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Winter Motoring and the Beast from the East 2020

02 December, 2019

In 2018 the we experienced the coldest start to March on record, and that was after snow blanketed parts of the country in the final week of February as the Beast from the East swept in from Russia. Temperatures in the Cairngorms plummeted to -14°C, nearly 60cm of snow fell in Gloucestershire and bitterly cold winds reached up to 70mph in some parts of the country. There was chaos on roads as thousands of drivers, who ignored warnings not to go out, or had no option but to brave the weather conditions, were left stranded on roads, in freezing temperatures. The AA estimated there were over 8,000 collisions as a result of the Beast in just three days. Emergency services, trying to clear heavy snow, as well as vehicles that had either broken down or crashed, urged people to take notice of weather and travel warnings. And now we know the Beast is returning in January and February 2020, you could say forewarned is forearmed, but please note, this one is likely to be worse. According to climate experts at University College London, Britain could be heading into one of its coldest winters in the last 30 years. They say a freezing vortex of Arctic air is expected to hit the country in the next four months, which is likely to bring icy temperatures and snow that could last for weeks. To avoid putting yourself in danger or adding, to that statistic, please check the weather report before you set out, because you’ve not only got to get to your destination safely, you have to be able to return too.

If you absolutely have to travel when you know conditions are bad or are likely to get worse during the day, then you should at least take all the precautions necessary to reduce the risk to you and your passengers. So, here are our top 10 actions you should take before setting out:

1. Fuel tank. This is not the time to drive on fumes. Keep the tank full, so should you be caught out, you can keep the engine running to stay warm.

2. Tyres. A new car tyre has a tread depth of 8mm and the minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm. With the bad weather definitely coming our way, it would be worth getting your tyres checked now and if they’re under 3mm, we recommend you do something about it. Check your tyre pressures too.

3. Screen wash. Keep it topped up because you can really go through it in poor weather; you should also keep a bottle of premixed screen wash in the boot in case you run out. Don’t forget to have de-icer and a scraper too.

4. Shovel and cardboard. Something else to keep in the boot is a small shovel or plastic snow scoop so you can dig snow away from the tyres to stop them spinning. For additional traction, put some flattened carboard in front of the front tyres. If your car is rear wheel drive, then place the carboard in front of the back wheels.

5. Torch. You’ve always got the torch function on your phone, but you may need to conserve battery power, so keep a spare torch in the glove compartment to see and be seen.

6. Warm clothing. Gloves, woolly hats and a couple of warm blankets could be life-savers if you’re truly stranded.

7. Water and biscuits. Keep these handy for sustenance if you’re stuck. It will stop you getting hungry and eating creates energy, so you’ll stay warmer.

8. Mobile phone. Just keep it charged and take your car charger with you. It may be your only means of contacting anyone for help.

9. Hi-viz vest and triangle. If your car breaks down and you need to walk anywhere, even if it’s around the car, wear a hi-viz vest so that you can be seen in the dark and when visibility is poor. The warning triangle will alert other drivers of a potential danger.

10. Service and MOT. If your car is due an MOT or service in the next three or four weeks, why not bring it forward? If there are any issues, they can be fixed before the bad weather hits.

New Year’s resolutions for motorists

19 December, 2018

We all start off with the best of intentions just after the festive season don’t we? And much of it revolves around taking better care of ourselves; we want to get fitter, lose weight, stop smoking, drinking, swearing… you know the kind of thing? Of course, habits of a lifetime are hard to break, but how about starting with something that’s far simpler to achieve like giving your vehicle a little more TLC or even TLC?

If you fancy ticking things off your 2019 ‘to do’ list, then why not start here:

Performing regular car checks
You may not fancy doing this every month, but the more you do it, the faster and easier it becomes. It’s only checking tyre pressures and engine oil levels and taking a look around the vehicle to make sure all the lights are working.

Don’t phone and drive
Since April 2017 it’s been illegal to use a handheld mobile phone, but how often do we see people at the wheel deep in conversation, hand clamped to an ear? Don’t use your phone  unless it’s hands-free, and even if you do, why not turn off your phone every time you get in the car? Do you really need to talk to your friends, conduct business or check your messages at 70 mph?

Parallel parking
It’s often said that really learning to drive starts once you’ve passed your test, yet parking, especially parallel parking is a skill many of us would love to improve upon. And you can; hone your skills by asking for help from a driving school or a friend who’s brilliant at reverse parking. The more you do it, the less fear it holds.

Overcome fear of motorway driving
According to research conducted by thisismoney.co.uk, 8M motorists use the motorway only rarely and  380,000 avoid them altogether. There are many who just don’t need to use the motorways, but others find them an unsettling environment. These days they’re hard to avoid if you want to get from A to B easily and faster, but if you have the fear or you just don’t feel confident, call a driving school or a friend who uses the motorway all the time, and get some practical experience.

Keep calm
It’s odd how driving affects your emotions. Even the most mild-mannered person can become an unforgiving motorist or, worse still, a maniac filled with uncontrollable rage. Remember, no other motorist can actually nip into that 20 centimetre gap you’ve left between your car and the one in front, and it’s never worth undertaking because the traffic isn’t moving fast enough for you (and you won’t get to where you’re going any quicker). How much better to be kind, keep calm and carry on driving safely.


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: .

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!