Seven simple tips to prevent your car breaking down

Patrol-Van-night

HERE TO HELP: We’re here when you need us.

Whether you are driving far this weekend or staying local, a breakdown is the last thing you need. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do that will dramatically reduce your chances of having your long weekend shortened by car trouble!

Always close your boot and doors properly

This one seems simple but one of the biggest causes of flat batteries occurs when an interior light is left on. Make sure all the doors and the boot are completely closed. The last thing you want is a flat battery, or even worse, a thief stealing your property or vehicle.

Turn off your headlights

This also seems obvious but many NRMA call outs occur when a Member has left the headlights on by mistake and drained their battery.

Check your tyres

Apart from checking pressure and roadworthiness for all tyres, including the spare, it’s also essential to ensure you have a jack, wheel brace and lock nut tool specific for your vehicle. If you get a flat tyre, an NRMA patrol will only replace the tyre if a roadworthy spare is available, otherwise towing is available.

Know your mechanic

Many mechanics are closed over the long weekend, so it’s handy to have an idea of your preferred mechanic’s trading hours in case your vehicle needs towing. Otherwise, your NRMA Patrol will recommend an approved repairer or MotorServe in your area.

Check your oil level

Checking your oil is a simple and quick way to prevent a breakdown. Wait for a few minutes after you turn the engine off, and park on a level piece of roadway for the oil to settle. Before you remove the dipstick, make sure you look closely at its entry point into the engine – or you may not be able to reinsert it – and then wipe with a clean cloth or paper towel. Marked towards the lower end are the high and low-level markings, and the engine oil should always be between these two points. If it’s not between the points, add the correct specification oil via the engine oil filler cap located on the top of the engine.

Check your coolant

Checking the coolant level is just as simple. The easiest way is to check the plastic reserve tank that’s connected to the cooling system. On the side of the reservoir will be a low and high mark and the coolant level should be between the two marks. It’s always good practice to check the coolant level on the radiator via the radiator cap, with one important proviso – this should always be done when the engine is cold. Removing the cap when the engine is hot can cause coolant to spray out under pressure, seriously scalding you. If the level is low you can add coolant, again checking the owner’s handbook for the correct recommendation.

Check your brake fluid level

You should also check your brake fluid level regularly. Normally located at the back or side of the engine bay, the brake fluid reservoir is usually made of plastic with a high and low marking on the side. Normally the fluid will sit between these graduations, and vary slightly as the brake pads wear. If the level is continuously low and dropping there could be a leak in the braking system that requires immediate mechanical attention.

Also please note that NRMA offers free vehicle and battery health checks for Members so you can to pre-emptively deal with any potential problems. In the unfortunate event of a break-down, don’t worry! Extra NRMA patrol staff will be on hand over the weekend. Just log a request for assistance via the NRMA smartphone app or call 13 11 11. We are here and ready to help 24/7, whenever you need us.

Can you participate in a new child restraint study?

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TEST SUBJECTS: Restraint, ease of use and comfort compared between integrated and add on booster seats.

Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), an independent, not-for-profit research institute based in Sydney, is recruiting parents and their children as part of its child restraint study.

Parents will be asked to install, adjust and evaluate a child restraint and an in-built restraint for their child. Their child will be then seated in the restraint and their comfort scored via video analysis.

NeuRa is interested in learning more about the real world experience of using child car seats to better understand how parents and carers could use child restraints more easily and optimise restraints for child comfort.

NeuRA’s study is aimed at providing information and recommendations for vehicle and restraint designers to improve ease of use and comfort of child car seats.

Who can take part?

In order to participate in this survey you must meet the following criteria.

  • Own a car
  • Have a child between the ages 4-8 that travels in your car at least once a week
  • An Australian Resident aged 18 or over.

Participants will be reimbursed $50 for their time.

For more information or to register to take part in the study email: brown-lab@neura.edu.au or phone: (02) 9399 1844.

Here’s more information on child restraints or see NRMA’s online guide to buying a child restraint.

NRMA’s top car finance tips

Car-loans

REAL DEAL: Looking for a new car? Make sure you have the right finance

Buying a car is one of the biggest purchases we all make in our lives, yet many people head off to the car yard unprepared.

A car is often a deeply personal purchase: buyers can be lead by impulse to make expensive decisions. Therefore, before kicking the wheels at the car yard or clicking the deals online, Kent Marlow from NRMA Car Loans says it’s important consumers do their homework.

“Even before car buyers start looking, they should know how much they want to spend, how much they want to borrow and what sort of loan they want to take out,” he says.

“Taking out a car loan can be confusing, so we want to give our Members the right information to take out the best car loan for them. We want to save them money, but we’re also here to help them through the steps they need to take to get their loan approved.”

NRMA Car Loans has compiled some top tips to help first car buyers, but it’s advice that applies to all car buyers.

1. Have a sensible budget

A high performance or luxury car can be seductive, but you can easily fall into the financial trap of paying back more than you can afford for something that loses its value the minute you drive it out of the dealership.

Plan your budget carefully and work out your finances so that paying off your car is not a struggle, but simply a managed expense. Make sure you know exactly what your outgoings will be by using a loan calculator, such as the one offered by the NRMA.

2. Balance your wants and needs

Wanting a car and needing a car are two very different things. Sometimes the two come together, but remember not to fall for bells and whistles that serve no purpose. What will be the car’s primary use? How often will you drive it? Do you need an MP3 connection? Make a list of everything you need and want and find a happy compromise.

3. Safety first

All cars sold in Australia are given a safety rating of between one and five stars, according to the Australasian New Car Assessment Program and the Used Car Safety Ratings report. The three major safety categories are crash avoidance, crash protection and driver comfort. Each car is assessed according to these and other specifications to determine its rating. While a smaller and older car will cost less, it will likely be far less safe than larger and later vehicles.

4. Research! Research! Research!

You can never be too prepared. Get online and read up on different models, safety features and financing. And don’t forget to test-drive the cars you’re interested in! Visit NRMA Car Loans for information.

Have you ever bought a car on impulse?

Reviewing the facts about side mirrors

REFLECTION: While most modern vehicles now come standard with convex side mirrors, according to the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) side mirrors can be also be flat.

REFLECTION: While most modern vehicles now come standard with convex side mirrors, according to the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) side mirrors can be also be flat.

In recent weeks, NRMA’s magazine Open Road has received hundreds of emails about convex side mirrors, with some readers questioning whether they pose a safety risk because they make it difficult for a driver to judge the distance of traffic approaching from the rear.

The benefit of a convex side mirror is that the shape acts like a wide-angle lens, reducing a driver’s blind spot and thereby lessening the risk of a collision while changing lanes.

“There is a strong argument that the first priority in rear-view mirror design is to enable the driver to sight a vehicle to the rear, rather than judge its distance accurately,” says a spokesperson from the NSW Government’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

“Drivers also need to be aware that while a rear-view mirror assists in overall road awareness, a look over the shoulder is still essential to ensure safe manoeuvring.”

While most modern vehicles now come standard with convex side mirrors, according to the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) side mirrors can be also be flat. In fact, a convex mirror can be replaced legally with a flat mirror, provided the mirror conforms to design rules and its reflective surface is made of shatter-proof material or safety glass.

Side-mirror-diagram

The reflective surface of a driver’s side mirror must be at least 120mm x 200mm. Australian Design Rule 14/02 requires a driver’s side rear-view mirror to provide a field of view (as shown in the diagram below) of the road to the side and rear of the vehicle.

The ADRs specify that the driver’s side can have either a flat reflective surface or a convex reflective surface with a radius of curvature that is at least 1200mm.

The Road Users’ Handbook states that “before you change lanes, give your signal in plenty of time, check your mirrors and look over your shoulder for other vehicles”. The head check is necessary to ensure it is safe to change lanes – drivers should not depend on their mirrors alone.

What is your opinion on convex mirrors? Do you like or dislike?

Convex mirrors on cars

Scam alert: fake infringement email targets drivers

SCAM EMAIL: If you receive an email like this, do not pay any money and do not click any attachments or links. You should delete the email straight away.

Be wary of scam emails pretending to be infringement notices issued by a government authority such as the Australian Federal Police.

The “Traffic Infringement Notice” email and the website appear to be authentic, featuring convincing official design and branding and replicating official statements about the offence. The email includes a “see your traffic infringement” button, which links to a website where you are prompted to download a file containing details of a penalty notice. Do not download this file. It contains ransomware.

If you receive this email you should delete it. These messages are a scam and the ransomware could severely impact your system.

The scam emails and the website could easily be mistaken as authentic. Current examples circulating are generic and do not refer to the recipient’s name, address, vehicle or registered owner details.

The scam emails and the website could easily be mistaken as authentic. Current examples circulating are generic and do not refer to the recipient’s name, address, vehicle or registered owner details.

Please see these resources from the Australian Government on how to manage cyber crime:

What is ransomware
Stay smart online – avoiding scams and hoaxes

Have you received any scam emails like these recently?