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.
Here are ten good reasons why you should park your car at our garage for a service, MOT or repair:
- Over 40 years’ experience repairing and servicing vehicles
- No-fuss reception area means you pay for our skills not the frills
- ‘Buy with Confidence’ accreditation from Essex County Council Trading Standards
- Our customer loyalty schemes (‘Pass it on’ and ‘Rewarding Service’) will save you money
- Free pick up and drop off service for local customers
- Courtesy cars available – including our very popular Audi TT!
- Pop in any time for a FREE health check.
- If you have a car related question or query, or just want a price, just call and email us; we’re here to help
- We welcome all makes and models
- We can help you save money, stay safe and keep your car on the road
It’s not just the TV that breaks down at Christmas, but please make sure it’s not your car.
Here are three actions you can take now to make sure you and your family can enjoy the festive season:
1. Cover the bases. If the weather forecast is looking bad or just uncertain and you need to drive, then make sure your tank’s full; if you get stuck in bad weather you can keep the engine running and stay warm until help arrives or conditions become less severe. Having the right tyre pressure is vital whatever the weather, but in wintry conditions check the tread: the legal minimum is 1.6mm, but it’s better to have a deeper tread of at least 3mm, as it will be more effective at clearing water. If you haven’t put antifreeze in your car since the summer, now’s the time to do it.
2. See and be seen. The combination of icy conditions and grit on the roads means you’ll use more screen wash than normal, so put a spare bottle in the boot with a can of de-icer and a plastic scraper. Keep a second can of de-icer at home and you’ll be able to deal with frozen locks quickly first thing in the morning. Windscreen wipers should also be checked now because worn ones won’t be effective against sleet and snow and you can’t drive blind. If it gets misty outside, keep dipped headlights on, if it gets foggy, then turn your fog lights on; you’ll be more visible and you’ll see more too.
3. Put the right equipment in the boot. Take an old sleeping bag (which makes a great duvet), a hoodie and a pair of gloves; shove them in a dustbin liner, put the lot in the boot and forget about it. You may never need to use them over the winter period, but you’ve got the kit just in case. You probably already have a torch in the glove compartment, right? If you haven’t, put one in now. Should the weather forecast indicate that snow is a possibility, it makes sense to keep a shovel and a couple of pieces of cardboard or old carpet in the boot too; it could help you or another motorist out of a tricky situation.
If you do set off on a journey, run out of petrol, a snow storm starts and you’ve forgotten to put warm clothing in the boot, at least you’ll be able to call for help, because you’ve kept your mobile phone fully charged. Yes?
If you’d like more advice on making sure your vehicle is ready for winter conditions, please call us on 01206 211483 or call in: Unit 4 Prince of Wales Industrial Estate, London Road, Marks Tey, Colchester, Essex CO6 1ED.
Merry Christmas and drive safely!
Four times a year for the last three years, Paul Miller, manager at the Marks Tey based John Austin garage, has been successfully running free Pit Stop Workshops on Saturday mornings to help people learn about car maintenance using a practical, hands on approach. The third one of this year was held on Saturday 11 August.
“Cars are so complex these days, there is very little we can to do if something goes wrong, so it’s easy to become a bit complacent with more general maintenance. This inevitably leads to problems which could have been avoided, not to mention higher repair bills,” said Paul.
The Pit Stop Workshop is designed to reduce the fear of basic car maintenance through familiarity. It gives people the confidence to know that if they are stranded with a flat tyre and the phone’s dead or there’s no signal, they can handle the situation. As this is not covered as part of the driving test, it’s a good opportunity for those learning to drive to come along and give themselves a head start.
After Paul had put everyone through their paces, it was time for a rest and free coffee and cake at The Food Company!
The John Austin final Pit Stop Workshop of the year will be held on Saturday 17 November.
We know from our customer surveys that over 95% of our customers have come to us through referral. We really appreciate that, and we’d like to encourage and reward those referrals starting right now. We are therefore delighted to announce the launch of Pass it on. As the name suggests, this scheme will reward John Austin customers with a discount of 20% off their next service or repair and the person referred to us will receive a 10% discount. Technically, the referred person will now be a John Austin customer, so once they refer a new customer to us, they too will be eligible for a 20% discount.
To get started, all our customers have to do is call in to the garage and pick up a Pass it on card. They complete their details and hand the whole card to a friend, colleague or relative who isn’t currently a John Austin customer; they add their details, book their vehicle in and then hand the card to us when collecting it to receive their discount. Our customers have up to 36 months to redeem their 20% discount and, as it CAN be used in conjunction with any other promotional scheme we may be operating, that discount could be even bigger. There is no downside to this scheme; it really is a win-win situation!
In March this year we launched our loyalty scheme Rewarding Service, where customers receive a stamp for every £20 spent at the garage (on a service, repair, MOT and products). Once 20 stamps are collected, they, or someone they give the car to, can have their vehicle’s air conditioning serviced for FREE. So far we’ve had an amazing response; it’s just really sad that most of us haven’t needed to keep cool. Here’s hoping the summer comes soon.
Colchester will be welcoming the Olympic Torch this Friday as part of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. It is a real once in a lifetime experience where members of the local community will be running with the torch through the town. The team at John Austin are looking forward to being there to witness the event themselves, even if it is very early in the morning!
Now we all know when the Torch will be arriving, but what route will it travel along? And where can you park? John Austin has the answers!
The Torch will arrive on Ipswich Road at approximately 7:28am. It will travel down East Street, East Hill and the High Street, then on to North Hill. At the bottom of North Hill the Torch will turn left on to Middleborough where it will leave Colchester at approximately 8:16am and continue on the next leg of its’ journey to Hatfield Peverel.
Anyone who wishes to see the Torch is advised to get there in plenty of time – the streets will fill up pretty quickly! Any traffic waiting to use the roads will be delayed for a short time and the Essex Police are asking for your patience in this matter.
So how do you get there? Of course the best plan of action would be walking or cycling, or arranging something called a ‘walking bus’ where a group of you get together and walk to your chosen viewing point. However if you live that little bit further away you can drive and take advantage of the free parking that the University of Essex are offering on their Colchester campus. From here the closest point on the Torch Relay route is East Hill – about 30 minutes’ walk from the campus, where you can see the Torch on its journey through the town. It is recommended that you arrive at the campus early to secure a parking spot, as these will fill up very quickly too!
We hope this information has helped you plan for the journey. If you want any further information you can visit the Colchester Council website at; http://www.colchester.gov.uk/article/6300/Olympic-Torch-Relay—Travel-Advice-for-Colchester where you can also find a list of different activities that are happening on the day, including a bouncy castle, Zumba class and face painting.
On Friday 27 April our manager Paul, and his new wife Gemma, completed a skydive to raise money for charity Help for Heroes in the name of Courtney Fraser, whose father was seriously injured in Afghanistan and is now unable to serve.
They were up bright and early for an 8:30 start at Beccles Airfield, where they received training and some health and safety guidance. Then they were strapped to their instructors and ready to go; in fact Paul and Gemma had the skies to themselves that day because of the unfavourable weather conditions.
The couple decided on a tandem skydive instead of an expensive honeymoon, as it would have meant leaving their 16-month old son Zaviar behind. Gemma said, “We decided to do it because it’s a once in a lifetime experience and it was for a very good cause. It was strange because after you jump out of the plane, you don’t feel like you’re moving at all. You would have thought being strapped to a complete stranger then jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet would be really scary, but it wasn’t too bad. What stuck in my head was the eerie silence, and the fact that it was freezing cold!”
They were given the chance to steer their own parachutes, which Gemma aptly described as “trying to hold on to an umbrella in the wind.” She landed safely in the field, but there was no sign of Paul. It turns out he had landed in a completely different field – and men say women are bad drivers!
The couple raised £215 for Help for Heroes and adrenaline junkie Paul wants to do a bungee jump for their next fundraising event. Lucky Gemma.