Preparing Your Car for Winter

By Permalink

Modern cars are far more reliable than they used to be, but they are not immune from things going wrong, especially if essential checks are neglected. As the nights draw in and the temperature drops we should remind themselves of how to drive safely in wet and icy conditions.

During Winter recovery companies are at their busiest. These days, we need them more than ever. Unless you have a laptop and the right diagnostic equipment on hand there is precious little chance of you being able to solve a problem yourself at the roadside. So if you don’t have breakdown cover, take a look here for some unbiased customer reviews to find the best provider. You are less likely to need them if you run through the following checks.

1) Service due?

Whether you’ve been meaning to get the car serviced for a while or it’s not quite due yet but soon will be, get it done before winter takes hold. Half the problems that manifest on cars could have been prevented by some simple maintenance. Many garages offer free winter checks, so you might as well take advantage and book the car in now.

2) Check the battery

In days gone by, you would get plenty of advance warning that a battery was on its way out, with the engine cranking slowly first thing on a cold morning. Today, they tend to die suddenly, dramatically and completely, usually at the most inopportune moment. If the battery is more than three years old, get it checked for free and replace if necessary.

3) Check the tyres

As temperatures drop towards zero, road-holding gets tougher, and a good set of tyres could spell the difference between a close call and a visit to hospital – or worse. Check the tread and condition, or pop into your local tyre centre and they will be happy to check them for you.

4) Top up the antifreeze

We’ve all been guilty of topping up the coolant with water during summer rather than shelling out for summer coolant. That’s not a problem as far as it goes, but it does mean the antifreeze gets diluted, so now is the time to put a litre or two in there to get the concentration back up to 50/50.

5) And the screenwash

Admit it, we are even worse about screenwash. If this freezes and you can’t squirt the windscreen, it can easily lead to disaster, so fill up with proper screenwash. It’s not expensive and it could save your life.

6) See and be seen

When the gritters start to do their thing, the roads become full of filthy spray that can cover your lights, front and rear. Not only does this reduce your night vision, it also means other road users can’t see you. Give your lights a clean prior to setting out, particularly at night. While you are doing so, also make sure the number plates are not coated in grime – you could be landed with a £1,000 fine if the police can’t read them.

Continue Reading…

10 reasons why your business is losing money

By Permalink

There’s no doubt that getting up and running with a new business can be very exciting. You are your own boss and that can give you a lot of freedom. However, if you are inexperienced with the corporate world, your enthusiasm could soon fade as the costs start stacking up. Many of those costs, you might not even have foreseen. Perhaps what had started as just a trickle of expenses has, unexpectedly quickly, ballooned into something much more serious. How you use vehicles for business purposes could be to blame – so, let’s look more closely at how you can control these costs better.

Inefficient use of fuel

Your vehicles are incapable of running without fuel, making it seem very necessary to spend some of your precious revenue on. However, you might not be maximising the efficiency of that fuel. Alec Lee, operations manager at small-tours firm Rabbie’s, made a major admission to The Guardian.

He said that training in more energy-efficient driving helped his firm to save money on fuel.Workers were “also decreasing the general wear and tear on the vehicle” – which, in the longer term, could help Rabbie’s reduce its necessity of paying for costly repairs.

Failure to regularly audit your vehicles

Spending time carrying out this kind of audit can help you see where cash might be being haemorrhaged, advises Grant Boardman, Fleet Alliance’s regional sales director.

Boardman, whose firm keeps SMEs supplied with fleet management services, explains: “It’s about understanding the whole-life costs of a vehicle”. That means, he adds: “Not just looking at the purchase or hire price, but other consequential factors over the next three or four years.”

Leasing commercial vehicles from a single provider

Does your company routinely hire commercial vehicles, like vans, from the same provider? Then you are making what Boardman has branded a “classic mistake”.

What you should instead do, he says, is look for a combination of providers capable of offering what you need – and all at what adds up to the lowest possible overall price. He also notes that, in doing so, you should especially strongly consider lease costs and fuel consumption.

Not paying attention to company cars’ CO2 emissions

You might often use cars in running your business; cars put to this purpose can be succinctly referred to as company cars. If you indeed utilise cars in this manner, then check, before you decide to buy any such vehicle, how much it will produce in CO2 emissions on the road.

This is crucial as, for discerning how much tax should be payable on different cars, the government puts these cars into different “emission bands”. The less CO2 emissions a car is responsible for, the better its CO2 rating can be and so the less tax you could need to pay on this vehicle.

Improper management of your fleet

If you have an entire fleet of vehicles at your company’s disposal, how is that fleet being managed? If the company is directly handling those affairs, you might want to rethink that strategy.

John Hargreaves, Kia’s head of fleet and remarketing, has noted that a vehicle fleet poses a “significant overhead” for many businesses. That fleet “should be managed professionally, whether by a dedicated person within the company or by outsourcing to a specialist vehicle management company,” headded.

Not taking advantage of telematics for cost-cutting

You might have seen or heard the word “telematics” occasionally popping up in discussions about how money can be saved on corporate vehicles. However, what does it actually mean?

It is commonly used as shorthand for “vehicle tracking systems”, as they are more formally called. Jenny Powley, who has worked at the RAC as a sales director for corporate partnerships, has recommended such systems that “collect data on the vehicle and give business owners a much better picture of wear and tear, enabling them to take cost-effective preventative measures.”

Not using fuel cards

These payment cards are available from various firms, the RAC included, and can help you lower your fuel bills. Furthermore, as Powley points out, when a business owner uses them, they receive “regular reports and can see exactly what is spent, rather than having drivers submit receipts”.

Taking out vehicle insurance for longer than is necessary

Your company’s vehicle needs might actually be very low. For instance, they could be limited to requiring simply a van for use in transporting items to a new office or an even more modest car for occasional times that you want to attend a trade show or team bonding event.

That’s fine, but it doesn’t take away from the need to check that you have insurance for a vehicle before you use it. In the UK, driving without insurance can lead to you incurring a massive fine and other penalties. However, a standard insurance policy lasting a year or more can be much costlier than short term car insurance which you could source through UK broker Call Wiser.

Trying to meet vehicle costs by pricing products too highly

You might reason that you need to price your company’s products at a particular – probably relatively high – level because you have hefty costs to pay in keeping vehicles running.

However, advice posted by Forbes insists on the need to strike a middle ground when pricing products. Set prices excessively high and too many people could be put off. Nonetheless, on the other hand, keeping prices overly low could see you struggling to achieve a profit.

Whatever prices you settle on, consider that trimming those vehicle costs – by, for instance, using remedies listed in this article –could be a better strategy than keeping your prices high.

Reluctance to invest in vehicles necessary for growth

One reason why we are eager to provide advice on how to cut costs of running vehicles is that paying those costs could, ultimately, be necessary for cultivating your company’s growth.

Therefore, if you have so far resisted drawing extensively on automotive assistance for your own company, this could help explain why it is financially struggling. Avoid the false economy!

Continue Reading…

How to ensure your business vehicles pass their MOT

By Permalink

Want to ensure your vehicles pass their MOT? Worried about your business if your vehicles fail? Then read on to discover our hints and tips for making sure your vehicles pass their MOT.

Most important of all is to ensure you stay on top of vehicle maintenance. Don’t leave things to the last minute; keep an eye on your vehicles all year round. Here are a few things to look out for:

Checks to undertake

Look at the wheels and tyres of your vehicles and ensure they are of a suitable type and size.  Also, examine the tyres to check that the treads are still deep enough to be legal. Depending on the size of your business vehicles the required depth may differ, but for cars and vans its usually 1.6mm. A quick rule of thumb is to slot a 20 pence piece into the tyre tread, if the outer rim is hidden from view, then the depth is sufficient. Just remember this has to be the case across the central three-quarters of the tyre and all the way around. There’s lots of advice about tyre safety available online if you need it.

Lights, wipers, action

Next, look to your lights, all of which need to be working correctly and don’t forget to check the indicators too. An un-obscured view of the road is, of course, crucial, so check that the windscreen wipers are working and that there is nothing masking your view through the windscreens. Check the condition of your windscreens too, as cracks or chips could result in a MOT fail.

Don’t forget that your registration plates must be clear to view and securely in place, so give them a wipe and a check. Moreover, to pass their MOT tests the structure of your vehicles must be in reasonable condition, with no obvious damage or corrosion, including the doors, which should open and close firmly. In addition, check all of the vehicles’ fluids are topped up, including windscreen washer, oil and brake fluid. If the mechanics conducting your MOT tests can’t undertake the required emissions tests, your vehicles will fail.

Speed, horn, seats

Inside your vehicles check that there are no warning lights operating (if there are, check them out and resolve any problems before your MOT). Also, confirm the speedometers are operating, that the horns can emit an appropriate sound and that all of the required mirrors are present and positioned correctly. In addition, check the seating is secure and that all seatbelts are in good repair and functioning correctly. This list is not exhaustive, but it’s a handy overview of elements to check before your vehicles head off for their MOT.

Services and maintenance

The most significant thing you can do to ensure your vehicles pass their MOTs is to keep their services up-to-date, don’t scrimp on them. If you’re concerned about the maintenance of your business vehicles, one option is to look into putting a maintenance contract in place, but for a small business, this is not likely to be financially viable. However, you do have another option.

Vehicle maintenance a worry?

Don’t want the burden of maintenance? Then consider leasing vehicles instead, and you’ll never have to worry about maintenance again. Having reliable vehicles is one important step towards securing the future of your business so that you can count on your vehicles, and your customers can count on you. Lease business vehicles and you’ll have the best chance of being where you need to be on time.  Find a van leasing company so that you can get out on the road in a vehicle fit for your business.

Continue Reading…

10 Tips to Keep Your Car Engine in Perfect Condition

By Permalink

Automotive technology is constantly improving and modern cars are often capable of clocking up more miles than could ever have been dreamt of in the past coupled with ever-increasing service intervals. It almost seems as though we can now simply forget about engine maintenance. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth and keeping an engine in perfect working order requires rather more than good luck! There are a few simple measures that go a long way towards keeping the engine running well, lasting longer and with reduced risk of breakdown.

  1. Frequently Check Oil Levels – This may sound absurdly obvious but it is surprising how many drivers fail to carry out this most basic of all checks. Many cars offer electronic checks of oil levels but these are often wildly inaccurate and only give warning at a very low level. There is no substitute for regular checks on the dipstick.

  2. Change Oil Frequently – The manufacturer’s recommended period between oil changes should be regarded as an absolute maximum figure. Any car subjected to many short journeys or extended periods of high-speed driving will benefit from more frequent changes.

  3. Use Good Quality Oil – Car manufacturers invariably specify suitable grades of oil but even cars for which the lowlier grades are said to suffice will benefit from the use of synthetic or semi-synthetic oils which maintain their viscosity over a wide range of temperatures.

  4. Check Coolant Levels – This is another check that is often overlooked until it is too late. Electronic monitoring of levels is unreliable and waiting until the system overheats often means that major damage has already been done. Obviously, antifreeze should be of the correct concentration and type. Under no circumstances should different types be mixed.

  5. Check the Condition of Belts – Drive belts are an unavoidable feature of car engines powering auxiliary items such as alternators, power steering or air-con. A simple visual inspection and the renewal of any showing signs of wear can help to avoid a future breakdown. For those engines employing belt-driven camshafts, cam-belt failure can be catastrophic. Manufacturers usually specify cam-belt replacement intervals but many breakages still occur within these periods so the best recommendation is to change these belts much more frequently possibly at half of the quoted recommended mileage.

  6. Change Filters Regularly – Oil and air filters lose inefficiency as they are used and so it is essential to change them regularly.

  7. Use the Correct Grade of Fuel – Many cars are designed to run on standard grades of petrol and using a higher octane fuel offers no advantages. Other cars may require a high octane fuel and a lower grade can potentially cause problems such as pre-ignition and overheating. Many others are able to utilise different grades with no risk of damage in which case the higher octane fuels usually offer better performance and efficiency.

  8. Do Not Disregard Engine Warnings – Almost all cars feature a system of on-board diagnostics and any fault usually results in the illumination of a dashboard display lamp. Many drivers regard these warnings as a nuisance and there can be a tendency to ignore them especially when they display intermittently. This is folly and any warning messages must be investigated.

  9. Check for Fluid Leaks – A visual check of the engine compartment should be made for any signs of leaks. Any fluid leak is potentially very serious and should be remedied without delay. Any signs of coolant, lubricant, fuel or hydraulic fluid could all be warnings of impending disaster. Perhaps the only insignificant fluid leak is the dripping of condensation from an air-conditioning system.

  10. Engine-Friendly Driving – Adopting a considerate driving style can reap benefits in terms of running costs and engine longevity. Engines should be treated carefully when cold and warmed up by driving gently rather than by idling for a long period.

There is a well-known adage of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” but this should never form the basis of a maintenance schedule. You certainly would not want your favourite airline to adopt such a policy so why should any motorist? If you can maintain your car correctly then you have the option to browse used cars for sale as well as new ones, in safe knowledge you are able to keep it ticking over in a healty and well maintained way.

Continue Reading…

How to Reduce Tyre Overloading

By Permalink

We love travelling in cars, vans and motorhomes for the freedom and comfort they give us. And we love the fact we can bring lots of things along. But when we pack our lives into our cars or load the caravan for a trip, we often forget to think about how much additional weight we are adding. Tyres can’t bear unlimited weight! Just because your van has enough space to fit that bike, boat, and a cooler packed with food doesn’t mean your tyres can cope with the task. The same applies to an SUV towing a trailer or a car with a roof box piled high for a road trip.

For a safe trip, it is crucial not to overload your vehicle. It is very important to adjust your tyre pressure depending on the weight you have added. We’ll tell how to avoid overloading tyres when on a long trip.

Why is overloading dangerous?

The tyre is doing very hard work supporting the total weight of the vehicle and withstanding deformations, speed, heat and incredible forces. Heat causes exfoliation and separation of tread pieces as well as sidewall cords damage that can progress even after the extra load is removed. If your vehicle is overloaded then these forces are multiplied. Every tyre has a specific weight limit you shouldn’t exceed or it will simply fail – think about what will happen if you experience a blow at in your hugely overloaded car at high speed on a busy motorway.

Consistently using tyres on the top of their weight limit degrades tyres the same as overloading them for a short time. If a tyre has already been underinflated or damaged, even a small extra load can lead to a blowout.

How can overloading be avoided?

1. Know your limits. At first, you need to find out how much weight your tyres need to support. This information can be found in your cars owner’s manual or on the sticker placed on the driver’s doorjamb. Then check the tyre’s maximum load capacity on its sidewall. It must be equal to or more than the total load you are going to bring along. In this case, your tyres must be inflated to their maximum pressure (this information can also be found in the owner’s manual), which MUSTN’T be exceeded. Let’s assume that information on the tyre’s sidewall says “Max 2,000 lb @ 35 psi”. It means that the tyre can carry the maximum of 2,000 pounds being inflated to no more than 35 pounds per square inch. It also means that, once your car has 4 tyres, the total weight of the car and baggage mustn’t exceed 8,000 pounds.

If in doubt refer to Tyresafe’s car tyre or caravan tyre pressure calculators.

2. Choose tyres accordingly. If you need to haul heavy loads, consider changing your tyres for another set with the same size but a higher load capacity or slightly larger tyres. Consult a tyre specialist before opting for larger tyres. Another solution is to increase pressure in tyres if their maximum pressure limit allows doing so. For your RV, use only caravan tyres that match your owner manual’s specifications.
3. Choose motorhome wisely. If you are going to rent a recreational vehicle, do it with your prospective load in mind. Modern RVs vary in design, size, and loading capacity. Some of them have equipment for carrying a certain type of cargo like a motorcycle, bikes, or a boat.

Continue Reading…

dd