Follow these tips from Liberty Insurance on what to do if your car breaks down

What To Do If Your Car Breaks Down

Follow these tips from Liberty Insurance on what to do if your car breaks down
Follow these tips from Liberty Insurance on what to do if your car breaks down

In the Real World, things don’t always go to plan. Liberty Insurance get that, that’s why they’re here to help when things get real. In the first of their Real World Blog series, we look at the measures you need to take in the unfortunate event of a car breakdown.

Most drivers don’t expect a breakdown, but the essential thing to bear in mind in these situations, is to stay safe. Be sure to contact your breakdown service provider right away.

Here are a few simple tips to keep you, your passengers and other road users safe if your car breaks down.

Motorways & Dual Carriageways

By far the trickiest place to suffer a car breakdown is on a motorway or dual carriageway, particularly if you are in the outside or overtaking lane when the issue happens. The RSA has a list of recommendations which we’ve listed below:

  1. If you can, pull into the hard shoulder as soon as possible. Put your hazard lights and side lights on and then point your front wheels away from the road.
  2. If you have a visibility vest, wear it. Visibility vests are relatively cheap and don’t take up much storage space so it’s a good idea to get a few and leave them in the car.
  3. Exit your vehicle on the left hand side, away from the traffic on the road. Be safe and stay away from the fast moving cars on the other side! Make your way up the embankment and if there is a barrier, climb over it if possible. You and your passengers should stay well away from the hard shoulder.
  4. Don’t attempt to make any repairs on the car, no matter how small they seem to be. Plenty of people have warning triangles in their car, BUT you should not attempt to place this behind your car on the motorway. There will be cars speeding by and it’s risky to even attempt it.
  5. Call the local authorities. If you do this from your mobile phone, they will need to know your location. If you use one of the roadside SOS phones on the motorway network, they will automatically know your location. Next contact your breakdown service.
  6. If the repair services can get you back up and running there and then, that’s great but be very careful when it comes to re-joining the motorway. You’ll need to build up your speed on the hard shoulder before merging into traffic. Be aware that other vehicles may have stopped on the hard shoulder.
  7. If for some reason you are unable to follow the above advice, you should stay in your vehicle with your safety belt securely fastened and switch on your hazard lights. Then, as above, call 999 and wait for assistance. You should also contact your breakdown service provider to let them know.
what to do if your car breaks down
If you have a breakdown on a rural road, pull into the left as far as you can

National, Secondary & Minor roads

If you break down on any road smaller than a motorway, you’ll need to do things a little differently to make sure you remain safe throughout. Again, we’ve taken the advice of the RSA to give you the best information on how to handle the situation.

  1. If you can, pull over to a safe place. Some national roads have a hard shoulder, but if there isn’t one, pull over as far left as you can.
  2. Turn on your hazard lights and if the light is poor or visibility is low, turn on your side lights also.
  3. Although the cars will be passing a little slower than those on the motorway, you should still only get out of your car on the left hand side of the road.
  4. Put on your high visibility vest and place your Red Warning Triangle 50 metres behind your car to alert oncoming traffic.
  5. In contrast to actions on the motorway, no matter where on the road you breakdown, be it in the middle of the road in town or out on a narrow country road, you should get back in your car once you’ve put out your triangle. That’s the safest place to be.
  6. Once in your car, ring the Gardaí for assistance and then call your breakdown service provider to let them know.
what to do if your car breaks down
It's a good idea to use a Red Warning Triangle to alert other drivers

Even experienced drivers might not know the above protocols for what to do if you breakdown, but now that you’ve familiarised yourself with them, you’re ready for any breakdown.

All Liberty car insurance policies come with 24/7 breakdown assistance with Home Start as standard and it won’t affect your no claims bonus.

Disclosure: This article has been provided by Liberty Insurance and is paid for content.


tyre safety tips

Top Tips For Tyre Safety

Not counting the odd kick to check air pressure, when was the last time you really inspected your tyres?

Keeping your tyres in good shape will not only limit hazards, but could save you money over time.

Using sub-standard tyres on your vehicle can cause reduced road handling, increased braking distances, loss of grip and even blow-outs. Also worth noting is that since 2008, tyres have been one of the top three reasons vehicles fail the NCT.

Here are some things to watch out for:

Buying part worn tyres

Second-hand tyres can be tempting, but a close inspection will show you if you are really getting value for money. First check for an E-Mark on the tyre sidewall, which will show that the tyre meets minimum EU standards. This mark is comprised of a capital or lower case ‘e’ followed by a number, which indicates the EU member state that granted approval. From there, ensure there is a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. This is vital, as anything less is illegal for use on a public road. If the tyres pass the 1.6mm test, see how close they are to the minimum. They may not be worth buying at all.

Next, inspect for bulges, tears, scrapes and lumps. Consult your handbook to ensure the tyre is the right size, speed rating and correct load for your car. Check the age of the tyre, which should be found embossed on the tyre sidewall. Ensure the tyre is not more than six years old. Then look for the usual and obvious signs of aging, like fine cracks.

Adjusting your tyre pressure

When it comes to tyre pressure, you want to be ‘just right’. Over-inflation can prematurely wear tyres, while under-inflation can lead to higher fuel use and overheating. Newer cars are fitted with in-built monitors, while owners of older vehicles should check tyre pressure at least once a month. Your local garage should have these facilities, so all you need to do is check your car manual for the correct pressure and test while the car is relatively cold.

Knowing when flats are fixable

If you fix your own flat tyres, know when a tyre can be patched with a home repair kit (i.e. when the damage is under one-quarter of an inch) and when they need to be replaced. The instructions found in your repair kit will give some guidance on limitations of repair. If in doubt, ask a professional tyre service.

Invest in tyre rotation and alignment

Check your car manual for information on mileage interval recommendations for tyre rotations. If your vehicle pulls slightly to the left or right, it may be time to get your suspension checked and your tyres realigned. Once a year, while getting your vehicle serviced, ask your mechanic to check your wheel alignment.

Visit the Liberty Insurance Facebook and Twitter profiles for more tips on how to #drivesafer.

Download the RSA Guide to Tyre Safety.

Disclosure: This article has been provided by Liberty Insurance, a car insurance provider in Ireland, and is paid for content.


New report tackles the question of Irish motor tax reform

The Complete Guide To Buying A Used Car

Buying a used car can be an anxious time, with no one wanting to end up with a car that will bring more problems and unexpected expenses. Not everyone has a friend with good mechanical knowledge to help them in the process of buying a suitable second hand car. If this sounds like you, follow these tips to avoid any future problems.

1. Schedule a time to inspect the car

  • Make sure to view the car in daylight and ask to bring the car for a test drive.
  • Before you view the car, do your homework and know what you need to check from the points below. This will show the seller that you are confident and know what you are doing, and give you the confidence to go into negotiations and get a good deal.

2. Look around the car

  • Look at the ground underneath where the vehicle is parked and check for any signs of leaking fluid.
  • Walk all around the car and check for dents, rust spots, broken headlamps, and cracks in the windscreen or windows.
  • Check for any difference in the headlamps or the paint tone. Check the space between the body panels to confirm that they are all the same. If you find differences it can be a sign that the vehicle was repaired following an accident.
  • Check the condition of the tyres and see if there is useful life left in the tread. Check for damage to the sidewall, like bulges or tears.
  • Check the condition of the rims. Watch out for dents or even cracks.
  • Check the area around the back bumper near the exhaust.  If it's black or dirty it can be a sign that the vehicle is smoking and this could indicate engine problems.
  • Open the doors to check for any strange sounds or any difficulty in closing them.
Tips for buying a used car
Always look around the vehicle and look for any dents or damage to the bodywork, or changes in the paint tone

3. Check the engine bay

  • Check that the engine bay is clean and that there are no signs of oil leaking, in particular oil deposits on the cover below the engine. You can use the lamp on your mobile phone to help you check.
  • Check the level of engine oil and coolant, and the general look of the battery for anything abnormal.
  • Check that the area around the headlamps is not bent or with signs of repair, which could indicate the car was involved in an accident.
  • Start the engine and make sure it starts without any problems (that will allow you to check the power of the battery). Listen to the engine idling and make sure the idle is regular and there are no metallic sounds from any pump or belts.

4. Interior inspection

  • Test the safety aspects like the mirrors, seatbelts, handbrake and lights of the vehicle.
  • Check if the car has Isofix fixtures and if you have a child car seat, check the compatibility.
  • When the engine is running check the dashboard for any red or amber warning lights that remain on.
  • If the car has a trip computer, check the average consumption. Normally this value can give you a good idea of the fuel economy of the car and what you will be able to get from it.
  • Turn on the aircon and check that it is blowing cold air.
  • Test the main equipment of the vehicle. Turn on the radio, open and close the windows and test the central locking system.
  • Open the boot and check the status of the spare tyre. Make sure all the tools necessary to change it are present.
  • If the spare tyre is stored in the boot check that the area is circular. If it is an oval shape or with any strange marks it can be a sign that the vehicle had a big impact in the back. This area is particularly difficult to fix so it is a good way of checking if the car has been in an accident.
Tips for buying a used car
Check that all the main equipment in the car is working

5. Test drive

  • When test driving the car, switch off the radio so you can listen for any strange sounds coming from the car.
  • Check the condition of the clutch. Check that you get the car moving easily, can change all the gears and listen for any strange noises.
  • Try to drive at the maximum speed limit and check if you can feel any vibrations in the steering wheel.
  • On a straight road, carefully centre the steering wheel and take your hands off it (but near enough in case you need to react). Check if the car runs to one side or does it stay straight on the road.
  • If the car runs more to one side or you find vibration in the steering, you need to get the wheel alignment checked, or even to check if there is damage to the disc brakes or rims.
  • Check there is nothing behind you and test the brakes in an emergency stop. Check if the car comes to a smooth stop and without any noise (a metallic noise can be a signal that the car will need new brake pads or it could be an issue with the brake discs).
  • Pay attention to the way the car reacts to bumps, sharp corners and poorly surfaced roads. If the car bounces or does not have a stable reaction it can be a sign that the suspension will need to be replaced.

6. Security and vehicle documentation

  • Make sure the seller provides you with the spare key of the vehicle, and the radio and alarm codes.
  • The car should have a manual and a service book.
  • Check the service book to make sure the previous owner did all the scheduled services.
  • If the seller doesn’t provide the service book, it can be a sign that they didn’t do all the appropriate maintenance for the car.
  • Check if the chassis number on the vehicle matches what's printed on the vehicle registration certificate.
  • Do a car history check using an online provider to check the vehicle doesn’t have any outstanding finance and has genuine mileage.
  • Confirm if the vehicle has an NCT certificate of road worthiness and how many months are left until the car is due to be tested again.
  • If you are buying a vehicle from a dealer, find out the terms of the warranty.
Tips for buying a used car
Ask for the spare key for the vehicle

7. Negotiation

  • After you have inspected the car thoroughly, you will be able to negotiate a better deal for the car. Ask the seller to repair any problems or to give you a discount.
  • Ask if the next service can be included in the deal, especially if the car is approaching a major service, for example a timing belt change. That is normally a very expensive service.

Hope this guide helps you to get a good deal on your next car and wish you safe journeys in your new vehicle.

Nuno Bandeiras


tips for buying tyres

Tips For Buying Tyres

The tyres on your vehicle are your only point of contact with the road and are crucial for safe driving. Tyres should be appropriate for your car, safe and durable.  When it comes to replacing your tyres, here are some points to consider when buying new tyres for your vehicle.

Buy From A Reliable Tyre Retailer

You can buy tyres at a local tyre retailer or you can buy from an online tyre retailer such as www.eiretyres.com or www.tyre-guru.ie, who stock a wide range of high-quality tyres from well-known manufacturers at prices lower than other sellers, along with customer advice when you need it from experts to help you choose the right tyre for your vehicle.

Know Your Tyre Size

Make a note of the appropriate tyre size for your vehicle according to the manufacturer’s specifications. This should be in the car’s manual or you can check the sidewall on your current set of tyres. The tyre size will be made up of a combination of numbers and letters, for example 205/55 R 16 91 W.

205 The width of the tyre in millimetres

55   The aspect ratio in % (the height of the sidewall divided by the tyre's width)

R     Radial (the tyre’s construction type)

16   The rim diameter in inches

91   The load index

W   The speed rating

If you are not replacing all four tyres at the same time, it is advisable that you don’t mix tyre types across an axle (the front tyres should be the same type, and the rear tyres should be the same type).

Choose tyres suitable for your climate

Some tyres, like summer tyres or winter tyres, are designed for use in a particular season, so consider the type of weather and climate you drive in. If you frequently find yourself driving in snow for several months of the year, you may need to purchase tyres that will give you extra grip in winter conditions. All season tyres are popular because they are safe and stable in all weather conditions.

Consider the tyre’s performance

Since 2012, all tyres have to bear an EU tyre label with information about the tyre’s wet grip, fuel efficiency and noise performance. Each tyre will be graded from A through to G and this performance rating allows you to compare different tyres for fuel efficiency, stopping distance on wet roads and how much noise the tyre produces.

Caroline Kidd


booking a car service

5 Things To Consider When Booking A Car Service

We've teamed up with Autoservicing.com, Ireland's leading garage comparison website, to bring you some tips for booking your next car service.

Getting your car serviced regularly is one of the most important things you can do and should never be overlooked. A service could be the difference between a minor issue being repaired or a serious safety issue further down the road. Overall, regular servicing will prolong the life of your engine, improve your fuel economy and keep you and your loved ones safe on the road.

Here are five things to consider when booking your next service:

1. The car servicing interval

The most common question asked by car owners in relation to servicing is “How often should I get my car serviced?". Typically, a car should be booked in for a full service every 12 months or 10,000km. However, this is just a general guide as servicing requirements can vary by car model and driving conditions. It is important to ensure that you are familiar with your car’s servicing interval and always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

2. Time of year 

The extreme weather conditions during the winter season can put additional stress on your car. If your car has any underlying issues, they will be amplified in the winter months, so it is important that drivers pay special attention to preparing their car for the winter season. Give yourself peace of mind and book a service before the onset of winter to ensure that your car is winter ready. Parts that need particular attention include the tyres, brakes, lights and the battery.

3. Book with a trusted garage 

To put your mind at ease, make sure to shop around when looking to book your car for a service and get a few quotes. Ask friends and relatives who they would recommend. You could use a garage comparison website like www.autoservicing.com to get quotes from different garages for the same service.

4. Keep a service history log

You should always keep a record of your car’s service history. Information such as the date of the service, what issues were encountered and how they were addressed, is most important. This servicing log will help you keep track of when specific parts are due a replacement, but can also come in handy should you decide to sell your car. Complete transparency is essential when making the deal and this log will act as reassurance for potential buyers that the vehicle has been looked after and well maintained.

5. Understand your car’s warning signals

And last but by no means least, understand your car’s warning signals. We’ve all had that moment of panic when a light flashes on the dashboard and you have no idea what it means. Whether it is a filter that needs replacing or some more serious, it is important to identify the issue and get it resolved quickly. Keep your manufacturer's guide at the ready and don’t be afraid to speak to your mechanic if there is anything you are unsure of.


winter driving tips

7 Tips For Driving In Winter

As the colder, darker weather descends, mobility solutions specialist, easytrip, Ireland’s only electronic parking and tolling tag provider, is reminding drivers to prepare before setting out on the road in advance of the clocks going back this weekend.  The combination of longer hours of darkness and tougher driving conditions that can further reduce visibility means that drivers need to be extra vigilant during this period.

  1. Vehicle check: before the onset of wintry weather, check your lights, your oil and anti-freeze levels, your wiper blade condition, water levels, and your tyres for any bulges or small cuts – don’t forget to check the spare tyre.
  2. Be safe, be seen: use dipped lights even before darkness has fallen when following other vehicles and in built-up areas.
  3. Watch out for motorcyclists and cyclists: leave space for cyclists and be prepared for the fact that cyclists may not have sufficient lighting or have high visibility clothing on.
  4. Overtaking: it is more difficult to judge a safe gap in the dark so don’t overtake unless you are absolutely certain it is safe to do so – particularly on motorways.
  5. Be aware of pedestrians: particularly in poorly lit areas and pay particular attention to children that may be walking to and from school.
  6. Driving in fog or heavy rain: switch on your fog lights and drive slowly when visibility is poor. Turn on your hazard lights if necessary to alert drivers following behind.
  7. Keep your distance: always remember to keep the recommended distance between you and the car in front - two seconds in dry conditions and four seconds in wet.

MPV buying guide

MPV Buying Guide

MPV buying guide
All you need to know before buying an MPV

MPVs are among the most practical cars on the market and are designed with families in mind. MPV stands for ‘multi purpose vehicle’ and they are popular for their family friendly features. If you are new to the MPV market and buying your first MPV, this guide contains practical MPV buying tips that will come in useful when you’re browsing the brochures and cruising the showrooms.

1) Number of seats

Some compact MPVs are sold with just five seats, but larger ones may have seven. Seven seaters usually work by having five seats permanently in place with two fold away seats in the very back. For very large families, an eight seater might be the only MPV that will do, and there are some of these on the market, though they tend to be derived from vans so you lose some of the car-like driving character of a smaller MPV. Some MPVs squeeze in seven seats within a reasonable small footprint but the extra seats may only be suitable for children. There are larger seven seaters on the market that will be more suitable for carrying adults regularly.

2) Size

The larger the MPV, the more cumbersome it’s going to be to drive in tight situations like through town and around car parks, which if you’re a parent you’re likely going to spend a lot of time doing, so think hard about much space and how many seats you really need. On larger MPVs, it’s worth checking the spec to see if equipment like parking sensors, reversing cameras and even autonomous parking systems are included, and if not it makes a lot of sense to add these as options if the budget allows.

MPV Buying Guide
Buying an MPV? Think about how many seats you need and what convenience features you should opt for

3) Flexibility

Check the seats for flexibility. Some MPVs feature seats in row 2 that can slide forward or back, and also recline. See how easy it is to fold the seats down and if they will fold down flat. Some MPVs even have a front passenger seat that can fold completely flat!

4) Access

Check how easy it is to get in and out of the MPV. MPVs naturally sit a bit higher than a standard hatchback but some may have additional features to make getting in and out easier. For example, there are a few MPVs on the market with sliding doors and though they don’t look very dynamic or sexy on a car, they are extremely practical for getting children and car seats in and out, especially in car parks where space is limited. If there are three rows of seats, check how easy is it to get into row 3.

5) Storage

MPVs generally have lots of cubby holes but check to see if they are all in logical places and if they are genuinely useful.

6) Convenience features

Some MPVs will have pull down picnic tables on the back of the front seats but these may be optional on some or limited to higher trims. The children might appreciate 12-volt power sockets and USB sockets to plug in their devices – some MPVs will have these, some won’t. It’s important that the driver is happy too so if you do a lot of driving think about features like cruise control and even an automatic gearbox that will make sitting in traffic on the school run less draining. Other features worth considering: pull down blinds on the rear windows, electric windows, a panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, and climate control (some cars will have separate controls for rear passengers).

6) Child seats and Isofix fixtures

Some MPVs will have three individual seats in the middle row. The number of Isofix child seat fixtures can vary from car to car. Bring the children and child seats to the dealer and see if everyone will fit comfortably before you buy!

7) Boot space

This is so important in a family car so check out the boot for yourself and bring the buggies and other paraphernalia you regularly carry to see if the shape and size will work for you. Some of the more compact seven seaters will be severely compromised on boot space when the two extra seats are in place, but in a five seat configuration they will have huge boots that can be easily stacked to the roof. Some larger seven seaters will be less impacted in this regard and may be more suitable if your regularly carry seven people.

MPV Buying Guide
Buying an MPV? Better check that boot is big enough

8) Safety

Check that the car has a full complement of airbags and check the Euro NCAP safety rating. Other safety equipment like driver fatigue alert, city emergency brake, lane departure warning, blind spot monitor and forward collision alert may be standard or optional on some models.

9) Engine power and driving fun

Bring the car for a test drive and see how it performs on the road. Is there adequate power? Consider how the car might perform with a full family onboard and their luggage. And yes you can have fun driving an MPV. Some are better than others so take a proper test drive and see does the car adapt well to your driving style.

10) Economy

Check the running costs for the vehicle, specifically the miles per gallon and annual motor tax.

Browse some MPV reviews here.

Caroline Kidd


tips for good car photography

12 Simple Tips For Good Car Photography

tips for good car photography
Taking car photos from above can work really well, like this shot of the Peugeot 308 GTi

I try where possible to use original car photography to accompany my car reviews on Changing Lanes. I’m not a professional photographer, more a snap happy Instragrammer. But I have a learnt a few things about taking a good car photo, mainly by making a lot of mistakes.

Here are my car photography tips for producing something half decent!

1. Turn the front wheel of the car that’s facing the camera in, not out! I used to do this so bad until one day I copped it.

2. Natural light is your friend but bright sunlight is an actual beast to work with as an amateur stuck on auto. Dull, overcast days make things a lot easier and we get a lot of those in Ireland. Soft light at daybreak and sunset is very flattering to the amateur photographer, but depending on time of year, you may have a very, very early start to get the best morning light.

3. Be aware of shadows, especially in sunlight. They look awful in photos if they’re facing the camera. I found this out after a lot of failed shoots too.

4. If you are shooting in bright sunlight, make sure the sun is behind your shoulder, not the car’s, because it just wreaks havoc with the shot. Don’t ask me why, it just does.

Honda Jazz Review Ireland
Car photography tips: See that tree sprouting from the Honda Jazz? Yeah, try to avoid doing this.

5. Move the car around in the one location and try different angles. Some will work, some won’t, but it helps you to learn.

6. Watch out for reflections in the side of the car. Think about this when choosing your location. Flat open space is best.

7. Check the ground around the car in the shot. Is there any rubbish around the car? It looks awful afterwards and sometimes if you’re focusing so much on getting the car right in the shot you won’t see it until you're home on your computer.

8. Check the backdrop. If there are trees or poles, make sure that they are not in an awkward position. A pole sprouting from the car's roofline never looks good. I’ve made this mistake so many times and I still do it from time to time.

9. Play with different angles but taking the photo from low down tends to work well. Be prepared to get down and dirty to get the perfect shot! From above is also cool, if your location will allow it, but make your safety number one!

10. You don’t have to always centre the car in the shot. You can produce more interesting photos by placing the car off centre or including more background in the shot.

Mazda2 Irish review
Car photography tips: Choose an interesting location and take shot from below eye level, like my photo of the Mazda2

11. Bring cleaning equipment. There is nothing as bad as a dirty car in photos. Why would you bother?

12. Scout around for different locations but mountains, sea, beaches, water, empty roads, forests, fields, castles and stately homes tend to work well for beginners!

Caroline Kidd

opel adam S review ireland
Stay safe out on location: I sat on a thistle to get this shot of the Opel Adam S, but I think it was worth it!

small car buying tips

What To Consider When Buying A Small Car

small car buying tips
Ford Fiesta is Ireland's best selling small car. Flying ability optional!

If you’re trying to evaluate a number of different small cars, I've put together a list of five things to think about before you buy.

1. Ride comfort

You don’t have to settle anymore for an uncomfortable small car. Some are better than others however. On a test drive check to see what the car is like over speed bumps and rough, uneven surfaces in town, and if you will do a lot of driving out of town, take it out and see what it feels like as you cruise along at speed. Is it comfortable, settled or do you feel like you’re being bounced around a lot?

2. Equipment

What are your must haves and nice to haves? Make sure to examine the specification to find out what you’re getting. If you do a lot of long journeys, cruise control could make driving less tiring. If you’re all about the look of the car, check it has alloys! Does it have electric mirrors? Some will have these as standard, some won’t, and they’re really useful for parallel parking if there are kerbs involved. Do you want the latest technology and easy integration between the car and your smartphone? Bluetooth is not standard on every car but is really useful for handsfree calls while driving.

3. Engines

Many small cars have what appears at first glance a bewildering choice of engines. There could be two or three petrols, some turbo charged and some not, and there might be a diesel thrown in there too. Your small 1.0-litre petrol might look cheap and be fine around town, but could be out of its depth very quickly once out of town. Test drive it to see if it’s enough fun for you! Petrol is the obvious choice for a small car but if you’re doing a long commute daily then there are plenty of good, small diesels on the market too.

4. Practicality

Cars have grown over the years and use space more efficiently, but what’s out there still varies in terms of space. The areas to watch out for are rear seating space if you carry passengers regularly, and boot space. Most small cars are competitive among their rivals in terms of what’s on offer, but some will really excel, while others may feel more cramped.

5. Running costs

Generally these are low for small cars but do check and compare the figures between models. Sportier models with larger alloy wheels can affect CO2 emissions and push similar cars into different tax bands, so check that you know the data for the actual car you are buying to avoid any nasty surprises.

Need inspiration? Read my small car review round-up here.

Caroline Kidd