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Getting your car ready to sell

For most drivers, there will come a point in life when they need to sell their car. This could be because they are needing the money for other things or are simply looking to fund buying a new car themselves. Whether you go for a private sale or sell through a dealer, it is key to get your car ready in advance. This will not only ensure you make a quick sale but also that you get as much as possible for it. 

But just what can you do to get your car ready to sell?

Give it a clean

The top priority for every car seller is to give your vehicle a clean! This is a good tip as it is easy to do and does not cost lots of money. Many people will simply go through a carwash as this is the easiest option and will give a really professional result. You can, of course, give it a good once over at home if you prefer - just make sure to pick up some top quality products to wash, shine and wax with. As well as cleaning the outside, don’t forget to give the inside a good tidy up as well. 

Do some simple maintenance checks

Another great tip for selling your car is to perform some simple DIY checks on it. A wipe of the engine with a damp cloth is worthwhile to make it look cleaner and show that the car has been well looked after. It is also a good idea to top up the engine oil if needed and also fill up the washer along with coolant bottle. Check the tyres over too and inflate them to the right pressure if any are not at the correct level. Doing this will ensure you get a better sale price as people do not have to spend time doing these jobs after buying it. 

Touch up any minor scratches or scrapes

When you own a car for any period of time, it is likely that you will pick up some minor bodywork damage. This could be stones popping up off the road as you drive along or someone catching your wing with a shopping trolley. Naturally, these could hurt the value and put buyers off so it is worth fixing them. There are some great products on the market now that allow you to do this at home for little money. Many are simply applied directly to your car’s bodywork and then gently rubbed in with a micro-fibre cloth for best results.

Get your paperwork ready

Having all the necessary paperwork is also key to being ready to sell. All garages and most people will not agree to buy your car if this is not in place. Before selling, get your V5C registration, MoT certificate and logbook together to show any interested parties. This makes them easier to produce when asked for and will make buyers view you as an organised, trustworthy seller.

Get your car ready to sell fast

As noted above, doing what you can to get your car ready to sell will make for a quick sale and help you get the most you can for it. The above tips are all worth thinking about in this regard. When you are ready, it is then a case of deciding how much you would like for it and either approaching a garage or putting a private advert out there to make the sale.

MOT Test Explained

The MOT test is an annual check-up for all vehicles which have been on the road for three years or longer. The test entails a series of checks on the most important parts of your vehicle to ensure they meet the legal minimum requirements, although tests aren’t carried out on the engine, clutch or gearbox. Driving without a valid MOT means you could be fined up to £1,000, so it’s important you get your vehicle checked in good time.

When do you need an MOT?

A valid MOT is a legal requirement if you’re driving on UK roads. If you’ve bought a new car, your first MOT will need to take place on or before the third anniversary of its registration. Vehicles over three years need to be checked on an annual basis, on or before the anniversary of their last MOT. You can get an MOT done up to a month minus one day before your old one expires and keep the same renewal date. If your MOT has expired, you can be prosecuted for driving unless you can prove you are on the road taking your car to be repaired or taking it to a pre-arranged MOT.

What does the test entail?

Once at the garage, engineers will check all the important parts of your vehicle to check they meet the minimum legal requirements to keep your car, motorcycle or van roadworthy. This will include the brakes, fuel system, exhaust system, seatbelts, lights, mirrors and windscreen wipers. The standard MOT takes between 45 minutes to an hour, although your car may be in the garage for longer if it fails on any of the key tests and parts need to be replaced. The garage cannot let you drive away in a vehicle which has failed its MOT, and it’s estimated that around two in five vehicles fail the first time around.

Common reasons a vehicle fails its MOT

Vehicles can fail an MOT for the simplest of reasons, most of which drivers could solve for themselves before the car reaches the test centre. One of the most common is not topping up the screen wash, a relatively simple task but one which plenty of drivers forget. Other simple reasons could include stickers or permits on the windscreen obstructing the driver’s view, windows and mirrors which are too dirty or issues with the registration plate, such as incorrect typeface or dirt obscuring the characters. Warning lights on the dashboard are also a major cause of MOT failures, and engineers will need to diagnose and fix any problems flagged before they can return your vehicle to you.

Remember, it’s not uncommon for a vehicle to fail its MOT first time around. In the majority of cases, the problems will be easy enough to diagnose and fix, but in the worst case scenario, you may need to wait a little time for parts to be replaced altogether. The MOT test isn’t a choice but a legal requirement, to see your vehicle is roadworthy and you and other road users are kept safe.

Driving in dangerous conditions

No matter how a experienced a motorist you are, you can guarantee that the varied weather we experience in the UK will throw up conditions that can be dangerous to drive in. The key to staying safe on the road is to be ready, both in the preparation of your vehicle and in knowing how to tackle certain driving conditions.

Rain

Undoubtedly the most common driving condition you’ll have to face, rain might not seem like much of a problem, but excess water can not only cause problems with your engine, it can make road conditions more hazardous as well. When it rains excessively, it’s a good idea to avoid areas that are prone to flooding. If you are driving in your local area, you’re probably familiar with these, but if you’re driving in unfamiliar territory, it’s worth asking a local about potential flood points. 

When you’ve established a safe route, check your vehicle carefully before setting off. Make sure that all your wiper blades are working properly and that you have plenty of fuel in the tank. Remember that running the lights, wipers and heaters in your car will increase fuel consumption. Finally, check the tread of your tyres. If these are not within safety guidelines, your vehicle will be more prone to slipping and skidding on wet roads. 

The most important thing you can do to stay safe when driving in the rain is to reduce your speed and to stay well back from other vehicles. Remember that speed limits are the maximum for optimal conditions and that stopping distances will be increased when the road is wet. Use dipped headlights so you can be easily seen, but don’t use rear fog lights as these can obscure your break lights. Keep your windscreen clear using your air conditioning. If you need to drive through deeper water, make sure you do so at a slow speed. Driving quickly through water can cause serious damage to your vehicle and you run the risk of losing control. 

Snow and ice

Preparing your vehicle to drive in snow and ice is vital. Again, you need to check your wiper blades and tyres, fuel and oil levels. Also, it’s worth checking your car’s coolant and screenwash levels, as well as a quick check that your lights are all in working order. 

Stick to main roads when the weather is icy or snowy, as these are more likely to be gritted or cleared. Driving slowly is vital in slippery conditions in order for you to maintain control of your vehicle. Remember that stopping distances can be as much as ten times greater on ice or snow and that breaking, accelerating or turning suddenly can lead to a dangerous loss of control. If your car does go into a skid, steer into it, so if the back of the car is sliding to the right, steer right. If you are going on a longer journey in the snow, it is wise to pack an emergency bag with food, drink, a blanket, a shovel and a phone charger in case you run into difficulties. 

Leaves

Leaves on the road, when wet can have much the same effect as ice, so when driving on a leaf covered road, reduce your speed and increase your stopping distances. You may also find that leaves cover up road markings, so take extra care on leafy roads. 

Wind

As with any severe weather, an emergency kit and a mobile phone are a good idea in very windy conditions. You should also be aware that strong winds can make braking and the general handling of the car much more difficult, so reduce your speed. Expect sudden gusts on more exposed stretches of road and be wary of overtaking high sided vehicles as this too can cause sudden gusts. Hold your steering wheel firmly so that you can maintain control of the vehicle and watch out for debris that has been blown onto the road. 

Fog

Driving in fog can be scary because of the reduced visibility. Make sure you know where to switch on the fog lights in your car and use them only when visibility is reduced to about 100 metres. Don’t use your full beam headlights and if visibility is really poor, wind down your windows to listen for approaching traffic at junctions.

Wiper blade maintenance

Wiper blades, thankfully, are a relatively cheap vehicle part. Their job, however, is a crucial one.

It’s essential to have wiper blades that are working properly, aren’t damaged and worn, and can clear your windscreen effectively. Wiper blades play a big part in overall driving visibility, and should always be properly maintained.

How to tell if wiper blades need replacing

If your wiper blades are worn and need replacing, then there are a few tell-tale signs. They might leave streaks or lines on the window or could sound quite noisy with squeaking or grinding sounds.

Wiper blades are made out of relatively thin strips of fabric, and their job involves delicate balance. They must clear the windscreen effectively, making a good level of contact, without scratching or damaging the glass. As a result, even though they’re used very regularly and might need to face snow and ice, they’re quite delicate and easily break.

Wiper blades that have become very worn or damaged might no longer move in one smooth motion. Instead, they might seem to scrape along the windscreen or temporarily get stuck in one place. You might also be able to see wiper blade damage, in the form of chips or marks in the rubber.

Finding the correct replacement blade

Replacement wiper blades come in all different sizes, to suit different vehicle makes and models.

To find the right length for your replacement wiper blade, start by checking the manual. Your vehicle’s manual should have the details that you need to make a purchase.

If you don’t have the manual or need another way to find this information, then you can simply measure the blades. Take the measurement in inches, as this is how they’ll be shown on the box.

Don’t assume that both wiper blades are the same. To interact successfully, many pairs of wiper blades have one that is shorter than the other.

You can also use some online tools to find the right blades for your vehicle.

Types of wiper blade

There are many different types and styles of wiper blade. When buying wiper blade replacements, this is something worth bearing in mind.

Standard/hinged wiper blades

Most vehicles use hinged wiper blades. They have a metal frame, with hinges that provide flexibility. These are usually the standard windscreen wipers, installed on most UK vehicles. The hinges control the range of movement.

Hingeless wiper blades

Wiper blades without hinges are less common. They’re made of flexible plastic, rather than metal with hinges, and may have a wider range of movement. But, these usually come at a higher price.

Winter wiper blades

Standard wiper blades, with exposed metal, can be damaged by rain, snow and ice. Winter wiper blades are almost the same as standard wiper blades but come with an additional coating. This coating protects the frame of the wiper blade from the worst weather conditions. Winter wiper blades can work better in cold weather and are less likely to be damaged by frost but will wear down quickly if they’re gliding over a dry windscreen.

Replacing only the wiper blade rubber itself

It’s possible to replace only the rubber of the worn wiper blade. This is cheaper than buying brand new windscreen wipers. Rubber refills, however, can be harder to fit. It’s much easier to completely replace a windscreen wiper, and pay more for the privilege.

Replacing the rubber of the wiper blade, without replacing the whole arm, can cut down the cost of car maintenance. But, pay close attention to the rest of the structure. Though the rest of the windscreen wiper blade will wear down more slowly, it is still wearing down. At some point, the whole thing will need replacing.

Replacing only one wiper blade

At first, you might find that only one wiper blade seems like it needs replacing. Only one is squeaking or leaving streaks across the windscreen. But, both blades have been through similar levels of work. 

It’s usually easier to replace a pair of windscreen wiper blades at the same time.

Winter driving

Driving in winter brings new and different risks. Staying safe requires forward planning and preparation, particularly during periods of sub-zero temperatures.

What to watch out for

High levels of rainfall can lead to surface water. Driving over surface water may lead to aquaplaning. Snow and ice also present winter driving risks - particularly when soft snow that has recently fallen is covering older slick ice.

In winter, it’s not always easy to see the dangers and hazards around us. As well as driving cautiously, always make sure that your vehicle is properly maintained.

How to avoid aquaplaning

Wet winter days can lead to surface water in areas with limited drainage. These large pools of water are even a problem on many UK motorways, where cars may be driving at very high speeds even in very wet weather.

When drivers experience aquaplaning, they’ll lose control of their vehicle. It glides over the surface of the water, much like gliding over ice, rather than gripping the road.

To reduce your aquaplaning risk, make sure that you’re using high-quality tyres. Your tyres should have good tread depths all the way around - at least 1.6mm in line with the law.

If you do find that you’re aquaplaning, don’t panic and slam on the breaks. Instead, ease off the accelerator and hold the steering wheel straight. Allow your vehicle to slow down gradually, then brake once you’re back in control.

Choosing to buy winter tyres

Winter tyres have tread variations that make them more suited to icy conditions. These treads are also designed to work better on wet road surfaces, which are more common through winter.

Winter tyres can improve your safety on the road, though they may count as an after-market modification that your insurers will need to know about. They can also be very expensive.

It’s worth investing in winter tyres if you have the money available. They can stop your car up to two car lengths faster than the equivalent summer tyres. But, they’re not essential.

If you’re choosing not to invest in winter tyres, then always make sure that your existing tyres are ready for the worst winter weather. Tread depth should be some way off the minimum legal limit, and your tyres should be free from any cuts or bulges.

Maintaining good visibility

Make sure that you can always see through a clean and clear windscreen when you’re driving. If your windscreen washers have frozen, pull over and defrost them manually. 

Clear snow from the roof before driving, so that it isn’t a risk to other road users.

Use headlights when visibility is reduced, and fog lights when visibility drops below 100 metres.

Packing an emergency kit

Winter weather can be unpredictable. Carry an emergency kit, so that you’re prepared in the event of a breakdown or a long line of motorway traffic.

As you might need to exit your vehicle, always have warm clothes to hand. Include gloves, scarves, hats and waterproof coats for every vehicle passenger. Also, stock a selection of snacks and drinks. 

Driving in snow and ice

Stopping distances increase in snow and ice. In fact, they may be up to ten times longer.

Drive slowly and gently. Avoid sudden acceleration or deceleration, and try to avoid stopping on steep hills.

Stick to major roads where possible, and allow extra time for all of your journeys so that you’re not rushing in bad weather.

Never underestimate winter conditions. By driving carefully and being aware, you reduce your risk on the road.

Driving Abroad

Behind the wheel of your own vehicle, the roads of Europe and beyond are your oyster. Driving your car abroad is a convenient choice for business trips, road trips and holidays. However, you must make sure that you’re completely prepared for the experience.

What do you need to prepare?

Before driving abroad, it’s important to make sure that your car is properly maintained. In fact, this is also something to do before any long journey at home.

Make sure that your windscreen wash, oil and other liquids are all at appropriate levels. Check the condition of your tyres. If you’ve been ignoring a maintenance or warning light, now is the time to get it checked.

Dealing with a breakdown in another country will add a lot of stress to your visit. You could also end up on the wrong side of the law for not properly maintaining your car. When you don’t know the roads, it’s more important than ever to stay safe and in control of your vehicle.

Are driving laws different in other countries?

In some countries, you’ll need to carry equipment that isn’t compulsory in the UK.

For example, drivers in France must carry a warning triangle, a reflective jacket and their own breathalyser. The breathalyser needs to be certified by French authorities, and have an ‘NF’ number.

In some countries, you may be required to carry a fire extinguisher and/or a first aid kit. If you use contact lenses or glasses, many countries’ road laws also require you to carry at least one spare pair.

How can you find out what you’ll need?

If you’re planning to drive abroad, the AA guide to Compulsory Kit is a sensible starting point.

What else should you consider when driving abroad?

As well as making sure that you’re carrying the right equipment, you will need to consider other laws.

If you’re travelling with children, be aware of varying car seat laws. The seat that you use day-to-day may not be legal on a different country’s roads.

Countries will also have varying rules regarding drinking and driving. For your own safety, and to avoid any confusion, it is best to avoid this completely.

Keep an eye on speed limit signs, whilst you’re driving around. Limits will not be the same as in the UK and may be written in km/h.

What about fuel?

Before travelling, make sure that the country you’re visiting has the right fuel for your vehicle. Remember to read signs carefully, and check the fuel nozzle colours. In some other countries, these colours are the reverse of the UK standard. Always ensure that you have valid payment cards or cash before you add fuel to your car.

Will you need to change your insurance?

You should always travel with a valid MOT certificate and your car ownership documents. Also make sure that you have appropriate car insurance, covering you in your chosen country.

In many countries, comprehensive insurance is a legal requirement.

Staying safe when driving abroad

In case you are stopped, you should always ensure that you have as much ID as possible. Carry your passport and driving license, as an absolute minimum.

Be aware of your surroundings. If you are asked to stop, you should only do so in a built-up area. Have the country’s emergency service number where you can access it easily, in case you need to report a crime or don’t feel safe pulling over when asked. 

Keep doors locked whilst you travel.

Driving your car abroad should be as safe and enjoyable as driving a vehicle at home. But, you should always prepare to avoid any accidental law-breaking.

Prepare your car for winter

With autumn upon us and winter drawing closer, now is the time to think about preparing your vehicle for the coldest months of the year. Driving conditions in winter can be testing, so you need to go into the season confident that your vehicle is in the best possible condition and won’t let you down. Here we’ll be exploring the top maintenance and preparation checks you need to carry out, to ensure your car or van is ready for the winter.

Check the battery

Your vehicle’s battery should be the number one priority. During the winter, this part takes a double hit from cold temperatures and the increased use of lights and heaters, so it’s best to get it checked before a cold snap. Batteries typically last around five years, so if your battery is already struggling then it’s worth getting it changed.

Put antifreeze in your engine coolant

Your engine coolant should be a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze, going into the colder months. Sometimes people make the mistake of topping up the coolant with water over the summer, but this can dilute the antifreeze to the point where it becomes ineffective. An over-heated and damaged engine can be very costly, so always top up with antifreeze in equal measure.

Check your tyres

Your car’s tyres are essential to steering and braking when the roads become icy, so check the pressure and tread depth before any adverse weather sets in. The legal minimum is 1.6mm, but 3mm will give you better grip on the roads. Even better, you could invest in a set of winter tyres, which cope better in slush, snow and ice. 

Clean your lights

Evenings draw in early in the autumn and winter, meaning reduced visibility. You should check all your lights are in good working order, including brake lights, fog lights and main beam lights. Give them a good clean, so you know you’ll be able to see and be seen when driving in the dark.

Check for windscreen cracks

Cracks to your windscreen can spread quickly in cold weather, so check that there are no chips or cracks which could cause problems further down the line. It’s always worth investing in a new windscreen rather than taking the risk – it could prove dangerous and more costly not to act.

Clean your wipers and windscreen

Clean your windscreen inside and out, because low winter sun or other drivers’ headlights can produce glare which makes it hard to see. If you have a grubby windscreen then you can find it difficult to drive. You should also top up your screen washer fluid reservoirs with antifreeze, to stop the blades from sticking on frosty glass.

Carry an essential breakdown kit

No matter how far you’re driving, always carry a bag of essentials. Whether you’re simply popping to the supermarket or are undertaking a hundred mile drive, a winter kit in the boot of the car can be a lifesaver in the event of a breakdown. Before you travel, pack food and drink supplies, a fully charged smartphone, a blanket, a high-vis vest, a shovel and sturdy walking shoes, in case you need to walk to safety.

With a little forward planning, you can get your vehicle ready for winter and drive safely over the coming months. For more information on preparing your vehicle for winter, contact engine management specialists Internet Motor Parts today. 

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