royce's and the occasional British Leyland car such as the Princess this suspension setup uses a special hydraulic fluid to control the ride comfort and height of the vehicle. The system would often give a very smooth ride, likened to being on a magic carpet but could also be adjusted to give superb cornering abilities as found on the Citroen Xantia Activa family car. It allowed the Xantia to out-manoeuvre a Porsche 911 from the same era. The difference between the two is that hydropneumatic spheres use a hydraulic fluid whereas hydrolastic suspension uses a gas in the spheres. Despite it's fantastic qualities of both systems, they are prone to failing by leaks developing in the system or the spheres failing and resulting in large repair bills. Article written by SteveQ
  17. What is an alternator? A car alternator converts mechanical energy into electricity, which is then used to charge the vehicles battery and help run vehicle electrical systems whilst the engine is running. Within the alternator is a rotating magnetic field where alternating current passes through a rectifier to be converted into direct current which allows a consistent voltage to be passed through the cars electrical system and battery terminals. To support the alternator is a volt regulator which monitors the electrical current passing around the vehicle and on modern vehicles can be found within the ECU. Where is an alternator located? The alternator is located in the engine bay connected to a belt driven by the engine. Does it go wrong? Yes, they do go wrong which can manifest itself in various ways You find your car has a dead battery which is caused by the alternator not charging the battery when driving The car struggling to start due to the battery being weak due to not being charged by the alternator whilst driving. Whilst driving a red battery light may appear on the dash to indicate an issue with the battery charging system. Whilst driving with lights on you will find them getting progressively dimmer. Electrical systems such as electric windows or locks may start to work intermittently or stop working completely. Funny engine noises. if the bearings within an alternator start to fail they can cause it to make unusual noises or become louder in its operation. Is it easy to replace? Before replacing the alternator the first thing you should do is have it tested to see whether it s producing enough electricity for it to power the vehicle. if it has failed then replacing it is your only option. Dependent on your skill level this is a job that can be done at home and will reguire you to: Disconnect the battery Locate the alternator and jack the vehicle up for access if required. Unclip the electrical connector attached to the alternator. Undo the bolts holding the alternator in place along with removing the belt. Refitting in the reverse order. Hope you found this guide useful. Let us know in the comments section. Article written by SteveQ
  18. What is a starter motor? As it sounds, the starter motors function is designed to assist in firing up the engine. when the key is turned this sends a message to the alternator and battery, which sends DC current electrical signal to the starter motor. The starter motor then activates a pinion with a mesh (cog), which engages with the flywheel thus turning the engine over which ultimately allows the car to start and run under its own power. Where is the starter motor located? The starter motor is located near to where the engine and gearbox meet, which is often quite low down in the car and can be recognised by being cylindrical in shape with another cylinder on top. Does it go wrong? I failing starter motor can manifest itself in various ways: Starter motor completely burnt out often caused by low voltage or persistent turning of the key when engine is either running or failing to start. Low voltage from the battery preventing it to engage properly. Corroded or broken terminals or wiring in the electrical system preventing the electrical connection passing to the starter motor efficiently. Sticking key switch Faulty neutral safety switch Is it easy to replace? In most cases it can be replaced fairly easily a competent DIYer and requires you to: Disconnect the battery Locate the starter motor Unclip the wiring Unbolt it from the vehicle Refit in the reverse sequence. I hope you have found this guide useful, please let us know by leaving a comment below. Article written by SteveQ
  19. Steve takes a look at another modern safety innovation the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). What is the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System? The TPMS includes 4 individual sensors mounted inside the wheel which constantly monitor the air pressure within each tyre of the vehicle. If there is a loss of air pressure in any of the wheels, the driver will be alerted by a warning on the dashboard that this loss of air pressure has been detected. Dependent on manufacture or age of vehicle some vehicles can tell you on the dash which tyre and PSI its on. This also depends on the type of system fitted to your vehicle and there are currently two types. Indirect monitoring This system works by having the sensors monitor the diameter of each wheel to determine if one of them is under inflated. If they recognise a change they will alert the driver who then will have to check each tyres pressures to determine which wheel is affected (unless obvious), then inflate the tyres and reset the system. Direct monitoring. On this system each wheel has a sensor on each tyre valve which monitors the tyre pressures in real time allowing the driver to check them even when driving. Once this system detects a tyre with a low pressure it will alert the drive to which tyre is affected and what pressure it is currently on. This allows the driver to only focus in reflating the affected tyre. Where is the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System located? One sensor is situated on the inside of each wheel. To determine the correct tyre pressures for your vehicle there will be a sticker similar to the one below on the B pillar, or on the inside of the fuel filler cap which will tell you what the pressures should be for your vehicle. It can also be found in your owners handbook. Does it go wrong? Yes, If there is a fault with the sensors a message will appear on the dash to alert the driver and they can go wrong in various ways: Through age/wear and tear The sensors batteries going flat which again can be due to age. Accidently getting broken during tyre changes. This is the symbol that will appear on the dash. Is it easy to replace? Thankfully the sensors are easy and often cheap to replace. Obviously the sensors don't replace the need to check your tyres pressures manually but act rather as a drive aid. I hope you've found this guide useful Please leave a comment to let us know your opinions. Article written by SteveQ
  20. Everybody knows that brake discs help stop your vehicle as and when required, but did you know there are different types of discs available offering varying degrees of stopping efficiency. Most brake discs are made of iron and sit within a rotating spindle and work by converting kinetic energy (speed) into friction (heat) when the brake pads are applied to the discs. Disc brakes where introduced to vehicles due to their improved stopping potential and ability to be cooled a lot more efficiently by being exposed compared to drum brakes which were more restrictive and were more likely to suffer from brake fade. Here's a run through of the different types: Solid Brake Disc These solid iron discs are flat/smooth and are often found on smaller/lighter economy vehicles or older cars due to being cheap to replace and adequacy for stopping power. However, under excessive use the heat build up can cause the discs to warp which can be felt as a judder through the brake pedal. Vented Brake Disc This type of disc is also smooth in appearance but are vented in the centre thus improving the cooling ability of the brake disc and helping provide improved and consistent stopping power. Vented discs are currently the most popular type found on most modern vehicles and generally very reliable. Drilled Brake Disc As the name suggests these discs are not only vented, but also drilled to improve cooling and often found on modified or performance vehicles. Even though braking performance is greatly improved, these discs can fail by cracking around the drill holes due to excessive heat or over a long duration of use due to the fact the disc can contain less amount of heat over the surface area due to there being less metal to absorb heat. They also have the added benefit of being lighter which can help shorten the vehicles stopping distance. Grooved Brake Disc Similar to drilled discs, grooved discs vent heat away from the discs via the grooves and are also found on modified or performance vehicles but are often noisier than other types of discs and have a habit of wearing brake pads more often. Drilled & Grooved combination Brake Disc As the name suggests this type of disc combines both benefits/disadvantages of both drilled discs and grooved discs and are found on modified, performance or race vehicles. Waved Edge Brake Disc Compared to all other types of brake discs which are cylindrical, this type of brake disc has a waved edge which saves weight whilst not hampering stopping potential and is the most modern of brake disc design. Allegedly, they also improve cooling of the disc and are found on performance cars. Dimpled Brake Disc This type of disc also does not have a flat surface and is designed to help reduce heat whilst not compromising the integrity of the disc. Looking very similar to drilled discs, except the drill hasn't gone through the whole disc. I hope you've found this guide useful. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Article written by Steve Q
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  22. Criminals sell a cloned used car, steal it back and repeat The UK’s oldest specialist motor insurance loss adjuster, Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA), has reported a worrying increase in the used car scam known as ‘the resteal’, particularly in the North of England. The con sees an unsuspecting consumer purchasing a cloned vehicle, only to have it stolen within days by the very people who sold it to them. The criminals then move on to their next victim and repeat the dishonest trick using the same car, with the identity changed yet again. Philip Swift, a former detective and now managing director of CMA, commented: “The resteal involves a combination of theft and fraud repeated in rapid succession to devastating effect. “We live in an age where technology enables a vehicle masquerading as another (same number plate, apparently correct paperwork etc) to be discovered with relative ease. The criminals know this, so they use fake identities and change their addresses frequently. These unscrupulous crooks leave havoc in their wake, for both the innocent purchasers and the owner of the legitimate vehicle whose identity has been replicated. The former will have to explain to their insurance company that their new car has been stolen, which immediately sets alarm bells ringing. The latter might be merrily driving along when they are stopped and arrested – because the police understandably, though incorrectly, believe they have found a stolen car; in fact, they have detained a victim of vehicle identity theft. “From the scammers’ perspective, the resteal has many advantages. They are familiar with the car and the identity points which need changing, they have already duped at least one buyer, and they have so far avoided the vehicle being scrutinised in any great depth. Having kept a key back, or obtained a duplicate pre-sale, they have clear opportunity and motive to nick the vehicle back again. This is where we at CMA intervene. Our bespoke CHandler software automatically flags anything unusual linked to all vehicle registration marks (VRMs) we are monitoring. Our highly trained staff are immediately alerted to suspicious activity and will quickly inform the relevant parties. “With the recent rise in resteal incidents, my advice for used car buyers is to please be extra vigilant and apply these tips: 1) If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, 2) Use official finance channels, never pay cash, 3) Invest in a full vehicle provenance check prior to purchase, 4) Consider fitting a tracking device, and 5) Have your car key reprogrammed by a main dealer, just as you would change the locks when moving into a new house.”
  23. Basic Checks for Engines Engine Oil - is the oil at the correct level? Does the oil smell excessively of fuel? Basic Checks for Electrics Battery - has the battery got sufficient power? Connections - are the battery terminals tight and free of corrosion? Basic Checks for Tyres and Wheels Tyres - are the pressures correct? Condition - are the tyres perished or have bulges? Basic Checks for Suspension Suspension - are the joints making any noises?
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