Preparation For Taking Your Car Off The Road

27 Jul

If you are forced to leave your car inactive for a long period of time, it is necessary to do a few things to ensure it is in good working order when you return. What you need to do varies depending on how long you intend on leaving the car unused. Below, we have three different sections: Less than a month, 1-3 months and over 3 months.

6 Important Tips

  1. Unless you are aware of the radio code, never remove a battery lead.
  2. Long-term battery disconnection can seriously impact the function of on-board computers. Contact the manufacturer or look at your handbook if this happens.
  3. Never allow plastic covers to stay on the paintwork as this can cause damage.
  4. Write down what you have done to the car and leave a note inside as a reminder when you go to drive it again.
  5. A commercial storage company is probably the best option for long-term storage or if you own a high value vehicle.
  6. If you have a friend who can drive, perhaps you can ask them to drive the vehicle a couple of times a month. Make sure tax, insurance and MOT are in order if you elect to do this.

Less Than One Month

You should consider purchasing a ‘smart charger’ as it will only charge the battery as and when the vehicle needs it. You can then leave the smart charger connected in the knowledge it will not overcharge your car.

Be sure to have an expert check the anti-freeze concentration; this is essential during the colder times of the year.

If you are parked off-road, chock the wheels securely and keep the handbrake on.

If the car is in safe and secure storage, leave the windows slightly open for the purposes of ventilation.

Spray unpainted metal parts of the vehicle with WD40 to reduce the risk of corrosion but avoid spraying trim or rubber.

1-3 Months

You should follow all of the above advice plus the following:

Give the vehicle a thorough cleaning and get rid of mud beneath the wheel arches with a hose. Ensure the vehicle is dry when stored and give it a polish as well.

Remove carpets and dry them thoroughly if you believe dampness is a problem.

Make sure the drain holes in sills, bulkhead/heater and doors are unblocked.

Ensure the wiper arm blades do not touch the glass.

Contact your insurer and see if you can get a reduction on your quote. This will probably only be a possibility with third party fire & theft.

Always make sure there is a lot of ventilation if your car is in storage.

A dehumidifier is another option and might be a better choice than ventilation as long as it is done in a sealed storage area. Bear in mind a dehumidifier will not work below 4 degrees Celsius. You don’t have to worry about corrosion in cold weather as long as your vehicle is dry and doesn’t have any road salt.

3 Months+

As well as following all of the above advice, you need to do the following:

Have an ‘oil and filter’ service carried out.

Auxiliary drive belts; air conditioning, power steering and alternator, should be slackened but do not do the same with your camshaft drive belt.

Find a good lock oil and lubricate the vehicle’s locks.

Use WD40 under the bonnet, under the wings and metal in and around the boot and the battery box.

Keep the wheels off the ground and ensure the tyres are not stressed by raising the vehicle onto stands or blocks.

Failing that, remove the wheels and keep them flat in a cool and dark place.


Typically, you can expect petrol to remain fresh in any stored container for around 12 months but if it is exposed to the atmosphere it can begin degrading in 4 weeks. This makes starting your vehicle harder because the fuel’s octane is lowered due to the more volatile fractions evaporating. It will also oxidise and the result is varnish deposits and gum on your fuel system’s components.

Diesel will also be okay if stored in a container for 12 months but over longer periods of time it too will oxidise and this leads to problems like those described above; the result is blocked filters when you try to run the engine again. Remember that diesel bought in winter will have protection against temperatures as low as -15 Celsius whereas diesel bought in summer will not have this protection.

Fuel Tank

It is always best to have a full tank of fuel if you are not using the vehicle for more than a month because it reduces the amount of space water has to condense. Condensation in the fuel tank can cause corrosion and this could damage the lining of the tank. In rare cases, phase separation can cause water and Ethanol to separate and fall to the bottom of the tank. It can also lead to fungal and bacterial growth in the diesel; you may have to completely empty and clean the tank to get rid of it.

A fuel stabiliser additive is a good choice if your vehicle is being stored for a long time. Stabilisers are common in the gardening world to keep machinery that isn’t being used for long periods in good shape.

Starting Your Car After It Hasn’t Be Used In A Long Time

This depends on how well the car was checked before storage:

Check the pressure of the tyres.

Make sure nothing is nesting beneath the bonnet and check for signs of anything chewing through the pipes or hoses.

If you loosened any drive belts, tighten them.

Don’t start the car until all fluid levels have been checked.

If you’re lucky, there won’t be too much stale fuel. You need fresh fuel to get to the engine and start the vehicle.

Take out the plugs and turn over the engine to reduce the engine’s load as the oil is being redistributed.

Check all brake operation (this includes the handbrake) as the brakes may be seized if you left the handbrake on in storage. Engage a gear and drive slowly or else you may have to dismantle.

Once you get the get up and running, go to a garage for a full service.


You can’t drive on the motorway if your vehicle does not have an MOT unless you are driving it on a prior arrangement to a garage for an MOT. If you need the car serviced and it doesn’t have an MOT, you can only move it via a trailer or truck.

Trouble With Your Brakes?

27 Jul

During your ownership of a vehicle, you will need to replace front and rear pads and discs due to wear and tear. You can’t escape even if you only use your car infrequently because if you leave it relatively idle in the garage, rust will set in. A vehicle’s braking systems need friction to bring it to a stop; hydraulic pressure will push brake pads up against a cast iron disc or else brake shoes will be pressed against a cast iron drum.

Once a vehicle is decelerated, the load gets transferred to its front wheels so it is up to the front brakes to do the majority of the work when it comes to bringing the vehicle to a halt.

Drums Or Discs?

When you brake, a considerable amount of heat gets created and it must be dealt with quickly in order for the vehicle to operate efficiently. The design of disc brakes is improving and they are now becoming more efficient; their open design when compared to drums ensures that there is less of a chance of them overheating.

At once time, it was normal to use drum brakes on the front and rear but disc brakes began getting fitted to the front of vehicles as they became more powerful around half a century ago. These manufacturers kept drum brakes at the rear of their vehicles as a means of providing brake function but disc brakes became the #1 choice for the front of vehicles.

Parking Brake

Once disc brakes began to get applied to a vehicle’s four wheels (this first happened with small sports cars and larger cars), manufacturers decided that a smaller drum brake needed to be added to the rear hubs’ centre. Its design has since been improved and most parking brakes operate by applying pads straight to the main discs which means another drum parking brake is no longer required.

When test driving a new car, look at the operation of the parking brake to find out if it is working on a disc. New cars may have parking brakes which operate electrically and these can take some time to get the hang of.


Although cast iron is a great brake component material, its main weakness is the fact it corrodes easily. However, since the front brakes perform the majority of the braking force, surface rust is easily cleaned due to the pads acting on the discs.

The level of braking effort is far less on the rear of a vehicle; this is especially the case if the car in question is small and light and this might not be enough to get rid of corrosion from a rear discs’ surface if the vehicle is only used on relatively short trips.

Generally speaking, corrosion is not an issue with rear drum brakes. Light corrosion can be cleaned off with heavy braking but it can get worse if left alone. The result is surface pitting which is okay if it doesn’t weaken the discs.

Surface Pitting

At one time, this was one of the reasons for an MOT test failure but after computerised MOT tests were introduced, it became apparent that many vehicles were failing the test due to ‘brake discs pitted’ despite the fact this wasn’t enough to cause the disc to weaken.

Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) has changed the manual and you can now only be failed for discs on an MOT test if they are deemed to have been significantly weakened.

Your rear discs need to be taken care of if you don’t drive often because storage in a wet garage means lots of rust can set in due to the damp atmosphere. Surface corrosion is down to the type of use rather than a fit for purpose problem so it is not covered by warranty.


Ultimately, your front discs will become too thin after wearing for a long time. The discs need to be replaced at this point in pairs and you should also change your pads at this stage. There is now a minimum thickness standard for brake discs and once your discs reach this point, it is unsafe to drive any further without making the change.


The disc can change shape due to uneven cooling and heating and this can be spotted when there is a juddering through the pedal once you apply the brakes. Clearly, thinner discs are more likely to become distorted than thicker ones.

When you are driving downhill for a long period of time, try not to hold your vehicle back with the brakes as this places a lot of heat in the discs. It is best to use a lower gear so you rely on engine braking instead of the brakes.


There is a chance you will have a disc that is not fitted flat against the vehicle’s hub assembly if the hub isn’t properly prepared prior to the fitting. The edge of the disc will move in and out slightly and feels like brake distortion when the wheel goes round. This is called ‘run-out’.

Pad Wear

Sometimes, brake wear occurs after less than 30,000 miles and in other cases it may only happen after 65,000 miles. Pad life depends on a number of factors including your driving style, type of use and vehicle model.

Heavy braking from high speed causes more wear than frequent braking and motorway slip roads are one of the worst offenders. Incidentally, heavy braking can also cause brake judder and disc warping.

Asbestos has long since been banned from new and replacement brake linings (banned in 1999) so the friction material has been changed and the result is less durable brake discs. The earliest non-asbestos pad materials wore down very quickly but modern materials are much better. You are almost certain to have to replace front pads and discs and likely to need a change in rear pads and discs during the lifetime of your vehicle.

New Pads

When new, pads will be shiny and may need some time to settle in. Be extra careful during the first 50 miles as braking performance will be affected.


Improved design means brake squeal is less common now; it involves the build up of brake dust. While anti-squeal shims can be effective, they wear down. Applying special grease to the back of the pads is another effective anti-squeal device.


If you allow the friction material to completely wear away from the brake pad, its metal backing material will run on the disc and the result is called ‘scoring’. This also hampers brake performance.

If you hear a distressing metallic noise when you hit the brakes, this is the first clue. A sticking piston in the calliper or lack of servicing could be the cause. The piston should release once you take your foot off the pedal and if it doesn’t, the pads stay in contact with the discs and wear down very quickly.

By ignoring these symptoms and continuing to drive, you will completely ruin the discs and they will have to be replaced. Make sure the pistons are retracting in the right manner once you change the pads.

Brake Fluid

It is hygroscopic and absorbs water from the atmosphere; this happens even if you don’t use the car. Flexible rubber hoses are the site of the water absorption. The fact that you can’t compress a liquid is the principle behind hydraulic brakes.

If you brake heavily, an example would be a long drive downhill where your brakes will get very hot and fill up with brake fluid. This fluid can even boil and vaporise. Although it is true that you can’t compress a liquid, it is possible to compress a vapour and if this happens, the brake will have a ‘spongy’ feel and this compromises brake performance. You need to replace your brake fluid every two years no matter how many miles you travel.

Cutting Car Costs – Six Ways To Save On Your Car

27 Jul

It is a mistake to assume you have eliminated the biggest expense in owning a car when you make the initial purchase. The reality is, the cost of running a car in the UK is higher than ever and will really eat into your savings. Petrol prices remain high and though we are now through the dreaded ‘credit crunch’, there is little relief for families who find the cost of owning a car is still too much.

Typically, you can expect fuel, insurance and depreciation to be the main cost factors to consider. However, there are plenty of ways for clever drivers to reduce their costs and enjoy the feeling of having a little extra money in their pocket.

1 – Find Cheaper Petrol

Websites such as do a great job of finding the cheapest petrol in your area. If you sign up you can also benefit from regular price updates. For example, I was in Leicester recently and found an incredible disparity in prices thanks to the aforementioned prices. Near my location the cheapest unleaded was 12.2p less per litre than the most expensive station and the cheapest diesel was 14.2p less.

2 – Driver Efficiency

The amount of fuel you use is dictated by how you drive. According to the AA, the most ‘efficient’ driving speed is 56mph but if you are on motorways you should be aiming to hit 70mph. If you are tempted to be a ‘speed demon’ on the motorways, bear in mind that travelling at 85mph can reduce your fuel efficiency by as much as 25%!

It is also a good idea to move up a gear ASAP without forcing the engine to work harder and you should always have your tyres fully inflated to improve traction. Avoid crowded roads, loaded boots and use air conditioning only when necessary.

3 – Get Cheaper Insurance

This is probably one of the most obvious tips around but incredibly few people pay any attention to this advice. You can go to for comparisons from hundreds of reputable insurers and find the cheapest and most suitable insurer for your needs. Quick tips to lower your insurance including adding a named driver on the policy, fitting your car with security features such as an immobiliser and paying the full amount up front.

The average person only looks at five policies before making a purchase; with such great comparison sites available, there is no excuse for not digging deeper. You should also avoid ‘added extras’ such as breakdown insurance as these can be purchased for a cheaper price as a separate policy.

Finally, look to pay an excess of up to £500 as the vast majority of car repairs are cheaper and for minor repairs you want to avoid making a claim. For instance, if you are involved in an accident and it causes £375 of damage to your car but you only have an excess of £300, you have to pay the £300 to get the problem fixed AND your premium will rise next year because you made a claim. Having a reasonably sized premium tells your insurer that it won’t have to pay for minor scrapes so it drops the price of your premium.

4 – Breakdown Cover

You need breakdown cover because you will be forced to pay almost £100 any time you get stranded due to even relatively minor faults such as broken clutches or flat batteries. You should look to the AA or RAC for low priced breakdown cover. However, it is still important to compare because the aforementioned duo are not always the cheapest.

Be sure to read the small print before signing anything; cheap policies often force you to pay an excess on every callout and others don’t help you if the breakdown occurs near your home. Additionally, there may be a limit to the number of times you can call a company out.

5 – Plan Your Journeys

A simple way to cut costs is to cover fewer miles. Frequent short journeys can really damage your engine and increase long-term costs. For long journeys, consider a train or bus if this is convenient and you can find low fares. If you book in advance you could save a considerable amount of money.

Another great way to cut costs is through the process of car sharing. Millions of people across the UK are benefiting from car sharing and it could halve your annual costs. Websites such as have millions of members and are easy to join.

6 – Change Your Car

If you currently drive an expensive model, switch it for something cheaper. Cars that cost £30,000 new will lose almost 19% of their value each year whereas cars that cost less than £10,000 may lose 12-15% of their value through depreciation annually. A £10,000 car will cost you around 17p a mile to run according to the AA but a £30,000 car costs you 28.5p a mile to run.

How To Cut The Cost Of Your Private Hire Insurance

18 Jul

Those who operate a private hire company are all too aware of the rising costs associated with owning a fleet of vehicles. Along with the rising cost of petrol, car insurance premiums have skyrocketed in recent years. According to the AA, the average insurance premium was over £740 per annum in the UK in 2013. Clearly, this is too high for the average private hire firm so here are some clever ways to cut the cost and put more money in your pocket.

Add Another Driver

It is one of the simplest and most relevant ways to cut the cost of private hire insurance. Many people believe the other driver must be older and more experienced but this isn’t always the case. We have heard stories of people saving up to £200 a year by adding less experienced and younger drivers to their policy. Apparently, adding a driver with an ‘endorsement free’ driving license can shave pounds off your insurance and even the profession the extra driver is engaged in can save you money. For example, a teacher would probably receive cheaper insurance than a journalist all other things being equal.

Don’t Add Modifications

Modifications such as bodykits and alloy wheels are often associated with younger drivers and having them on your private hire vehicles could increase your insurance by several hundred pounds a year in some cases. Such additions tend to add extra speed to a car and this is automatically equated with danger by insurers.

Seek More Qualifications

One of the most pertinent qualifications to take on is the Pass Plus scheme which is designed to help new drivers become safer and more confident. It is a total time investment of 6 hours though it is important to note that not all major insurers take it into consideration. Of those that do, Churchill, Endsleigh and AA would be the best known and these insurers offer discounts if you have the Pass Plus qualification.

Pay Annually

While this may play havoc with your private hire firm’s cash flow, paying your insurance annually should save you a substantial amount of money. Clearly, it isn’t easy paying a five figure sum all at once for dozens of vehicles but if you can achieve this, the savings could be mindboggling. The APR charged by insurers for monthly payments is eye-watering; over 30% is normal and some companies charge over 50%!

Increase Your Excess

No matter what insurer you deal with for private hire insurance, there will be a mandatory excess charge involved. This is the amount of money you have to pay up front if you make a claim. There is the option to pay additional voluntary excess because clearly, insurance companies are happy if they don’t have to pay out the full amount.

The more you agree to pay in voluntary excess, the lower your insurance quote will be. Make sure you only agree to pay what you can afford; the last thing you want is to be hit with a bill for £800 after an accident.

Add Security Features

This really should be a given for those driving private hire vehicles anyway since they are often the target of theft or vandalism. Adding features such as an alarm and/or immobiliser will not just give you peace of mind, it will cut the cost of your insurance. Insurers also charge less if your car is parked in a secure facility or garage as opposed to being parked in the street when not in use.

Don’t Assume Third Party Is The Cheapest

Believe it or not, third party can cost more than fully comprehensive insurance despite offering a far lower level of protection. Actuaries set insurance rates and since their job is to determine risk, they normally decide that third party buyers are a higher risk than drivers seeking fully comprehensive insurance.

Every single application for private hire insurance is treated differently. The quote you’re offered depends on the assessment of your risk focus and the pricing model which determines the kind of customer insurers want to attract in the first place. Therefore, you should shop around for all types of insurance on

Protect Your No Claims Bonus

Having a no claims bonus built up over a long period of time is one of the best ways to get a major discount on your insurance. While the option to protect your no claims bonus is normally an added extra on a fully comprehensive private hire insurance policy, it is well worth paying for if you have several years built up.

In some cases, it is possible to get discounts of up to 70% which equates to several hundred pounds. Be sure to check your policy carefully because there are varying definitions of the kind of accidents that have an impact on your bonus.

Drive Less

Of all the tips, this is undoubtedly the hardest one for private hire insurance companies to follow. You could restrict the length of journey offered by your business as a means of cutting the annual mileage. Is it worth it? Fewer miles means less income but there are savings associated with travelling less.

Reduce your existing annual mileage by 5,000 miles and you may save up to £100 a year. No matter what else you do, be honest about your mileage claims because inaccuracies could cost you dearly.

Ignore Minor Accidents

It usually pays to fork out for small incidents yourself. Even if the accident isn’t your fault, a minor claim identifies you as a risk and the excess and premiums rise rapidly. You are affected even if you tell the insurer without making a claim. You have no legal obligation to inform your insurer of an accident so if it can be paid for by you, do it and keep your insurance rate down.