Our Blog

YOUR MOT – THE RULES HAVE CHANGED

09 August, 2018

New MOT rules introduced this May mean it’s going to be easier to fail. Now vehicles will have their faults judged against new ‘Dangerous’, ‘Major’ and ‘Minor’ defect categories, with ‘Major’ and ‘Dangerous’ defects causing a vehicle to automatically fail the test. Dashboard monitoring is also stricter, so if you have any warning lights on when your vehicle’s having its MOT, it will fail. There are also stricter limits for emissions from diesel cars: any diesel cars that show smoke coming from their exhaust will automatically fail and those fitted with a diesel particulate filter (DPF), which captures and stores exhaust soot, will get a ‘Major’ fault if the MOT tester can see smoke of any colour coming from the exhaust or finds evidence that the DPF has been tampered with.

Here’s the full list of new MOT checks now in force:

• reversing lights on vehicles first used from September 2009
• daytime running lights on vehicles first used from March 2018
• front fog lights on vehicles first used from March 2018
• prop shafts
• bumper security and condition
• rear drive shafts on all vehicles
• cab security
• cab steps
• floor condition
• undertray security
• noise suppression material
• emission control equipment
• engine malfunction indicator lamp
• fluid leaks posing an environmental risk

Speaking about the changes RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “It is important everyone quickly gets to grips with the changes to the MOT, and that test centres and garages do a good job of explaining the new fault categories so motorists understand correctly the severity of faults with their vehicles.

“Changes to the MOT that make vehicles using our roads safer are undoubtedly a positive step so we hope that testers everywhere interpret and apply the new rules fairly and consistently. The last thing we want to see is a lowering of MOT standards and an increase in the number of unroadworthy vehicles on our roads.

“There is rightly a lot of attention at the moment on ‘harmful to health’ nitrogen dioxide emissions from diesel vehicles so stricter rules should help to make sure vehicles aren’t emitting more than they should be. Those unlucky enough to discover their vehicle has a faulty or tampered with diesel particulate filter will, unfortunately for them, be burning a big hole in their pocket due to the very high cost of replacement.

“Drivers who have a diesel vehicle with a DPF should make sure it is regularly given a good run at motorway or dual carriageway speeds so the filter is automatically cleared of any clogged up soot. This is very important if the vehicle is predominantly used for short journeys on local roads.”

To book your service at our garage, just call 01206 21148 or email: service@johnaustin.co.uk.

The cold snap’s here – don’t get caught short!

06 February, 2018

It had to happen some time but the cold snap’s here so, wherever you’re going to be, please take steps to ensure you have a safe motoring experience. This sounds obvious, but if you’ve got a long-ish journey ahead, it’s worth making sure you’re prepared for hold-ups and an extended stay in your car. Gloves and a warm blanket are always worth keeping in the boot as a ‘just in case’; your tank should have enough fuel in it so you can keep the engine on to stay warm if you’re stuck on the motorway; your screen wash should be full, as it’s so easy to run out in cold and frosty conditions; your torch should be working and your phone is fully charged. Check your tyre pressures too; if you’re not used to doing this, you could always take your car into a garage and have a mechanic do this; if you have the time, please read on as you never know when you might to DIY!

Tyre pressure

Tyre pressure affects your car’s handling, turning, braking and fuel efficiency. A tyre at the wrong pressure will wear out faster and might put your safety at risk. Checking tyres pressures regularly (once a month is ideal) is a good habit to get into as tyres lose pressure all the time. Even in ideal conditions they lose about 0.69 bar or one pound a square inch (psi) a month – and that figure that rises with the temperature. If you don’t know what the recommended pressure is, you can find it in your owner’s manual and, usually, on a sticker inside the driver’s door/on the door sill.

One of the easiest ways to check pressure and top up your tyres with air is at garages and supermarket petrol stations. It’s simplicity itself; once you’ve removed the valve caps from each tyre, put your money or tokens in the machine, inputted the pressure you need, you should then push the nozzle onto one of the valves and the machine wil do the rest, stopping when the pressure has been reached.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to check your pressure:

  1. Use a pressure gauge. Either buy one of your own or use one at your local garage.
  2. Do it when tyres are cool because tyres heat up as you drive and that can affect your reading. First thing in the morning is a good time to do this.
  3. Unscrew the valve cap and place the gauge over the valve. Don’t worry if you hear a bit of hissing – that’s normal.
  4. Read the pressure on the gauge and compare it with your tyre’s recommended bar or psi.
  5. Add air if you need to, either using your own foot pump/machine at garage or supermarket.
  6. Re-check your pressure with the gauge and check against the manufacturer’s specifications.
  7. Replace the valve caps on each tyre.

If you feel you’re losing tyre pressure, there may be a fault with the valve or there’s an ill-fitting rim.

Tyre treads

Checking the tread on all four of your tyres is just as important and can help diagnose potential problems. Check them once a month, as well as before and after long journeys. Here are the signs you should be looking for:

  • Visible tread wear bars: You can only see these bars of hard rubber when your tyre’s tread has become worn. If you can see them, your tyres need replacing. If you’re not sure where they are, you’ll see a mark on the sidewall that indicates where to look.
  • Your tread is less than 1.6mm: Under European law, your treads must be at least 1.6mm deep around the tyre’s circumference. Make sure you measure both the inside and outside of your treads.
  • Something’s lodged in the tread: Things get stuck in treads all the time. Usually they’re easy to remove, but if you spot something that looks as if it’s gone through the rubber, like a nail, leave it in until you can get to a garage otherwise you’re likely to end up with a flat tyre.
  • Tyres are worn on the outside: If they’re worn on both of their edges, you might need to inflate them or check for leaks. Driving on underinflated tyres uses more fuel and puts you at greater risk of accidents. If you notice that only the front tyres have worn edges, you might be taking corners too quickly.
  • Tyres are worn in the centre: If the centre of the tread is wearing more than the outer edges, you might have overinflated your tyres. This can increase the risk of a tyre blowout. Get a pressure gauge and then deflate to the recommended pressure level.
  • Uneven wear across a single tyre: The wear patterns on your treads might indicate problems elsewhere. If you notice uneven patches of wear, or bald spots, you might need your wheels balanced or aligned.
  • Uneven wear across all the tyres: Your tyres won’t wear out at the same rate. The front of your vehicle carries the engine and does most of the steering work, so tyres on your front axle will wear out more quickly. If they seem to be wearing more than normal, you should have your suspension checked. If wear is greater on one side of the vehicle than the other, it might be time for an alignment.
  • Saw-toothed pattern on tyre edges: If you notice that your tyres have a saw-toothed or feathered appearance around the edges, the likely cause is erratic rubbing against the road. That’s a sign that you may need an alignment.

If you notice that your vehicle isn’t handling as well as usual, perhaps there’s excessive vibration for example, then please come and see us, or your local garage, as soon as possible. You can reach us on 01206 211483.

Tips on keeping motoring costs down – and enjoying the drive

12 June, 2017

Economy Drive

There are many ways to reduce your motoring costs and the starting point is the annual service. Better to head off an expensive crisis before it becomes one right? But, depending on how often you’re driving and the distances you’re covering, checking your tyre pressures and the tread on your tyres is vital. It will save you money and keep you safe. Remember the legal and minimum depth of tread is 1.6mm. I Economy-Drive-postcard-May-2017.pdf you are passing, call in and we’ll give them a FREE health check.

Using your air conditioning system uses more fuel, but keeping you windows open not only increases drag and is very noisy, but can ruin your hair and play havoc with your ear drums! With summer approaching, why not get your system serviced too?

Happy New Year!

02 January, 2015

Well, we’re finally there. We made it through 2014 but, unlike the previous couple of years when we experienced a whole number of uplifting events like the London Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee and the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis, the main news has been about the stabilisation of the economy and the destabilisation of the Middle East with a seemingly endless stream of violence. At least today’s announcement of the Queen’s New Year’s honours list, with some really well-deserving recipients, has got 2015 off to a good start.

What does the New Year hold apart from the General Election in May? Well, and this may seem a tad contrived, it’s all about New Year’s resolutions isn’t it and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention that one of the best resolutions you can make is to stay safe on the road. So, if you haven’t already done it, why not take your car in to your local garage and ask for a free health check? Even better, why not get yourself up to speed with some car maintenance advice? We run Pit Stop Workshops so you, your family and friends can learn about the basics like changing a tyre and topping up the oil. To register please call Paul on 01206 211483, or email me on and we’ll take the details.

If you’re not already enjoying the benefits of our loyalty schemes, you can ask Paul or me about them too but here’s a summary: ‘Rewarding Service’ entitles you to a free air conditioning service when your rewards card is complete. There are 20 stamps on the card and you ‘earn’ a stamp for every £20 you spend; but you don’t even have to use it, you could give your completed card to a family member or a friend to redeem.

‘Pass it On’ will give whoever you hand this card to (providing they are new to John Austin, not a current customer) a 10% discount on their first service or repair with us. As you referred a new customer to us, you’ll receive a 20% discount on your next service or repair – and it CAN be used in conjunction with any other discount promotion we’re running. If you’re not already involved, you should be.

All that remains for me to do is to wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year. Best wishes from all of us at John Austin.

UK growth in car sales reflecting confidence in economy

11 September, 2014

August is typically a quiet month as customers wait for the impending plate change in September and, despite the new ’64 plate coming in to play, figures show that the used car market is not being neglected. However the UK new car market is the star of the show, enjoying its 30th consecutive month of comparative growth. Historically low finance offers available to consumers as the Bank of England’s base rate remains at 0.5 per cent, and the growing confidence in the economy, have been the major factors in sales growth.

So, if you were in the market for a new car, what did you want and what did you get? Here are the top 10 best-selling cars in the UK this year: 1. Ford Fiesta – 83,664 registrations in 2014 2. Ford Focus – 53,507 registrations in 2014 3. Vauxhall Corsa – 50,187 registrations in 2014 4. Volkswagen Golf – 45,653 registrations in 2014 5. Vauxhall Astra – 38,621 registrations in 2014 6. Nissan Qashqai – 32,073 registrations in 2014 7. Audi A3 – 28,279 registrations in 2014 8. Volkswagen Polo – 26,460 registrations in 2014 9. Fiat 500 – 25,910 registrations in 2014 10. BMW 3 Series – 23,736 registrations in 2014 But what about the super rich? What’s their car of choice?

Research by Oracle Finance has shown that SUVs are most popular with footballers in the Premiership, with the Range Rover being the most popular marque over all. OK, most of us aren’t in the super rich category, but it’s always interesting to take a look at what our footballers are buying at the moment isn’t it?. Here’s their top 10: 1. Rover Vogue 2. Bentley Continental GT 3. Range Rover Sport 4. Audi Q7 5. BMW X5 6. Porsche Cayenne 7. Lamborghini Gallardo 8. Ferrari 458 9. Maserati Gran Turismo 10. Aston Martin DB9 Happy motoring!

Here comes summer…

30 June, 2014

Did you know that if you sneeze while driving at 70mph you can lose your vision for as much as 100 metres? If you suffer from hay fever, antihistamines are a must-have.

We’re heading for a summer scorcher (well, when the rain stops!), so your car might need a little help too. You can take it to John Austin’s for a FREE summer healthcheck.

We’ll look over your vehicle, paying particular attention to the cooling system, tyre condition and pressure, oil level and windscreen wiper blades, to make sure you’re safe on the road.

We have over 40 years’ experience in servicing and repairing cars; all makes and models are welcome; we carry out MOTs whileyou wait (but you’ll need to book your vehicle in first) and we’re open six days a week.

Call 01206 211483 or just call in. We’re here to help.

Top ten tips on avoiding expensive car repairs

09 May, 2014

Want to avoid a breakdown and cut down on expensive repairs? You have to take action We know from the AA that the number of models and complexity of modern cars mean that there are a huge and varied number of things that can go wrong at any time. So where do you start? We asked the AA to tell us about the most common faults they come across; here’s a brief run down on what they are and what you can do to stay safe on the road and avoid expensive repairs:

Flat or faulty battery

Most common problems are caused by terminals and clamp connections or by a loss of voltage, often caused by constant use on short journeys without regular recharging. At every service, check that the terminals have been cleaned and protected from corrosion with a layer of petroleum jelly or grease, and that clamps and connections are secure. If you don’t make long journeys, a fortnightly overnight charge prolongs battery life; modern maintenance-free batteries don’t need a top-up.

Lost keys

Most modern cars have a ‘transponder’ key combining a conventional mechanical key with an encrypted electronic chip to prevent theft, which means if you lose the key, recovery to an authorised dealer may be the only answer. As it might take several days to get a replacement, you should always carry a spare key. Flat/damaged tyres and wheels You manual will tell you what the correct tyre pressures should be and you can adjust the pressures to suit different speeds and loads. You should check the pressures once a month – don’t leave it for the mechanics to do at your annual service. When checking tread depth, look out for uneven tyre wear – it’s possible the wheels may be misaligned and you should consult a tyre specialist for advice. And don’t forget the spare tyre. A worn or flat spare won’t help you in an emergency. Finally, check that the jack is in good condition and that the key/removal tool for the locking wheel nuts is accessible.

Alternator faults

Persistent battery problems and dim headlights when the engine is idling can indicate alternator/generator faults. Belts driving the alternator may also operate the radiator fan and water pump. A red ignition warning light, plus a rapid rise in engine temperature, could indicate a broken belt, in which case you need to stop straight away and get assistance.

Starter motor

Though usually robust, starter motors can fail. A regular service should highlight potential faults.

Fuel problems

Empty fuel tanks cost a lot of time and inconvenience. Fill up at the start of your journey and well before the warning light comes on. Don’t drive on fumes. Every year more than 150,000 motorists put the wrong fuel in their car – petrol in diesel is most common but drivers put diesel in petrol cars too. When that happens you’ll need to drain and flush the fuel out of the system before filling up again.

Clutch cables

Clutch cables are under high stress, and abrasion can weaken the wire strands until they break. Temporary roadside repairs can be made, but replacement at the first signs of wear is the best solution.

Spark plugs

The spark plug is a much-neglected part of the ignition system. Make sure that the plugs are replaced at the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals.

High Tension leads

High-tension (HT) leads and their connections can deteriorate with age; water and dirt enter cracks in the insulation, reducing ignition voltage. Damp-repellent sprays like WD-40 are only a temporary solution. You should ask your garage to check the condition of the leads and replace as necessary.

As you can see, there are only nine top faults, so we thought we should make it a nice round TEN by adding this tip: don’t forget to read the manual. It tells you everything you need to know about your car and can help you become more aware of any small niggles and stop them becoming expensive problems.