How To Save Fuel and Keep Your Money In Your Pocket

Fuel prices might be lower compared to a few years ago. But, after the recent drop, prices are creeping up again.  So, here are 9 top tips to help you reduce your fuel consumption and save money, whether your vehicle uses diesel, petrol or even electricity:

  1. Reduce extra wind resistance.

Although it can be a bit of a faff, removing bike racks and roof boxes each time you’ve used them will save you fuel. So even if you cycle every weekend, by spending just 5 minutes removing your racks you’ll be saving money on every journey you make during the week.

  1. Check your speed.

All vehicles become less fuel efficient at speeds above 55 mph. Now I’m not necessarily suggesting you drive round the M60 at 55mph, but it’s worth remembering the basic principle that the faster you drive the more fuel you use.

  1. Change how you drive.

Roaring off from the lights or putting the pedal to the metal will burn much more fuel than a smooth acceleration.  Similarly try and maintain a constant speed rather than frequently braking and accelerating.

  1. Make a quick change.

An engine running at 3,000 RPM burns much more fuel than at 2,000 RPM. Vehicles these days operate much better at higher gears so there’s no need to stay in 2nd or 3rd gear for long when accelerating. Instead change up as quickly as you can to make a big difference to your fuel efficiency.

  1. Keep your vehicle performing at its best.

Servicing your vehicle every year or 10,000 miles makes a big difference to how smoothly and efficiently your vehicle uses fuel. If your vehicle is due a service, or you can’t remember the last time it had one, contact us to book it in.

  1. Don’t be idle(ing).

If you commute, or even drive around Stockport regularly, you’ll spend more time than you’d like sitting in traffic. It’s tempting just to leave the car idling while you wait to inch forward, but by doing that your fuel efficiency will be 0 miles per gallon. Today’s vehicles start and warm up fast so you can flick the engine off then on again easily and save some money.

  1. Pump it up.

The more of your tyre meets the road when you drive, the bigger the resistance and the more fuel you’ll use. So check your tyre pressure every month and top up when needed.

  1. Turn off your air conditioning and keep your windows closed.

Using your air conditioning can increase your fuel cost from 13% up to 21%, and rolling down your windows also increases wind resistance. The best option on warmer days is to use the flow-through ventilation.

  1. Lose some weight!

No, not you personally, but your car. When was the last time you checked your boot to see what you’re carrying around on every journey?  Of course you need your spare tyre, jack and safety equipment but most of us carry a whole range of items around unnecessarily.  And more weight means more fuel used.

So, those are our 9 top tips for reducing fuel consumption. Where any of them a surprise?

What would your number 10 be? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Drive Safely This Winter

Well, we’ve certainly had some weather over the last few weeks! And by the time you read this we may well have had our first snow of winter as well.

Here at Sandy Lane we consider a lot of our customers to be friends as well. And we care about your safety! So here are 5 things to think about to ensure you’re equipped to drive this winter:

  1. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

While we hope it doesn’t happen to you, pack some extra things in your boot just in case you have an accident or get caught in snow, including:

  • warm clothes, a blanket and some wellies or waterproof boots in case you’re stranded somewhere or need to walk part of the way home,
  • snacks and (non-alcoholic!) drinks to tide you over, and
  • a shovel to clear snow from around your car.
  1. Expect freezing weather

Make sure you have de-icer and a scraper in the car – there are better ways to use a credit card than chipping away at the ice on your windscreen! And now’s the time to check that your coolant and screen wash both have antifreeze in. Finally, pack your sunglasses! I know they’re not the first thing you think of on a wintery day, but a combination of low sun and bright snow can be a killer.

  1. Plan your journey

Check the weather and the traffic reports before you start out, even if you’re just doing the commute or school run. And leave extra time. Even if you’re a confident driver in rain, fog, or snow, others might not be, so expect it to take longer to get places.

  1. Give your vehicle the once-over

A well-maintained car saves fuel, the inconvenience of a breakdown and, more importantly, lives. So make sure you’re up-to-date with your servicing, and replace any worn out wiper blades and tired tyres.

  1. Take it slow and smooth

Bad weather means unpredictable drivers; the slower you’re going the quicker you’ll stop if someone skids or slams on the brakes. When you do brake, do it slowly or change down gears to avoid skidding, and accelerate slowly too, to reduce the chances of your wheels spinning on the ice or snow. And remember, when you’ve driven through flood water (and there’s plenty on the M60!) gently test your brakes before you start to speed up again.

The best Christmas present you can give your friends and family is to stay safe on wintery roads. So, to make sure your car is winter-ready, contact us at Sandy Lane. From replacing windscreen wipers to your regular service, we’re ready to help!

Ready for autumn? Let us give you a hand…

The leaves are falling and the air is crisp. After some unseasonably (but very welcome) warm weather it seems like autumn is really here. And, if the early arrival of the Siberian swans is anything to go by, we might be in for a challenging winter.

I don’t know about you, but here at Sandy Lane we find it much harder to get going on cold, damp mornings. And cars and vans feel just the same. So here are seven top tips to help your vehicle start up in the morning and keep running whatever the weather:

  1. Test all your heaters, defrosters and wipers to make sure they work properly. Now’s a good time to change your wipers if they mainly smear muck around rather than clean the windscreen. Drop your vehicle in with us and we’ll be happy to replace them for you.
  2. If your car doesn’t have a windscreen defrost button, consider placing something over the windscreen at night to help prevent ice forming. Taking a couple of minutes to do that when you get home at night is much less frustrating and stressful than sitting in a cold car for 10 minutes until you can see through the glass!
  3. Top up your windscreen wash regularly – with all the dirt on the roads you’ll be using your wash and wipers more regularly. Make sure it’s a winter concentration to reduce the chance of the reservoir freezing.
  4. Keep your car topped up with anti-freeze. In a nutshell we need anti-freeze in our vehicles to prevent water from freezing, to avoid overheating and to reduce corrosion in the engine. It’s important to use the right anti-freeze – your car manufacturer will have recommended one for you to use. If you can’t remember which one that is, here’s a handy guide.
  5. If you’re due a service soon get it booked in before the bad weather sets in. The cold magnifies existing problems such as trouble starting your car and rough idling.
  6. Get your brakes checked at Sandy Lane to make sure they’re ready for icy mornings and roads slippery with wet leaves, and we’ll give you a free tyre check as well to ensure you’ve got enough tread to cope with the cold and wet conditions.
  7. And finally, put an emergency pack in your boot. While we’re thankfully not yet at the point of needing a shovel to dig our cars out of snowdrifts, if you do break down out on the road you’ll still be grateful for a warm blanket, something to eat and drink, and a torch.

What are your top tips for preparing your car for autumn? Leave a comment and let us know.

driving in autumn

5 things you didn’t know about Sandy Lane (but wish you had)

Now, we’re not the kind of garage to hide our lights under a bushel. But a customer of almost twenty years was astonished when I told her about one of our services. She had no idea! So we thought we’d better let everyone know…

  1. We can pick up and drop off your car – at no charge

Maybe fighting your way through rush hour traffic to Sandy Lane isn’t your idea of fun. Or perhaps you need to get your car to us but you’re ill, or can’t get out the house. No problem – we can pick up your car from your home or work and drop it back again when we’ve finished. Simple as that. Get in touch to see how we can help.

  1. We can drop you off and pick you up – at no charge

If you work in Stockport and would appreciate a lift to work after you’ve dropped your car at the garage, just let us know. We’ll drop you at work, and pick you up when your car is ready. Simply give us a call to arrange it.

  1. You can borrow our courtesy vehicle – at no charge

Putting your car into the garage doesn’t need to mean a wasted day. If you need a van to keep working, or a car to get around just let us know. We don’t charge for the vehicle use, but ask as a courtesy that you return it with at least the same amount of fuel in it as when you borrowed it, and clean enough for the next person to use. Contact us to find out more.

  1. We get MOTd too!

We’re a BOSCH service centre. That means we’re fully-qualifed BOSCH technicians. All the service parts we provide are of the same quality as the original, and we stick to a customer code of practice as part of the Bosch service network. We are rigorously audited regularly to stay part of that network, and I’m pleased to say that at our latest ‘MOT’ we passed with flying colours.

  1. We valet your car before you get it back – at no charge

Yes, you read that right. Not only do we give you expert repairs and servicing and excellent customer service, we give your vehicle a wash and vac before we give it back. It’s all part the pride we take in doing a job well.

If you’ve not used us before, but like the sound of the extra customer service we offer all our customers – new and regular – we’d love to hear from you. Contact us to speak to Jennifer in the office, or Tony and Andrew.

mechanic_under_car

Welcome to Sandy Lane, Jennifer!

Last week we said goodbye to Michelle. After seeing her smiling face for 8 years it’s quite a change now she’s gone to university.

But we are delighted that she has left us in Jennifer’s very safe hands. Jennifer is the person you’ll speak to when you ring up with a query, and the person who’ll check in your car when you come to the garage. So we thought you might like to know something about the newest member of the Sandy Lane team. Jennifer will be working Monday-Thursday, and potentially some Saturdays (there’s a good reason for that – read on…)

Welcome, Jennifer! You’ve already been here a while haven’t you?

Yes, I started here on 8th June so I could learn the ropes from Michelle before she left. She is the oracle and could run the place eyes closed. I am a little bit nervous now she’s left, but I have her on speed dial, and I know where she lives…

You’re no stranger to Sandy Lane are you?

No, I’m related to Michelle (it’s complicated!) and I’ve known Tony for ages via her. I’ve always been impressed by what a lovely, friendly family-run business Sandy Lane is. I made Michelle promise years ago that if she ever decided to leave she’d put me forward for her job. And here I am!

What kind of work did you do before you came here?

I’ve worked as a civil servant and as a Finance Manager, so I’ve got plenty of experience managing payroll, wages and admin. I’ve also learnt a lot about cars in my time. I used to work for a company that helped people with lease cars when they broke down or had an accident. I was responsible for rescuing many a stranded driver from the side of the motorway, sorting out their repairs and getting them a courtesy car.

What do you get up to when you’re not at Sandy Lane?

My partner, Paul, and I have two young daughters, and a British bulldog called Eric. They keep me pretty busy for the rest of the week!

What’s your first impression of life at Sandy Lane?

Organised chaos is a pretty good word to describe it! It’s really busy – which must mean we’re doing something right – and everyone really pulls together to ensure we give customers the great service they deserve.

And there’s a really strong element of trust here. Everyone here trusts each other, and our customers really trust us. I think it can be hard sometimes to find a garage that cares about doing right by our customers. We definitely care. In fact we care so much I’m already having sleepless nights worrying about getting things just right.

Where there any surprises when you arrived?

Yes! I was led to believe that there were bacon butties in the morning, but now I’m here I find out it only happens on a Saturday. It’s no coincidence I’m now thinking of coming to work on a Saturday!

And finally, any confessions?

Yes, I can’t drive – yet! I am having lessons and loving it. Well, everything apart from the fact my instructor makes me start my lesson at the garage in front of everyone!

So, next time you call us or pop in, say hi to Jennifer. She’s keen to get to know our customers, and continue the same great service that Michelle provided.

Goodbye Michelle, she’s off to University!

Here at Sandy Lane Service Station, there’s going to be a bit of a change. As the kids start back at school and college, our very own Office Manager, Michelle, is heading off on her own educational adventure. Next month she starts training for a degree in adult nursing at Manchester Metropolitan University. We are all really proud of her!

Sadly for us this means she can’t work with us in the office anymore. After over eight years charming our customers, sorting out all our admin and keeping us all in line, she will be handing over the reins to Jennifer.

We thought it was time to say goodbye properly to Michelle, and introduce you all to Jennifer. So in a rare moment between phone calls, deliveries and car pick-ups we sat them down and asked them some questions. Here’s what Michelle had to say.

What were your first impressions of Sandy Lane when you arrived in July 2007?

I was a bit bemused to be honest! First of all we were working in a portacabin in front of the garage. Then it became clear that although I was employed as an admin assistant, there was no-one to assist – I was the only one doing the admin! Although we did have a computer then it wasn’t exactly well-used, and everything, including payroll and bookkeeping, was entered several times over by hand into different books. I had a really steep learning curve!

Why did you stay?

That’s really simple. Because it’s a great company to work for. I couldn’t work with nicer or more hard-working people. And I have so much respect for Tony who’s built up the business twice. I’ve learnt a lot from him that I know I’ll be able to apply as I move on with my career.

What‘s been the best bit of the job?

The people – Tony, the staff at Sandy Lane, and the customers. Many of our customers come back time and time again, and I have loved getting to know them. I’m even going to miss the delivery drivers dropping off parts – they are such a laugh.

Any challenges?

One of the biggest challenges has been persuading Tony and Andrew to introduce IT, for example payroll and accounts packages. The guys are amazing with cars and vans, but not so keen on computers! But once we got the software they saw that what used to take a whole day could be done and dusted in 10 minutes!

Also, sometimes I’ve had to learn by making mistakes. Once I had to reprocess over half a year’s wages as I didn’t realise that I needed to add Tony and Andrew as Directors of the company. It couldn’t be amended but completely re-entered. I certainly learnt not to do that again!

Why are you leaving?

The kids have grown up and it’s now time for me to pursue my own career. I’m heading off to study adult nursing for three years at Manchester Metropolitan University. I still can’t quite believe I got a place – there were 500 of us going for 14 places. So, yes, I’m really chuffed. This year has been really hard – as well as working here at Sandy Lane I’ve completed an Access to Healthcare Course which gave me the equivalent of 3 A levels in Biochemistry, Biology and Health Studies. Plus I volunteered in the general surgery ward at Stepping Hill, where my skills in brewing up learnt at Sandy Lane went down very well with the patients! Oh, and I got my eldest through her A levels. After that, going to study full-time at Uni sounds like a breeze!

What will you miss at Sandy Lane?

Definitely the people. I’ve had such a great relationship with Tony and Andrew, and have a huge amount of respect for them, even when Andrew and I disagree about things (a lot!). Over the years Tony’s become not just a supportive boss but a friend too. And I’m going to miss all the customers who I’ve come to know really well. It has been a lovely place to work, and an interesting, varied job.

I just want to say “bye” to everyone I don’t get chance to see before I go. I’ve really enjoyed working with you, and getting to know you. But I know I’m leaving you in capable hands.

We are really going to miss Michelle. But, before she left she made sure we had a fantastic replacement. So next week we’ll introduce you to Jennifer.

Jen is the the new Office Manager who you’ll speak to on the phone when you ring up, and meet when you drop your car off. So, when you call, say hello to her and introduce yourself.

If you’d like your car to be looked after by a local, independent garage with a close-knit friendly team like us, just get in touch.

Lighting Up In Your Car Is About To Get Expensive

From 1 October 2015 it’s going to be illegal to smoke in a private vehicle if someone under 18 is with you. It will also be an offence if you’re the driver and you don’t stop someone else lighting up.

Why the change?

It’s not the first time the government has taken steps to manage smoking in vehicles. They have already passed a law banning smoking in any work vehicle that more than one person uses, eg:

  • taxis
  • buses
  • vans
  • goods vehicles used by more than one driver
  • company cars used by more than one employee (a worker can smoke in a company car that only they use if their employer agrees).

The government is introducing the new law as it says that children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke. This is because they breathe more rapidly and have less developed airways, lungs and immune systems.

What’s the penalty?

It will be an offence to smoke in a private vehicle carrying someone under the age of 18. It will also be an offence for the driver to allow anyone to smoke in that situation. So, if you’re the driver and you and a passenger are smoking you are committing two offences at the same time. And that potentially means two fines.

There’s a fixed penalty fine of £50 for each offence. It’s up to the police whether they give a warning, the £50 fine or refer the offence to court.

What if I have the window open?

The government says that over 80% of cigarette smoke is invisible, and that opening windows does not remove its harmful effect.

So, the rules will still apply if you are in a vehicle with someone under 18 and have the windows down, the sunroof open, the air con on, or are even sitting in a stationary car with the doors open.

Are there any exceptions?

The law doesn’t apply to:

  • a convertible or coupe with the roof completely down and stowed away (there aren’t many sunny days we can enjoy that in Stockport!)
  • smoking e-cigarettes
  • motorhomes, campervans and caravans where you are using them as living accommodation rather than as a vehicle
  • boats and ships as they have their own rules
  • work vehicles as mentioned above.

What if I’m on my own in the car?

If you’re on your own, or with adults of 18+ in a private vehicle, you can smoke as many cigarettes as you want. Just keep safe and make sure you can see through the windscreen!

There’s bound to be more about the introduction of this law on the TV and in the papers to remind you. Remember, if you don’t want to be fuming at a £50 fine from October, make sure no-one smokes in the car when under 18s are around.

Whether you’re a smoker or a non-smoker you can be sure of get expert advice on any problem with your vehicle at Sandy Lane Service Station. Just give us a call on 0161 480 4117.

Driving licence changes – the 5 key things you need to think about

The DVLA scraped the paper licence on 8th June. The information that would previously have been recorded on your paper licence is now being kept on your personal record online at https://www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence

There’s still a lot of confusion about what the changes mean for us practically, so here are the top five things you need to know:

  1. What do I do with the paper licence?

That depends on when it was issued.

If you have a paper licence that was issued by the DVLA before photocards were introduced in 1998 this is still valid and you should keep it safe.

If you have a photocard licence and paper counterpart, this paper counterpart is no longer valid, and you should destroy it. It contains personal information so it’s important you don’t just throw it in the bin or recycling box, but burn it or shred it so no-one else can get their hands on it.  You still need to keep hold of your photocard, though.

paper driving licence

  1. How do I hire a car for my holiday?

If you’re planning to hire a car abroad this summer you should check with the hire company what they need to see from you. If they want to see what vehicles you can drive or what penalty points you have, you’ve got two options:

  1. go to Share Driving Licence on the DVLA website and generate a code to pass to the hire company so they can access your records. This code, however, lasts only for 72 hours from the time you create it, so you need to factor this in; or call the DVLA on 0300 790 6801 before you head off to the airport, and leave permission for your hire company to ring up and check your record.

And if you decide to hire a car spontaneously while you’re over there you’ll either need access to the web to get your code, or you can call 0300 083 0013 and the DVLA will give you one.

  1. How do I arrange a test drive or get a courtesy car?

Before allowing you to test drive their cars dealers or independent sellers might want to see proof that you have a valid licence, and evidence of your driving record. If they do, you just need to go to Share Driving Licence on the DVLA website and generate a code for the car seller to check your record online.

The same procedure applies if you need a courtesy car because your vehicle is in the garage for repairs. Sandy Lane offer both a courtesy car and a courtesy van as part of our repairs service. So, whether you need your vehicle to make a living, or just to go to the shops, we’ll keep you on the road while we’re fixing your car or van.

  1. I’m insuring my car and can’t remember what speeding penalties I’ve got…

Now that we have instant access to an up-to-date record of all our endorsements, we’ve got no excuse for guessing whether our penalty points have expired. The insurance companies have access to your driving record, so for the sake of a 5 minute check on the DVLA site you can prevent your insurer from refusing to pay out on a claim because you gave them the wrong information.

  1. Save yourself a thousand pounds…

Have you checked whether your driving licence is still in date, or whether the information DVLA hold is incorrect?  Our driving licences expire every 10 years and we don’t get a reminder so it’s easy not to realise that you’re driving around without a valid licence.

Plus it’s our responsibility to tell the DVLA when we change name or move home. Having an invalid licence, or out-of-date information on it, can both lead to a £1000 fine.

So take 10 minutes today to check the expiry date on your photocard and then to log on to your licence online to check all the details there are up-to-date.

This is just a snapshot of the licence changes. You can find more detailed information about the licence changes on the DVLA site.

To find out more about the courtesy van and car we offer while repairing your vehicle, call us on 0161 480 4117.

Don’t lose your cool this summer

Is your car air conditioning working as well as it should?

For many of us here in Stockport the recent warm spell is the first chance we have had to use our air conditioning this year. And for some people it will also be the first time they’ve noticed that they weren’t keeping as cool as they would have liked.

Here’s the science bit:

Your car air conditioning circulates a combination of gas and liquid called a refrigerant. This compressed refrigerant is pushed through your air con system under pressure, and passes through different sized metal and rubber hoses. And it is theses hoses, and their seals, that cause many air conditioning problems. The seals can dry out, allowing the pressure to drop and contaminants to enter the system.

Prevention is better – and cheaper – than cure

With the weather we have here in the North West you might feel you need to use your air con for only a few months a year. But the key to keeping your air conditioning system working well is to use it all the time, even in winter. This circulates the refrigerant, which contains a lubricant to keep the system and seals in the right condition. This might seem counterintuitive when you’ve just scraped ice from the windscreen but, believe us, it’s the best thing for your car – and your pocket.

All you need to do is put your air conditioning on for several minutes three times per week, throughout the year. Have in on cold for a while, then turn it to heat to dry out any moisture in the hoses where mould and bacteria might be growing.

Car aircon

Regular check-ups

As well as looking after your air conditioning system yourself, it’s also worth having it checked out by professionals regularly. Some garages recommend that you have your air conditioning serviced and re-gassed every year.  But given the mileage most people cover we suggest that a re-gas every two years is fine, as long as you keep your air con system ticking over during the year.  What many of our customers do is to have a major service one year, and then a minor service (oil and filter change) the next, and tie in their air conditioning check up with that minor service.

Saving time and money

This approach saves you both time and money – your car is in the garage only the once, and we offer a discount for air conditioning re-gases done at the same time as a car service. The normal cost for a re-gas is £45 + VAT, which reduces to £35 + VAT when combined with a car service.

If your air conditioning isn’t working as well as it should be, call us now on 0161 480 4117 for an expert and efficient check-up of your system.

And remember, keep your air conditioning ticking over several times a week, come rain or shine. That way you’ll be able to keep your cool when the sun is out, rather than getting hot under the collar.

Marley says: don’t leave us to die

Hello, Marley here. I’m the resident Cockerpoo at Sandy Lane Service Station. That’s me. I know; super-cute, huh?

But, today, I’m here with a serious message for all you dog-lovers out there in Stockport.

This week we’ve heard the horrific story of the poor boxer dog who died because his owners left him in a hot car while they popped into IKEA for a present.

The story shows how easy it is to think “oh, Fifi will be fine – I’ll leave the windows down and only be a minute”. But I know from the pals I meet on my morning walk that this ‘minute’ soon becomes much longer. And in the heat we’ve had around Stockport – up to 31°C at some points – it won’t take long for your much-loved companion to get heatstroke or worse. Remember, even in our summer cut we’ve still got fur coats on!

I think the reason so many humans think we’ll be okay when they leave us is because they don’t realise the temperatures outside and inside a parked car are very different. So, for example, while it may be 22°C outside, the temperature inside the car will climb steadily over an hour to 47°C. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t want to spend any amount of time outside in that heat, without water and something to cool you down. And it does us no good either.

If you left me in that car for just 15 minutes, even parked in the shade with the windows cracked open, you could come back to find I had died from heatstroke. You could also find yourself prosecuted for neglect or cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which can lead to a jail time, fines and being banned from keeping animals in the future. I’m sure you wouldn’t want either outcome.

So, dog-owners of Stockport, I’m asking you on behalf of all my canine pals, please don’t leave us in hot cars, even for a minute. You never know what bargain you’ll find, how long the queue will be, or who you’re going to meet as you nip to the shop. And we’ll be left, getting very hot under the collar.

And, please, if you see any of my friends in distress in cars, call 999 straightaway. The police do consider this a proper emergency. As do I.

Thank you for listening, and I hope to get a belly rub from you soon at Sandy Lane Service Station.

marley and me