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Each week the Used Car Roadshow resident mechanic Pipes shares tips and tricks on basic motoring maintenance.

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Series 3 - Episode 1


Tyres are the most important component on any car, they are the only thing attaching you and the car to the road, looking after them is crucial and should be checked every week.

Modern tyres are of a radial construction and are tubeless.  There is a lot of information on the sidewall including width; aspect ratio; construction; diameter; speed rating; load rating; date of construction; direction of rotation; maximum inflation pressure; weight markings and run out markings (coloured dots and lines on new tyres).  The correct inflation for the tyres on your car are printed on a data sticker and located either inside the fuel filler flap or in the drivers door shut area.

The legal limit for tyre tread depth is 1.6mm across 75% of the width and frankly this is ludicrous.  The law should be changed to 3mm, as a car so equipped will stop over 40 metres earlier from 70mph in the wet compared to a car whose tyres are just on the legal limit.  If you were to check, you will not find a police pursuit car anywhere in the country with tread below 3mm.

Ideally you should equip your car with the same tyres all round but it is okay to mix front or rear, but never two tyres on the same axle. 

Abnormal wear on a tyre can be caused by a number of aspects.  Firstly, over-inflation will cause the middle of the tyre to wear and under-inflation will cause both edges to wear.  Suspension geometry is also key to tyre wear, if you bash a kerb and knock out the geometry you will get abnormal tyre wear.  On older cars with higher mileages it is common for suspension bushes to wear and cause uneven tyre wear.  In all of these cases it is essential to have the geometry set correctly before fitting new tyres otherwise these will wear twice as quickly.

Tyres generally have a shelf life of 6 years and can show signs of cracking even if the car has not been used.  These should be replaced.  Likewise, if the sidewall has been damaged the tyre should be replaced.

Punctures are repairable as long as they are not too near the edges.  Run flat tyre technology is becoming more common, these tyres have very thick side walls, so much so that when fully deflated will allow the car to travel safely at 50mph without the tyre coming off the rim, as it would on a normal tyre.

When checking tread depth, you will find wear indicators in the tread pattern of your tyres.  These bars indicate 2mm of tread remaining.  You can buy a very simple depth indicator from a motor accessory shop for a more accurate reading.  If your car has wide tyres, turn the steering to full lock and this will help you check the complete face of the tyre quite easily.


Series 3 - Episode 2

Jump starting

Should be avoided if at all possible.  Instead use a long trickle charge overnight to recharge your battery.  It will last longer this way.  When trickle charging, if your charger isnít microprocessor controlled, put it on a timer for 8 hours. 

If you have to jump start, wear eye protection as the battery may explode in extreme circumstances.  You should also not wear loose clothing when working under the bonnet of a car to avoid it getting caught in moving pulleys and belts etc.  Take care also when working around batteries not to short out the positive and negative terminals with loose jewellery or tools as this will cause sparks.

Ensure the two cars are not touching.  First attach the red lead to the positive terminal on the donor carís battery.  Second, connect the other end to the positive terminal of the dead battery.  Third, connect the black lead to the donor cars negative terminal.  Fourth, connect the other end to a suitable earthing point on the donor cars engine or chassis, away from battery and fuel system.  It is important to connect the leads in this order to minimise damage to the battery. 

Now wait a few minutes for the voltages to stabilise then start the donor car and run on a fast idle.  After a minute or so attempt to crank the dead car.  Do not remove any of the jump leads with either of the cars running.  Lastly, turn off both cars and wait a few minutes for the leads to cool down before removing them in the reverse order of connection. 

Batteries are designed to be recharged and discharged all of the time.  They can last up to five years, however, this depends on usage.  Cars that do high mileages are constantly charging the battery but cars that are seldom used and moved short distances all of the time (as on a car dealers forecourt) can destroy a battery over a short period of time.

A common misconception is that leaving the car running on tick over for 10 minutes or so will charge the battery.  This does not give the battery a meaningful charge, the engine needs to be running at a good speed for a reasonable time in order for the alternator to supply a worthwhile charge.

Most modern batteries have an indicator light which changes colour when it needs a charge or is dead. 

Over the years as battery technology and charging systems have improved, the average voltage supplied by the alternator for recharging has increased from 13.6 to 14.4 volts.  For this reason it is very important than when replacing a battery you use the manufacturers recommended specification.  It is quite common for owners of older cars to fit more high tech batteries and their carsí alternator does not supply enough voltage to recharge it and it very quickly dies.


Series 3 - Episode 3

Wiper blades

The best way to maintain your wiper blades is to wash them every time you wash your car Ė youíll be amazed how much grime can accumulate on them.  Always use proper screen wash as it is specially formulated to help dislodge road grime but not at the expense of wiper blades and rubber seals and is also resistant to freezing.  Donít be tempted to use household detergents in your screen wash reservoir.  They can clog the system up and eventually go off and smell bad, let alone long term damage to seals. 

Never operate your wipers on a frosted screen to aid clearing as this permanently damages them, they are only designed to work on an extremely smooth surface i.e. glass.  When replacing wiper blades it is advisable to replace the complete blades and not just the rubbers because the spring mechanism on the blade also wears with time.  Before removing the old blades, purchase the new ones to the correct specification and only remove the old ones when the new ones have been offered up to the wiper arms and their correct attachment identified. 

Donít try to ďsupersizeĒ your wiper blade/s in order to gain a greater sweep as this will result in a less efficient wipe and could even damage your paintwork. 

When replacing the front wiper blades remember to replace the rear one if fitted. 

A top tip to those that actually use car polish, do the windows lightly as well when doing the body work and they will stay grime free for longer.


Series 3 - Episode 7

How to Get Rid of a Bad Odour in a Car...

Have you ever owned a brand new car and wished you could keep your car smelling new forever? There are air fresheners that smell just like a brand new car, but they arenít the answer if your car has developed a terrible odor. Air fresheners are fine if your car smells clean to begin with, but if youíve forgotten food, bait, or other perishable items inside your car, all of the air freshener for sale in the store wonít get rid of the stench.

Try the following methods to get rid of a bad odor in your car. Youíll save yourself a great deal of money over hiring a professional, and your car will smell fresh and clean once again. You can get rid of the odor yourself!

Clean it First!

You canít get rid of a bad odor if the source of the odor is still present, so make certain the offending substance is completely gone. Soak up as much liquid as possible with paper towels, and clean the area with a power steamer. If you donít have access to a power steamer, clean the soiled area with a top-quality cleaning product of your choice.

The biggest mistake people can make when cleaning a terribly odorous substance from a car is not allowing the area to dry completely before closing the vehicle. Allow the car to air out for as long as possible, preferably outside. If weather is a factor, air the car out inside a garage, but whatever you do, donít close it up until the freshly cleaned area is absolutely dry.


After the mess has been properly cleaned and the carpet or fabric is completely dry, set an open bag of charcoal in the car. Charcoal is one of the best natural products you can use to absorb and get rid of odors, and after your car smells fresh and clean, you can still use the charcoal for outdoor grilling.

Coffee Grounds

Many truck drivers use coffee grounds to get rid of bad odors from their trailers after hauling fresh onions and other strong smelling loads. As the coffee grounds dry, they absorb odors and leave behind nothing more than the scent of freshly brewed coffee.


Vinegar is another natural product that absorbs and neutralizes all types of odors. Set a bowl of white vinegar in your car to get rid of bad odors left behind after a particularly malodorous mishap. For best results, let the vinegar set undisturbed, after the car has aired out, until the odor has dissipated.

Scent Cover

If you donít like a certain well-known spray that claims to remove odors rather than cover them up, try using scent cover or scent eliminator. Unlike this popular brand of spray, scent cover isnít at all scented. Itís meant to cover the smell of human beings so hunters are totally invisible to game.

You can find scent eliminator or scent cover in sport shops and sporting goods departments in discount stores, and you can find it online. Itís not exactly cheap, but if you canít get rid of a really tough odor in your car, itís an effective product that can help eliminate the bad smell once and for all.


Other similar suggestions (these are suggestions written by the general public):


The Power of Activated Charcoal

Have you tried placing a shallow pan or box underneath the seat with charcoal briquets in it? Activated charcoal pulls odors out of a lot of things. This would be a relatively inexpensive fix if it can handle the strong odors you mention.

Volcanic Rock

Home Depot and Lowes (and probably other stores) sell these little mesh bags of volcanic rock (or so it's called) that are supposed to absorb odors. It worked with a musty odor for me. It's worth a try.

Break Out the Coffee

Perhaps you can try coffee grounds to aid in removing those odors. I found that putting coffee grounds in our refrigerators when we move made a huge difference in keeping "spoiled food" odors at bay. Since you're so sensitive to the chemicals the dealer used, put about a pound of cheap coffee (store brand is fine) in panty hose, tie the hose in a knot and put the grounds into a plastic throwaway type bowl in the floorboard of the back seating area. Change the grounds out about once a week; hopefully, you'll notice a big difference in just a couple of weeks. Since the odors are so strong, you might want to put a pound of grounds in the front floorboard, as well.

Take Back to Dealer

Did you buy the car from a dealer? If so, take it back and have them plug in an ionizer for 24 hour. It even gets rid of cigarette smoke.

Sprinkle on the Baking Soda

Instead of using pan of baking soda, sprinkle the carpet and the upholstery with a generous amount of baking soda (make sure the material is dry). Gently brush it all over to attain full coverage. Let it stand for a few hours to absorb the offending odor and then vacuum it all up. I have used this method in both my vehicle and my house.

The Many Uses of Vinegar

Place one or two bowls of white vinegar in the car for a day or two (while it is parked). Vinegar removes odors. I use it in my house to remove cooking odors and my husband's cigarette smoke. It worked in a smelly car I had a few years back.

Again, Look for the Culprit

I also have a problem with perfumes and deodorizers. When my husband had his truck detailed, it came back smelling toxic to me, but it did not bother him. The smell did not go away and some days were worse.

One day I discovered the culprit under the seat. It was an odor strip that they left in the car. After this was removed the stench/smell went away. And he now requests the detailers not use their deodorizers when he has his truck cleaned inside. At least now I know what to look for to remove the smell if they forget.

Recycle Your Newspaper

To remove odors from your car, crumble newspaper and leave in the car. Also, put a bag of plain charcoal briquets in the car to absorb orders. Do not use the kind with lighter fluid on the briquets.

Reader Recommends Product

I would suggest trying Natures Air Sponge. I bought two of them last year just to see if they worked. They did and I bought eight more! My son had purchased an older home with a bad basement smell. He put a couple of the sponges down there and the odor was completely gone the next morning! I was refinishing a piece of furniture and made the mistake of varnishing it inside. I opened a sponge, put it in the room, closed the door and windows, and within two hours the paint smell was gone! The sponges are available at some popular local stores and you can find them by going to They give you testimonials, uses, instructions for use and where to buy.




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