Category Archives: Vehicle

AutoData Reports the Top 10 Serviced Cars

AutoData has released its annual Top 10 Serviced Cars of 2016 a few months back but I’m still working through my backlog. This really important information, it puts slant on used car buying and packs a punch. AutoData has access to about 67% of the auto workshops in the UK, and all which are using AutoData’s online services, so its a fairly comprehensive data set on the scale of things.

One of the things which screams good car, isn’t really about how many millions have been sold, how many you see on the road, or how long its been in production. Its when you see plenty of the on the road beyond 6 yrs old, when the warranty’s have run out AND they are worth spending on by having services and upkeep. No one regularly services a banger, its good money after bad.

I would say this dataset is bordering on definitive, the only larger dataset is the governments log of all registered cars, and perhaps the MOT log. I don’t believe these 2 potentially larger datasets would be more helpful. You MUST have an MOT, and it MUST be registered, but neither says its a good, reliable car or well looked after vehicle. However a voluntary willingness to spend, to service and maintain says the car is worth the effort and probably well looked after, hence being a better dataset for your car buying arsenal.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is, when there are very few cars left on the road of a hugely popular (in its time) car, it usually means total nightmare or many faults. Without further ado, here is the list and later on in this post I’ll point out some examples of popular cars gone so very wrong.

Autodata Top 10 Most Serviced 2016
Position (2015 Pos) Make Model Year
#1 – (1) Ford Focus (2004-on)
#2 – (6) Vauxhall Astra H / MK5 (2004-on)
#3 – (4) Peugeot 206 (1998-on)
#4 (New) Ford Transit (2006-on)
#5 (New) Vauxhall Corsa D / MK4 (2006-on)
#6 (New) Volkswagen Transporter T5 (2003-on)
#7 – (2) Volkswagen Golf V / MK5 (2003-on)
#8 (New) Peugeot 307 (2001-on)
#9 – (3) BMW 3-Series (2005-on)
#10 – (5) Renault Clio II / MK2 (1998-on)

Once you remove Working vehicles and the evergreen BMW, you’re left essentially with half a dozen of the most popular cars in country, Focus, Astra H, 206, Corsa D, Golf V,  Clio II and 307 (larger class), that’s a really rock solid selection to find a used car from. Its also includes 3 of the cars my own extensive research lead me to (Focus 2006-2008, Astra 2007-2010 and Golf 2007-2009). 

It would have been nice if they had differentiated between iterations of Focus, 206 and others so you could get an idea of the mk or series, much like with the Astra mk H, Golf mk V, but beggars can’t be choosers.

My local independent garage swears blue by the 2008-2010 era Ford Focus, this is to the extent that he talked me out of buying a Hyundai i20 off him, and he didn’t even have a Focus to sell me. It would be interesting to see raw numbers like Ford Focus, total number, number of each year, number of each engine, but the dataset would be huge, useful as you could rule out problem engines, problem boxes etc but so very huge.

Previous Year Drop Outs

I thought it maybe interesting to include 2015’s Top 10 Drop Outs. I suspect in the Top 20 you would find some of the following, the Ford Fiesta, VW Polo, Honda Jazz, Honda Civic, Audi A4, Audi A3, Ford Mondeo, Merc A-Class, Nissan Qashqai, and maybe a Citroen C4 in there. A few of these dropped out of the top 10 since 2015, I didn’t think the Passat were that popular, I’m surprised the Fiesta Dropped out, its always hugely popular. 

AutoData Top 10 Most Serviced 2015
Position Make Model Year/MK
#7 Volkswagen Passat  
#8 Ford Fiesta  
#9 Ford Mondeo  
#10 Audi A4  

I am somewhat surprised none of the Japanese, Korean or other Eastern Marques made any sort of entry, I though the Kia C’eed, Honda Jazz, Honda Civic or Hyundai i20 would have made the list. Perhaps they don’t use AutoData at the marques dealerships.

As someone in the process of buying a(nother) car, I have been searching long and hard, and have paid the price for some mistakes, and this data tallys’ quite well with my own research so I’m sharing the data with you. Of course don’t take this as written in stone, but if you’re looking for a car in this class (small-medium car) then this data should hit the nail and give you a solid starting point. 

When Popular Cars Go Bad

Scrapyard Cars

Scrapyard Cars

A few examples I have experienced first hand are like the early model Fiat Punto, they were like buses, two at a time everywhere you looked, the Canary Yellow were so popular, and it was horrid. Now you rarely ever see them on the road due to the diabolical electrical problems, they used to go up the road like a damn disco. The early Ford Escorts pretty much fell apart with rust, I remember the boot floor and rear wheel arch turning to thermite ingredients, the Capri were almost as bad. 

The Aygo/C1/107, the early versions at least had a transmission made out of rubber bands, which literally died for a giggle. I’m not sure about the current models. I once saw a garage were buying them with a failed tranny for scrap, then fitting the uprated 190mm gearbox from the Toyota Yaris which isn’t made of rubber bands and reselling them as rock solid runner.

The Mercedes A-Class, the old 2002-ish Auto, the Gearbox ECU were a known fault. Due to the whacky way its set out you have to lift the whole engine out of the vehicle to get to the transmission. This means its silly expensive not only for the parts being a Merc but also in labour costs. While on gearboxes the more recent M32 Gearbox in lots of current cars means they are often resold at the first sign of slipping, then they are reconditioned by garages and sold out again.

Its always worth checking into known faults, check ebay and breakers to see how many of your car are for sale for parts or repairs, and figure just how bad the fault it. This is also a good indicator of parts availability too. 

Future Updates

I have fired off an email to AutoData to see if they will A, reply to a small time blogger like myself and B, provide me with the top 20 for a few years so I can do a more inclusive plotting. I will ask for 3 to 5 yrs so I can build a better image, I’m also hoping they will give me actual numbers so I can attempt to place them in an all time top 10, least the ones with more than 1 year beyond top 20.

I’m not sure they will already have that data or even if they will provide it for free even if they do.

I will of course report back with any replies I get. 

Beetle Mechanic Photo by Gratisography, Scrapyard by Emmet.

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

Stopping Distances for Driving Test

Brake Lights Stopping

Brake Lights Stopping

This post includes a little tip I read somewhere, but I can’t for the life of me remember where. I read so much stuff before I did my theory test. In my opinion stopping distances are kinda useless, since you can’t really calculate them on the fly, but you still need to know them. Its more a visual or spacial awareness thing while driving.

You know *your car* need “this” much space to stop and thats kind of it.

I mean without any extensive thought, some of the variables are Road Condition:  Wet / Dry, Weather: Hot / Cold, Humidity: Dry / Wet, Tyres: Slick / Knobbly / Worn, Road Material: Loose / Firm / Soft, Tyre Pressure: Over Inflated / Under Inflated / Correct, Brake Type:  Disk / Drum, Brake Material: Steel / Carbon / Ceramic, this before we get to Electronic / Mechanical like ABS, Stability Control and Brake Assist and without too much thought, the variables must be into millions of permutations.

Stopping Distances by DVLA

Stopping Distances by DVLA

All these are dependent on when the driver actually realises they need to stop, and their reactions and indeed actions. 

However you need to know these for your theory test and I guess for your actual driving test because of the Show Me, Tell Me Section and / or when the examiner asks you questions during the independent driving portion.

Top Tip: Easy Braking Distance Calculation

There is an easy way to calculate these, its quick and easy. Which makes me equally proud of the mathematics but also suspect about authenticity of the figures. Not to mention if they actually have any real world correlation or basis.

You basically multiply the speed by using an incrementing modifier, so for example..

The Overall Stopping distance in feet:

Speed (MPH)  Qualifier (Feet)  Multiplier Distance (Feet) 
20 mph 20 ft 2x 40 ft
30 mph 30 ft 2.5x 75 ft
40 mph 40 ft 3x 120 ft
50 mph 50 ft 3.5x 175 ft
60 mph 60 ft 4x 240 ft
70 mph 70 ft 4.5x 315 ft
100 mph 100 ft 6x 600 ft
160 mph 160 ft 9x 1140 ft

 

You maybe thinking, but I need to know meters not feet. Negative, the theory test gives you the distances in both feet and meters. 

The Fastest Travelling Speed

This got me thinking about the fastest speed I have travelled, which were 155mph in a car with a NOS kit, along the lines of what the Wizards of NOS do, obviously not driver. We were in moist conditions on a slight down gradient and talking with music on, which can slow reaction times…

Lowes Motor Speedway Quater Mile Marker

Lowes Motor Speedway Quater Mile Marker via Wikipedia.

155mph slightly distracted by music and chatter giving slower than average reaction times, on moist/damp conditions makes the stopping distance 3,135 ft / 956 meters. 

The Earths curvature means at absolute best a 6 ft man can see between 1.8 km and 5 km away through a telescope or binoculars before the Earths curve obstructs your view. Whether your eyes could see anything smaller than a bus at a distance of 956 meters is debatable.

The above image is taken at around 500 meters / 1,600 feet from the building. I don’t think you’d be able to see the child and their father on the left from double this at 1,000 meters. Assuming you could even see them, my guess it they would be road kill at anything over 80 mph, at 158 mph, the driver and passengers would need to be steam cleaned off the buildings wall.

155mph = 70 meters per second.

That building is approx 6-7 seconds away at that speed and about 13 seconds away with the breaks on. Not even a Bugatti Veyron would be able to able to stop in time and that has some of the best brakes and air breaks in the world. 

This isn’t really an anti-speeding post, its more an awareness post, 1,000 meters or over half a mile sounds like a long distance, but when you think, at 70mph its 30 seconds away. 

 

Brake Lights Image by Myles Davidson.

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

Blind Spot with Weird Road Markings

I wasn’t sure if I should continue with the driving posts, since now I’ve passed I’m not a student now. I am however still learning and figure my insights and hard earnt lessons may help some other people. I’m not an expert so my interpretations may not be 100% accurate, so do take them as intended, as my insight. 

When I find something worth blogging on, I’ll post a little. On this occasion, my mother has mentioned this a few times but its not easy to picture it, or get what she meant. Since I passed my test, I drop her off for her dog walk at a trail near here. 

Blind Corner Road Markings

Blind Corner Road Markings

The above junction is a doozy, you must follow the RED arrows around the junction. Once you can see the line of sight in BLUE, thata where you stop, to make the turn. Its almost like a loose hairpin or half u-turn around. From the road while driving its hard to work out, you don’t have much time. 

If you come across this, you know the drill now. Drive to Arrow 3, STOP, look down the blue line of sight, then turn right, and follow it around. Nice and easy when you know, and will keep you massively safer once such bends. 

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

Driving Test Failures and Near Misses

L Plate

L Plate

There is quite a bit of buzz about a guy who recently failed his driving test within a few seconds of starting out. Apparently he left the parking bay at the test centre, and positioned himself on the right hand side of the road. We in the UK drive on the left, so it were an instant fail.

It were more galling due the examiner stating that the following 40 minutes of driving were near enough flawless and a certain pass. I also recently posted about the examiner given whiplash during an emergency stop manoeuvre, but these are the tip of the iceberg.  

While I’ve been learning and recently passed I’ve been hearing about bizarre fails, and near misses, and instances where the examiner weren’t looking in the right place at the right time.

Rapid Driving Test Fails

Some examples of rapid failures, which I have heard about in recent weeks. Some of them are a little woah, some are a bit arrrgh, some are aaaaahhh but hardly surprising, I imagine the pressure added with nerves when you first start is immense for some. I personally weren’t too bothered, John my instructor had prepared me so I could drive with the radio on, while talking, in the rain, in the snow, at night, all but on the wrong side of the road. He were so confident, he didn’t even want to ride along with me on my test, he probably took a nap or something. 

1, A woman pulling out of the driving test centre parking bay, without noticing a car approaching from the left. Failed within seconds and a few meters of actual driving. 

2, A man pulling out of the driving test centre parking bay, and mounting the curb fully. Its not clear if it were under steering or over steering other than he ended up wheel fully off the ground.  

3, Failing to Indicate and Position correctly all upon leaving the test centre car park to join the first open road. Didn’t even get 100m away. 

All of the above were fails within mere seconds, and all 3 candidates would have otherwise passed with a few minors.

I haven’t been told about any walk backs, apparently if you commit dangerous driving offense, you are given a walk back. This is where the examiner doesn’t believe you are safe to be in control of the vehicle, and they are not insured to drive the instructors car. I have heard drink, drugs and unsafe cars are the main reasons. 

Look Over There

Bulldog in a Car

Bulldog in a Car

There are stories about an examiner looking the wrong way at just the right time or wrong time. 

1, Pulling out of short road in to the test centre, getting to the first open road. The examiner looking right, as a car pulls up from the left concealed by parked cars. The candidate pulls out without seeing the car, the examiner decided it were a minor for inappropriate speed rather than a serious observation fault. 

Result: PASSED!

2, Moving off from a parking spot, the learner driver looks left, looks right, checks rear view mirror, checks right blind spot and pulls away while looking forward. Only problem is, as the driving candidate checks his blind spot, the examiner is looking left and fails to see the blind spot check, or final check as pulling away.

The driving instructor happens to be in the back seat, and knows the examiner so it were questioned. The examiner wouldn’t change the fault, but luckily it were marked as a minor as no other road users were inconvenienced or forced to change course.

Result: PASSED!

3, Having pulled up at the side of the road as you do many times in a test and often a lesson. The learner driver, prepares to move away once told too, is observing and waiting for a gap in traffic, then indicates and go to move off. A car coming decides to slow, stop and let you out. 

The examiner wasn’t observing the on-coming traffic. They didn’t realise the car which let the candidate out were the last one before a large gap which the learner intended use. The assumption were the other car seeing the Learner Bar on the roof of the car thought they would be helping so slowed rapidly. The result were the examiner saw the learner driver indicate out, and another road user changed course and were inconvenienced by your actions.

Result: FAILED!

The last story, my driving examiner confirmed that as long as you didn’t indicate out immediately, you at least attempt to wait a minute or two for a gap before resorting to indicating, she wouldn’t fail you for that. She went as far to say “How else would you get out…”.

The Home Run Fails

There is another type of fail, where by the driver has been driving perfectly but then on the way to the test centre, it all falls apart due to a judgement error.

1, On-route back to the test centre, with 7-8 minor faults but otherwise solid driving. They come down the open road there is an on-coming car the right side about 20 car lengths away. The learner comes up 7-8 car lengths from the turning point, as the on-coming car slows and flashes. The learner speeds up, moves up to 4th gear, crosses the central line, continues driving, cuts the corner, takes the corner at too high a speed, too high a gear and didn’t check the mirrors at all. Clocked up enough minor faults to fail, and a serious fault too. 

Result: FAILED, 16 Minors, Double Fail!

2, About 2 minutes away from the test centre, there were an accident which created a minor detour. The detour took the learner down a 2 lane one-way street, and the candidate had to take a right at the end. The learner positioned just to the left of the centre lane, and turned right.

The examiner apparently commented that the candidate hovered at the indicator half way down the road and considered indicating to the right lane. The examiner also told the learner to take the turn into the one way and turn right at the end. On this occasion they went to the left lane and should have been on the right.

Result: FAILED!, 4 Minors.

3, Approaching the test centre car park, the examiner asked the candidate to choose a parking spot. No request for a manoeuvre just go in to a parking spot. The learner driver chose to reverse bay park, and did so without looking around or out of his back windows once, just using his mirrors and reverse camera.

The examiner commented that, had he pulled in forward, he’d have passed. He’d already done Turn In The Road, so his manoeuvre had been completed. 

Result: FAILED!

Final Thoughts

Remember you’re on your driving test from the minute your name is called in the test centre until the minute you’re given the PASSED or FAILED result. This is all your test, so take no  risks, don’t rush, and take your time. Its your test, so own it. 

 

One Way Sign image by Gratisography, Brake Lights image by InstaWalli, Bulldog in a Car image by Tim Gouw.

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

Mobile Phone Use While Driving Gets You 6 Points from Today

Driver using Mobile Phone

Driver using Mobile Phone

I’m a day late I know, but I’ve been a busy bee with surgery issues and winding up business for my down time. The law came into force on Wednesday 1st March 2017. From Wednesday, using your mobile phone while driving, means 1 text can get you 6 points and a £200 fine on the spot, scrolling your music, making calls etc will all get you 6 points and £200 fine. It used to be £100 and 3 points with an optional retraining scheme. 

Its bad for experienced drivers who are allowed up to 12 points within any 3 year period before you receive a ban, but its even worse for new drivers like myself, if you get 6 points in the first 2 yrs then you lose your license.

The mobile phone retraining scheme where you could choose to a do a safety course instead of the points has been withdrawn, so its points, points or points oh and a fine. I’m not sure the seatbelt and speed awareness course are still running or not. Best to drive on the assumption that Tullocks Going to Get Ya. 

This legislation were brought in after Polish Driver Tomasz Kroker killed 4 members of the same familey while he were playing with his mobile phone. From memory he claimed he weren’t using his phone but instead were scrolling through his musical playlist. 

Police Crack Down

Police Crack Down Barrier

Police Crack Down Barrier

The police are reportedly doing 7 day crack downs, the first of which runs from 1st-7th March 2017, with another rumoured to start 22nd March 2017, a similar week long crack down in February 2017 resulted in over 3600 motorists given points, a fine or retraining scheme. With the scheme now withdrawn and the points doubled and fine increased, there is a world of pain heading to 1000s of motorists in March. 

According to government figures there about 2 dozen people killed per year and 100 seriously injured my motorists using their phones every year. A survey I saw reported that about half of young drivers think its acceptable to use their phone for short calls or quick texts. With many young people unable to stand switching their mobile phones off, its a recipe for disaster. 

Insurance Punishment

I phoned my insurance just for giggles (and fuck yeah I lied about who I was) and asked them how much it would increase my premium if I were banned within 2 years of passing. It really would be pointless me driving, it nearly tripled the premium. With a clean license having been driving 6 months the quote on a 1.4T Astra SRI were £1,200. Now add 3 points and the premium shoots to £1,800, next add a ban (non drink driving) raised the premium to £3,500. A driving driving ban they said they wouldn’t insure me.

They also pointed out that mobile phone use penalties are a CU80 Penalty and put you at more of risk than someone who were 5mph over the speed limit. Given there are reasons you could be caught speeding, but there is no excuse for using your phone, so your wallet will get more abuse for such a penalty. The official figured being bandied about suggest a CU80 will get you 30% insurance increase, which is quite close what I were told. 

Mobile Phone using Driver image by Breakingpic and Police Car image by Unsplash.

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

My Driving Test

L Plate

L Plate

I finally succeeded at passing my driving test, I say finally but given my first driving lesson ever were less than a month before hand, I guess it weren’t that long. It just felt like longer due to the pressure and rushing to fit it all in before my shoulder surgery, work issues, business and other stuff. I’ve included more about my theory test and driving test results later along with some commentary. 

First things, my Driving Instructor were John Swain (FB link) or 07968956860. He does both slow and steady as well as high intensity driving courses. Basically this is lessons from 1 hour to 5 hours (with breaks), between the hours of 6am-8pm. He can be flexible beyond that too, but best to talk to him about your specific needs.

I did a mixture of lessons, I went with 3-4 hours for my first few lessons, then between 1.5-3 hours, using the longer lessons to work on my sticking points. I believe it were a total of 11 lessons, spread over about 3 weeks, with lessons from 7am to 8pm fitting around my work timetable.

What I will say is intensive teaching seems a little overwhelming at first as you literally dive right in. Lots of things, for example moving off safely, at first I were thinking, where are my peddles, check mirrors, look over shoulder for blind spot, damn it man you forgot to indicate, indicate on, check mirrors, look in blind spot, press clutch down, find my gear stick, move into first gear, its been too long, check my mirrors, and blind spot again, slowly raise clutch, don’t stall, find the bite point, don’t stall mofo, check my mirrors again, steer out the spot, last glance to right, ease on the gas, mirror check, off the clutch fully, and pull away. 

Once you’re more in to it, you don’t think so much about the actions, or sequentially its more check mirrors while getting into gear and finding bite point, blind spot check, move out, speed up and away. The intensive courses made this process harder at first but the extended driving lesson time meant you could keep trying and trying and get it nailed.

My Driving Test Pass Score

My Driving Analysis Form

My Driving Analysis Form

My test started out potentially really badly, firstly the number plate I were asked to read had a bolt and cap in one of the letters, which made it near impossible to determine M or N and possibly even a W. Angela (my test examiner) struggled a little too, but I chose M and upon inspection at about 5m we both agreed M.

For reference in this instance its the examiners discretion if they accept M/N/W and your option to ask to read the car next to it or another plate, if you wish. 

The nitty gritty, I got 3 minor faults. One of them were as simple as poor positioning of my left foot and the heel got caught on the floor mat so I fluffed some consecutive gear changes. The other 2 minors were for mirror/signal category. I’m not 100% sure where they were, but I’m sure 1 of them were signalling (indicator) before a mirror check. I’m working on this, when I’ve been checking my mirrors on approach to a turn, I have sometimes forgotten to double check or rather include a dedicated mirror check.

I made an absolute point of NOT looking at what my DVSA Examiner were writing or marking, I didn’t want it to distract me. This is why I’m not 100% what the minors were for, other than the gear one.

I asked Angela for an extra critical assessment at the end to which she jokingly offered to add some extra minors if I liked. To be crystal clear I’m 100% sure I earned those 3 minors and they were genuine. I included mention of this joke as often I hear examiners are very stuffy, but they are only human. In her more critical assessment she said her only suggestion were work on mirrors and observation in general, everyone always need more observation. In general my driving were fine.

John also parroted her observation comment saying more experienced drivers often don’t do blind spot checks, so hammer the checks home as a newly qualified driver and build the habit.  

Excellent Lesson 

Poynton Round About Hazards

Round About Hazards

On my test day, a really helpful thing happened, confusing at first but helpful. Right by the test centre in Bredbury is a BP petrol station, which has a HGV/LGV fuel pump (I’d never seen one, or noticed before). We needed air in one of the tired and a screen wash refill to make sure all tip-top for the test. A large truck was in the right lane, indicating left, so I’m thinking slow down, give it space, its going to turn left at the lights. Suddenly its hazard lights come on, it did some weird positioning and manoeuvres, so I come to a near stop, then it became clear it were heading into the petrol station.

It were an excellent thing to happen, and taught me when you’re going to perform unexpected manoeuvres bang the hazards on and hopefully the cars behind will give you extra room. The first day I were driving, a transit van pulled up towards the end of a one way road, and banged the hazards on, so I hung back an sure enough the driver performed a tricky reverse park into a obscured drive way. His hazard lights meant I allowed space and all good. 

Consealed Car Park Entry Hazard

Consealed Car Park Entry Hazard

The pic on right is a place I sometimes park to stop at the pharmacy and its a nightmare, the green dot is a tree, the blue dot a statue and the red line is my route of travel. Invariably people expect you to enter the round about, so when you indicate left into the concealed entrance between the tree and statue you’re risking a rear end bump. I have seen many actual bumps and near misses in this very spot. When I approach now, I bang my hazard lights on about 2-4 car lengths before the status and the car behind me almost without exception drops back and I can safely make that turn.

Just for completeness as I have said before, I passed my theory with 49/50 on questions and 67/75 on hazard perception, which is a very good score, since I had never had a driving lesson before. 

Generation Gap

Huge Round About Portwood

Huge Round About Portwood

My early days driving has highlighted many things, many of these things are linked to potentially overly confident drivers, or perhaps drivers who were trained the old ways. My mum for example said she had never seen a round about with more than 2 lanes before. She as a younger person had never even seen or been on a motorway as a passenger.

The biggest round about she encountered for years of driving were 2 lanes, and she never came across one with lane guidance which negated the need to indicate in the first decade (see left). Lots of other things she had to figure out as she came across them. There is a growing argument for drivers to take refresher tests or a second driving test to see if you’re still safe, I can see why. I can however see that actual driving is about the road not the book, so I’m not sure it would help massively. 

I get the feeling many of the things which confuse me as a new driver, are because I’ve been taught the 2016 way, and my mother were taught the 1990s way, my older sister the 1980s way, and so on.

Its not so much people are driving wrong, they are just driving to a different era and we all have to find a working middle ground, and get by. 

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.
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