Driving hacks:Levels, lights and tyres

It’s easy to forget but carrying out weekly checks on your car isn’t difficult. It doesn’t take long but it does save you time and money in the long run as well as reducing the risks of accidents. But what kind of checks should you be carrying out on a weekly basis?

Open up the bonnet and check your levels.

Carry out a visual check on:

  • Washer wiper fluid
  • Engine coolant
  • Brake fluid

These are all in clear containers and liquids should be between the indicated levels.

Physical check:

  • Oil

If you don’t know how to do it, it’s really easy! You’ll need to take the stick out, wipe it, put it back in, take it back out again and check the levels against the markers.

 

Next up is lights! Turn on the ignition, but not the engine.

Lights inside the car:

  • Lights on the dashboard
  • Interior courtesy lights

Exterior lights:

  • Indicators
  • Sidelights
  • Brake lights
  • Headlights: main and dipped
  • Fog lights
  • Reversing lights

Want to check them in less than 5 minutes? Put the car into reverse gear and hit the hazards, sidelights and dipped beam. Then headlights and fog lights! And remember you can always ask someone to help or check the reflections!

 

And last but not least. Check your tyres!

You’ll need a tyre gauge for this but you can get reliable and cheap gauges from places like Wilkinsons and Halfords. This takes a little longer than the other checks but it’s well worth it. You can be fined up to £2,500 per wheel if your tyres are under-inflated and don’t meet the minimum tread requirement!

Tyre pressure checks:

  • Make sure your tyres are ‘cold’ (they’ve had time to rest after a journey)
  • Get your gauge ready
  • Check your manual for the correct tyre pressure for your car
  • Insert the gauge into the valve system and check the reading
  • If your reading is higher or lower adjust accordingly (you can get air from most petrol stations!)

Tyre tread checks:

  • Some gauges come with a tread checker but if not, get your 20p coin out
  • Check your manual for tread but remember that the legal tyre tread depth for cars in the UK is 1.6mm (across the central 3 quarters of the tyre)
  • Check all the tyres
  • Using a 20p coin: If the outer band of the 20p coin is obscured when it is inserted, then your tread is above the legal limit
  • If your readings do not meet the minimum requirement…change your tyres immediately!

All of the checks are important but if your tyres are below the legal requirement you can be fined up to £2,500 per tyre, you can get 3 penalty points per tyre and you’re more likely to have an accident because you have less control of the car!

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DRIVING HACKS: BREAKING DOWN

Breaking Down a Break Down

Have you ever had a breakdown and just weren’t sure what to do? Or maybe you’re worried about breaking down and have no idea how to deal with it. We’ve got you covered.

 

Get Prepped

If you don’t have a breakdown kit in your car, now’s the time to put one together. In ours, you’ll find:

  • A warning triangle
  • Some warm clothes and a plastic mac
  • Spare bulbs and fuses
  • Mobile phone charger
  • Hi-Vis jacket
  • Emergency numbers
  • Bottled water and snack bar(s)

Lots of Banks offer breakdown cover with particular accounts, check yours to see if you’re covered. If not make sure you have breakdown cover. It will make your life so much easier!

 

In the Moment 

  • If you can, move your car to a safe space. Make sure you’re over to the left as far as possible and try and get those wheels pointing left too.
  • Get those hazards on. Let other drivers know that you’re not going anywhere. If it’s dark or foggy, keep your sidelights on.
  • Sounds obvious but please stay away from moving traffic! It’s usually safer to get out of the car but leave animals in the vehicle. Be sure to exit the vehicle by the door furthest from the traffic.  If you break down on the motorway try and move up the bank or at the very least stand behind the barriers!
  • Make sure you’re wearing the reflective/Hi-Vis jacket you have in your breakdown kit.
  • DON’T put your warning triangle out if you’ve broken down on the motorway. It’s not safe! If you’ve broken down on a normal road, place your triangle approximately 45 meters behind your vehicle.
  • If you’re on a motorway and you don’t have a mobile, run out of battery or have no signal. Walk (carefully) towards to an emergency phone. You can follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder. The phones are free and connect directly to the police. If you have broken down on a normal road and have no phone, walk (carefully) towards a local petrol station, shop etc. and ask to make a phone call. This is when your list of emergency numbers comes in very handy.
  • If you are in any way vulnerable i.e. you have a disability, feel in danger from another person or can’t get to a hard shoulder, let the operator know.

 

ALWAYS act with caution and never put yourself or anyone else in danger. Do NOT try and carry out repairs on a motorway, even small ones. ALWAYS call for help. If you are in serious danger call the appropriate Emergency Services IMMEDIATELY.

The Highways Agency National Switchboard: 0300 123 5000

Emergency Services: 999

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DRIVING HACKS: GET TO KNOW YOUR DASHBOARD

Do you know what all the lights on your dashboard mean?

We’re not saying you have to have a mechanic’s level of knowledge when it comes to your car but understanding the basics can really help. The lights on your dashboard tell you what the cars doing and they’ll also alert you if something isn’t quite right so knowing what each one means will help keep your car in tip-top shape.

Red A red light on your dashboard means danger, stop as soon as you can and get professional help.

Yellow A yellow or amber light means you have a problem. The problem will need sorting but does not mean immediate danger.

The difference between the two colours? Yellow means you can drive home and get it fixed. Red means you need to stop straight away (safely) and get it fixed.

 

RED

Brake System / Brake Fluid Warning Light

Your brakes are one of the most important safety features on your car for you and everyone around you. If this light illuminates red on your dashboard, firstly make sure that your handbrake is fully released (off), if it continues to flicker or stay on pull over and call your mechanic ASAP.

Oil Warning Light

If your oil light flashes red it can mean that the oil temperature is too high, the level is low or the pressure is low. Oil is what lubricates your engine and helps it work in harmony. If this light flashes, you should pull over as it’s safe to do so and call your mechanic straight away. If you ignore the light, it can be a costly and dangerous mistake.

Battery Warning Light

If your battery warning light turns red whilst driving it will more than likely mean a problem with the charging system rather than the battery itself. The danger of this is that your vehicle could run out of charge meaning your lights will go off and your engine could suddenly stop dead.

Power Steering / PAS Warning Light

If your power steering fails you’ll find that steering becomes very heavy which can become very dangerous. So if your PAS lights up red and your steering becomes heavy you need to pull over as soon as you safely can and get professional help.

Airbag Warning Light

If this light comes on red, it means there’s an issue with your airbags. It can also mean that your seat belts are not working. If your car has a faulty airbag it could mean that it won’t go off in the event of an accident, leaving you and your passengers vulnerable.

ECU / Engine Warning Light

If your engine light appears yellow/amber you’ll probably be experiencing some other symptoms such as lack of power because your car has gone into ‘safe mode’. Sometimes it can be a small issue but sometimes it can be a more serious mechanical issue. Either way, you need to get your engine looked at by a professional as soon as possible.

Coolant Warning Light

Without coolant, your car could get so hot it could fuse itself together. Madness! If this light illuminates yellow/amber it could mean that your coolant levels are low so have a look under the bonnet and see. If your engine temperature is high and your coolant light is on, it could mean that your engine is overheating. This could be either a minor or a major problem so it’s best to get it looked at straight away.

ABS / Anti-Lock Brake System

8

The anti-lock brake system is an anti-skid brake system designed to keep you safe. If your light illuminates yellow/amber then it means there can be a fault in any part of the ABS and the system will be disabled until it’s fixed. If the ABS and the Brake System warning lights both come on at the same time, you need to pull over (safely) and call for help.

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DRIVING HACKS: GENERAL KNOWLEDGE

When we learn to drive…we learn to drive. We don’t necessarily learn about our car and how to keep it in tip-top shape. At driving-pro we try to arm our students with as much knowledge as possible but we understand it can be hard to remember everything, that’s why we’ve written it all down for you! Our series of Driving Hacks blog posts aims to help turn you from a good driver to a great driver. 

 

Did you know that most car controls are standard all over the world? If you know how to operate the hand brake, lights, washer wipers and how to demist the windows, you’re most probably set. Although we always advise having a play around before driving in a new car…just in case and don’t forget to read your handbook! It’s the best way to get to know your car. 

 

If you regularly drive different cars make sure you do a proper cockpit drill. This will mean checking to make sure everything is working properly. This is a particularly good idea if you’re renting a car on your holidays. Also, make sure you know which side the fuel goes in. This can save some trouble at a filling station. And make sure you know what fuel to put in! If the cars you drive vary between diesel and petrol put a sticker in the filling cap. Green for petrol and black for diesel. This will be the same colour as the fuel hose. If you’re hiring a car and you’re not sure what fuel to put in, ask! 

 

When you’re carrying out any checks, make sure you do them safely. No scarfs or ties that can get caught and no smoking and no mobiles near the engine. Petrol fumes can go bang. Mobiles can give a spark that can lit petrol fumes. That’s why you’re not allowed to do either in a petrol station. 

 

Whilst doing your safety checks under the bonnet, looking out for loose pipes, wires, battery corrosion and oil spots. In fact, anything that is out of place, get it looked at straight away. 

 

And last but not least, keep your car tidy on the inside and clean and shiny outside. Tidy on the inside will mean nothing gets trapped under the pedals. Clean and shiny on the outside will reflect light from other cars and will help to make you safer. See and be seen. 

 

Is there something you want to know more about? Send us a message on Facebook and we’ll see what we can do! 

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