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Car Maintenance

It’s School Run Time Again!

Well, the start of another school year is upon us, which means that the roads at certain times of the day are going to be super-busy as mums and dads do the school run.  If your child is starting school for the first time or if he/she is going to a new school that’s beyond walking distance, you might be wondering about doing the school run for the first time.  What do you need to know?  And how do you get your car ready for the school run?

First of all, figure out whether you want to be part of a car pool scheme or whether you’re only going to pick up and drop off your own kids.  This depends on a number of factors, including how large your family is and where all the other families involved in the car pool scheme live. It also depends on how large your family vehicle is.  If what’s handy for the school run is a smaller two-door hatchback that requires passengers to do a fair bit of clambering in order to be squished in the back seat, then you may not be all that popular.  However, if you have a minivan or MPV handy, then you’re probably the obvious choice for doing the school run.

If you choose to go down the car pool route, then sit down and negotiate everything with the others involved in the scheme. What happens when someone is ill or has an unexpected meeting at an awkward time? If someone has to do the lion’s share of the driving (that person with the seven-seater, for example), how will they be compensated for the extra fuel (or power) costs? Will the car pool only be for the mornings, or will it be for afternoons as well – and what happens when one (or more) of the kids has after-school sports or drama or something along those lines? Carpooling, while good in theory, might not work for everybody in all situations.

Getting The Car Ready

Here, we’ll assume that your situation is like mine: two kids and no nearby families, so you’re doing the school run on your own. Do you need to do anything to get your car ready specifically for the school run?

Your car will already be set up in many ways for carrying your own kids (booster seats, for example) but there may be a few more things that you need to think about. For example, will you carry school bags in the boot or in the car cabin? What happens if someone has to carry an extra-big delicate school project – where will that go? How will you make sure that the inevitable paper notices that kids come out of school clutching at the end of the school day don’t get lost in all the other bits that creep into a car’s cabin over time (we’ve all been there!). If you have some sort of system, the chances that an important notice will get lost in the seat-back storage pocket or in the footwell will be minimised.

Other things you might want to get ready include:

  • Having USB chargers ready to go in case someone needs to charge their phone, tablet or laptop – especially if they have only just realised that the laptop has low battery and they’re going to be the first person to present a speech when they get to school.
  • Snacks for after school. Kids are often hungry after a busy day, and this can make them grumpy and whiny, especially if you end up getting stuck in a traffic jam. Dried fruit, nuts, rice crackers and bliss balls are all easy to store in the glove box to restore flagging blood sugar levels while still being reasonably healthy.
  • An umbrella. Weather can be fickle, and if you opt to park further down the road then walk to meet your kids at the school gate, there will inevitably be a day when you didn’t think it was going to rain but…

Cleaning your car before the school year begins is your choice, although I’d recommend giving the inside a good vacuum just to give it that fresh, new feeling that you always get at the start of a new school year. If your kids are old enough to be embarrassed by a dirty car exterior, or if they’re old enough to find writing “Clean Me” messages in the dust funny, they’re old enough to be made to wash the car themselves.  You could make going to the car wash a bit of a weekly ritual – perhaps at the end of the week.

School Run Etiquette

When you do the school run, it’s important to be courteous and considerate of other parents and other children. Don’t go all Mama Bear, ready to run roughshod all over other people in order to get your kids.  Every other parent is as stressed and protective as you are.  What’s more, congestion and visibility are real hazards around school gates at the busy times of day.  To ensure that everybody stays safe, follow the etiquette rules:

  • Don’t double-park, park in bus stops or park in No Parking zones. Parking a little way down the road and having a short walk won’t do you or your kids any harm.
  • Keep your speed down, no matter how busy or rushed for time you are.
  • Respect zebra crossings – that’s a no brainer.
  • Don’t honk your horn to get your child’s attention.
  • Avoid getting into silly status games with other parents involving fashion, achievements and vehicle type.
  • Respect rules such as the time limit in the “kiss and run” zones.
  • Model the sort of patience that you would expect your kids to demonstrate, especially regarding places in the queue, waiting your turn and so forth.
  • If someone else breaks these rules, refrain from shouting corrections and comments out the window. You don’t want to be a Karen.

An MPV – Great for School Runs!

What Tyre do I Need?

Tyres are the most crucial component to any drive.  Safety matters out there on the roads, and ensuring that you have a good set of tyres rolling beneath your car makes all the difference to aspects of driving like your stopping ability, road holding capacity and anti-aquaplaning.

What the heck is aquaplaning?  You may have experienced aquaplaning already when driving on a wet road and in the rain where puddles have formed over the road.  Hit these puddles at a reasonable speed, and the tyres can skid over the top of the puddles, causing complete loss of traction to whichever tyre is aquaplaning at the time.  Aquaplaning and sliding in the wet can and unfortunately does cause accidents.

Obviously, slowing down in the wet helps lessen the chance of having an aquaplane experience.  However, there are other aspects to the tyre which can affect how your tyres will cope with puddles and water on the road during wet driving conditions.  The condition of the tyre, the tread pattern the tyre has, and the amount of tread depth left on the tyre all decide how your tyre will cope with wet road conditions. These three components combined with how fast your car is travelling are the main players to whether or not you’ll roll through the puddle, displacing the water, or skid over the top of the puddle in much the same way as a skim board does in the shallow water at the beach.

Tyres are the only element of a car that is in contact with the ground while driving.  Choosing the right tyres can increase the entire performance of your vehicle.  Every tyre has its strengths and weaknesses.  Some tyres are long-lasting, while others offer better grip.  Some tyres are designed to be quiet and smooth while driving, while others have a tread pattern designed for better fuel consumption.  There are tyre testers out there like, Tyre Lab at www.thetyrelab.com, that single out tyres that perform best for all road conditions or for certain types of road conditions.  However, it is a fairly well-known fact that the more you invest in a tyre, the better the tyre quality will be and, consequently, the safer your driving experience.  That said, you might be surprised (or not) at which tyres are rated highly for braking, anti -aquaplaning and road holding by The Tyre Lab.

By law, in Australia the minimum tread depth for a tyre is 1.5 mm.  When it’s raining, the tread is responsible for securing contact between the tyre and the road, effectively pushing the water out from under the tyre as it rolls along.

Need new tyres?

First, find out the specifications in size and type from your car’s manufacturer, and this is the best size to go for.  You can also find out what kind of tyres you need, by looking on the side wall of your current tyres.  You will see a combination of characters which look a bit like this: 215/55R17 94H.  If your car has been mucked with, then make sure you check the manufacturer’s specs.

You will need to have an idea of how much you are going to spend at the tyre shop.  Choosing between a premium tyre and value is not always easy, or maybe it’s just too easy.  There are even budget tyres, which can be good if you aren’t into driving quickly, however, if you do go for these, they won’t have the best grip for all occasions and for emergency situations in the wet and dry.

Tyre choice really does come down to your own individual needs, the weather conditions and climate you’ll be driving in, how icy or cold the roads can get, how hot it is, and definitely how hard and fast you drive your car.

Not all tyres are the same.  So, if you buy a premium tyre that is designed with performance ability and grip for extreme hard and fast driving, but you drive like a snail, you’ll be perfectly safe in all road conditions.  If on the other hand you drive like a racing car driver, where you pass every other car in sight, and yet you are driving with budget tyres, your safety and the safety of others will be massively compromised.

There are those of us who drive within the law and try to maintain a decent speed in all road and weather conditions.  We will try and slowdown in the wet for example.  We all need to be driving safely, yet it does help to know just what sort of tyres are on the car you drive and what they are capable of out there on the road.  Just as equally-valid is knowing just what your tyres are not capable of.  There is nothing worse than losing traction or have a tyre’s integrity let go in a life threatening situation.

Every journey is dependent on the performance of your tyres and their effect on your driving.  Tyres impact on your steering, acceleration, handling, and braking. They’re also a key part of your car’s suspension and braking systems.  If you don’t have the right tyres for your car, tyres that are legal and in good shape, you’re putting yourself, your passengers and other road users at risk.

Budget tyres versus Premium tyres

Even though all tyres look pretty much the same, the difference between a budget tyre and a quality tyre is huge.  It comes down to the fact that the quality of the materials used in creating a premium tyre just can’t be replicated in a cheaply-made tyre.

Premium tyres have to meet high standards and are therefore made with more steel and specially formulated rubber and silica compounds.  These high quality tyre materials ensure that the final product is much stronger, longer-lasting, and one that offers better grip than a cheap tyre option.

Premium tyre manufacturers focus on research and development, and often they will be linked with the motorsport world where competition in tyres really matters.  Years of testing has proven that premium tyres do perform better and more consistently than a cheaper tyre alternative.

Premium tyres generally include names like: Dunlop, Michelin, Pirelli, Bridgestone, Kumho, Hankook and Continental.  Manufacturers of quality tyres will achieve higher standards than a budget or value tyre in all aspects of a tyre’s job prescription.  This will include: good grip for all driving conditions, exceptional wet and dry braking, superior handling at any speed, a higher impact damage threshold, better load-carrying capability, a longer service life (unless, of course, they are track racing tyres with a super-soft compound for ultimate grip on the track), better fuel economy, improved driving comfort; reduced noise, vibration and harshness.

We hope this was helpful.

Christmas Gifts For Driving Enthusiasts

Christmas is incoming and it’s nice to imagine what some ideal gifts might be for the drivers in our lives.  Christmas is the time of year when we can think about God’s greatest gift to mankind: His Son Jesus.  What better way to acknowledge this by giving some great automotive gifts to our family and friends, so here are some Christmas gift ideas for the driving enthusiast in your life:

A gift voucher

A gift voucher to a local automotive trade store gives a driver access to a world of automotive retail.  Repco or Supercheapauto are two big outlets with so many possibilities that will make a driver happy over the Christmas period and into the new year.  You can purchase anything from sound systems, after market GPS units, reversing cameras, tools and so much more…

Seat Covers

A new set of seat covers can make the environment of a vehicle that little bit nicer.  We’ve just recently put a fine set of burgundy sheepskin covers on the front seats of our car, and I can say that they have instantly made the seats more comfortable, particularly for long journeys, and have given the interior a lift in its own individuality and style.

Cabin Air Freshener

It won’t be a gift for just anyone, but I’ve seen some little yellow sunflower air freshener diffusers.  These are made from an eco-friendly material and deliver a high quality fragrance for the car which is, importantly, non-toxic.  The sunflower design is cute and attractive, and it simply clips onto the air vents.  Having bright little sunflowers around the dash conveying their sweet aroma is a sure way to brighten up any long journey this summer.

You can also buy some more manly looking air freshener diffusers (i.e., in the shape of a pine tree or rugby ball).  I’ve also just seen a cool car aromatherapy set of round essential oil jars that clip onto the vents.  On the front of the diffuser is a stunning scene of a night sky full of stars.

Cup Holder Coasters

Even a set of stylish coasters for the cup holders can brighten up a car’s interior.  There are many types available with auto logos (e.g., Ford, Alfa Romeo, BMW), and then many abstract designs as well.

Car Mats

One part of the car’s interior that can quickly look drab is the floor mats.  A new set of rubber or carpet mats for a car can lift the interior instantly.  Just make sure that the floor mat design is appropriate for the car and the driver in your life.

Car Valet Voucher

This is a very nice gift.  A voucher for a professional car grooming session at a valet business nearby should be a real winner, particularly when Christmas and New Years is a remarkably busy and, sometimes, messy time of year.  The car at the centre of all the attention will likely be the driver’s pride and joy, so it should be a much appreciated gift.

A racing ticket

If the driver happens to enjoy a bit of motorsport action, then a ticket to the next race meet should be an ideal Christmas gift.  Better still, why don’t you buy two tickets and go along with them to make a day of it!

Keeping a Car’s Interior Clean

Cleaning our cars, inside and out, is a task that must be scheduled into the diary.  We make sure that the mechanical servicing is carried out regularly on time, as it’s an essential requirement for the reliability and roadworthiness of the vehicle.  If we like mechanical servicing to keeping the inside of the car in good shape, then cleaning and maintaining a vehicle’s interior and its bodywork also keeps the car in top shape for travelling.  A vehicle with a clean interior is so much nicer to travel inside, and your travelling companions will appreciate the way it looks, smells and feels.

If you live a busy life and find it difficult to find the time to clean and maintain the inside of your car, a good rule of thumb might be to do the interior cleaning whenever the car goes in for a mechanical WOF or a service.  At least this way you’ll be cleaning the car’s cabin and boot space properly once or twice a year.  Is that enough?  Probably not, but it’s a good place to start and something for you to work towards.

The purpose of cleaning your car’s interior is to keep the surfaces free from dust, grime and dirt.  This includes the dash and interior panelling, the carpets, and the seat upholstery.  Essentially, every surface of the vehicle’s interior needs to be cleaned, even the boot space.

After cleaning, any leather, wood or vinyl surfaces, they need to have a polishing layer applied, which is necessary to protect and maintain the surface’s integrity and lustre.  Any tears or rips in the upholstery can be repaired and fixed.

What is a good interior cleaning process?

Start by taking out any loose items that are inside the car.  Remove any rubbish.  You can use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the small, loose dust and rubbish on the car’s carpets and seats.  The vacuum cleaner head is a good shape for getting underneath the seats.  Don’t forget the boot, either.  The brush fitting works brilliantly over the fabric seats and the carpets.  You can also use the soft brush attachment on the dash fascia.

After vacuuming out the car’s interior, it is then necessary to attend to any stains and spills with a cleaning solution.  Leather and vinyl seats, also hard dash and door panel surfaces, can be wiped with a cloth that has been dampened with a solution of warm, soapy water.  Wipe down the steering wheel.  These surfaces can then be dried with another soft cloth, and you can even leave the car doors open for a while to let the fresh air run through the interior. Don’t forget to clean the seat belts while you’re at it.  You can follow this by vacuuming and cleaning the interior carpets

Leather, vinyl, plastic, and veneer surfaces are now ready to be buffed nicely to a shine with a soft dry cloth and furthermore protected with a suitable conditioner or polish.  Glass windows, the rear view mirror, and the driver’s display (digital or analogue) are best cleaned with a damp cloth, and then soon after dried fully with a scrunched up piece of soft newspaper or tissue paper.  Doing this ensures that no streaks or dust is left on the glass or displays with the final wipe down.

Now, remove the dashboard’s dust and grime with a damp dusting cloth.  After dusting, use a slightly damp microfiber cloth to remove any grime and fingerprints.   It’s amazing how well cotton swabs can to get into small spaces around vents and knobs.  It’s now time to clean the centre console, which is a common place for coffee and ice cream spills.

Finally, clean the door panels, handles and switchgear.

Hey presto, you’re good to go.  At this point it can also be nice to place an air freshener/fragrance sachet inside the cabin to last till the next cleaning session.

What Is and Isn’t Inside an EV?

What is an EV? What are the obvious things that set an EV apart from the more conventional car that’s powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE)?  And what is an EV like to maintain?

These are just a few of the good questions that might be rattling around in your mind as you consider the possibility of EV ownership.  Let’s face it, most of us probably jump inside our cars and give little thought to what happens inside a car when we drive off.

Let’s start by answering the first question and develop for ourselves an understanding of what an EV is.

The letters ‘EV’ stands for the words ‘electric vehicle’.  EVs don’t have a combustion engine underneath the bonnet, in fact they don’t have a combustion engine at all.  This means that you won’t need to pull over at the gas station to fill your car up with any form of fossil fuel (e.g., unleaded gasoline (91), premium unleaded gasoline (95, 98 or 100 octane) or diesel.  Neither will your car be running on gas (LPG or CNG).  You won’t even have to top your car up with engine coolant or oil for engine lubrication.  Sounds good!

Once you look away from the various processes of mining earth metals like lithium and cobalt (a by-product of nickel and copper mines); neodymium, terbium, or dysprosium (critical metals used in higher powered batteries that can last for longer distances – and everyone wants to be able to last longer) used in EV batteries and electronic componentry, EVs look to be more environmentally friendly and interesting cars to own and drive.

All your power is electronically accessible to your accelerator pedal, and your braking action is processed electronically as well.  When you brake or decelerate, battery power can be reverted back into the battery pack.  Basically, drain the battery in an EV, and you’ll need to plug it into a charging port again before you can get some power for driving about again.  However, that’s nothing new now, is it?

To get power from your house power supply, you’ll need to have a conversion kit built into your home’s power system in order to be able to power up your EV within a suitable time frame, commonly 6 to 10 hours.  More expensive options are available that will enable a quicker charging time.  To get power after commuting around the city, you’re going to require a charging station or a park at work that has a convenient and vacant plug-in port for you to charge your vehicle up again to get home.  There are some other charging stations (and we’ll need many more of these with more EVs running on the road) where you can park up for a couple of hours to recharge or top-up again for your commute home.  If you drive your EV out of town and into the country, you’ll need to be sure that you have enough power between charging ports, because, unlike in a vehicle with a combustion engine, a jerry can won’t get you out of trouble nor will the longest power cord.  I’m not sure what serious Outback off-roading enthusiasts will do if they drive an EV.  Neither am I sure what mobile ‘tradies’ will do when they get caught short on power between towns.

What is missing inside an EV that you have in a common ICE vehicle?

Noise is the first thing that comes to mind.  EVs do without the mechanical noise of the combustion/explosions that takes place inside a working ICE.  What you do get is a very quiet ride with a bit of road noise from the tyres and wind about the bodywork as it slips through the air.  Exhaust emissions are also a non-event.

EVs have no complex clutch or gearing, which means that EVs can accelerate smoothly and quickly, giving you the feeling that you’re driving a sports car.  Instant maximum torque is always accessible.

A purely electric EV has fewer moving parts.  There are only around about 20 moving parts in an electric motor, compared with nearly 2000 mechanical components in an ICE.  The result is that an EV will need less fiddly routine maintenance jobs like changing the engine oil every 10,000km.  You’ll still need to change the tyres on an EV, and you may go through more tyres because of all that instant torque and acceleration.  A pricier tyre made up of a softer compound might also be necessary in order for you to be able to stick to the road better with the EV’s instant and quick acceleration.

You will also need to replace the battery pack, as they do have a life.  This will be the one expensive maintenance bill.  Buy a new EV, and you’ll be able to put this off for 10 years or so.  Buy a second-hand EV, and who knows how long you’ll have before the battery pack will need replacing or you just won’t be going anywhere.

An EV owner will likely also need to pay some sort of road user charge or tax in the not-too-distant future, particularly if more EVs take to our roads.

However, own an EV and you won’t need an ICE tune-up or oil change, and the engine coolant won’t need to be replaced, either.  In essence, an EV has no petrol, diesel or oil.  It has no exhaust, no clutch or gears. It doesn’t have spark plugs, and it has no throbbing combustion noise that you find you get with a V8, a boxer or even a straight six.

As with any car, EVs have both their advantages and their disadvantages.  At this stage, an affordable EV would be a great and enjoyable car for the city environment.

EVs and Rare Earth Mining

Rare earth metals.

Where are all the earth’s rare metals mined?  Are electric vehicles (EVs) really so environmentally sound and friendly?

Rare earths are difficult to find and obtain in most parts of the world, and they are used a lot in all sorts of common and accessible products like mobile phones, cars, aeroplanes, missiles, radars etc.  Rare earths are also abundantly used in EVs.  EVs use special magnets to power their engines, and most of the magnets in EVs that can cover longer distances on one battery charge are made from rare earth metals.  The metals aren’t necessarily rare, but they can be dirty and difficult to process.  Many of the processes related to rare earth extraction (getting the rare earths out of the ground) are dangerous, environmentally unfriendly, and, in many cases, the mining workers are older boys and younger men.  The process to obtain many of the rare earths is environmentally destructive and produces radioactive waste.

Of the 17 rare earths, neodymium is possibly the most needed rare earth in the world right now.  EVs cannot function without neodymium, and lithium – which is currently mostly found in Bolivia.

China has a large portion of the rare earth mining pie and supply network.  Back in 2010, China produced as much as 90% of the rare earths that the world needed, and it now seems obvious to me why China’s economy and infrastructure was booming so much at the time.  Also, around this time, the rest of the world started to see just how China ruled the rare earth market and power struggles commenced.

Without the rare earth metal, neodymium, an iPhone cannot vibrate and wind turbines would not work.  In order for EVs to gain more milage between charges, Rare Earth Permanent Magnets (REPM), which use neodymium, are required.  REPMs are the most powerful magnets currently available.

So, though rare-earth elements are used in trace amounts, their unique properties, which include magnetic, heat-resistant, and phosphorescent qualities, make them essential in the production of products like batteries, car engines, EVs and LCD TV displays.  EV motors, iPhones, military jet engines, batteries, and even satellites all have something in common: They require rare-earth elements to function.

Other elements like terbium, tritium and europium are crucial to targeting mechanisms in all high-tech weaponry systems.  The higher-tech that an EV becomes, a corresponding increase in the level of rare earth mining will be required.  The more EVs that are run on the roads (resulting from strict emission standards and government taxing), the more the rare earth resources will be called upon to build and maintain the EV fleet.  Currently, an EV battery doesn’t last much longer than 10 years, so EV battery replacement requirements will mean that much more rare earth metals will be needed to maintain the ever-growing global EV fleet.

As of 2018, China had 37% of the world’s rare earth deposits.  Brazil currently has 22%, Vietnam 18%, Russia 10% and India has 5.8%. The rest of the world, including the US and Japan, have the rest.

Despite having more rare earth ore than the US, India only mined 3,000 tonnes of rare earths in 2020.  During 2020, the US mined 38,000 tonnes. Meanwhile, Australia mined 17,000 tonnes and China mined 140,000 tonnes.  In 2020, the US had 16% of the production rate of the world’s rare earths; Australia had 7%, and India had 1%.

In 2020, the following countries were the biggest producers of rare earth metals:

China, mine production: 140,000 MT

United States, mine production: 38,000 MT.  The US is also a major importer of rare earth materials, with their demand for compounds and metals worth US$110 million in 2020.  The US has classified rare earths as critical minerals, and it is a distinction that has come about from recent trade issues between the US and China.

Myanmar (also known as Burma), mine production: 30,000 MT.  Myanmar mined 30,000 MT of rare earths in 2020, up from 22,000 MT the previous year.  Myanmar provided 50% of China’s medium to heavy rare earths feedstock.

Australia, mine production: 17,000 MT.  Australia holds the sixth largest-known rare earths reserves in the world.  It is poised to increase its output, where the production of neodymium-praseodymium products is projected to increase to 10,500 tonnes per year by 2025.  Northern Minerals opened Australia’s first heavy rare earths mine in 2018.  Its main products are terbium and dysprosium, the latter of which is used in technology for things like permanent magnets.

Madagascar, mine production: 8,000 MT.

India, mine production: 3,000 MT.  India holds almost 35% of the world’s total beach sand mineral deposits.

Russia, mine production: 2,700 MT.  Russia intends to increase the nation’s share of global rare earths production from the current 1.3% level to 10% by 2030.

Thailand, mine production: 2,000 MT.

Vietnam, mine production: 1,000 MT.

Brazil, mine production: 1,000 MT.

Rare-earths are also mined in South Africa, Canada, Estonia, and Malaysia.

Is an internal combustion engine’s resultant emissions and fossil fuel use really worse than the rare earth metal production mining for EVs and other high-tech electronics?  I would question whether a modern and new internal combustion engine with its catalytic converter to capture any emissions is worse than an EV’s definite connection to negative environmental impact and questionable work-force ethics.

Sometimes it is easier to disregard these pre-showroom EV facts and talk about the post-showroom EVs being so wonderful and environmentally-friendly with their so-called zero emissions.  Perhaps hydrogen-fuelled cars (to a certain extent), solar energy, and, definitely, cars running on biofuels are a sounder transport investment, but I guess money, power and business links still talk louder for some.

Why We Need More Information on Vehicle Reliability

Local car manufacturers have long been reluctant to release information about vehicle reliability, just as they were with repair data until  developments prompted a change. While those changes were a promising sign for motorists, not much else has changed on the reliability front.

Still, the current standards and practices just aren’t good enough. Your new vehicle is likely to be the second largest individual purchase you’ll make in your lifetime. No one wants to end up with a ‘lemon’, so it follows that manufacturers should be more open when it comes to publishing information about vehicle reliability. That is, if they genuinely value their customers loyalty.

What’s the current situation?

From an owner’s perspective, having full and complete information is invaluable when engaging in a decision making process. It’s necessary in order to filter out options that do not align with our needs. This is something that has been recognised abroad. From the US to the UK and other parts of Europe and Asia, industry surveys with motorists surrounding vehicle reliability are common practice and the results are published for all to see.

In turn, this ensures manufacturers not only receive feedback but are compelled to embrace it – to act upon it and improve their vehicles. Tesla, one of the industry’s most-recent entrants to the motoring space, has been one of the most prominent stakeholders in accepting feedback and it goes some way to explain why their growth has been off the charts as it becomes the most-expensive, publicly-listed car brand in the world.

Tesla is one of the first to admit they have had several notable problems with their ‘high end’ vehicles, however, their approach is all about finding the right solution(s) to improve motorists’ driving experiences.

In Australia, only half the feedback cycle is being undertaken. Motorists are often surveyed for their thoughts on vehicle reliability, but the results are rarely if ever made public.

In fact, it’s hard to know in what way this information is being used given its guarded nature. That being said, it’s widely accepted that mechanical issues have improved some way in recent years – even if we are seeing an abundance of recalls that never seem to stop – but it has generally been the car companies with global reach, under pressure from research in other territories, that are amongst the frontrunners in terms of reliability.

What’s the other side of the equation?

If there is one thing to recognise in defence of manufacturers, the human mechanics of operating a vehicle cannot always be recorded. That is, whether a driver has adequately maintained their vehicle, followed through with appropriate servicing, and ultimately how they drive their car.

Now you’re probably saying these things shouldn’t matter. And they shouldn’t. But for the purpose of a direct comparison between cars and manufacturers, it’s hard to compare the likes of a BMW driven by a P-plater, with a Toyota Camry driven by a retiree.

The other element to consider is that reliability data is only one piece of the puzzle. The type of failure, as well as the cost of repairs, should also be considered. One might expect that ‘luxury’ vehicles encounter fewer reliability issues, however, if each time this vehicle requires repairs that cost three times that of a ‘regular’ sedan, what are the results really demonstrating? Furthermore, with the majority of problems these days encompassing technology problems, can these issues be compared on the same scale as that of vehicles with mechanical problems?

Nonetheless, these points shouldn’t really take away from the point that we need further disclosure around vehicle reliability. The introduction of ‘lemon laws’ in recent time is certainly beneficial, but that’s a reactive response when buyers deserve more up-front information and certainty. In fact, manufacturers owe it to motorists, particularly if they are in search of brand loyalty and a vision to improve future cars.

Most Reliable Cars in 2021

How reliable a car is directly correlates with our ownership satisfaction rating, right?  So, if we own a car that is always needing something fixed or repaired to make it properly functional, our contentment levels will be lower than if our car was reliable all or at least most of the time.  It won’t take long for an unreliable car to start to irk us.  Reliability is always a black and white area when it comes to car ownership satisfaction.

What car? has recently published their survey findings for 2021.  They questioned more than 16,000 people across the UK who owned a car no older than 5 years old, and this is the results that show which cars and brands are the most reliable, and which ones are not.  Is it possible that the more reliable a car is, the more green and sustainable the car is?

First place goes to Lexus who claims the top spot as the most dependable brand of car you can buy.  Lexus cars suffer from very few faults.  The Lexus NX SUV is the highest-rated hybrid you can buy.

Second place brand is Dacia, which is considered to be a budget brand.  Here is a prime example of reliability and low cost going hand in hand.  Dacia’s star performer is the previous generation Dacia Sandero.

Hyundai takes the bronze, where the previous generation Hyundai i10, the larger i20, and the current Hyundai i30 being standouts.  It was revealed that the problem areas included the brakes and gearbox, however the brand’s 5-year unlimited km warranty meant that most problems were fixed for free.

Suzuki

Suzuki takes fourth place for brand reliability; an excellent result.  The little Suzuki Swift is the third most reliable car – a star performer for Suzuki.

Mini

Mini cars are generally pretty reliable cars.  Mini’s Countryman scored well in the small SUV class.  Mini’s little Hatchback is the sixth most reliable small car overall – a great result.

Toyota

Toyota has long been an impressively reliable brand, though it’s slipped slightly from third place last year.

Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi ranked 7th, their place unchanged from last year. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is the most reliable family SUV on the market, boasting a 100% reliability score!

Mazda

Eighth place goes to the Mazda brand.  Mazda highlights include the CX-3  (a very reliable small SUV), the CX-5 (petrol version), and the MX-5 sports car.

Kia

Star performers for Kia are the XCeed and Ceed family cars, which are among the most reliable in their class, while the Kia Optima is the second-most reliable executive car.  Kia’s affordable E-Niro is the third most reliable EV.

MG

MG is the brand that takes out 10th spot.  The classy MG ZS EV is the second-most reliable EV in the survey.

11) Citroen – Citroen’s C3 Aircross is the third most reliable small SUV.

12) Skoda – Skoda’s Superb is the most reliable executive car.

13) BMW – BMW’s previous model 1 Series is the most reliable family car.  The BMW 5 Series is the most reliable luxury car.  The BMW 3 Series also ranks 3rd in the executive class.  Current BMW Hybrids are not quite so reliable.

14) Honda – The previous model Jazz was fifth in its class, while the HR-V is the most reliable small SUV.

15) Tesla – the Tesla Model 3 ranked 5th in the EV class.

16) Renault

17) Seat

18) Audi – Audi’s TT is the number one sports car for reliability.

19) Volvo

20) Volkswagen

Jaguar, Mercedes Benz, Peugeot, Vauxhall, Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Ford, Nissan, Land Rover, and then Fiat takes out 30th spot.

Of the last 10:

Porshce’s Macan took 1st place for the luxury SUV class.

Nissan’s LEAF is 1st for the most reliable EV.

Maintaining Your Car and Keeping that Classic on the Road

XB Ford Falcon GT Coupe

With some of the nicely kept Ford Falcon GTs fetching a handsome price on the second-hand car market it would be tempting to grab one, enjoy it, maintain it and know that you’ve bought an investment.  Holden’s exiting from the automotive industry also suggests that some of the awesome Commodores and HSVs would be an appreciating classic too.  But running any classic, whether from Porsche, BMW or even Toyota, can be a fun hobby and a sound investment.

The good thing about owning older Falcons and Commodores, and I’m talking about any of the models going back to the early sixties for the Falcon and late seventies for the Commodore, is that there is such a great following in Australia and New Zealand for these cars, particularly the sports models, that there always seems to be a flow of parts from somewhere out of the Southern Hemisphere.  Even aftermarket parts for a component can be easily located and sourced, and this will be true for a lot of classic cars.

There are some things that are essential to our daily lives, and currently vehicles are a huge part of anyone’s daily/weekly routines.  They drive us to our jobs, drive the kids to all of their activities; they get us to that favourite holiday or picnic spot, and are essential for running those little errands.  Without a vehicle, it would be impossible to do everything that we need to do and are used to doing.

Out of need (and for the love of it), there are many of us that have become good at keeping our vehicles in good running shape, and that doesn’t just apply to those who collect and maintain older vehicles like the cruisier Falcon and Commodore.  If you can keep your own vehicle in the best shape possible, then you can avoid the added costs of repairs or at least put repairs off for a time, and even put off the need to buy a new vehicle.  When driving, we are still seeing cars from decades ago still going strong, and you may even see some that look almost just as good as the day they were bought.  An old Ford Falcon XR8 or GT still catches attention, and Holden’s HSVs from even the early 2000s look awesome and sound amazing.

AU Ford Falcon XR8

There may be some of you who, like myself, drive a newer car (Toyota Camry for me) for getting all the weekly errands done, and then have a classic or older vehicle (Ford Fairmont for me) for enjoyment on a long cruise or holiday away.  The vehicle tucked away in the shed for the weekend can be one of those cars that you can tinker away on during your days off, while getting the pleasure of a long run out on the open road for that long weekend away.

In this day and age, there are so many resources that are on the web which can inform drivers about how to keep their vehicles in great shape so that they will run nicely for as long as possible.  The secret to being able to enjoy a car (old and new) for many, many miles is regular maintenance.  Here are just some of the basic routine maintenance tasks that you can do to keep your car on the road and running fine.

Oil Change

Change your engine oil and oil filter often.

This is the single best thing you can do to extend the life of your engine.  Keep a note of the odometer reading and date that you changed the oil and filter so that you can schedule it in for next time.

Replace your transmission fluid and differential oil.

It’s not as often as engine oil and filters need changing, but the transmission and diff oil should be done regularly (around 40-to-60,000 km) to keep these systems running sweetly.  Check your vehicle’s manual for the suggested timeframes for changing them.

Add new engine coolant.

Every once in a while, the engine coolant needs flushing out and some new coolant put back into the cooling system.  This is important because it keeps the pipes from freezing up in cold weather, it keeps the tiny coolant passages free from debri and muck that will build up overtime, and it is also very important for your heating system inside the car.  A heater core is often tricky to get to and often requires removing the whole dash just to get to the small heater core radiator.  This was the little culprit that caused my old Terrano to cook its engine!

Maintain your wheel bearings.

Wheel bearing maintenance or replacement is important because they ensure the smooth running of the tires.  When checking in for your next car check-up, make sure to ask for a wheel inspection to see if your bearings are in OK condition.  Usually, this only involves adding some grease to the bearings to get them moving smoothly again.

Change your brake fluid.

This helps fend off moisture building up in the braking system, leaving your brakes free of rust and corrosion and working at their optimum, which really comes down to staying safe out on the road.

Cleaning

Keep your exterior and interior nice and clean.  It’s recommended that you wax and wash your car four times per year at a minimum.

Keeping the interior out of heavy sunlight helps this area last longer and stay smarter.  If you have a car with leather seats, do apply leather conditioner as required to keep the leather soft, pliable and protected.

To keep your vehicle in great shape, it only takes a bit of initiative in the form of having your car taken in for maintenance every once in a while, and or doing it yourself.  If you experience any weird sounds or unusual problems with your car, then it needs to be checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible.

Now… Back out to my Falcon!