Tips for running a Modern Car

If you want to get the best service out of a new or nearly new car , this is our advise, based on real world problems we encounter everyday in the workshop.

  1. Fill up with quality fuel.
    The savings of buying cheap petrol with less modern additives is not worth the risk and the potential savings for average mileage drivers is minimal as there is some indication that premium fuel provides better mpg.
  2. Service the car regularly by the book, and more frequently where extended service intervals are suggested particularly where the car is subject to short journeys in slow moving traffic.
  3. Diesel engines need a long high speed drive down a motorway at regular intervals in order to help clean the DPF which needs a high temperature to self generate. We are finding more and more problems with soot in the system for cars which are used infrequently or for short journeys. And the problems are expensive to fix.
  4. Do not ignore dash warning lights!
    On rare occasions, you stall the engine on take-off for instance, the computer can have a “blip” and put on an engine management light on for no real reason, but the systems are so reliable these days its best to have it attended to ASAP as the longer the car runs with some sort of problem the more expensive is the repair, as one system/sensor down starts to damage other parts of the car.

    The most likely dash lights (RED normally means serious and YELLOW a warning) and their most common problems are as follows:

    • Engine Management Light (normally a little yellow light depicting an engine)
      This normally relates to emissions or the way the engine is burning fuel, normally caused by a sensor or wiring fault. Sometimes the driver feels no difference in the running of the car but the engine could be laying down soot and damaging parts in the exhaust, lambda sensors and the catalytic converter for instance, and these are expensive parts. Some sensors are relatively inexpensive so it’s worth acting on the warning.
    • ABS (normally indicated by a yellow ABS or TCS on the dash)
      Refers to the anti-lock braking system (ABS) or traction control system (TCS).
      Few drivers seem to understand the system so I will do  my best to explain it.

      Essentially ABS only comes into play under abnormal conditions, so in everyday driving it sits inoperative in the background.  But should you have to do an emergency brake and slam on the anchors to miss a stray dog, or you are braking hard in icy, slippery conditions, one or more of the wheels can lock up.
      In short the wheel is braked greater than the grip on the road so its stops turning and the car skids. When skidding the car loses its traction (grip on the road) so does not respond to turns of the steering wheel and the driver cant steer away from the danger but also, the braking distance is significantly increased.  In other words it takes a far greater distance to bring the car to a halt.

      ABS helps to overcome these problems by releasing some of the pressure on the brakes on the wheel or wheels that are skidding. To the driver it feels like the brake pedal is pulsing or vibrating.

      TCS is allied to and works with the ABS system but whereas the ABS helps to stop the tyres skidding under heavy braking, Traction Control System helps to stop skidding under acceleration in slippery conditions or when cornering. There are many types so this is just a generalisation.

    • Brake warning light (normally red or yellow and indicator looks like a circle with two curved lines embracing it each side. Actually depicts brake shoes around a drum).

      Brakes are the most important safety system on a car so this should not be ignored.
      The most common problem is the hand brake has been left on accidentally, or is not releasing properly (seized mechanism or faulty electronics) but it can also indicate a more serious problem.

      It can relate to a loss of brake fluid or brake pads at the end of their life.  Worn pads are a normal wear and tear item but must be replaced with the associated discs otherwise you are to a large extent wasting your money, as old worn discs just tear the new pads to pieces with drastically reduced lifespan, and more brake problems down the road. And really, discs for most cars are relatively inexpensive these days.

  5. Tyres:
    It is unfortunate that most petrol stations have made it so difficult to check and inflate your car’s tyres in order to keep them at the correct pressure but at least small home compressors have become inexpensive even if the readings on the gauge are not always that accurate.

    If the tyre is under-inflated it wears on the outer edges and if over inflated it wears on the middle of the tread, but in both cases rapid wear is the result. Tyres are expensive so it pays to keep a check on them at regular intervals.

    We recommend premium brand/quality tyres for high performance vehicles and luxury 4x4s and mainly mid-range tyres for normal everyday cars, and budgets for little-use older runabouts.

    We do have special agreement with one of our suppliers to obtain a premium tyre at lower mid-range prices. It’s important to note that the margin of profit on tyres is small and really just covers our time so it’s no money spinner, and also we make the same on any tyre we fit so we do give objective advice to our customers.

    All tyres are some sort of trade-off between grip (in dry or wet), tyre life, noise and price. I think it would be fair to say, in general, the bigger the tyre and lower the profile (thickness of tyre between rim and tread)  the greater the cost. We prefer to fit European or Japanese brands we know and some far eastern budget brands. Chinese made products were poor quality products initially, but are improving.

    But as tyres are the only link with the road and critical for braking and handling, buying the best you can afford is wise.

  6. Punctures:
    It is only safe to fix punctures if the thorn or nail is situated in the middle section of the tyre tread. Too near the side or in the side-wall is not fixable, as the potential for a blow out is high.

     If the car has been driven any distance on a flat tyre, the casing will be damaged and it needs to be replaced for safety sake.