Motoring Advice & Tips

Cottage Street Garage is Macclesfield's automotive repair specialists, with expertise in car servicing, MOT testing, tyres, brakes, exhausts and air conditioning.

Our friendly team of mechanics are always on-hand to give expert and impartial advice to help keep you on the road. However, we also provide the following motoring advice and tips to help you have a safer experience with your motor vehicles.

Motoring Advice & Tips – General Car Maintenance

Why should I service my car?

Servicing proactively maintains your car, reducing the risk of a breakdown. Even if it is irregular, servicing can also help maintain your car's value. It is also your responsibility to ensure that your vehicle is examined every 12 months and is issued with an MOT certificate. It is a legal requirement in the UK to have an MOT certificate issued to your car, as without one you will be unable to renew your road tax and your car may not be insured.

When should I get my car serviced?

Assuming your car is over 3-years old, your annual MOT renewal date is the natural point to get your car serviced. However, many car owners fully service their car every year or every 12,000 miles – whichever comes earlier. If you suspect that there is a problem with your car, you should always seek expert advice at the earliest opportunity.

What is the difference between an Interim Service and a Full Service?

A Full Service is ideal for an annual maintenance programme for your car and recommended every 12,000 miles or 12 months – whichever comes sooner (although some manufacturers may recommend more regular checks). Interim Servicing is ideal for vehicles used for short, mainly urban journeys or for those who wish to service vehicles doing very high mileage more regularly. An Interim Service every 6,000 miles or 6 months helps keep your car safe and roadworthy between full services.

Why should I not simply go to my car manufacturers' local Main Dealership to have my car serviced?

The short answer to this question is that you can take your car to be serviced at a main dealership! However, in doing so the likelihood is that you will pay much more compared to a local independent garage. It used to be the case that in order to maintain your vehicle manufacturers warranty, you could only take your vehicle to a main dealership for your car servicing and repair requirements. However, this was seen as anti-competitive by the European Union and a legislation change was made. This change means that you no longer have to go to the main dealer for car servicing or repairs to ensure that your manufacturer's warranty is maintained (NB: you only have to take your car to the main dealership for "warranty related" work). As a result, you are now free to choose any quality independent garage to complete your car servicing and repair needs. Provided that your vehicle is serviced using the manufacturers schedules, repaired within the manufacturers guidelines, and with dealer quality parts, your vehicle manufacturer's warranty will not be affected. At Cottage Street Garage, we provide the same quality service as a main dealership, but at a much more affordable price!

What happens if my car requires additional repair work that is not covered in the interim or full service?

We work on a fixed price service scheme and no additional repair works will be undertaken without the prior consent of our customers. In some cases when a part is nearing the end of its life, it can be a matter of judgement as to whether that part should be replaced now or left a little longer. We will explain the options as clearly as we can, and you are free to seek a second opinion, but rest assured Cottage Street Garage will never complete any additional work until we have your authority to do so.

What is an Oil Service?

Cottage Street Garage's oil change service is a great supplement between full or interim services, especially when preparing for a long journey or just to ensure peace of mind! Our oil change service includes changing the engine oil and filter, but we will also check other essential items such as tyres, batteries or lights, as well as essential fluids like brake or power steering fluids. However, it should be stressed that our oil change service is not a substitute for a full or interim service, and therefore does not give a service history stamp.

Motoring Advice & Tips – The MOT

What is an MOT?

Originally called the Ministry of Transportation test, an MOT is a thorough annual examination of a vehicle that is three years old or more. The MOT tests not only the safety of your vehicle, but also the level of emissions in the exhaust. The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) is responsible for 'licensing' both the MOT test station and the MOT tester, where Cottage Street Garage's partner company Just MOT is fully licensed and VOSA approved. MOT Nominated Testers are accredited by VOSA to assess your vehicle against a specific safety criteria and to pass it as acceptable and safe, or not. The assessment is based on the condition of the vehicle on the day. The Nominated Tester will list separately and inform you of any 'advisory' items that have passed the test but will require attention in the future. An individual part of the vehicle may be considered to be beyond its serviceable life when measured against specifications, but still capable of passing the MOT test by a Nominated Tester. Either way, Cottage Street Garage will always give you the expert and impartial advice needed to help make a decision towards any additional or recommended work.

When should I get my car MOT tested?

Assuming your car is over 3-years old, the annual renewal date is the natural point to get your vehicle MOT test completed. However, if you ever suspect that there is a problem with your car, you should always seek expert advice at the earliest opportunity. You can book an MOT up to 28 days in advance of its due date. Once you use Cottage Street Garage for your MOT, we will record you annual renewal date and send you an annual reminder.

Why do I need an MOT test and certificate?

It is your responsibility to ensure that your vehicle is examined every 12 months and is issued with an MOT certificate. It is a legal requirement in the UK to have an MOT certificate issued to your car, as without one you will be unable to renew your road tax and your car is unlikely to be insured as a consequence. Recent computerisation of the MOT testing system by VOSA means that the Police can now use mobile camera units to check if your vehicle has a valid and current MOT or not. The penalty for not having an up to date MOT certificate could be a fine, but in worse case scenarios (i.e. no road fund licence and/or insurance as well), your car is at risk of being seized and ultimately destroyed. If the vehicle is involved in an accident you will be asked to produce your MOT certificate, where failure to do so may incur charges from the Police. An insurance claim could also be affected by the absence of your MOT certificate, especially in the case of injury.

What should I do if the car fails its MOT?

If the vehicle fails its MOT, it's not the end of the world!! It simply means that your vehicle does not meet legal requirements and must be repaired to comply with MOT test standards. Cottage Street Garage will always give you the expert and impartial advice needed to help make a decision towards any necessary or recommended additional work.

What's included in the MOT test?

Under the VOSA requirements an MOT test will check the following components are in satisfactory working order an MOT certificate is issued.

Vehicle Identification Number: The MOT test checks that the Vehicle Identification Number (commonly referred to as the VIN) is legibly displayed on your vehicle.
Registration Plate: The MOT tester will check the condition, security, legibility and format of letters/numbers on your vehicle registration plate.
Lights: The MOT test checks the condition, operation, security and colour of your vehicles lights, as well as ensures that the headlamp aim is correct.
Steering & Suspension: The MOT tester will check the steering and suspension components for correct condition, as well as ensure that the full steering and suspension operation is correct.
Wipers & Washer Bottle: The MOT test will check your vehicles wipers and washers, ensuring that they operate properly to give the driver clear visibility of the road.
Windscreen: The MOT test will check the condition of the windscreen condition and driver's view of the road, ensuring that no chips or cracks affect the driver's line of sight.
Horn: The MOT test will cover the horn's operation for effectiveness and correct type.
Seatbelts: All seatbelts, including those in the rear of the vehicle, are checked for type, condition, correct operation and security. The MOT test will also check to ensure that all compulsory seatbelts are in place.
Seats: Your vehicle's front seats are checked for security during the MOT test.
Fuel System: The MOT test checks the fuel system for leaks and that the fuel cap fastens/seals securely.
Emissions: The MOT test covers your exhaust emissions, ensuring that the vehicle is within the specified guidelines. The MOT test will also check that the exhaust is complete, secure, without serious leaks and silences effectively.
Bodywork: Vehicle structure and body shell are checked during the MOT test for excessive corrosion or damage in specific areas (NB: any sharp edge can result in a MOT failure).
Doors: The MOT tester will check that the doors open and close correctly and that the latch is secure in a closed position (NB: front doors should open from both the inside & outside of the vehicle, and rear doors may need to be opened to gain access to testable items like rear seatbelts).
Mirrors: The mirrors on your vehicle are checked during the MOT test for condition and security.
Wheels & Tyres: The nominated MOT tester will check the vehicle's wheels and tyres for a number of key points, including the condition, security, tyre size, tyre type and remaining available tread depth.
Brakes: The MOT tests the efficiency of the vehicle's braking performance, condition and operation.

Find out more about the MOT test checklist »

Motoring Advice & Tips – Tyres

Why is maintaining my tyres so important?

In a nutshell, tyres are the only contact between your car and the road, and therefore represent one of the most important features to maintain on your vehicle. With bald, baldly worn or damaged tyres, your car instantly becomes more dangerous to you, your passengers and anyone else on the road. It is vitally important and a legal requirement that you select the right tyre type for the vehicle you are driving and for the purpose it is being used. There are also laws in place to govern all aspects of tyre condition, where the most important is minimum tread depth. The legal limit for minimum tyre tread depth is 1.6 millimetres across the central ¾ of the tread going around the complete circumference of the tyre. At Cottage Street Garage, we believe that motorists should regularly check all tyres (including spare tyre) frequently (i.e. every 1-2 weeks) for both pressures and general condition.

Why are good condition tyres important?

Although most tyres share the same basic characteristics, it’s always important to choose the tyre for you your vehicle and purpose of use, as different tyres produce different responses on the road. However, once you have the most appropriate tyres fitted, ensuring they are in good working condition will help several aspects of driving, including:

Braking: Although it may sound obvious, stopping your vehicle quickly and safely is critical.
It’s all about grip, and although different driving conditions offer varying levels of grip (i.e. dry, wet or icy roads), tyre condition is crucial to braking performance and how quickly your car can stop.
Aquaplaning: Aquaplaning happens when your vehicle tyres lose grip on wet roads and then “aquaplane” on the top of the water. This is very dangerous, as the driver has effectively lost full control of the vehicle. With good condition tyres the tread channels water away from where it has contact with the road and provides more grip and control. However, it should be noted that in very wet conditions even the best tyres can’t shift water away, so aquaplaning is always a risk even with the best tyres.
Tyre noise: Good condition tyres generally means quiet tyres and a quiet, comfortably drive. However, for one reason or another some tyres are noisier than others (high performance low profile tyres are generally the nosiest!), so it’s important to know which tyres are noisy and which are quiet. By law all tyres have to meet certain noise level standards, but equally there are tyres that manage to muffle sound and produce a less noticeable noise.
Environmentally friendly: Something called ‘rolling resistance’ of the tyre is key here, which is basically how much energy your tyre exerts on the road as it is driven. Reducing rolling resistance with the correct tyre or good condition tyre can affect fuel consumption, as your car needs less energy to roll on the tyre. Furthermore, you can save on fuel consumption and therefore reduce harmful emissions by simply maintaining tyres at the correct pressure.

What do I need to know about UK tyre law?

UK tyre law requires that your vehicle is fitted with the correct type and size of tyre for your vehicle type and for the purpose it is being used. This means fitting the right tyres and ensuring that they are inflated to the manufacturer's recommended pressure. The legal limit for minimum depth of the tread on your tyres is 1.6 millimetres, across the central ¾ of the tread around the complete circumference of the tyre. However, for safety reasons Cottage Street Garage recommended that you replace your tyres before the legal limit is reached. A regular check of your tyres can help you to avoid 3 penalty points and £2,500 in fines (per tyre) for having tyres worn beyond the legal minimum limit.

How can I tell when my tyres need changing?

A sign that your tyres need changing is a deterioration in driving performance and handling (e.g. car pulls to one side under braking, car does not handle or grip the road as it normally does, car takes longer to stop under braking). Cottage Street Garage always recommended that you perform regular physical check on tyres for both pressure and general condition. A quick and easy way to check remaining tyre tread depths is to look at the tyre manufacturers mould tread wear indicators (T.W.I). Put simply, these are rubber notches built into the design of the tyres tread pattern usually at a level of 1.6mm. As soon as the tread is worn to the height of the tread wear indicator, the tyre has reached the legal minimum tread depth and should be replaced as soon as possible.

Although your tyres will inevitably become worn through time and use, there are many different reasons for tyre wear including:

Under-inflation: Under inflation causes tyres to wear on the outer edges of the tread, leaving the central tread area far less worn. Under-inflation can also degrade the tyres inner-liner.
Over-inflation: Over inflation results in the central tread area being forced into contact with the road causing rapid wear.
Misalignment: When the front wheels of your car are misaligned, you tyres can become worn more progressively on one side.
Camber wear: Excessive wheel camber can cause sloping wear on the outer edge of the tyre tread.
Emergency braking: An emergency braking manoeuvre can cause rapid tyre wear and in some extreme cases cause complete tyre deflation.
Cuts & punctures: Sharp objects can cause considerable damage rendering a tyre unserviceable.
Impact damage: This is damage caused by an impact to the sidewall, where localised damage is represented by a bulge or "egg" and usually renders the tyre unserviceable.
End-of-life: All tyres have a legal minimum pattern depth of 1.6mm and should be changed before this limit is exceeded.

How can I better maintain my tyres?

At Cottage Street Garage, we believe that motorists should regularly check all tyres (including spare tyre) frequently (i.e. every 1-2 weeks) for both pressures and general condition.

Maintaining Correct Tyre Pressures
There are three main reasons why maintaining the right tyre pressure is important:

  1. Safety: Under inflated tyres can overheat and result in poor vehicle handling.
  2. Economy: Over or under inflated tyres suffer more damage and need to be replaced more regularly. In addition, vehicles with under-inflated tyres will experience increased rolling resistance that requires greater fuel consumption to maintain the same speed.
  3. Environment: Correct tyre pressures help maintain optimum fuel efficiency, which results in lower emissions from your vehicle than those with incorrect tyre pressures.

Check for External Tyre Damage
Try to check regularly for cuts, lumps and bumps in your tyres that are often caused by an impact between the tyre and a kerb, pothole or object in the road. Hitting a kerbing or pothole can also affect your vehicle’s wheel alignment settings which can lead to rapid or un-even tyre wear. A regular check of your wheel alignment will help prevent premature tyre wear. Finally, emergency braking manoeuvres can sometimes leave your tyres with a ‘flat spot’ that can lead to rapid tyre wear, or in extreme cases complete tyre deflation. If you suspect that one of your tyres has any of these symptoms, consult Cottage Street Garage as quickly as possible to avoid sudden tyre failure.

Why should I fit winter tyres?

UK weather is not normally considered extreme, but it is increasingly experiencing winters marked with snow, ice and extreme temperatures. British cars generally drive on 'summer' tyres, where these work best when the ambient temperature is above 7C. When the temperature is consistently below 7C the rubber compound used in regular tyres does not offer the same level of grip as usually experienced. Because other parts of the world have extreme winter versus summer conditions, winter tyres have been specially developed to work best in temperatures less than 7 degrees Celsius. The winter tyre gives significant safety advantages in wet and icy conditions (i.e. up to a bus length and a half shorter stopping distance), as well as the snow ( i.e. braking up to 8 metres shorter than summer tyres from 30mph (35m versus 43m in length). However, it should be noted that winter tyres will wear much quicker one milder driving conditions are experienced. Therefore, as winters become more extreme, fitting winter tyres will offer you much more grip in cold and icy conditions, where the chunkier design will allow you to cope much better in the snow.

Motoring Tips – Brakes & Braking System

What is my braking system?

Vehicle braking systems involve many different components that work together to help your vehicle stop and manoeuvre in a controlled manner. The key components of your vehicle braking system include a master cylinder, servo, brake callipers, brake fluid and cylinders, disks, drums, pads and shoes. All these components are linked by brake hoses and brake pipes containing brake fluid, so when you press your brake pedal the vehicle slows down and stops. The rate at which your brakes reduce the vehicle speed is determined by the amount and duration of foot pressure applied to your brake pedal, and of course the condition of your vehicles braking system.

Disc brakes: A disc brake system consists of a brake disc, a brake calliper and brake pads. When the brake pedal is applied, pressurised hydraulic fluid squeezes the brake pad friction material against the surface of the rotating brake disc. The result of this contact produces friction which enables the vehicle to slow down or stop.
Drum brakes: A drum brake system consists of hydraulic wheel cylinders, brake shoes and a brake drum. When the brake pedal is applied the two curved brake shoes, which have a friction material lining, are forced by hydraulic wheel cylinders against the inner surface of a rotating brake drum. The result of this contact produces friction which enables the vehicle to slow down or stop.
ABS & parking brakes: The anti-lock braking system (ABS) works by limiting, applying and releasing the pressure to any wheel that decelerates too quickly. This allows maximum stopping force to be applied without the brakes locking-up and the car skidding. The ABS tests itself each time the ignition is turned on. If a defect is detected for whatever reason, the ABS turns itself off and the normal braking system is used on its own. The ABS warning light will inform the driver of a defect in the system. The parking or hand brake is a lever mechanism that is applied to hold a vehicle in a parked position. It activates braking components at the rear of the vehicle's braking system.

Why is maintaining my braking system important?

The purpose of a braking system is to slow, stop and control your vehicle, as well as perform safe emergency stops when required. It is therefore important that you ensure that your braking system is maintained and operating at optimum levels. It is also a legal requirement that your braking system performs as intended, as your brakes will be tested as part of your MOT. As with any car component, brakes and braking performance deteriorate over time, which makes it difficult to notice for many drivers. At Cottage Street Garage, we believe that motorists should have their vehicle brake system regularly checked (i.e. every 6 months). Not only does this ensure your braking system works to its optimum levels, it could also save you time and money by preventing damage to other components.

How can I tell if my brakes need attention?

Different driving patterns have an affect on how often your brakes need servicing (e.g. a set of brake pads could last up to 60,000 miles for a car driven mostly on the motorway, where the same set of pads may only last 30,000 miles or less on the same vehicle driven in busy city traffic). In most cars the front brakes will usually wear out before rear brakes as they handle a higher percentage of the braking load.

Why is brake fluid important?

Brake fluid plays a crucial role in the braking system, as it helps transfer the force created when a driver presses the brake pedal directly onto the wheel hub. Brake fluid also serves as a lubricant of all movable parts and prevents corrosion. Heat generated under braking (especially heavy or prolonged breaking), can affect the boiling point of the brake fluid and impact its effectiveness, as it only works best as a liquid and not as a vapour when it's become too hot. The boiling point of brake fluid can be reduced through time from things such as water contamination. Therefore, maintaining brake fluid is critical to avoiding potential brake failure.

Motoring Advice & Tips – Exhausts & Exhaust System

What is an exhaust system?

Your exhaust system is your vehicles means of channelling away emissions and noxious fumes from the engine, as well as helps reduce engine noise and maintain optimum fuel efficiency. The job of the exhaust, catalytic converter and monitoring system is to maintain the correct balance of exhaust emissions, check the engine is running efficiently and move engine emissions away from the vehicle occupants. A defect exhaust system can reduce engine performance and fuel efficiency, increase engine noise, as well lead to noxious fumes being drawn into the vehicle cabin, making the vehicle occupants feel drowsy. If you suspect that your vehicle exhaust system is faulty in any way, consult Cottage Street Garage as quickly as possible.

Why is maintaining the exhaust system important?

A healthy exhaust system is critical if you are to maintain optimum fuel efficiency and engine performance, a quiet smooth running engine, and the health and welfare of the vehicle occupants. Under existing regulations the Police can warrant the removal of any vehicle from the roadways on the suspicion that it is producing excessive amounts of pollutant gases from the exhaust system. Your vehicle will also come under police scrutiny if your vehicle exhaust system is broken and excessively noisy. In addition, your vehicle will also fail its MOT test if the exhaust system has a fault resulting in incorrect emissions levels being recorded (your vehicles emission levels are by the vehicle manufacturers and enforced at the time of a MOT test).

How can I tell if my exhaust needs attention?

The exhaust system has four main functions: to improve the performance of the engine, to improve fuel consumption, to control noise, and to direct exhaust fumes away from the engine and vehicle occupants. At Cottage Street Garage, we believe that motorists should have their exhaust system regularly checked (i.e. every 6 months). However, how long your exhaust system lasts depends on how far and how often you drive your car rather than the length of time it has been fitted (i.e. vehicles used for short trips tend to corrode their exhausts in a much shorter time and distance than cars used predominately for long journeys).

Indicators that there may be an issue with your exhaust system include:

  • The exhaust silencer is often a part of the exhaust that needs attention first, where problems with your silencer is indicated by your exhaust making a loud roaring noise
  • A hissing noise from your exhaust indicates a crack in the exhaust manifold, exhaust pipe or a leaking gasket
  • A chugging noise could mean a blockage in the exhaust system
  • A rattling noise from under the car could indicate that the exhaust system has become misaligned
  • Loud metallic vibrations and noises from under the car usually indicate that something is touching the exhaust or that a clamp, mounting or support bracket that holds your exhaust system in place has become loose.

Other problems can be identified with a visual check, such as external rust, cracks in the pipe, holes around welding seams and joins between pipes. If you suspect that your exhaust system has any of these symptoms, consult Cottage Street Garage as quickly as possible to avoid brake failure.