Brits aren’t the savviest when it comes to car maintenance, according to a recent survey we conducted. 1 in 4 of us doesn’t know how to put antifreeze in our cars, and 1 in 10 of us has broken the law by knowingly driving a car that failed its MOT (we’re looking at you, Northern Ireland – you were 1 in 3!)
Some drivers are safer and more clued up than others. Drivers in Northern Ireland and London are the nation’s worst on both counts. The best are in the East Midlands, East Anglia and the North West.
Overall, our results don’t paint a great picture of Britain’s drivers. And it’s not just the people who responded to our survey, either. Judging by some of the most common questions we ask Google, the nation as a whole doesn’t know its stuff.
We thought we’d lend a hand. Here are 15 of Britain’s most-Googled questions about car maintenance – along with our answers. How many of the questions flummox you?
Can you drive without an MOT?
The only time you can drive your vehicle without a valid MOT is when you’re driving it to the test centre to get one. If you’re stopped on the way, you’ll need to prove you’re going to have the car MOT’d.
Can you drive with a cracked windscreen?
Legally, it’s a bit of a grey area – it depends whether the crack makes the car unsafe to drive. Play it safe and get it fixed as soon as possible, even if it’s only small. Little cracks can quickly get bigger.
Can you drive with a blown head gasket?
The head gasket stops the coolant (or antifreeze) in your car leaking all over the place. If your head gasket’s blown, your car’s more likely to overheat, which can cause much more expensive problems further down the line. It doesn’t put you in immediate danger, but head gaskets are cheap. You’re better off replacing it sooner rather than later. Smoke from the exhaust, leaking coolant and overheating are all signs that you’ve got a blown head gasket.
Can you drive with a flat tyre?
Pull over immediately. Getting a flat trye on the road is a scary experience especially if you are driving at speed. It’s very important to take the correct steps as soon as you notice one of your tryes is loosing pressure.
As Goodyear states “Maintaining proper air pressure is an important factor in tire safety and performance. If a driver experiences a flat tire or loss of air pressure, they should slow the vehicle gradually and carefully pull off to the side of the road as soon as possible. Driving on a flat tire can cause internal structural damage to the tire, may lead to wheel and vehicle damage and may result in poor vehicle handling and control — which could lead to an accident, injury or death.”
So even though you may have seen someone driving
slowly on the hard shoulder with a flat remember that flat or
under-inflated tyres can do harm very quickly.
Can you drive with bad motor mounts?
Driving with bad motor mounts won’t put you in immediate danger, but it can cause more damage to your car over time. Not only is this additional damage likely to be dangerous, it’ll cost a lot more to fix.
The motor mounts hold the engine in place. When they get worn down, the engine will bounce around, which of course isn’t good for it in the long term. Do yourself a favour and spend a few quid replacing the motor mounts before you do more serious damage.
What oil does my car need?
Depends on your engine. The recommended grade should be listed in your car’s manual, along with a recommended manufacturer.
What battery does my car need?
This one’s surprisingly complicated. Your first issue is size, which will depend on the space under your bonnet in which a battery can fit.
Car batteries are also differentiated by ampere/hours (AH) and cold cranking amps (CCA). AH tells you how long the battery will last before it needs to be recharged. CCA tells you how good a battery is at starting a vehicle in the winter months.
There’s no point just buying the car battery with the highest CCA ratings, because not all cars are equipped to make use of the benefits. To find out what kind of battery your car needs, you can take it to a garage, but this might be unnecessarily expensive. Alternatively, you can play it safe and replace the current battery like-for-like.
You also need to choose whether to get a calcium or lead battery. Calcium batteries tend to last longer.
What does MOT stand for?
Ministry of Transport, the folks in charge of MOTs.
What does a car alternator do?
It generates the energy that feeds the car’s electrical system and charges the battery. If your alternator’s failing, your car’s headlights might dim, and the various interior gauges might stop working. Rattling or screeching noises from under the bonnet of the car is another common symptom.
What engine does my car have?
Each type of engine has an engine code, and you can find this in your vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN is at the bottom of your windshield, on the driver’s side. The VIN is a long series of numbers and letters; the eighth in the series is the engine code.
Where does antifreeze go in a car?
Antifreeze goes in a reservoir that sits under the bonnet of your car. It will be labelled, usually with “engine coolant”. You lift the cap and fill the reservoir up to the “maximum” mark. The exact location will vary depending on your car – you can check your car’s manual to find out.
Can you drive without a wing mirror?
Legally, you must have at least two working rear-view mirrors. Three are fitted as standard in every car: the two wing mirrors and the interior rear-view mirror. Any one of these mirrors can be broken, but the law states you need at least two that give you a decent view of what’s happening behind your car.
Even though it’s not illegal to drive with a single broken wing mirror, the police might still stop you, so you’re better off getting it fixed.
Can you drive without doors?
If the car was originally built with doors, you’re not allowed to remove them; if you did, it wouldn’t pass an MOT test. Even if it were allowed, we’re not sure why you’d want to: being blasted relentlessly by the elements as you speed along isn’t our idea of a pleasant (or safe) drive.
Can you drive a golf cart on the road?
No, although 10% of our survey respondents thought it was fine. If you were to take to the streets in your plucky little golf cart, you’d be breaking the law. If you can’t quite gather the funds to buy a car, we’d recommend a lease.
Can you drive without a steering wheel?
Oh, Britain. And we’d been asking such sensible questions. No, no you cannot.