Archive for the ‘Motoring Articles’ Category

At the St Helens workshop we get many customers calling in at this time of year concerned about the anti-freeze in their vehicles cooling system. Newcomers to our garage usually ask the same three questions.

  • How do I know what the strength of the anti-freeze is and what temperature it will protect down to?
  • What is the difference between red and blue anti-freeze?
  • Can I mix various types of anti-freeze?

We can answer the questions but it is usually a lot easier (and quicker) just to carry out the free Century AutoCare winter check. It only takes about 10 minutes and tells us the strength of the existing anti freeze and what action is needed to prepare your vehicle for winter.  If you feel that you must know about such things (despite our free offer where we do it all for you) then take a look at our lovingly prepared Anti-freeze fact sheet

When we say its quick and easy  – it is. The picture below shows our mechanic using a device called a hydrometer to carry out the check. This tells us how much antifreeze is actually in the coolant and at what temperature it will freeze. It’s that simple.

century autocare mechanic checks antifreeze strength.
Hydrometer shows this antifreeze will protect to about minus 31C

We don’t know what the coming winter has in store for us  but if it is anything like last year it will almost certainly be difficult one for us motorists. Most unusually for St Helens we had some extremely cold weather with temperatures in Merseyside and West Lancashire dropping to an incredible minus 17 degrees centigrade.

It was made worse by the first spell of cold weather coming in early December which is normally a relatively mild time. It caught many motorists out.

Winter in West Lancashire - no fun for motorists
Winter in West Lancashire – no fun for motorists

These sort of temperatures place huge demands on your anti-freeze so its well worth taking a few minutes out of your busy day to call in to our garage on Merton Bank Road for your free winter check. Unfortunately once an engine freezes it can be a very expensive repair, so this is definitely a case of prevention rather than cure.

Century Autocare is an independent garage  based in St Helens Merseyside. The free winter check is carried out without any obligation whatsoever. An appointment is not always necessary.

Telephone 01744 753333

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The weather looked as if it was going to be reasonable so there was no excuse not to have a day out at the Ormskirk Motorfest. It was the first of its kind to be held in this small historic market town so it was well worth the short drive from St Helens to see what it was all about.

One of the joys of these types of event is seeing the cars of yesteryear with the proud owners in attendance. Quite often many hours of painstaking work has gone into restoring and maintaining the cars.

Morris Minor engine at Ormskirk Motorfest

If only all engines were this straightforward

A first spot was a couple of Morris Minors, one with its bonnet open displaying what must look to be a very small engine compared with modern cars. In reality it’s not just the engine size but also the lack of all the other bits of kit to be found under the bonnet of todays automobile. No complex electronics to be found here. Hence he engine compartment is very empty by todays standards and was fairly easy for the average man with a little practical knowledge to service his own vehicle.

Allard at Ormskirk Motorfest

An elderly Allard in great condition.

Another spot was a Rover 2200, not dissimilar to one we had worked on recently at Century Autocare. It was in very good condition. Both the Rover and the Minors were quite prone to rust as they lacked the modern steel coatings which protect the metal. These coatings are applied at the steel mill and make modern cars virtually corrosion free – hence the lifetime body warranties now offered by some manufacturers.

An elderly Allard was displayed in fine condition. When this old car was manufactured there would have been little in the way of corrosion protection and its condition will be purely down to the care it has received from its various owners.

Santa Pod dragster ormskirk motorfest august 2011

Santa Pod dragster - this needs a parachute to stop

At Century Autocare we have done a lot of brake testing and brake repairs over the years and  we have seen many changes. It has to be remembered that some of the cars of yesteryear were quite quick but had quite primitive braking and suspension systems compared with todays cars.

This can’t be said of the Santa Pod Dragster which was on display at the Motorfest and deploys a parachute in order to stop. Just in case you are thinking the dragster doesnt look very streamlined – it’s the bandstand in the background. It’s not part of the car.

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There used to be a steep hill coming into the city of Bath from the North. Not only was the road steep but it seemed to go on for ever.  About half way down the hill was an escape road which was effectively a 100 metre long sandpit. The rationale was of course that if a vehicle’s brakes failed on the steep and protracted descent, that the driver could elect to steer into the escape road and the sand would promptly bring the vehicle to a standstill.

Rather worryingly there were always tyre tracks in the sand suggesting that some unfortunate souls had problems with their brakes.The moral of this short tale is that brakes tend to fail most under heavy braking, In short – brakes annoyingly fail when you most need them to work.

Fortunately complete and instantaneous brake failure is relatively rare. Modern vehicles have dual circuit braking which means that if one circuit fails the other circuit is still able to operate. As the remaining circuit can only provide braking to two wheels, one front and the diagonally opposed rear wheel it isn’t perfect and is clearly only an emergency measure.

The remaining circuit will operate for as long as there is fluid remaining in the braking system, so if there is a serious loss of braking fluid the second circuit may also eventually fail, hopefully only after the car has come to standstill.

The solution to avoiding such problems is relatively straight forward and inexpensive as good garages will carry out a free brake check. This involves putting the car on a ramp and conducting a full visual inspection of the underside of the car. Corroded brake pipes and leaking braking fluid are signs that all is not well and should be addressed immediately.

Some customers are wary of asking for a “free check” as they think the garage will find all sorts of work which needs “attention” – which will be anything but free. Here its important to choose a garage that you trust to give you a honest opinion. The role of a good  mechanic is to ensure that dangerous defects are brought to the vehicle owners attention and to honestly outline what work is necessary to make the car safe.

So next time you are passing your friendly local garage and have 15 minutes to spare, call in and ask for a free brake check.

St Helens Motorcare is an independent garage based in St Helens Merseyside. Brake checks and inspections are carried out free of charge and any brake repairs are undertaken by fully skilled mechanics using approved parts. A brake check  takes about 15 minutes and can normally be conducted without appointment while you wait.

Telephone 01744 753333

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Save a lot of money at St Helens Motorcare

Save a lot of money at St Helens Motorcare

Before 2004 buying a new car in the UK  inevitably tied you in to using the manufacturer’s franchised dealers for servicing, The penalty for not doing so was probably an invalidated warranty on your car, not something to be taken lightly.

Perhaps understandably such a restrictive practice with a frightening threat thrown in for good measure ensured that the average motorist dutifully went back to the dealer for all his servicing  – and paid handsomely for the privilege.

Independent garages such as St Helens Motorcare felt that they were being excluded from vehicle servicing and repair when they were competent to undertake the work and probably able to offer the customer much better value for money.

In 2004 it all changed when the Office of Fair Trading cautioned that such  tied in service contracts on new vehicles reduced customer choice and should be abandoned. The outcome was good for  new car owners who were then able to choose where their new car was serviced, quite often saving significant amounts of money in the process. Smaller independent garages then proved to be in many cases much cheaper than the manufacturer’s franchised dealers.

Finding a good quality independent garage can potentially save the canny motorist a lot of money. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) compared prices and found that car owners could save on average 58% by visiting independent garages rather than the manufacturer’s franchised dealer for servicing. Just as importantly, the OFT found that there was no apparent difference in the quality of the service offered.

So how can the money-saving motorist take advantage? There are potentially big savings here, but the motorist does need to ensure the independent garage only uses approved parts and performs any work according to the manufacturer’s instructions and service schedule. The OFT also advises that the records of services should be kept and any receipts should be kept in case there is a warranty claim.

St Helens Motorcare  is an independent garage based in St Helens Merseyside. All service and repair work is performed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and only approved parts are used on your vehicle

Telephone 01744 753333

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