Monday, 30 December 2013

Michael Schumacher

To echo my colleague David's comments what a tragic irony it is that an F1 legend, a record breaking seven times world record holder, should be felled while skiing in the French Alps with his family.

At this moment the doctors say he is fighting for his life and had he not been wearing a helmet the blow to his head would surely have killed him.

We all hope he will survive unimpaired to enjoy a well deserved retirement with his family.

Graham Benge

Get well Schumi

As I type this, seven-times Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher lies in an intensive care ward fighting for his life following a ski-ing accident in the French Alps.

Initial reports that he was a bit concussed but otherwise ok have proved to be depressingly wide of the mark and he is currently in a medically-induced coma following two rounds of surgery to relieve bleeding and pressure on his brain.

These are early days of course but we hope that you'll join all of us at UKMT in wishing Michael a full and speedy recovery.

Dave Wakefield

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Seven Ways to Make Your Car Insurance Cheaper

No-one likes to be paying out more money than they need to, but when it comes to motoring it seems increasingly unavoidable.

From fuel prices to insurance, the cost of motoring continues to increase in the UK on an annual basis.

Thankfully there are a few things you can do to bring down insurance costs. Here are seven suggestions to get you started.



1. Choose the right car

Every car is assigned one of 50 different insurance groups, and the cheapest cars are found in categories one to five. The simplest and most effective step you can take to reduce your insurance premium, either for an annual policy or for short term car insurance, is to drive a car in one of these five categories, which include popular models such as the Vauxhall Corsa and Fiat Panda.


2. Avoid modifications

Whether you want to improve your car's performance or add some detailing such as alloy wheels or body-kits, you should be aware that insurers can see these additions as high-risk improvements. Expensive detailing makes a car more attractive to thieves, and increased performance increases the chances of the car being involved in a collision - a risk that is magnified amongst young drivers.


3. Improve your driving skills

Insurance companies often offer substantial discounts for drivers who have demonstrated advanced driving skills. This can be done via the Pass Plus Scheme that aims to make drivers more considered and conscientious when they are behind the wheel.


4. Increase your excess

Insuring a car is about assessing risk and charging accordingly. If you are prepared to cover more of the costs associated with that risk - in the form of a higher excess - your insurance company is likely to reward you with lower premiums.


5. Buy only the cover you need

If you only drive your vehicle on an ad-hoc basis then you could be wasting money paying out for an annual policy which more often than not you are not using. Switching to short term car insurance for one to twenty-eight days or utilising one day insurance as and when you require your car could help to lessen the costs. When adding an additional driver for a trip away, again, short term car insurance could prove cheaper than extending your existing policy.

However, if your car is uninsured it MUST be declared SORN (see and kept off the public road (in a garage, on a drive or on private land).


6. Adding a more experienced “additional driver

It is sometimes possible to reduce the cost of car insurance by adding an older, more experienced driver to a policy. However, it should be noted that adding an “additional person” to a policy when that driver is actually the “main driver” - in an effort to reduce premiums - is illegal, and it will invalidate any subsequent insurance claims.



7. Add additional security features

Insurance companies prefer cars with alarms and immobilisers, as the risk of them being stolen is greatly reduced. Also, storing your car off public roads at night will also secure you some significant discounts on your insurance premiums. So this could be a good time to get on the good side of any friends or neighbours you may have with an empty lockable garage!


Hiten Solanki

Hiten Solanki is a digital marketer and freelance writer currently based in London and writing on behalf of a number of clients including TempCover.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Most Commonly Stolen Car Parts

According to insurance companies the frequency of car thefts where one or more parts of a car are stolen is on the increase. The statistics show that this is most likely to happen if you leave your car out on the street overnight – so the importance of locking your vehicle in your home garage cannot be overstated if you want to make life hard for criminals. What are the most commonly stolen car parts - and what steps can you take to make it harder for the thieves to target your vehicle?


Car Rims

There’s nothing like pimping up your car with a set of smart looking custom rims. However, these are like magnets for thieves who easily jack your car up and use special equipment to quickly remove these expensive additions to your vehicle. If you think locking lugs will deter such criminals, then think again as these can often be broken with a considerable amount of brute force. Fancy looking car rims also alert thieves to the fact that you’ve probably got an expensive media centre in your vehicle too – whilst it might be cool to stand out, it’s not cool to advertise your car as the one with the richest pickings on the inside. The simplest way to deter thieves from stealing your expensive rims is by simply not buying them in the first place – it’s very difficult to hide something that’s designed to make your car stand out.


DVD and Media Entertainment Systems

Everyone likes to travel in style these days. There’s nothing that keeps the kids quiet quite like a Disney movie whilst you’re dealing with the difficult task of keeping your eyes on the road as you drive from A to B. These systems are very popular with thieves who often have a number of tricks to remove them from the seating in your vehicle. In order to make things difficult for the thieves out there you can purchase special DVD players and media centres with detachable screens that won’t function without them. Carrying a screen round with you whilst your car’s parked might not seem the most convenient thing at the time, but trust us when we say it’s a lot better than having to buy a whole new device – and a new side window too.


Car Tyres

Just as car rims are a favourite target of the car part thieves – so are expensive tyres. These can be removed from your car in a matter of minutes and before you know it you’re not only down the cost of a new set of tyres, but you may also have to get your wallet out for a costly ride home. It’s very difficult to stop thieves from taking your tyres if they’re really committed, however you can make your vehicle less of a target by parking in well lit areas and avoiding backstreets. Ideally you should always try to leave your car in a public parking facility and if you’re worried about thieves attacking it late at night, then you can always take a taxi for those midnight runs.


GPS Systems

Global positioning systems that help drivers find their way are a popular target for thieves. Even if you go to the trouble of hiding your Tom-Tom or similar device, the holders, which often use a suction cup that’s attached to the windscreen, leave a tell-tale ring on the glass. This alone can be enough incentive for robbers to break into your car to look in the glove-box and under the seats for this expensive piece of tech equipment. The best thing to do is to lock it away in the trunk of your car, and make sure you use a cloth to wipe away the any marks the holder has left on the windscreen.


Catalytic Convertors

Believe it or not many thieves are on the look out for catalytic convertors. These large systems sit underneath the car and remove harmful particles from its exhaust fumes. However, these robbers are not interested in environmental issues – they’re just after the large amount of expensive metals and alloys that are used in the composition of this equipment. It’s easier than you might think to quickly jack up a car and get under it to remove the catalytic convertor, which in today’s world of ever rising metal prices can prove a decent haul when sold to a less than reputable scrap-yard.



Any part of your car that will wear out over time is likely to be targeted by thieves. Expensive high intensity xenon headlamps and the gas cylinders that are used in airbags are now almost as popular with robbers as stereo equipment and DVD players. The black market trade in these items has risen considerably in recent years as both parts commonly need replacing on cars. Of course, in order to steal these parts the robber will usually have to gain entrance to your car – by making sure that you’ve got a good alarm system or that your car is safely locked away from public access you’re making it difficult for the thieves to get into your vehicle.


And Finally…

If there’s one thing you should take away from this article it’s that the best form of prevention is down to where you park your car. Really committed thieves can break through most forms of car alarm – and many people in urban environments are also oblivious to the noise they make, leaving no one to notify the police about a car alarm until its been going off for long enough to become an annoyance. Immobilizers are also no help in these situations as the robbers aren’t trying to steal your whole vehicle. Do whatever you can to make life difficult for thieves and you’re less likely to get targeted – it really is that simple.

Justin Smith

Justin Smith blogs regularly at second hand car parts finders – BreakerLink

Monday, 2 December 2013

Using your loaf when using your lights

UKMotortalk contributor Steve Houlihan vents his spleen..

There seems to be a growing trend for the misuse - or lack of use at all in some cases - of vehicle lights. 
Now that more cars have daytime running lights -or DRLs - drivers seem to think that having these on negates the need for the proper vehicle lights to be on. 

Why on earth would anyone think that?!

Only the other week I was driving along the M4, it was dark - not getting dark, actually properly dark, when I came upon a car, a black car I might add, without lights on. 
So naturally I politely flashed the driver to hopefully prompt him into putting his lights on. 

No response. 

I flashed again - I always flash vehicles who don't have lights on in dark conditions or bad weather (more on bad weather later).

Still no response from the black car in front, in the dark. So, as he was driving at 50 mph in fast moving traffic, and I didn't fancy hanging around, I did the obligatory mirror, signal and manoeuvred around the black car (in the dark) to pass him. 

As I got alongside him I could see a faint glow from the front of his car which meant his DRLs were on. 

So, I gave him a couple of toots on the horn, hoping he'd look at me, so I could wind down my nearside window and tell him he didn't have his lights on. Instead he just turned his lights on, then back off again a second later, all in one movement. 

Bemused, I shook my head and carried on, I'd done my best to tell him but seemingly he wasn't listening.

Since this event I've given his actions and reasons a bit of thought. Did the sudden glow in front of his car tell him he'd put his full beam on? Does he not know the controls of his car? 

Or were his dashboard instruments lit?

This last, it seems to me, is a bad idea that car makers and designers have incorporated into their machinery. 
You don't need instruments lit during the day. If you go through a tunnel, where it's less bright even if lit internally, you're supposed to put your lights on, which will illuminate the instruments too. I think that drivers honestly forget their lights aren't on, 'cause the instruments are lit!

My company has a new van, which I'm the sole driver of. 
It's a Mercedes Sprinter. It has DRLs. The previous one didn't. In fact this is the first vehicle I've driven a lot that has had them. We've only had the van a week at time of writing. My instruments aren't lit all the time.
But. I still switch my lights on in dim light or bad weather (no, later still for the bad weather thing!) because I use my EYES to see whether lights should be on or not.
As a rough, very rough, guide, if I cannot see my instruments easily, as in if the panel looks a bit dark, lights go on. I don't believe in sidelights. Mine are either on or off.

Now, with mention of sidelights we can at last move onto bad weather.

Sidelights are not enough when driving along a motorway, or any road really, in heavy rain or snow, or thick fog (more on fog later). 
It's not about seeing where you're going, it's about being seen by vehicles you're approaching or passing. This applies especially on motorways. 
And, if your car is dirty, the front usually gets especially dirty in spells of cold, damp weather when salt has been spread on the motorways. 

So, a point to note at this, er, point, is that lights should be cleaned if they become dirty. Most vehicles still don't have headlamp wash systems. But who does that really? It's a bad habit we have that we don't do things we should, or we do things we shouldn't (more on bad habits later!).

In heavy rain/snow or fog, if you look in your mirror, it's virtually impossible to see a car with only its sidelights on. And actually impossible to see a car with no lights on at all. It's just downright dangerous.
And, as a bit of a sideline to the sidelights issue (see what I did there?), if it's raining heavily enough to have your wipers on, surely it's raining heavily enough to have your lights on.
I should point out, but I really shouldn't need to, that by "lights" I mean dipped headlights, not full beam. 

Just to clarify..

Car makers are seemingly taking more driver input away from actually driving a car - auto lights, auto wipers, anti collision... Surely they can make it so that if the wipers are on constant mode the lights come on too? That would make perfect sense and is a no-brainer to me.

And, whilst we're on the subject of bad weather, a little bit of fog... 

Foglights to be precise. And rear ones to be even more precise. If it's a bit misty, with patches here and there, you do not need foglights on. 

The Highway Code states that foglights should be used if visibility is down to less than 100 metres. As a rough guide, very rough, again, I use this; if the car in front of me is hard to see, the car behind me - if it's a similar distance away - will find it hard to see me. So, on go the rear fogs. 
When the car behind gets nearer, off go the fogs. Unless you have a classic with small rear lights, such as a Triumph Spitfire Mk1 for example, most cars' normal rear lights are easily seen from quite a distance even in fairly heavy mist. Mist and fog are the same thing, by the way. Water droplets in the air.

These points about lights and wipers bring me onto my final point. 

Bad habits.

We all have them. All of us. Except possibly those drivers who have passed the IAM advanced driving course, which I haven't. 


I firmly believe if you put any driver into a proper driving test situation, we'd all fail - due to bad habits. 
We can all drive, we can control the car safely, we know our Highway Code, or should do. But we all have bad habits. 

Not indicating, bad lane usage at junctions or roundabouts, excessive speed, yes we all do that. Even if you say you don't you probably do. 
Slow down for speed cameras? Yep, well you wouldn't need to if you were already driving at the correct speed.

These bad habits could be corrected if we had a re-test, say, every 5 years? 


Not a proper full test, more a refresher course on what we should, and should not be doing behind the wheel. 

It can only be a good thing, as I see it. Better drivers, better road manners, less road rage. More importantly, safer roads. For drivers, cyclists, bikers, and pedestrians.

Food for thought maybe?

Steve Houlihan

Follow Steve on Twitter @bandit4070