Feb 222008

potholes £100 millionDamage caused by potholes to the UK’s 33 million vehicles could have increased by nearly 50% last month, as January’s chillier temperatures kicked in, according to the latest figures from Warranty Direct.

The number of suspension or axle damage claims made on Warranty Direct’s 30,000 live policies leapt by 46 percent between December 2007 and January 2008. If that was replicated across the country more than 110,000 vehicles will have suffered pothole related wheel, axle or suspension damage during the coldest month of the year*.

Yet, despite the predictable deterioration of roads in the cold weather, Warranty Direct (www.warrantydirect.co.uk) warns motorists to brace themselves for just as high a chance of suspension or axle faults in summer.

Winter’s heavy, prolonged rain and freezing temperatures generally causes more potholes to open up, as water gets into the seams of the road surface.  When rainwater freezes and expands, it widens the crack that develops, while the constant pummelling of car tyres only hastens the pothole’s creation.

Meanwhile, in summer’s warmer temperatures, the UV rays that cause the oxidisation of the bitumen binder in the road are at their most destructive, causing the materials in the surface to lose their grip and delaminate.

As a result, data from Warranty Direct shows that July and August have regularly recorded the same level of suspension damage as the month of January.

“Most people would assume, quite rightly, that road surfaces are affected worst by winter weather,” said Warranty Direct managing director, Duncan McClure Fisher. “But this shows that motorists must be just as vigilant against potholed and poorly-maintained roads in summer.”

Warranty Direct has campaigned for years for the Government to change the ‘patch and mend’ mentality that has left a £1 billion shortfall in the road maintenance budget.  The state of the UK’s roads costs the nation’s motorists an average bill of £320 million every year.

Visit www.potholes.co.uk for further information.

Feb 212008

Congestion ChargingChanges to the congestion charge will not significantly cut CO2, nor will they drive down traffic in central London. However, families who need larger cars could face bills of up to £6,000 a year. SMMT has re-stated these concerns today, following the mayor of London’s press briefing this morning.

From 27 October, cars that emit more than 225 g/km CO2 will pay £25 to enter the central London charging zone. Band A and B cars, those that emit less than 120 g/km, will be eligible for a 100 per cent discount. The mayor did not make clear how long discounts would apply. Drivers of cars within bands C to F will pay the current £8 a day charge.

The scheme has been billed as a gas-guzzler tax. However, families with some variants of popular cars like the Ford Mondeo, Renault Espace or Vauxhall Vectra will be forced to pay £25 a day just to drive within the zone.

‘This is totally disproportionate and does not present a consistent signal to consumers,’ said SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt. ‘The mayor has made it clear that charges will be varied in future and has not clarified the period in which discounts will apply.

‘We can be confident that this means higher charges and the gradual erosion of discounts for band A and B cars. I shall therefore be writing to the mayor seeking a three-year application period before any further changes are made to the scheme.’

TfL figures suggest a CO2 saving of up to 8,100 tonnes under the changes. That compares to total ground-based transport emissions in London of 9.7 million tonnes. In other words, the maximum benefit for the capital would be a CO2 reduction of just 0.084 per cent.

This compares to average new car CO2 emissions which have come down by 13 per cent in a decade, saving an estimated million tonnes of CO2 each year. The biggest improvements have come in the 4×4 and MPV segments, down 20 and 24 per cent respectively.

SMMT supports the mayor’s stated aim to reduce congestion. However, independent reports suggest that changes could encourage between 4-10,000 additional cars onto central London roads. That could mean more congestion and delays for drivers within the zone.

Feb 212008

FuelMore than half of motorists believe that there is a shortage of fuel filling stations across Britain, according to a survey by Motorpoint, the UK’s leading car supermarket group.

These findings support the view of the Petrol Retailers Association which has reported the closure of more than 150 filling stations during last year. The AA has also looked at the issue and says: “We know there are some areas of the UK where supply no longer exists at a local level meaning there’s a real risk of some drivers running out.”

There are now fewer than 9,500 filling stations in the UK, including supermarkets, which is said to be the lowest number since 1912. A hundred years ago the car ownership was still a relative rarity. Today there are close to 30 million cars on Britain’s roads.

Motorpoint managing director David Shelton said: “The reason we do these surveys is to highlight issues of concern to our customers and to give them a chance to comment. This is a complex issue that affects the full spread of our customer base – people from both urban and rural communities all over the country. On the one hand, fuel price competition is good for motorists but if it’s driving smaller independent filling stations out of business in some areas, more and more people are going to be forced to buy fuel from the supermarkets who may then feel able to push prices up.”

Feb 212008

Windscreen wipersA survey revealed that British motorists replace their wiper blades less often than their European counterparts – as a result a free pair of wipers will be provided to encourage safer driving in the UK.

According to the Department for Transport, poor vision is a major contributor to road accidents in the UK. Research found UK motorists are less likely to replace their wipers until vision is badly obscured or their wipers fail on the annual MOT.

The survey carried out by mail order specialist, Car Parts Direct questioned their online customers in France, Spain, Germany and the UK. The Germans came out on top replacing their wipers every 15 months, while British drivers only replaced on average every 27 months.

Mark Cornwall of Car Parts Direct said: “The problem in the UK is education. Ten years ago adverts would appear on TV showing the benefits of replacing wiper blades and the safety aspects – but not anymore. TV advertising is too expensive for the wiper blade manufacturers and the Government, yet replacing worn windscreen wipers is very important to reduce the risk of road accidents.”

Car Parts Direct has produced an online video to show motorists how to replace their own wiper blades and offers tips on how to produce perfect streak, smear and crystal clear vision.

In an effort to improve road safety Car Parts Direct is giving away a free pair of their award winning wiper blades to all their online customers – for more details visit www.carparts-direct.co.uk