Archive for Motoring Tips

How to Jump-Start Your Car

Businessman holding pipe in mouth, smiling, (B&W), portrait

If there’s one car-related skill everyone should know, it’s how to jump-start a car. It’s straight forward and all you need is jumper cables (and a working car of course). You will inevitably need to do this yourself someday, whether it’s on your own vehicle, or someone else’s (your chance to be a Good Samaritan). So, read on…


  1. Park both cars bonnet to bonnet, roughly half a foot apart. Make sure both cars have the parking brake on and their engines switched off.

    How to Jump Start a Car

    How to Jump Start a Car


  1. Next, pop the hood. Before attaching anything it’s worth inspecting the battery in question. If the battery shows clear signs of corrosion then it may require replacing.

    How to Jump Start a Car

    How to Jump Start a Car


  1. If it appears fine superficially, the next step is to find the negative and positive terminals on both batteries. Positive = Red, while Black = Negative. Also, and this is important: DON’T let the metal ends touch each other throughout the process.

    How to Jump Start a Car

    How to Jump Start a Car


  1. Now, attach the positive jumper cable to the dead battery’s positive terminal, and the other end to the positive terminal of the live battery.

    How to Jump Start a Car

    How to Jump Start a Car


  1. The Negative end of the cable is then attached to the negative terminal of the live battery. Its opposite end should be attached to a metal (non-painted) part under the hood of the car with the dead battery (i.e. engine block bolts).

    How to Jump Start a Car

    How to Jump Start a Car


  1. Start the car with the live battery. Give it a few minutes running time, and then lightly rev the engine.

    How to Jump Start a Car

    How to Jump Start a Car


  1. Start up the car with the dead battery. If it turns, let it run for a few minutes. Failing that, let it rest while the other car continues to run for a minute. If it still doesn’t turn after that, turn off everything and check the connections again.


  1. If successful, disconnect the cables in the reverse order that you put them on (negative – dead car > negative – working car > positive – working car > positive – dead car).


  1. Pat yourself on the back.

    Businessman holding pipe in mouth, smiling, (B&W), portrait




Fuel Saving Tips

Fuel Saving Tips

We all know owning and running a car can be a costly business. Apart from unforeseen repairs, there’s also the considerable cost of keeping the car fuelled up.

That’s a particularly significant cost in Ireland which in 2104 was declared the 14th dearest country in the world in terms of petrol prices. Thankfully the price of oil per barrel has fallen considerably in recent times, but it’s still a regular expense we’d all love to save on.

So let’s assume you’re looking to make some savings, and let’s assume those plans doesn’t involve buying a smaller car or a hybrid. Here are some simple ways to save…

Fuel Saving Tips

Fuel Saving Tips


Check Tyre Inflation:

Under-inflated tyres are one of the leading causes of fuel inefficiency. Soft-tyres increase resistance and adds an estimated 2% to your fuel costs. That 2% can be easily saved by simply keeping your tyres at the correct inflation levels. Get into the habit of checking once a week when you’re getting fuel.


Air Conditioning:

Considering this is Ireland the chances are your air conditioner is redundant for nine months of the year.

Here’s how it goes anyway – the A/C uses energy supplied by the alternator, which in turn harnesses energy from the engine, which requires fuel from the tank.

The Society of Automotive Engineers, ran tests on the effects of AC against driving with the windows rolled down and found that the A/C decreased gas mileage by 5 to 10%. The message here – cool it with the A/C (unless you’re on a main road where the drag on speeds over 45 MPH exceeds the efficiency drop).


Engine Service:

Neglected engines will naturally underperform. Regular car service checks keep your motor running smoothly. And a smooth running engine is an efficient engine.


Replace Air Filter Regularly:

Inexpensive to buy and easy to do (see HERE). Clogged air filters congest air flow and cause an excess amount of fuel to be burned for the amount of air. Replacing an ineffective air filter can improve mileage by up to 10%.


Check Spark Plugs:

Dirty spark plugs are often responsible for a vehicle’s ignition system misfiring. As they wear down, their ability to transfer the required spark to ignite the fuel/air mix diminishes. That significantly (and unnecessarily) increases fuel usage.


Check Cap:

Chances are you probably don’t give much thought to the fuel cap on your vehicle, apart from when you remove it. It’s worth checking however that the cap isn’t damaged or loose, as such defects cause fuel to vaporize. Additionally, faulty fuel caps allow for dust and debris to enter the tank, which in turn affect the fuel filters.


Pack Light:

We know that there’s a lot of folks out there who use their car as a second home / mobile storage unit. But there’s the thing – all that unnecessary weight you’re lugging around is reducing your fuel efficiency. An additional 100 pounds cab reduce efficiency by up to 2%. So, remove those unused roof-racks and empty the boot of those golf clubs. Also, it’s worth remembering that driving on a full tank also increases weight thus reducing efficiency.


Driving Technique:

Staying within the speed limits (driving at 85mph uses roughly 25% more fuel than driving at 70mph) and reducing habits such as excessive idling, hard braking and jackrabbit starts actively increases fuel economy. In other words, drive smart!

Getting the most for your second-hand-car!

Getting the most for your second hand car

With sales of new cars in Ireland reaching pre-2008 figures, the second-hand-car market is about to become a whole lot more competitive with an influx of vehicles expected.

If you’re one such person looking to trade up, there are some things you might want to consider before attempting to offload your second-hand-car. There’s a number of things you can do to ensure you get the maximum value on a second hand motor that don’t require mechanical expertise or a lot of money.

Equally, there are a number of jobs that should ALWAYS be left to the professionals.

We’ve outlined below some tips for easy fixes, our recommendations for jobs best left to the professionals as well as some additional pointers for getting the best value for your old motor.




Difficult Fixes

Jobs best left to the professionals and other helpful tips for selling your car!

NCT Checklist


While the reasoning behind the NCT is sound, it’s fair to say that nobody sees it that way when it’s their vehicles turn be put to the test.

But all cars must eventually go through it. And with figures indicating a + 50% failure rate year on year, and over 3,000 cars towed from centres so far in 2015 having been deemed un-roadworthy, the NCT appears to be doing its job.

Those figures are certainly daunting for anyone preparing to have their car put through its paces. And there are certain fixes that will be beyond most people (such as the number one fault Front Suspension). But there are certain easy-to-follow-steps that will give your car a better chance of passing and that won’t require a pre NCT-Check to identify.



Registration Plate / Lights: Number Plates can fail for a number of reasons. If one or both are missing, insecure or not clearly visible, or if numbers or letters are missing or unreadable and an incorrect size / colour. Clearly visible marks can also be a cause for failure. Check that the lights are working properly, and are white in colour.

imgres plate1



Tyre Condition: Bad tyres are one of the three most cited causes of NCT failure since 2008. Since 2012 all new tyres sold in Europe are required to carry an EU label (see image below). The label provides consumers with important information for selecting the correct tyre. Tyres are checked for tread depth, whether it’s correctly seated on the rim, evidence of cuts or lumps as well as distortion of chaffing around the valve stem. For a full tyre guide click HERE.





Headamps: While the task of replacing bulbs in most modern cars is decidedly more difficult than it needs to be, there’s still no excuse for turning up at the NCT with faulty lights. Headlamp aim is one of the most common reasons for failure., Check to ensure the headlamps are securely mounted, that the glass is not cracked / missing or the lens miscoloured (i.e. not white or yellow) and that they don’t contain water / moisture (fogged up headlamps is evidence of this). Check that the dipped / main beams work simultaneously. And ensure you don’t have HID bulbs fitted in non-HID headlamps. Finally check to ensure the alignment is correct.


Indicator Lamps / Switch: Check they work, are clearly visible, mounted correctly and that the driver can be immediately aware from his seat that each indicator is functioning. Also, worth remembering that an indicator switch that does not automatically switch off is not a cause for failure.


Engine Warnings & Fluid Levels: Obvious one here, but if any warning lights are flashing, well, that’s a warning and a sure fire way to fail the NCT. Always worth checking that engine oil level too. Grab that dipstick! Most of these should be labelled clearly under the bonnet and are relatively cheap to purchase.


Wipers Washers & Blades: Wiper Blades needs be clean effectively an are sufficient enough to give the drive a satisfactory view. The speed is also examined. Check the blades / arms are mounted correctly. Ensure the washer is aimed correctly.


Horn: This one’s obvious. Give it a beep! Making sufficient noise? Good to go then.


Seat Belts: Frayed, cut or repaired seat-belts will fail the test. Damaged buckles, loose of detached fixing bolts or faulty locking mechanisms will also be failed. Equally, any belt that cannot fully extend will not be passed.



Guide to changing your Air Filter

Air Filter

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…you bring your car in for a service. Something routine enough that you just prefer your mechanic takes care of, like an oil change for example.

The mechanic then informs you that your air filter is in dire need of replacement. Sounds like a straight forward enough job that shouldn’t drive the cost up by any significant amount and won’t keep you waiting. You’re here already, so why not. Two birds, one stone right?

You go to pay and are surprised to find that the cost has doubled as a result of this small job. You say nothing, pay and vow never to just agree to that job on your car without first enquiring about the cost. Fast forward two years and you’re making the same silent vow to yourself all over again.

The thing is, replacing an air filter is amongst the most straight forward maintenance jobs you can do yourself. It requires no specialist tools, the filter itself is not an expensive item, and it is a quick fix. It is also one of the most beneficial maintenance tasks in terms of your car’s performance.


What is your Air Filter?

Air (or more specifically oxygen) is integral if an engine using petrol or diesel is to run. Without it these fuels can’t burn thus depriving the engine of the explosive force needed to power it.

This air must be cleansed before it is fed into the air intake and combustion chambers. Enter the Air Filter – it cleans the air coming into the engine whilst also preventing various forms debris from entering.


Why is it important to regularly change the Air Filter?

Filters can only handle so much. After thousands of miles these filters inevitably show the signs of wear and tear. After all, these filters don’t clean themselves.

A faulty or old filter can result in various forms of dust, debris and dirt clogging up the engine thus hampering its performance and fuel efficiency. By ignoring the Air Filter for a longer period of time you risk serious wear and tear by allowing a build-up of abrasive elements on engine components such as the bearings, cylinders and piston rings.

This in turn can hamper the Air Filters additional task of regulating the ratio of air to fuel in the engine. If the engine is prevented from getting enough clean air, the fuel mix becomes rich putting the engine under more strain.


How often should I change my Air Filter?

There is no one-size-fits-all rule. Some mechanics recommend changing the Air Filter every 3,000 miles / 4,900 km. Others would have you believe the best practice is to be vigilant for the tell-tale signs. Check it regularly yourself and replace as required.

Best practice would be to check the owner’s manual and adhere to its guidelines. In any case, it never hurts to look given how simple a procedure it is. And it could end up saving you from costly repairs further down the line.


What are the symptoms of a dirty Air Filter?

There are a number of tell-tale signs that your Air Filter is in need of replacing.

Poor Performance: A loss of engine power (acceleration etc) can sometimes be attributed to a clogged Air Filter restricting the amount of air into the engine. Jumpy acceleration is another potential indicator of a faulty Air Filter.

Poor Mileage: A decrease in fuel mileage is a common occurrence with regards to dirty filters.

Engine Noises: If the engine makes strange noises when idling (generally these noises tend to be of the spitting / spluttering variety) then you should definitely check the Air Filter.


How do I change my Air Filter?

First things first (and let’s assume you have already committed yourself to replacing the Air Filter), you’ll need to buy a replacement. Which you can do HERE.

Next, you’ll need to get under the hood to where the Air Filter is located. The Air Filter is contained in a large black plastic housing at the side of the engine. There is usually a big hose protruding from it.

Air Filter Housing

Air Filter Housing

Open this housing and remove the old filter. Now would be a good time to familiarise yourself with it. Check inside its folds for dust and other offending dirty particles.

Dirty and Clean Air Filter

Dirty and Clean Air Filter

Replace with the new Air Filter. It should fit comfortably in. Close the Housing again.

Air Filter

Replacing Air Filter

And that’s it! Simple.