When air conditioning first came out, I was led to believe that its use would mean less miles per gallon. Is this still true with the more economical car of recent years?
Yes, or maybe no, depending on your speed. During warmer weather and up to about 40 mph (or thereabouts) then it may be more economical to open a window. At faster speeds, however, the extra drag caused by the effect of an open window may interfere with the aerodynamics to such an extent that it may cause more fuel to be used than the little extra consumed to run the air con with the window closed. Obviously, this can depend on how aerodynamic the car is to begin with.
I often drive without footwear as this gives extra sensitivity on the pedals and helps towards better fuel economy. Could this be considered a driving offence if I had an accident?
It says in the Highway Code that clothing and footwear must not prevent you operating the controls in the correct manner. If you, therefore, have full control of the car, then it shouldn't be a problem. That said, if a police officer reported you were not wearing footwear after an accident then it might well have implications with your insurers or legal defence.
In heavy mist or light rain the wipers squeak as they move across the windscreen; they are ok in heavier rain. I have replaced the blades, but the problem soon re-occurred. Any ideas?
Obviously, the rubber blade edges are satisfactory as you have recently renewed them, along with the blade itself which should rule out incorrect tension against the screen. Your problem must, therefore, be some form of contamination of the windscreen glass, such as oily deposits from diesel emissions or tree sap. It could also be caused (although this is unlikely) from the car shampoo used to wash the car which can sometimes leave a residue if not sufficiently rinsed.
Any contamination of the screen surface can cause the wiper blades to drag rather than pass cleanly over the glass; in heavier rain the excess water tends to act as a lubricant with little dragging and hence less or no noise at all.
Use a good quality car glass cleaner to remove contamination and always use a propriety windscreen washer fluid in the reservoir - not washing-up liquid from the kitchen!
In conversation the other day someone said that my old-fashioned driving licence (paper type) is no longer valid and that it should be exchanged for a new one with a photograph. What are the regulations on this?
We appreciate your concern, but provided your personal details are correct, ie., address, then your present licence is valid until you reach the age of 70. However, if you have had your paper licence for a number of years, then it's probably very creased or even split so it can be changed (at your cost) for a new photocard licence.
If you opt for a photo licence, then a charge of £20 is levied (unless you are reporting a change in your personal circumstances) and it will still expire on your 70th birthday. If, on the other hand, you keep your paper licence until that age, you will be issued with a photocard licence free when you have reached 70 years. After the aforementioned age, licences must be renewed every three years, or sooner if you have an underlying medical condition, but no charge is levied.
A photocard licence is useful if you are driving abroad as most EU countries have this type of licence and officials understand them which could save a long difficult-to-understand explanation
My car handbook states that a SAE 0W-30 should be used, but I recently topped up with a SAE 5W-40 oil in error. Should I get an oil change carried out to prevent long term engine damage?
A small top-up of oil (there is not much difference between the two grades of oil you mentioned) should be ok. You didn't mention the quality factor of the oil (as opposed to the viscosity rating) you topped up with, ie., the ACEA figure, this should be the same as recommended by the manufacturer of your car.
Driving to Southampton recently, and while stationary at traffic lights, we were approached by a man armed with a squeegee and bucket who proceeded to clean our windscreen, despite our best efforts to decline this 'service', but he continued nevertheless. However, the lights changed and we were forced to drive away with a wet, partially obscure, windscreen - to the annoyance (and rude gesticulation) of the cleaner.
I feel this practice should be banned, if it's not already against the law. We have enough CCVT cameras, so why cannot the police take action to stop this highly dangerous practice?
A sign of the times, I'm afraid.
Is damage likely to occur to my car as my wife insists on turning the steering wheel (when stationary) to engage the column lock? The reason I ask is that years ago I was told not to turn the steering when stationary as this could strain the steering linkage and cause undue tyre wear.
It is not necessary to engage the column lock as the internal lever would soon snap into place if anyone tried to turn the steering wheel with no key in the ignition, such as if a thief was trying to drive away your car after attempting to 'hot wire' it.
By engaging the steering lock each time the vehicle is parked, it makes it difficult to release the mechanism later when the ignition key is engaged without jiggling the steering wheel to-and-fro against resistance. This action (as you are aware of) causes undue strain to the key, lock mechanism and the steering system; it is a habit that is best avoided.
During a conversation recently the subject of the road fund licence was raised and whether this form of taxation should be abolished in favour of raising the money by increasing the duty on fuel (paid at the pumps) to ensure the payment is related to vehicle use.
By getting rid of the present system further savings would also be made on administration at the DVLC; additionally, the cost of collecting the tax through fuel duty would be negligible as it would just be a different percentage to the existing rate.
The fuel tax would need to be pitched so that a person who drives about 10,000 miles a year in a 1.0 litre (or under) sized car would be better off; while those who chose to drive greater distances, or use a larger-engined vehicle or drive uneconomically and cause the greatest pollution, would pay proportionally more as fuel usage increases.
I believe some other countries use this system and manage to keep the cost at the pumps lower than the UK. Obviously the tax disc would be a thing of the past, but this could be replaced by an official sticker issued by an insurance company to show the vehicle is insured which is often not the case as things stand with our present outdated system.
Couldn't agree more with your views. We also feel 'road pricing' is not the universal way forward, as does many other motorists we have spoken too.
Pack in the Power
Is it possible to connect a 12 volt supply to the car (via, for example, the cigar lighter) to maintain power and prevent the loss of memory settings while I disconnect the battery?
We know of at least two products on the market that fits the bill. Both are designed to feed enough power to the car's electrical system, ie., the radio and electronic control unit(s), through the cigar socket, to maintain existing memory settings.
Try your local car accessory shop, or visit the website of such firms as Gunson, Draper, etc.
My grandson, who is five years old, often sits in the front seat of his parents car in a child booster seat. Should the airbag be de-activated in these circumstances?
Difficult one and one where we feel the law may be a little vague, but regulations seem to indicate that the airbag should be turned off if the child carrier is rear-facing; my own personal opinion is that common sense must prevail and that all young children and babies should be correctly seated in the rear - but how often is common sense applied nowadays!
That said, if you cannot persuade your family to seat their off-spring in the back, then check carefully the manufacturer's handbook for their advice on the particular car. Pushing the front seat right back (if the airbag is still turned on) may be adviseable.
Another problem is that while some vehicles' airbags can be deactivated simply by operating a switch, others require a visit to the dealer to get the bag switched off; the disadvantage with the latter is that adult passangers would be left vunerable with no airbag protection in the case of an accident.
I can't help but think of the huge amount of money that must
have been spent on the traffic lights on some large roundabouts;
they don't seem to contribute much to easing traffic flow
and, if anything, they add to the congestion.
Additionally, it is my opinion these traffic
lights are dangerous with drivers trying to manoeuvre out
of the wrong lane once the lights have turned green; after
all, on a roundabout without lights, if a motorist gets badly
positioned it is normally easy to rectify the mistake. Furthermore,
the phasing of the lights on these roundabouts often means
that when you get a green you still cannot move because the
back end of another queue is in the way.
You have raised some
interesting points. Does anyone else have any bad experiences
on traffic-light controlled roundabouts where peak hours controls
have been introduced? Do you think roundabouts work better
with or without lights?
We are constantly hearing of measures to make the roads safer,
but perhaps it's time a little thought was given to pavement
What with bikes, scooters and other modes
of transport (including cars parking on the pavement) often
necessitating pedestrians to walk on the road to get past, we
now have an increasing number of disabled, or elderly people,
whizzing along noiselessly in electric wheelchairs, some of
which are more akin to heavy and fast four-wheeled trikes.
Often you are not aware of them until they
are alongside you as they are capable of quite a pace. If one
of these hit you, especially if the occupant is large where
the combined weight is considerable, then serious injury could
A good point. Perhaps
compulsory insurance, along with a registration system to
identify owner-drivers, is the answer.
After traveling extensively on the
Continent, I feel the fitting of the small repeater lamp that
mimics the action of the main traffic lights a good idea.
This repeater light is usually positioned at about eye level
to the driver and attached to the same post that supports
the main traffic lights. I found the device most useful by
not having to sit forward and peer up at a sharp angle at
the traffic lights on the occasions when my car was at the
head of the queue.
Being a frequent user of multi-storey car parks, I often wonder
why tyres squeal so much as cars negotiates the turns on the
slipways and when parking. This noise must be something to
do with the tyre tread, but I have yet to hear a plausible
explanation of its cause!
The tyre noise you hear are caused
by the floor in these sheltered parking areas gradually becoming
coated with minute particles of rubber and other contaminates.
As the accumulation of foreign matter gradually builds up
and fills imperfections in the floor, an extremely smooth
surface results which the tyres tend to slide over causing
the noise you refer too. As these particles cannot be washed
away by the action of rain water, the surface becomes even
smooth over time.
To this must be added distortion of the
tyre treads under maximum turning angles. The resultant stick-slip
between rubber and ground surface causes the squealing noise.
Governments have taxed us motorists billions of pounds over
the years, so we should have the best transport system in
We are still paying through the nose for, what I believe, is the
incompetence of our politicians and council officials to get
our road system sorted out, or to provide good, clean, reliable
public transport to all areas. I do not feel in the least
bit guilty for continuing to use my car; it's the politicians
and others in authority who should hang their heads in shame
at the mess we're now in.
I often drive down to south east France for winter skiing
which involves driving on snow and ice-bound roads. Although
I have never used snow chains, do you think they are a good
idea and what (if any) snags are associated with their use?
Snow chains are not cheap and fitting/removing
them can be tedious and cold as inevitably the task isn't
carried out until you hit low temperatures; so be prepared
Although chains (normally fitted to the driven
wheels only) are very helpful for driving on snow, especially
if it's a fresh fall, they are less useful on ice-bound roads
where studded tyres are a better option. However, this has
the drawback that you will need to carry an extra set of wheels
so they can be swapped when you hit the snow or ice and this
is not always practical due to space constraints.
Certainly studded tyres allow you to travel at
higher speeds (and for limited running on clear roads), whereas
with chains your speed is restricted to about 30 mph and you
cannot travel on snow-free roads for any significant distance.
After more than half-a-dozen visits to Malta over the years
I never fail to be fascinated by the number of old vehicles
still in everyday use, they seem to trundle on forever.
The island is still littered with old favourites
of mine from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, including
Ford Populars, Hillman Minxes, Austin A30s and 50s, as well
as scores of Morris Minors and Triumph Heralds, all in apparently
good working order. I suppose the reason why most of them
have survived in such condition is down to the mild climate,
and no frost means no corrosive salt on the roads.
I left Malta feeling quite nostalgic, especially
as most of these cars were right-hand drive.
It never fails to annoy me to hear on the car radio of 'major
hold-ups' causing 'long tailbacks', often accompanied with
advice to 'avoid the area', with no time mentioned as to when
the delay started, or the probable clearance time of the hold-up.
Often by ignoring the traffic report I have passed
the spot and the obstruction has been cleared, thereby making
the report unnecessarily alarmist and leading me to think
that often road reports are inaccurate. After all, incorrect
or unhelpful information is always bad information.
I must admit to having
made unnecessary diversions myself on more than one occasion
after hearing a traffic report on the radio. Perhaps, as you
say, the time of the incident should be mentioned to allow
an easier judgement whether to divert or not.
I have noticed in heavy traffic that an increasing number
of drivers sit at road junctions, traffic lights or in a queue
with their foot on the brake pedal, instead of knocking the
change lever out of gear and applying the handbrake.
These motorists seem completely oblivious of
the effect that their brake lights (including the new high-level
type) have on the driver behind who has to suffer the dazzle;
it is particularly blinding as dusk approaches and the intensity
is more noticeable.
Perhaps cars should be fitted with some kind
of automatic dimmer that reduces the power to the brake bulbs
as the surrounding light level decreases.
You have a good point here.
Brake lights can be just as annoying as high intensity fog
lamps in the wrong circumstances, but it is really down to
good driving practice.
In conversation with a policeman the other day, he said that
many road crashes are not 'true accidents', but rather collisions.
This seems strange to me as surely an accident is an unplanned
event where someone may, or may not, be to blame.
It appears some constabularies may be using
the transatlantic definition whereby road traffic accidents
are referred to as collisions, or crashes. There may well
be a collision following anevent, but that is part of an
accident, unless it is a deliberate action.
Once we stop using the term 'accident',
I can envisage insurance companies trying to wriggle out of
paying accident insurance claims and motorists having to prove
it was a accident and not a collision.
Jeep or GP
Thoroughly enjoyed reading your feature on the Jeep. I believe
the name was derived from the general purpose (GP) role of
the vehicle and 'Jeep' was the easiest way to say it.
The history of the Jeep name has been
debated for many years and I am sure will continue to be argued
about for many years to come. According to the Chrysler &
Jeep Magazine, there are two likely answers to the origins
of the name.
Firstly, as early as World War 1, US army personnel
used the term "Jeep" to describe any new, unproved
vehicle received for evaluation, one theory being that it
might be an acronym of "just for experimental purposes".
This has credence as fresh soldiers in the British Army were
often referred too as "Jeeps" many years later.
Secondly, it may come from the Eugene-the-Jeep
character in the once popular "Popeye" series, first
introduced in the mid-Thirties.
What we can be sure of is that the name
was first used officially in 1941 when it was given to a prototype
Willys vehicle. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support
the theory that "Jeep" came from the joining together
of the initials GP for General Purpose.
See the article on the Jeep in our Archives,
feature number 19
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