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Car Maintenance

The Ins and Outs of Motor Oil

Among the most bang for your buck you’ll get when making any sort of repairs or maintenance to your car is when you add a quart or a litre of motor oil to the engine.

The Role of Vehicle Lubricants

Modern engines, transmissions, and differentials require modern lubricants to keep them healthy. Think of motor oils, transmission fluids, and gear oils as the lifeblood of your vehicle.

As the mechanical technology in motor vehicles has increased, so has the need for oils engineered to perform in these technological marvels. That’s why choosing the correct motor oil will keep an engine working properly for many years.

And why’s that? Well, let’s take a look at the benefits.

How Motor Oil Benefits Your Car

For starters, the motor oil will protect your engine against frictional wear. It will also neutralise acid build up, as internal combustion naturally produces sulfuric acid. If that’s not enough, motor oil also suppresses corrosion and helps cool the power-plant.

The additive package in motor oils also contains dispersants, detergents, anti-wear agents, viscosity modifiers, anti-foaming agents, and pour-point depressants. The latter will allow the oil to pour at very cold temperatures.

Choosing the Correct Lubricants

Lubricant specifications and performance parameters are enumerated by: the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), who established the viscosity requirements; the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the International Standardisation and Advisory Committee (ISAC), who established the service classifications.

There is also the Association des Constructeurs European d’Automobiles, which parallels the standards established by the API and ISAC, but mainly for engines of European manufacture.

Don’t be confused by all the initials and oil classifications. Every time there are improvements made to engines, there are also improvements made in the lubricants that protect them.

Current motor oil service classifications will protect all current and previous year model vehicles. There are separate classifications for spark and compression ignition engines; gasoline or diesel fuelled, but most oils are classified as multiple-use, and are appropriate for either type of engine.

What to Look Out For

The most important measure, viscosity is the measurement of the internal resistance to flow of any fluid; the higher the viscosity number, the greater the resistance to flow.

For warm weather motoring, motor oils with a 30 or 40 viscosity rating are selected. For cold weather driving, the viscosity rating should be 10 or 20. The advent of multiple viscosity oil has precluded the need to change the oil in the event of a drastic temperature change.

What that means is that a motor oil with a viscosity rating of 10-30 can operate at low temperatures as a 10 viscosity, and when the engine is warmed up and operating at higher temperatures, the oil performs as a 30 viscosity.

Another measurement of a motor oil is the Total Base Number (TBN). Oils are formulated with an alkaline reserve to neutralise acids. When the TBN has dropped to half the original number, the oil should be changed. This usually coincides with depletion of the other additives.

Ultimately, don’t forget, the type of use the vehicle gets determines when the oil should be changed. If you often drive in peak hour traffic, where there is regular stop-start driving, the oil is likely to need change sooner. On the other hand, long travels on the freeway should extend the service interval. But as with anything related to your car, a bit of proactive maintenance won’t set you back either.

How to Choose a Mechanic

When your car starts acting up, or simply needs a routine service, finding a reliable mechanic becomes a top priority. Naturally, choosing the right mechanic can save you time, money, and stress in the long run. Here are several crucial factors to consider when looking for a mechanic.

Word of Mouth

First and foremost, reputation speaks volumes. Ask friends, family, and colleagues for recommendations. Word-of-mouth referrals are often the most reliable way to gauge a mechanic’s trustworthiness and skills. Additionally, online reviews and ratings can provide valuable insights into other customers’ experiences.

Experience

Certifications and qualifications are essential indicators of a mechanic’s expertise. Look for technicians who are certified by reputable organisations as such certifications demonstrate appropriate training and understanding of various auto repair and maintenance tasks.

Nonetheless, while certifications are important, hands-on experience can’t be overlooked. A seasoned mechanic has likely encountered a wide range of issues and knows how to diagnose and repair them efficiently, and it doesn’t hurt to ask mechanics if they specialist in a particular type or make of vehicle.

Personal Service

Transparency and communication are key elements of a positive customer experience. A good mechanic will take the time to explain any problems with your vehicle in layman’s terms and discuss your options for repairs or maintenance. They should provide a detailed estimate before commencing any work, including parts and labour costs.

You may also wish to consider the range of services offered by a mechanic or auto repair shop to ensure they can handle any non-routine issues. Warranty and guarantees also provide peace of mind that the work performed is of high quality, so ask the mechanic about warranty on parts and labour, as well as any limitations. A trusted mechanic will address any issues that may arise after repairs or a service are complete.

Convenience

Convenience is another important factor to consider. Look for a mechanic located near your home or workplace. After all, it is likely you will need to leave the car with your mechanic for at least a full day, if not more, so it may help if the workshop is well connected to public transport, or for larger brands access to loan cars.

An Ideal Outcome

At the end of the day, you may also need to trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right or if you’re uncomfortable with the mechanic’s recommendations, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion. Building a trusting relationship with your mechanic can be helpful over the long-run.

What’s The Most Reliable Second-Hand Car Out There?

Some of us may have a family with teenagers; some of us may have kids in their early twenties and at university; some of us will be single and not on a rich person’s wage.  There will be many of us who just can’t justify paying loads of money on a brand-new car, at least not yet.  Fair enough, too, as some cars are expensive when bought new (although here at Private Fleet, we will do everything we can to help you find the best deal). 

For most of us, a good second-hand car is the right way to go to ensure we can do life, get to and from work, hang out with friends, and go on that roadie around Australia that we’ve always wanted to.  For 2023, by the end of the year, almost 2.1 million used cars were sold in Australia.  These stats were from the Automotive Insights Report (AIR) published by the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) and AutoGrab. 

Thanks to two UK businesses, Carwow and Warrantywise, here are some really good second-hand cars that should be on our radar if we are looking to buy one that has proven reliability.  Carwow and Warrantywise teamed up to reveal the most reliable cars in the UK based on warranty and repair data.  All of the vehicles in the analysis were outside their manufacturer warranty.  In order to be included in this analysis, Warrantywise had to have at least 100 examples of a specific car on its books. 

The analysis revealed that the Honda Jazz is the most reliable second-hand car you can buy, boasting an overall reliability rating of 93.7%.  The next most reliable model is the Mazda 2, while the Toyota Auris (Corolla) comes in third in the rankings. Though this survey is UK-based, most of the cars that dominate the top 15 can be bought over here.  And they’re probably just as good here as they are there.

Note that in analyses done in previous years, the Lexus RX was the most reliable car, but for 2022 (the year of this particular analysis), there were not enough (couldn’t find 100 of them) Lexus RXs to make the Warrantywise’s books, so let’s just chuck this Lexus into the top four most reliable second-hand cars you can buy and be done with it!

Here is a list of the 15 most reliable second-hand cars you can buy in the UK.  The top four have a bit more info about them (albeit with the currency in British pounds, given that that’s where the research was done).  Most of the cars in the reliability analysis can be easily looked up in our Private Fleet Car Reviews page if you want to know more about them.  The Toyota Aygo and the Peugeot 107 will require some more searching, as they were are not really sold here in Australia. 

1. Honda Jazz (2007–2020), 93.7% reliability score.

The top spot goes to the trusty Honda Jazz.  This is a surprisingly practical small car that is also very fuel efficient.  It has put in a stunning performance for reliability, with the average cost of repair being low (£424.31).  The most common fault was with the central locking mechanism.  The most expensive repair happened to be with the air conditioning system (£973.66).  The average age of the Jazz cars in this analysis was 8.3 years old.  You won’t go far wrong buying a second-hand Jazz.

2. Mazda 2 (200–-present), 89.9% reliability score.

The average age of the Mazda 2 cars was 8.4 years old, suggesting that the Mazda 2 remains reliable even as it ages.  It also suggests that you will get a very good run for your money if you get a new version as well.  The average repair bills were impressively low (£319.22), and the most common fault was to do with the suspension.  The most expensive repair was with the electrical power steering pump (£2,422.31).  The Mazda 2 is a comfortable small car with plenty of style.  You can buy with confidence here.

3. Toyota Auris/Corolla (2013–2018), reliability score 89.7%. 

Spacious and comfortable, the zippy Toyota Corolla/Auris is a car that is hard to fault.  With an average age of 8.3 years old in this survey, these are great small/medium cars.  The average repair bill was £767.84.  The Gearbox/Transmission seemed to be the most common fault with the car and was also the most expensive repair (£1841.60).  Based on Warrantywise’s experience, you’re unlikely to go far wrong with the Toyota Corolla.  Sometimes, because Toyotas are so reliable, the first few owners may have skimped on maintenance and are happy to pass the bills onto the new owners.  Make sure the car you’re looking has a service record and has a smooth-operating gearbox. 

4. Mazda MX-5 (2005–2015), reliability score 86.5%.

Here is the most fun and reliable second-hand car you can buy!  The Mazda MX-5 averaged 8.4 years old in the reliability analysis, with an average repair bill being a remarkably low £341.78.  The most common fault was with the suspension, and the most expensive repair was with the air conditioning (£586.94), also remarkably low.

5. Toyota Aygo (2005–2022)

  • Reliability score 85.5%
  • Average age 7.5 years
  • Average repair £375.66
  • Most common fault was with the alternator.
  • Most expensive repair was the clutch (£1,339.36).

6. Kia Ceed (2012–present)

  • Reliability score 85.0%
  • Average age 7.9 years
  • Average repair £485.36
  • Most common fault was wheel bearings.
  • Most expensive repair was with the gearbox (£1,914.00).

7. Kia Rio (2011–present)

  • Reliability score 84.9%
  • Average age 8.3 years
  • Average repair £528.23
  • Most common fault was the gearbox.
  • Most expensive repair was the turbocharger (£1,655.39).

8. Suzuki Alto (2008–2013)

  • Reliability score 83.9%
  • Average age 6.8 years
  • Average repair £328.92
  • Most common fault was the electrical system.
  • Most expensive repair was with the engine cambelt (£733.70).

9.Hyundai i20 (2008–2020)

  • Reliability score 82.5%
  • Average age 7.6 years
  • Average repair £520.25
  • Most common fault was with the electrical system.
  • Most expensive repair was with the suspension (£2,361.36).

10. Peugeot 107 (2005–2014)

  • Reliability score 81.6%
  • Average age 7.9 years
  • Average repair £434.89
  • Most common fault was the heater fan motor.
  • Most expensive repair was the clutch (£1,128.44).

11. Honda Civic (2011–2022)

  • Reliability score 80.7%
  • Average age 7.2 years
  • Average repair £630.86
  • Most common fault was with the air conditioning.
  • Most expensive repair was with the fuel system injectors (£3,055.73).

12. Renault Kangoo (2007–2021)

  • Reliability score 80.1%
  • Average age 7.3 years
  • Average repair £576.37
  • Most common fault was with the electrical system wiring looms.
  • Most expensive repair was the gearbox (£1,173.00).

13. Toyota Yaris (2011–2020)

  • Reliability score 79.8%
  • Average age 8.2 years
  • Average repair £795.89
  • Most common fault was with the electrical system.
  • Most expensive repair gearbox (£3,106.92).

14. Toyota RAV 4 (2013–2018)

  • Reliability score 79.2%
  • Average age 8.0 years
  • Average payout £846.83
  • Most common fault was the fuel system injectors.
  • Most expensive repair was engine related (£2,055.74).

15. Fiat 500L (2012–2020)

  • Reliability score 78.7%
  • Average age 6.0 years
  • Average repair £551.58
  • Most common fault was the clutch.
  • Most expensive repair was the clutch (£1,880.21).

Of course, it’s not compulsory to get a second-hand car, and the safety net of the warranty period is certainly attractive with new cars.  Have a wee chat to one of our team and we might just be able to find you a brand new car for a price that’s not that much more than what you’d pay for a second-hand vehicle.

What to Do if Your Car Overheats

Car overheating is a common issue that can occur unexpectedly, often leaving drivers in a state of panic. Understanding the causes and knowing how to respond to an overheating engine is crucial for preventing serious damage.

Today we’re going to explore the steps to take if your car starts overheating.

Immediate Response

When it comes to an overheating engine, quick and careful action is of the utmost importance.

  1. Pull Over Safely: As soon as you notice your car’s temperature gauge climbing into the red zone, or if you observe steam rising from the engine, you must pull over to a safe location. Use your hazard lights to alert other drivers of the situation.
  2. Turn Off the Engine: Once safely parked, turn off the engine immediately. This step is crucial to halt the production of additional heat and allow the engine to cool down.

Understanding the Causes

Car overheating can result from various issues, ranging from low coolant levels, to a malfunctioning thermostat, or even a faulty radiator. Understanding these potential causes can help you make informed decisions when addressing the problem.

  1. Wait for the Engine to Cool: Opening the bonnet too quickly can be dangerous, as hot steam may escape, potentially causing burns. Wait patiently for the engine to cool down before attempting to open the bonnet.
  2. Check Coolant Levels: After the engine has cooled, cautiously open the bonnet and check the coolant levels. The coolant reservoir, usually translucent, will have markings indicating the minimum and maximum levels. If the level is low, adding coolant may help address the issue. Again, it is very important that you only do this when the car has cooled down, otherwise it is very dangerous.

Common Problems

  1. Inspect for Leaks: Look for any signs of coolant leaks around the engine or beneath the vehicle. If a leak is detected, it may need immediate attention to prevent further overheating.
  2. Examine the Radiator Cap: As mentioned earlier, you may need to add coolant if you are running low. Carefully check the radiator cap. If it’s cool to the touch, you can open it and inspect the coolant level. Add coolant if necessary. Be cautious, as opening a hot radiator cap can release pressurised steam.
  3. Check for Obstructions: Examine the radiator and cooling system for any obstructions, such as leaves or debris, which may hinder proper airflow. Clearing these obstructions can aid the cooling process.

Troubleshooting

  1. Start the Engine with Caution: If you’ve addressed any identified issues, start the engine with caution and monitor the temperature gauge. If the temperature begins to rise again, turn off the engine and seek professional assistance.
  2. Seek Professional Help: If you’re unable to identify or resolve the problem, or if the overheating persists, it’s crucial to seek professional assistance. Calling for roadside assistance or having the vehicle towed to a mechanic is a prudent course of action.

Car overheating is a major concern that demands prompt attention and careful handling. If you ignore the issue, you could significantly damage the car, or worse, greatly endanger yourself or other road users.

By following the above steps and understanding the potential causes of an overheating engine, drivers can prevent a bad situation turning even worse. Regular maintenance and awareness of your vehicle’s condition can further reduce the likelihood of encountering such issues on the road.