Essential Items for a European Breakdown

Nobody wants their car to suffer a breakdown, least of all when travelling around Europe, but unfortunately these things sometimes happen. No matter how much you prepare an accident can occur at any time or an undetected fault cause problems and put a dent in your holiday plans.

European breakdown cover is vital to ensure your vehicle gets up and running as quickly and easily as possible. During the initial stages after breaking down there are a number of items which can make the process more comfortable.

Legal Requirements

Making all the necessary legal preparations will put you in a better position should a breakdown occur. Attaching headlamp beam adaptors and placing a GB sticker on the back are two legalities and there are many other items which will help in such a situation.

Reflective Gear

Reflective jackets or waistcoats are a legal requirement to be carried in vehicles in many European countries. Even in places where they are only recommended one is useful for safely accessing your boot on a busy road.

Reflective warning triangles are also a necessity in many nations and help warn other vehicles that your car has broken down. Breakdown Direct customers receive a 5% discount on reflective vests and other essentials at Drive-France.

First Aid Kit

Hopefully you’ll never have to open this but first aid kits are compulsory in Austria and Croatia, though one should be in your car all the time. It should be fully stocked with bandages, cleansing wipes, painkillers and much more to help deal with minor injuries.

Breathalyser

Breathalysers are now legally compulsory to have in your vehicle when driving in France. This can help protect you from any blame. Check the driving laws of each country you intend to drive through and stock up to stay safe.

Helpful Equipment

There are plenty of other items it’s useful to have on board in the event of a breakdown which aren’t legal necessities.

Warm Clothing

Depending on the time of year, weather and location when you breakdown it could get pretty chilly quickly, especially if your heater breaks. Have a spare blanket or two in your boot all the time and extra clothing, notably if you’re travelling through deserted areas and during cold periods.

Provisions

Having enough food and drink in your car is vital for long journeys, especially with young children in the back. Many breakdown response times can be quick but there still might be a wait before you get off the road and pass a shop. Even just a few packets of sweets can keep everyone going.

Entertainment

Books, travel games and more are essential for keeping children occupied during long road trips. They can prove a lifesaver if you breakdown as it helps keep them calm and their mind off what is going on, even if it’s just a short wait. All these items should make any unfortunate breakdown bearable.

Studies Show a Record High Turnover for UK Automotive Sector

According to the figures from a study by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) into the UK’s automotive production industry, 2014 saw an all-time record high in turnover. Here, we take a closer look at what some of these record-breaking figures are and why the UK has experienced such a positive step forward. Also we’ll consider what the future could bring for the industry and drivers alike.

Record-breaking Figures

The key stats released in the report itself included:

  • Turnover ‘hitting an all-time high of £69.5 billion’
  • Vehicle production being the ‘highest since 2008, with industry on track to produce a record 1.95 million vehicles in the next two years’
  • Across ‘each of the five years to 2014, an average of 11.5 vehicles were produced for every person employed in the industry’
  • That ‘international demand for British-made vehicles also continues to increase with total export value rising 1.8% to £34.6 billion – a staggering 103.8% uplift since 2000’

The Reasons for the Boom

While this is unquestionably positive for British industry, and indeed the workers involved in the production of vehicles, what has caused this to happen?

Firstly, as aforementioned, there’s the huge rise in international demand for British-made cars, engines and automotive components, as well as a rise in the demand for new cars here in the UK. Also, there’s the improvements in the effectiveness of industry facilities as this article from the Independent into the SMMT study details as ‘more efficient, high-tech manufacturing processes’ leading to ‘huge gains in productivity’.

A similar article into the study from Motoring Research, suggests another reason for the boom is because the work force is strong and dedicated. This is because of stats including how ‘staff turnover fell from 10% in 2000 to 5.6% in 2014’ and ‘Lost time incidents per 1,000 employees fell by nearly 29% in 2014 alone – a record low’.

Furthermore this article details how the UK automotive industry is one of the greenest in the world. It claims that production ‘used 10.4% less energy in 2014, 10.7% less water and sent a staggering 26.3% less waste to landfill. This alone is down over 90% compared to 2002’.

What this Might Mean for the Future

In the immediate future it’s safe to assume that we’ll be seeing more British-made cars on our roads, with the increased supply. Beyond this though, the SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes warned that more investment will be needed to ‘expand in a fiercely competitive global market’. The hope then is this will be realised and soon the UK could once again be a leading name in the vehicle industry.

Amazing Tech You Can Find in Modern Vehicles

While we may often wonder what the future will bring for our cars and what technologies will one day become a part of our driving experience, we sometimes overlook the incredible tech that’s available now. Many major vehicle manufacturers have some very impressive gadgets and features that you can enjoy today, some of which come as standard in certain models.

To give you a clearer idea of just what’s on offer, in this post you’ll find a selection of these technologies from a variety of different brands.

Land Rover

Land Rover are famed for their array of powerful and durable vehicles, however several also come with quite innovative ‘InControl’ systems. These connect to your smartphone or tablet device through an app and allow you to communicate and interact with your car in a number of ways. You can:

-          Check your fuel levels, locate your car and check if you’ve left lights on or windows open

-          Use other apps from your phone via the console inside the car

-          Track your vehicle location if it gets stolen

Volvo

In their new XC90 range, Volvo have introduced a new safety feature known as ‘Pilot Assist’. As you might have guessed from the name, this technology helps keep you a set time distance away from the vehicle in front. Using clever mounted cameras and distance readers on the front of the car (and also at the side to measure where road markings are) the car automatically maintains a certain speed to ensure you stay at your chosen safe distance.

BMW

Some of the new BMW range feature state-of-the-art laser headlight devices. They may look like normal headlights but the lasers used within them are claimed to improve visibility by up to 600 metres; making them much more powerful. At the same time, the lasers are more energy efficient than other LED headlights you can find.

The above is just a small selection of what’s available. With a little research you can find that the majority of manufacturers have some form of great gadgetry on offer. A final thing to bear in mind however is technologies aren’t always 100% failsafe; so as with any vehicle, comprehensive insurance and breakdown cover is something worth investing in, just to be on the safe side.

Summer Drives: What the UK Can Offer You

Now we’re entering the summer months we get to enjoy warmer weather and sunshine. More to the point though, it’s the perfect time for going for a drive and enjoying the sights and sounds on offer on our shores. The UK has a wealth of great routes to take which are made all the better by the summer weather; particularly if you have a convertible. So to give you some ideas, here are a few of the best from the British Isles.

The North – The A59, North Yorkshire

The best section of this road takes you from the very west of North Yorkshire through to the city of York in the heart of the county. The already impressive North Yorkshire Moors are accentuated by blooming summer flowers and the mixture of winding country and Roman roads take you through some quaint towns and villages along the way. Harrogate and Knaresborough are well worth a visit.

The South – The A272, West Sussex

The A272 is another stunning summer drive in the country which crosses the beautiful South Downs National Park. There’s also a wealth of stops along the way including some quintessentially English towns like Petersfield and Midhurst. Both of which are home to lots of historical sites and welcoming local attractions.

The East – The B1153, Norfolk

A great option for car lovers, this road takes you through the Norfolk broads and passes the HQ of motoring company Lotus on the way. It’s the road itself which really makes this a top trip as it’s basically one long picturesque country view, complete with easy corners and straights. Be aware though that as a B road, you’re likely to encounter farm traffic.

The West – The Black Mountain Pass, Wales

This road is considered to be one of the best in Wales and as its name suggests it passes over the Black Mountain range of the Brecon Beacons. As you would expect there are some breath-taking views, particularly from the higher altitudes; the road’s peak point being 1,617 feet.

So providing your car is in full working order and you’re covered for any eventualities, all you need to do is choose a route and enjoy a drive in the beautiful English summertime.

Biodiesel: The Future of Fuel?

In 2008 the UK Government introduced ‘The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO)’ which is ‘intended to deliver reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from fuel used for transport purposes by encouraging the supply of renewable fuels’. Such reductions apply to all road vehicles and non-road mobile machinery and are in place to help ensure the country meets EU targets including the ‘Renewable Energy Directive’.

Now in the seventh year of its application, recent studies have shown that biodiesel accounts for half of the ‘1,356 million litres’ of renewable fuels that have been supplied so far. This would suggest that biodiesel could be a viable option to meet future demand. So what exactly is biodiesel and how is it used in the UK?

Biodiesel Explained

In a nutshell, biodiesel is fuel made from converting substances including crops, vegetable oil, cooking oil and animal fats into a form of diesel. This is done through a process called ‘transesterification’ where other chemicals are added to make the biodiesel appropriate for use in vehicles. You can find out more about the scientific methods here.

How does it Help Meet Emissions Targets?

While you still get some emissions from burning biodiesel, these are far lower than typical fossil fuels. Equally, biodiesel is considered ‘carbon-neutral’ rather than carbon free because the C02 it creates is balanced out by the amount absorbed by the crops used to create it. Also it is far less harmful than normal diesel and biodegrades much faster.

How Easy is it to Find?

Biodiesel is more readily available than you might think. There are already several established biodiesel producers in the UK and demand is continuing to grow. In this article for Biodiesel Magazine for instance, it shows how one firm, Greenergy, recently expanded their operations to ‘meet more of its obligations domestically’. There’s also a number of biodiesel filling stations nationwide, details of which can be found here.

Options for your Vehicle

Standard diesel engines built after 1993 can use biodiesel ‘without negative impacts to operating performance’ according to Biodiesel.com. The site’s FAQ also details some of the minor modifications that can be made to older vehicles and with a little research you can also find cars manufactured especially for biodiesel use.

While they might be more beneficial for the environment, remember alternative fuel-powered vehicles aren’t indestructible. So if you are considering investing in converting, or purchasing one specifically for biodiesel, then be sure you also have the right insurance and breakdown cover in place as well, just in case.

Advice for Safe Driving on Country Roads

If you’re planning on making the most of the Great British countryside, you first face the task of driving to your chosen destination. Some of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK such as the Lake District and the Yorkshire Moors are also some of the most remote. This means that in order to reach them, you might need to tackle some tricky country roads.

To ensure you get to enjoy the idyllic outdoors, what follows is some useful advice specifically for driving on country roads and lanes.

Research the Roads

First of all, plan your route but do some research into what the roads are like on it. Remember that some of these can be very old and in some cases not as well-maintained as urban and city roads. Equally, on the most part they will be single lane and can feature very sharp bends and steep inclines that wind through the fields and hillsides. What’s more there may be potholes or loose sections of track which can damage your vehicle if you don’t drive over them appropriately.

Drive with more Caution

With the above then comes the recommendation that you simply drive with more caution. While the National Speed Limits will apply, this doesn’t mean you can do a flat 60mph. Slow down and give yourself more time to break to handle the bends, surfaces and hills. For added security you should also have breakdown cover in place, should you encounter any issues.

Be Careful of Wildlife

Another factor to consider is the wildlife that might find its way onto the roads. There will be road signs to indicate if there might be animals or livestock in the area, but there’s the risk smaller creatures may run out in front of you. Again, driving more cautiously helps but try your best not to swerve too drastically as this poses a danger to other cars.

Expect Slow Moving Vehicles

There can also be a number of slow moving vehicles on country roads. Farm traffic (tractors and combine harvesters) and caravans are common examples you might encounter. Whatever the situation though, be patient and don’t perform any dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.

Look at the Weather Forecast

This is something you should check before any car journey but the weather on higher country roadways in particular can be extreme. When you combine these conditions with the above factors, the sensible option is to travel when the weather is clear and dry.

So with all of this advice in mind, you can get ready to hit the roads and safely travel to your beautiful, scenic UK destination.

Tips for Cutting Costs on Your European Road Trip

Now we’re into the spring months, you might be looking ahead to your summer holiday plans and are considering a European road trip. Such holidays are a great idea if you’re looking to experience a variety of different sights and sounds. More to the point, it can be a much more affordable option when it comes to travel costs.

Instead of paying large amounts of money for flights you can simply travel from your home to your destination for a lot less. Better still, there are a few ways and means you can cut costs even more. Here’s a few to consider:

Avoid the Tolls

Many of the main roads on the European continent have toll sections on them, which despite their convenience can add up in terms of expense on those longer journeys. Plan your route in advance to avoid these toll sections and opt for the more scenic roads. The added benefit is you’re likely to see even more incredible views by traveling through the countryside.

Another easy alternative is to invest in a Satnav which you can program to avoid the toll roads.

Lighten the Load

It’s no secret that the heavier the load the less fuel efficient your car is. The simple solution is to be a little more conservative with your packing. Ask yourself whether or not you really need those extra t-shirts or shoes and only take what you will actually wear.

Check your Car

Giving your car a once over before you set off will not only make sure you and your passengers are safer but can improve your MPG. Check all of your fluid levels including oil, brake fluid and washer fluid and top these up if necessary. The condition of your tyres should be checked too; make sure they’re properly inflated to deal with your load and they’re in line with legal requirements.

Get Covered

Another tip is to make sure you’re properly covered should you breakdown abroad. If you don’t have the right policy in place you could face significant expenses in the recovery and repair of your vehicle. Furthermore, there’s the issue of having to tackle the language barrier when dealing with this in different nations.

So be sure to bear all of this in mind before setting off on your journey. You can save yourself even more money this way, which you can then put back into enjoying your holidays even more.

UK’s Best Road Trip Destinations

With summer approaching, many of us are already planning our holidays. However, if you are looking for something that is considerably cheaper than a two week holiday abroad, why not venture out of your comfort zone and take a road-trip around the UK? You will be surprised as to how many stunning landscapes you can discover whilst driving around the roads of our own fair countryside.

While it is good to explore the roads of our own land, being careful on the roads is also a vital aspect of careful planning for any road trip. Here are but a few of the best (and safest) road trip destinations in the UK:

The Lake District

Considered one of UK’s most idyllic destinations, The Lake District is situated in the North West of England. You will no doubt marvel at the stunning scenery such as Scafell Pike, which is the highest mountain in England. Plus, as the Lake District is a National Park, it contains clearly mapped out roads that are safe to travel on. So you can visit Ambleside, Keswick and Windermere safely.

Northern Ireland

The country roads of Northern Ireland are simply made for exploring due to their exquisite beauty. Northern Ireland is known for its road safety standards, and they ensure that all roads are as safe as they possibly can be, leaving you able to enjoy your journey without any hassle at all.

For example, if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you can explore the Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, which represent the King’s Road in the television series. This avenue of beech trees was planted in the 18th century, and looks magnificent today. If Game of Thrones isn’t your thing, then Ballymoney isn’t your only option, and the drive between Newtonabbey and Cushendall provides great views of the sea.

 

Cumbria

The A686 between Penrith and Haydon Bridge is widely regarded as being among Britain’s best driving roads – and for good reason. It is known to be especially scenic during the summer months and is situated close to Northumberland’s National Park, offering those who are lucky enough to be travelling along it a spectacular backdrop and plenty of opportunity to break from their journey and take in the truly inspiring views.

These aren’t the only available UK road trips, but hopefully they will whet your appetite. This type of miniature holiday is perfect for those who like their trips to be cost-effective. With the sun shining as you’re gazing out of the window whilst driving along winding roads, this is sure to be a holiday of not only self-discovery, but also one of great enjoyment.

Preparing Your Vehicle for Wet Weather Travel

Despite the summer months drawing ever closer, we don’t seem quite able to say goodbye to the adverse weather conditions quite yet, and as such, ensuring your vehicle is prepared for the possibility of wet weather is crucial. As a result, whether you are simply making the daily commute to and from work, or are instead embarking on a lengthier journey than usual, it is essential to stay vigilant whilst on the road at all times.

Although it is often the preferred outcome of many to stay off the road entirely during such weather, this isn’t always possible or practical, and instead, other solutions must be sought to make the necessary journey safe. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind to reduce the outcome of an accident during particularly wet weather.

Take It Slow

Allow yourself more time than usual to travel, as it takes time to fully adjust to wet weather, and you may have to drive more slowly than usual in particularly wet areas. It is crucial that you do not drive through conditions such as flooding and severe hail, as these are more likely to cause an accident, or cause damage to your vehicle.

Accept Turning Back

Unless your journey is absolutely necessary, understand that there may be the possibility that you will have to forfeit your journey for another time if you feel the conditions might be too dangerous. If there are high winds, heavy thunderstorms and even lightening, traveling is a definite no-go, as it can lead to deadly driving conditions.

Prepare Your Vehicle

It may seem obvious, but giving your vehicle a regular check-up will help you judge whether if it is up for managing particularly wet weather. More specifically, checking tyres, window wipers and lights are key essentials to making sure your car is up to the standard required to handle such weather while driving.

Listen To Updates

Keeping up to date with current road works via radio and weather conditions is good way of judging whether or not your journey is going to cause issues. However, if you do happen to be already on the road then it is a good way of gauging which roads will be safer for your car to take.

While these are only a few tips on keeping safe on the road during wet weather, they should enable you to experience a journey that is free from anything too treacherous. So next time you are going on the road during such conditions, take these into consideration.

How to Make the Road Trip with Kids Fun

Being with your entire family in such a small space for an extended period of time can be really fun – but it can also be stressful. If you’re planning a road trip in the car with your kids over Easter or the summer holidays, then you need to be prepared to keep your children entertained, comfortable and happy.

Before You Go

Remember to think carefully about what your children will wear to travel in – it needs to be really comfortable.

Pack the back strategically – put the stuff that you might need on your journey within easy reach. A spare change of clothes for accidents or getting cold or wet, and sunscreen should be easily accessible.

Pack essentials:

-          First aid kit

-          Torch

-          Wet wipes

-          Tissues

-          Bottles of water

-          Plastic bag for rubbish

-          Blankets for sleeping children

If you’re taking food and plan on eating it in the car, don’t eat anything that’s likely to make a lot of mess!

Some people plan their trip around their kids sleeping habits, leaving really early so they sleep during the day, or travelling at their kids’ bedtime. This works if you yourself aren’t too tired to drive – as the driver it is your responsibility to keep you and your family safe.

Entertainment

Give your children a travel bag so they can take their own toys. You can keep them entertained by buying them a new toy, which they have to wait until you’re in the car and on the way to play with – this usually keeps them entertained while you’re driving.

Play games on the way to keep their minds engaged. Audio books and their favourite music are a great way to keep them quiet too!

Colouring books and crayons are good if your children aren’t prone to car sickness.

A map can help stop the “are we nearly there yet?” questions from older children – draw a line for your journey and keep them looking out for signs and landmarks.

In The Car

Don’t feed them sweets – instead choose healthy snacks to prevent hyperactivity! However, bring them something that they like as a bargaining tool.

Planning stops into your trip is essential, even if you’re only travelling for four or five hours. For small children as well as older ones, bathroom breaks and a chance to stretch their legs will save your sanity as well as theirs. If you have young children, stop every two or three hours.