Electric Cars Becoming Mainstream

In 1997 Toyota introduced the Toyota Prius and they very quickly became a common sight on our roads (particularly in Los Angeles!). Other manufacturers have taken a while to catch on, but over the next few years, many mainstream manufacturers are planning on introducing their first electric cars. Vauxhall and Ford’s offerings will be introduced in 2013, while Peugeot, Citroen and Renault already have their first electric cars on the road and are working on expanding their range, and improving performance.

The biggest fault of electric cars currently is the range. A lot of these cars can only travel 100 miles before needing to recharge for 9 hours. Not the most convenient of vehicles if you need to do more than make short journeys around town! Another problem that is not so obvious is the noise. Electric vehicles are a hazard to visually impaired pedestrians as they are almost silent. Plans are afoot to create a global standard noise for electric vehicles so that people can hear them coming.

Steve Levine is a leading music producer and has been working on the sound of electric cars. Research has shown that people would prefer the electric vehicle to sound much the same as a normal petrol or diesel car. They would even want to hear gear changes so that the engine note was not a constant drone!

While electric engines are enclosed so that car servicing in the traditional sense of oil changes will not be required there are still a large amount of moving parts to consider so maintenance is still important.

Post in:     Car Servicing    News     Leave a comment

The Olympics Are Coming!

With the Olympic games kicking off today with the opening ceremony broadcasting live worldwide at 9pm, it is only natural to wonder what effect there may be on motorists. As many of us have to travel around the country for work, while others are setting off on their summer holidays in the British Isles, it may be time to get used to checking the traffic reports before you head off. Particularly if you are going anywhere near any of the Olympics games centres.

While it is called London 2012 Olympics, there are some events which will take place outside London. For example the Olympic football games will be held in Cardiff. So wherever you are travelling during the games, we would recommend checking traffic and allowing extra time in case of delays. As delays are even more likely than usual, it is important that you check your car thoroughly before you leave. Top up your water and oil levels, check your tyre treads and pressures, and fill up with fuel. It is also a good idea to make sure you have your mobile phone fully charged up (and an in car charger with you if possible), and some important numbers saved such as a breakdown service and a mobile tyre fitting service.

For those of us staying closer to home, it should be a lot of fun watching the games on the TV and knowing that it’s happening (more or less) just down the road from us. We’ll certainly be watching the ‘Isles of Wonder’ ceremony tonight at 9pm. Will you?

Post in:     Tyres     Leave a comment

What Does The MOT Cover?

Prior to taking your car in to your local garage for its MOT, it is well worthwhile taking some time to check those things that you can, so that you don’t have all the hassle of a return visit for an MOT re-test just because you need a new bulb or a set of tyres.

All the following components need to be working as they should on the day of your MOT:

  • Vehicle Identification Number – must be displayed on your vehicle, and be legible. As it appears on your vehicle in numerous places, they should all match. You shouldn’t need to check this unless you think your car might be a bit dodgy!
  • Registration Plate – obviously this needs to appear on your car! However, it should also be firmly attached, legible (give it a wipe down if it’s covered in mud on the day), and that it is in the standard letter format.
  • Lights – your lights are checked to make sure they work, and to check their security and colour. The MOT technician will make sure your headlights are aimed correctly.
  • Steering & Suspension – checked for correct operation and condition.
  • Wipers and washer bottle – checked to ensure they work properly so the driver has a clear view.
  • Windscreen – checked for any cracks or chips.
  • Horn – this must make a noise! And it must be the proper horn noise – novelty horns may not pass!
  • Seatbelts – all seatbelts in the front and rear of the car must be fitted correctly, in good condition, and operate within legal parameters.
  • Seats – checked for security.
  • Fuel System – inspected for leaks (including the fuel cap seal).
  • Emissions – these must be within the guidelines, and your exhaust system must be complete, secure, effectively silenced and free from serious leaks.
  • Bodywork – inspected for excessive corrosion or damage in certain key areas. Sharp edges, in particular, are a potential failure.
  • Doors – must open and close correctly (you will probably have noticed if they don’t!), and must be securely latched when closed. Front doors must open from inside and out.
  • Mirrors – inspected for condition and security.
  • Wheels & Tyres – condition, correct tyre size, security, and tread depth are all checked.
  • Brakes – assessed based on performance, condition and operation on a rolling road brake tester.

Checking the operation of many of these items can be cursorily done by yourself prior to your MOT test, so that if necessary, you can book your car in to your local garage for certain parts to be replaced or repaired as necessary before your MOT, making it more likely you will pass first time! If your tyres need replacing beforehand you can use our mobile tyre fitting service so you don’t even have to come into the garage until your MOT!

Post in:     MOT     Leave a comment

Whiplash Claims Driving Up Car Insurance

Car insurance can be a large part of the cost of car ownership, particularly if you own a high end, prestige car. Many things that affect the cost of car insurance are things that you as the driver have little or no control over. Driving sensibly, maintaining your car with regular car services and MOTs, avoiding accidents and motoring offences, and not modifying your car are all things that you do have control over, but there is much more to it than that.

Unfortunately, the behaviour of all drivers will affect how much everybody’s car insurance premiums cost. In particular, the growing number of insurance claims for whiplash are driving up premiums by an average of £90 per year at the moment. Imagine how much we would all save if we stopped making claims for an injury like whiplash which is usually quite minor as well as difficult to prove.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has called for various measures to be implemented to combat the large numbers of spurious whiplash claims. These would include requiring whiplash claimants to show medical evidence of injury before being entitled to compensation, either capping or reducing the amount they can claim and requiring assessment by a panel of independent doctors rather than their own GP. Some countries also use bio-mechanical evidence to determine a threshold of speed under which whiplash would not realistically have occurred.

Post in:     Car Servicing    MOT     Leave a comment

All About Tyre Maintenance

Your tyres are the only part of your car that are in contact with the road. That may sound obvious, but your car tyres don’t tend to get much attention. As it is essentially the tyres which keep you on the road it is well worth spending the time to choose the right ones and make sure that you give them the care they deserve once they are fitted to your car!

What should you be checking?

  • Exterior – it’s not hard to carry out a regular visual check on your tyres. You just need to look for any signs of abnormal wear. Bumps, bulges or cuts are all signs that something is wrong with your tyre. You should arrange to have your tyre replaced as soon as possible; otherwise you risk a blow out. Not having time to get to a garage is not an excuse – use a mobile tyre fitting service instead!
  • Pressure – if your car tyres are the wrong pressure they will wear quicker, cost you more in fuel and may not stop you in time in the event of an accident. You should check your tyre pressures monthly as well as prior to any long journey. It is also worth remembering that you will need to choose a different pressure if your car is fully loaded.
  • Tread – the tread is what keeps you on the road. It provides the grip that makes sure the car does what you want it to. The legal minimum tread limit is 1.6mm, but the performance drops significantly after 3mm so it is wise to consider replacing them at that point.
Post in:     Safety    Tyres     Leave a comment

Formula One At Silverstone!

Admittedly we are a bit late with this post, but it’s taken us a while to recover from the excitement because (drumroll please!) some of us were actually there! It was a little wet, but so much more exciting to be right there than just watching it on television (and don’t worry, we left plenty of FastFitters behind to carry on with the all important car servicing while we were gone).

F1 Silverstone

Obviously, the rain changes how the teams want to set up their cars, in particular the ride height of the cars are set higher in the wet. Unfortunately for them, this is a decision they have to make on qualifying. It cannot be changed later, and the rain actually stayed away during the race, although it definitely rained before or after! Most teams started off in Pirelli’s wet tyres, which seems like a good choice as the ground was soaking. At least the cars got solid ground to drive on; any bit of grass turned into a muddy quagmire for the rest of us to walk on!

F1 - Race Driver

Alonso came out of the qualifiers in pole position, but in the end he came second to Red Bull’s Mark Webber who scored the victory. It was a disappointing race for McLaren as Hamilton did have the lead for a few laps, but he struggled to maintain the pace, as did his team mate Button. In fact, despite starting out the season with the fastest car, McLaren are being outperformed by teams at the lower end of Formula 1 spectrum. Even so, Hamilton seemed happy when he span his car doing donuts in the parade lap! And we were happy as we had a great view – he was right in front of us!

Post in:     Car Servicing    News     Leave a comment

Reduce Your CO2 Emissions

There are several things that you can do to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions while still enjoying your daily drive to work. Keeping them properly maintained, regularly serviced and MOTed helps, but is there anything else you can do to reduce your CO2 emissions without sacrificing our cars? Admittedly the most obvious solution is to get out of your car and walk, but that isn’t feasible for most of us. So what can you do?

  • Buy A Hybrid Car: These are extremely good for the environment and your bank balance. The average vehicle driving 12,000 miles emits 8,000 lbs of CO2 every year, and a hybrid car will reduce that.
  • The 4 Day Week: Many employers are happy for you to spread your hours across four days instead of five. It’s always worth asking as most employees find the resulting three day weekend is a boost to their morale!
  • Drive Slower: Okay, so you’ll probably have to get out of bed earlier to get to work on time! Simply slowing down and driving more sensibly can reduce your car’s carbon footprint by 20%. Anticipating what the traffic will do next, accelerating more gradually, and braking gradually will reduce the output of your engine.
  • Pick Your Route: You may not have a choice about your route, but if you do then picking more left turns that right turns (no really, bear with me on this one!) can save time and reduce emissions. Turning left usually means you don’t have to wait for a space in the oncoming traffic as there is no traffic to cross, so you spend less time idling and more time moving towards your destination.
  • Just Park Already!: Choosing to park in the first space you find, even if that means you have to manoeuvre into the space by reversing or parallel parking, can save CO2 by reducing the amount of time you spend looking for a car parking space. People frequently spend ten minutes driving around looking for the cheapest parking space, the one closest to their destination, or just one that they can drive straight in to. Don’t waste time; just park!
  • Turn Off Your Engine: Whether you are idling in traffic, waiting outside a friend’s house for them to get ready and get in the car or waiting at a level crossing for a train to pass, turn off your engine. If you reduce your idle time by five minutes every day, you can knock up to 440 lbs of CO2 off your carbon footprint in a year. Idling for longer than a minute uses more fuel than if you had just turned your engine off and then restarted your car.
  • Turn The Air Con Off: Rather than turning it off completely, let it cool the air in the car, then turn the air con off and leave the fan running. This little tip not only reduces emissions but increases your fuel economy.

Aside from that, anything you can do to ensure your car is running as well as it’s supposed to will help reduce its emissions; regular car servicing, staying up to date on your MOT and fitting good quality tyres, and keeping your car in good condition will all help.

Post in:     Car Servicing    MOT    Tyres     Leave a comment

Olympic Flame Coming To Milton Keynes!

If you are local to Milton Keynes then you have probably already heard that the Olympic torch is making its way through Milton Keynes and Bletchley on Monday 9th July, so if you’re in your car from 8am till 10.05am there may be a little disruption to traffic due to road closures! If you want to go along to watch the event, the organisers have recommended you arrive an hour ahead of time. If you do make it, you will see various well deserving local residents carrying the torch through Bletchley and Milton Keynes.

Hazel Staten is a survivor of blood cancer who has since worked tirelessly as a manager at the Milton Keynes branch of Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. She will be running through part of Bletchley. Sean Vendy will also be running in Bletchley. He was chosen because of his commitment to badminton after winning the under 15 national singles crown this year.

Running through Milton Keynes will be Allan Grainger and Luke Webb. Allan was a professional boxer who now helps get ‘kids off the streets’ as part of the StreetGames:MK project, and also helped set up the Milton Keynes Academy Amateur Boxing Club where he coaches over 40 people a week. At a mere 29 years old, Luke sacrifices his free time to lead residential adventure holidays for young people suffering from Primary Immune Deficiency, which he also suffers from. Not a local, Jose Hernandez is a former NASA astronaut and is running for US congress. He will be running through Bletchley (his first visit!).

It all sounds very exciting, although it is likely to cause a fair amount of disruption to car drivers in the city. Don’t worry though, it is business as usual at our FastFit Stations around Milton Keynes for car servicing, repairs and MOTs.

Post in:     News     Leave a comment

Ceramic Or Metallic Brakes?

Most people know that ceramic brakes are generally fitted to high performance cars, but how different are they, and is it worth spending a bit extra to have them fitted to your car next time your brakes need replacing?

Ceramic brake pads are mostly made from ceramic fibres, unsurprisingly. Ceramic is used because it dissipates heat exceptionally well; much better than metal does. This improves performance as they don’t suffer as much with brake fade. They also don’t produce as much brake dust as they don’t break down in the same way as metallic brakes. As well as improved braking performance and reduced wear, ceramic brake pads are also very lightweight which is important for performance cars.

On the downside they are more expensive, and the improved performance isn’t worth it for most cars. High performance cars and sports cars are usually driven much harder than the average family saloon, so it is worth spending the extra on ceramic brake pads that will stop you quicker and won’t fade like metallic brakes.

Most cars are fitted with metallic brake pads. They are not made of a pure metal; they are carefully designed combinations of iron, copper, steel and graphite mixed together and bonded into the pad. They are much cheaper, and for most cars, they are as durable as is needed. They deliver good performance and are more than adequate at transferring the heat resulting from the friction between the brake pads and the discs.

Metal brake pads are also heavier than ceramic, which does slightly reduce the car’s fuel efficiency. As they are harder than ceramic, they also cause more wear to the brake discs than ceramic does, meaning they need to be replaced more frequently. They also take longer to get going – they work most efficiently when they are warm so the first few stops on a cold morning will have longer stopping distances than when the pads are warm.

It may seem that ceramic brake pads have more positive aspects while their metallic counterparts have more negatives, but for most cars, those few positives for the metal brake pads carry more weight, and metallic brake pads are used on the majority of vehicles, from family saloons to heavy lorries.

Post in:     Brakes     Leave a comment

When Should You Change Your Brakes?

Checking your vehicle’s fluid levels or its tyre treads are fairly easy parts of vehicle maintenance, as you can easily see if they need topping up or changing. Your brakes are more challenging unless you’re a trained mechanic! So when should you book your car in to have its brakes repaired or replaced?

There are a few subtle signs to watch out for. As your brake pads wear down, your stopping distances will increase. As they get close to wearing out completely, your stopping distances will increase dramatically, but that is when you are at greater risk of accidents happening, so ideally you want to realise that your brakes need changing before you find yourself unable to stop!

More obvious signs are unusual noises such as grinding, squealing or squeaking. These may be a sign of worn brake pads or it could be just that the surface of your brake pads is hardening which would require cleaning. However, some grinding noises could indicate a problem with your brake callipers or your brake discs, and should be taken to your local garage urgently just in case it is something serious. If the sensation transmitted through the brake pedal starts to feel different, you should also book it in asap. This feeling could be a juddering feeling, or more of a spongy feeling, as if there was a cushion on top of the pedal.

When it comes to the safe operation of your car, we all know that the brakes are a pretty crucial component! It is well worth taking your car into the garage such as FastFit Station in Milton Keynes at the first sign of brake wear, as the longer you leave it, the more chance there is of damage occurring to other parts of your car’s braking system. The brake system is also tested as part of the MOT test, so it is worth making sure they work before you go for an MOT.

Post in:     Brakes    MOT     Leave a comment