Mountain climbing in slippers or winter tyres

You don’t need the roads covered with snow and ice to benefit from winter tyres. Winter tyres certainly come into there own with snow, slush and icy roads but that’s not the only time you benefit. When temperatures are low, Winter tyres also give better grip and traction on wet roads with their asymmetric tread pattern better designed to give more bite. Put simply, would you prefer to climb a mountain in a pair of slippers or with a chunky soled hiking boot?

Standard tyres are produced with a different rubber compound and perform better during warm climates but when temperatures drop below 7˚C they are greatly surpassed by the silica base mix on winter tyres which ensures that they remain soft in the colder temperatures.

With snowfall practically guaranteed again this year and the normal seasonal low temperatures in Ireland, October to March are the recommended months to drive on winter tyres.

Tyre retailers in Ireland have yet to experience a consistency and market to economically justify fully catering for the panic demand and are hampered by availability when the demand is high. As with all commodities, when they are scarce and in demand, the supply chain prices increase.

So the choice is left with you. If you decide on winter tyres this year, I advise you act early and pre-book them.

The downside of course is the cost of changing and storing the tyres when not in use. This begs the question, how would winter tyres perform during warm summer months? With summer tyres of comparable quality, wet cornering and breaking would be better by approximately 10% and as much as 15-20% in dry breaking so it makes sense to change back to a rubber compound more suited to the warm conditions.

Whatever you decide, please drive carefully this winter and always remember that other road users may not be as well prepared as you.

Should you have any further questions on tyres or indeed technical car issues, then simply ask. I would be happy to help.


Reduce your vehicle running costs.

With the cost of fuel at record highs and still on an upward spiral, it has never been so important to apply some simple rules to increase the fuel economy of your vehicle.

Wheel alignment or otherwise known as tracking can be summarised as having all four wheels running in the correct direction. There are many reasons for your tracking to go out of line, the most common to be hitting a kerb or a pothole or driving over a speed ramp.

Typical symptoms of a car that is out of alignment are uneven or rapid tyre wear, pulling or drifting away from a straight line, wandering on a straight level road or the spokes of the steering wheel being off to one side while driving in a straight line.

Proper aligned wheels mean the cars rolling resistance is minimised resulting in the vehicle significantly improving its fuel consumption. It also insures your tyres will wear evenly and avoid scrubbing the side treads away, giving your tyres maximum life.

Tyre pressures need to be checked and topped up regularly as they naturally leak and deflate by a minimum of one pound of pressure per month. When at their optimum pressure, tyres roll most easily and hence require less energy from the vehicles engine, so it burns less fuel. Worth noting also is that the recommended tyre pressures for all vehicles are for cold tyres and the air in your tyre expands when hot. So if you have driven more that two miles to a garage to pump them you will need to add four pounds to the recommended pressure to adjust for the expansion.

All tyres on the same axle should be from the same manufacturer and have the same tread pattern to insure safe handling and reduce rolling resistance. Leading tyre manufacturers balance the quality of their tyres between giving the best grip whilst having the least rolling resistance and road noise. Tyres are not simply black and round and as the only part of your car that is touching the road whilst carrying the load of the vehicle, it is worth noting that there is a vast difference between a “Quality” and a “Budget” tyre.

There are many fuel additives on the market today. Some will increase your power and some will clean your fuel system but there are also products that will increase your cars fuel mileage such as Dipetane, which is produced in Ireland. By simply adding Dipetane to your fuel it will improve your fuel economy by as much as 10%.

Oil breaks down and loses its effectiveness whilst cooling and lubricating your cars engine and therefore it is important to replace it regularly. A poorly lubricated engine increases heat and the friction of parts and will do irreversible damage. This then results in your engine needing to work harder and so will forever burn more fuel.

To avoid the cost of servicing your vehicle is a false economy. Clogged filters simply lead to burning more fuel along with the fact that preventative maintenance is by far the cheaper route. Having your car running in pristine condition needs regular attention and will return the cost savings consistently.

Reduce prices to the unemployed

These are certainly hard times for most people. The last recession Ireland experienced does not seem as difficult and widespread as the one we are experiencing now. This time around is different, as so many people had put themselves in a position of huge debt before the enormous downturn. Many young couples are experiencing difficulty for the first time and the fall from the boom times is taking its toll.

As a business owner I am too well aware of the current economic struggle and the recessions indifference as to where the axe will fall. Painfully I have observed many friends losing their jobs. It is regardless of their abilities or record of achievement, but more for the need of companies to downsize due to a retracting marketplace.

It is precisely at a time like this, we all need to pull together and look for opportunities to help each other where we can. The neediest in our society are within the masses of unemployed and all businesses should realise that their capacity to spend for goods and services is near to non existent and represents a very small fraction of their turnover. I do appreciate that many businesses are struggling to pay their costs and remain open, however should this sector be a fraction of your revenue, an increase in volume will justify a lower margin. Given that you will be covering your costs, your profit can be the help you have given others. I am sure your help will be appreciated long into the future.

September is a particularly expensive time for families as the children return to school, the nights draw in and the weather deteriorates. The need for finance is very demanding and brings enormous strain and pressure to bear. As business owners we have the capacity to ease this pain on the unemployed and I ask that you consider reducing your prices to them, in particular for items that would be considered necessities.

As the owner of two businesses I am discounting my prices until the end of September as a trial period as follows.

Motorway Parts & Accessories. A discount of 20% will apply to all service and vehicle maintenance products.

Automotif Tyre & Service Centre. A discount of 10% will apply to all mechanical services and products.

All discounts apply only to what I consider to be necessities in the upkeep, safety and maintenance of the vehicles, as opposed to accessories. To ensure customers qualify for this discount, they will be asked to provide the registration certificate of the vehicle and their corresponding unemployment card.

I can only ask the public do not abuse this scheme and refrain from producing previously held unemployment cards and as a safeguard, we may also ask to see a recent notification or correspondence from the department of social welfare. I also realise that I may encounter further issues in the application of this scheme and therefore reserve the right to retract it, should the need arise.

I have little doubt you will know of people that will be happy to hear and avail of this scheme, so please pass the word along.

Any other businesses who wish to apply this idea might please contact me with a view to setting up a discount FaceBook page or website. It would be great to have a number of savings listed in a centralised source.

Paul Allen

Coolant and Antifreeze, the important facts

The advent of an oil change as opposed to a car service has become popular in recent years resulting in the increase of larger repair issues. Oversight of the antifreeze/coolant concentration levels is a major factor of longer term substantial damage.

Topping up the coolant level may not be good enough

Antifreeze or engine coolant, which are now one, are depleted in use and need to be changed every two years to replenish the additives that protect the cooling system from water, which pits the metals and causes rust and corrosion. Additives also prevent foaming and electrolysis. Your vehicles cooling system should have an antifreeze/coolant concentration to water of 50% in Ireland, up to 70% in colder climates and 35% in hotter climates. Older vehicles inevitably have higher friction levels and are susceptible to generating higher temperatures.

Vehicles using Long Life antifreeze, should be changed every 4 years or in and about 80,000 Km.

The importance of antifreeze/coolant.

Alcohol was used in cooling concentrations in the early days and worked well to prevent freezing but achieved nothing in the prevention of corrosion. Chemicals and additives are used in modern solutions to prevent water from both freezing and over heating, particularly in vehicles with air conditioning. The solutions now also give engines protection all year round and do not damage the rubber and plastic components. It also stabilizes the viscosity, preventing thickening and foaming.

Demand for space under the bonnet has exacerbated in the modern vehicle. When coupled with the consistent introduction of higher performance additions and smaller more powerful engines and the necessity of plastic components, the demands of the modern solutions are much more severe. Average engine temperatures run at 140 degrees C so the proper amount and concentration of coolant in your engine is vital to protect it.

Water running over differing metals develops a small electrical charge which will damage and pit engine surfaces and can cause ruthless damage to your car’s engine components. The additives in coolant neutralize this but they are depleted over time.

So how will you know if the coolant level is correct?

It is not as simple as making sure that it is topped up to the max level in the coolant bottle. As models differ it is best to consult the vehicle manual for the correct type and capacity. Conventional coolant which is Glycol based and blue/green in colour can be checked using a hydrometer but a refractometer is needed for the (red/pink) Long life coolant which is a propylene glycol, as it has a specific gravity much closer to water.

Select your typefrom you vechilce manual

With the use of a multimeter it is possible to measure the voltage content. Simply place the earth probe on the negative pole of the battery and place the top of the positive probe in the coolant. A reading above .20 volts is high and damaging, and signifies you need to change your coolant.

Alternatively call to your local mechanical garage and have them check it for you.

*Antifreeze Concentration Chart

32 35% 65%
25 33% 67%
20 33% 67%
15 33% 67%
10 33% 67%
5 33% 67%
0 33% 67%
-10 39% 61%
-20 44% 56%
-30 48% 52%
-34 50% 50%
-40 52% 48%
-50 56% 44%
-60 59% 41%
-70 64% 36%
-84 70% 30%

There is some business I can do without.

OK, so the World Cup 2010 has kicked off in South Africa and even though Ireland have not Qualified, that will not stop crazy Irishmen like me going missing in action until late on Sunday 11th July.

Everywhere you go now there will be a TV showing a match right up to the final. The inherent danger here is that people tend to stay that extra bit longer to see more of the match and maybe have another drink.

Many people will watch from the comfort of their home or maybe call to a friend’s house. Others will gather in their local watering hole to enjoy the crack and atmosphere, but may not realise how many drinks they have had.

It is at times like this that people need to be extra vigilant as they will be out of their normal routine and may be caught off guard with all the excitement. Everyone should absolutely enjoy the World Cup as Lord knows there is enough misery around to last the rest of the year, but if you’re not going to act in a safe manner for your own good, please think of the other people who use the road.

If you are going out to watch the matches please preplan to get home without the car. If you call to the local pub and get caught up in the atmosphere, only stay on with the commitment that you will leave the car and collect it the following day. Preplanning is the vital ingredient as you surely don’t expect yourself to make a very good decision after you’ve had a few drinks.

So come on and let’s be sensible. There’s the taxi or public transport, or designate a driver (who stays sober) and importantly please remember that by drinking the night before you may be over the limit the following morning. If you need the car early the following day then don’t kid yourself the night before, limit your drinking.

For more tips on the effects that alcohol has on your body I suggest that you visit

One third of all fatal road crashes in Ireland are contributed to alcohol. So don’t become a statistic, think of your family and friends, and the pain and suffering you may bring to another family in your community.

So the most important thing is that we go and enjoy the spectacle that is the World Cup but please, PREPLAN.

Conquer the Cork Roundabouts

For many years the Roundabouts in Cork have instilled fear in the driving public. This is of little wonder with the confusion caused by the road markings.

In this first edition I demonstrate the correct and safest route to travel through the Kinsale Road Roundabout.
This journey from the City towards Bandon or Ballincollig will take you from the South City link Road to the Westbound Link Road.

Remove household paint overspray from your car.

Turmoil and frustration has often been caused from wind carrying household paint and leaving cars with a not so attractive speckled look. Thinners and compound are the first items reached for but to no avail, and I have come across extreme cases whereby sand paper was used to dreadful effect.

The solution is quiet simple. How many times have you been told that you should always pre sand before painting? This is to allow the fresh paint to get an etch/grip on the old surface. With this in mind it is easier to remove the speckles as opposed to dissolving them.

The ideal product on the market and manufactured by Meguiar’s is called Quik Clay. It is completely non-abrasive, yet has the ability to grab hold of bonded contaminants on your vehicle. It literally pulls them off the finish leaving it as smooth as glass.

Quik Clay contains a spray bottle of Quik Detailer and a clay bar. The Quik Detailer is a gloss enhancer but is used also in this procedure as a lubricant. The instructions to use are as follows.

1) Wash and rinse the area to be treated to remove any grit or dust contaminants on the surface as they will only scratch the paintwork. As always, use loads of water. I cringe when I see people putting a sponge to a dirty car as they are inevitably scratching the dirt onto the surface when not using loads of water and sponging gently.
2) Mist the Quik Detailer onto the surface for lubrication.
3) Rub the clay over the lubricated surface (in straight lines and not circles) until the contaminants are removed. As you proceed, fold and kneed the clay to a clean side. This is to avoid scratching the paintwork with contaminants collected by the clay. Continue to keep the surface wet with the Quik Detailer. Also don’t push too hard, push gently and patiently.
4) Wipe the surface dry with a clean 100% cotton cloth or preferably a micro fibre cloth and evaluate the finish. Repeat the process until the surface is smooth and clear.
5) Wash the car again, dry it and it is now ready for a new layer of wax to protect the paint.

Note: It is always best to work on surfaces when they are cool and in the shade. When using old clothing as cloths please check the label to ensure it is 100% cotton. Synthetic fibres are strands of plastic that will scratch the paintwork.

This blog was created in answer to a distressed lady who contacted me today.