New non-smoking law for drivers to be introduced

A new law is set to be introduced that will make it illegal to smoke in a vehicle carrying a person under the age of 18 from 1st October, with a fixed penalty charge of £50 for anyone breaking the law.

The Department of Health has recently started to step up publicity to increase awareness of the law, in order to avoid a surge in fines when it is introduced.

Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, said:

“Children breathe faster than adults so they are much more exposed to the dangers of second-hand smoke. Their airways, lungs and immune systems are still developing so are much more at risk from harm.

“We want children to grow up free from harm and we need parents to understand why smoking in vehicles is so dangerous. 80% of smoke is invisible so even if you think you are being careful you cannot see where the smoke is going.”

Government surveys suggest that around 3 million children are exposed to smoke in vehicles.

Exposure to toxins could result in diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia, meningitis and cancer.

Fixed penalty notices are already in place for breaches of bans on smoking in public places, and it’s already illegal to smoke on work vehicles and in public transport.  However, the new health measures will remove uncertainty, and will represent a big extension in power for both police and staff working for local authorities.

Private cars – with the exception of convertibles and coupes with the roofs down and stowed, will now have to be smoke free if they carry anyone else but the driver.  Smoking in a car with an open sunroof will still render adults liable to fines if under-18s are in the car, though if the driver is 17 and alone in a private vehicle, they will not be fined.

Sitting in the open doorway of an enclosed vehicle will also be included, though e-cigarettes will only be included for motorhomes, campervans and caravans when they’re being used as vehicles, not as living spaces.


Which car parts need to be replaced the most often?

If you’re visiting our site, the chances are you know your cars!  However, we know we do attract some beginners too: beginners who want to learn more about the inside of the vehicles we all use every day.  So, first things first: which car parts are most likely to need replacing?  We’ve put together this list, in order of which parts are likely to need swapping first:

  • The Oil and the Oil Filter – typically, these need replacing every three to six months, or between every 3,000 and 5,000 miles.
  • Windscreen Wiper Blades – these usually need replacing every year or two (though they will sometimes wear out more quickly in hot climates, especially if the car sits outside a lot).
  • Air filters – these will usually wear out every three to four years, or every 30,000 to 50,000 miles.  The exception is if the vehicle is regularly driven down very dusty roads!
  • Brake pads – usually, brake pads will last for between 30,000 to 70,000 miles, or three to five years.  Again though, this can be drastically affected by variables like the type of vehicle, the type of brake linings (ceramic linings will last much longer than non-asbestos) as well as the type of driving you do.
  • Batteries – these will usually last between four to five years: mileage doesn’t typically impact battery life – they run out when they run out!
  • Headlight and rear light bulbs – these usually last five to seven years, depending on how much they’re used.  Conventional bulbs can also be impacted by lots of driving on rough, bumpy roads.
  • Tyres – usually, tyres will last for between five to seven years.  Though of course, this will be impacted by how much driving you actually do, as well as the wear rating on the tyres (the higher the wear rating, the longer the tyre should last).
  • Spark plugs – platinum and iridium plugs will normally last around 100,000 miles, or eight years.  Spark plugs will sometimes need replacing if they foul as a result of frequent short trip driving.
  • Belts – serpentine belts usually last around six years, or 75,000 miles.  The timing belt (if you have one) will last 100,000 miles or 8 years.
  • Brake callipers, wheel cylinders and master cylinders – these all last more than 100,000 miles typically, but will eventually succumb to internal corrosion.

Obviously, all of these figures aren’t guaranteed, but they should provide a reliable estimate.

Beyond this point, you’re looking at parts that are more major and will usually take more than 5 years of driving to start wearing.  They usually won’t be things that you can replace yourself.

Remember, you can find replacements for nearly all of these parts in the ASM online store.


How to change your serpentine belt

Because automatic belt tensioners are now standard in most cars, a serpentine belt (also known as a drive belt) is usually a DIY-friendly job.  (This definitely didn’t use to be the case – so double check if you’ve got an old or classic car!)

Follow these instructions, and you should be able to swap the belt around in around 15 minutes.

Check the tensioner arm first

It’s important to ensure that the tensioner itself is where it needs to be before you think about swapping the belt around: a good tensioner belt needs to exhibit a slight vibration of around 1/32 inches or less of movement, and the belt should be able to move smoothly, with no jerks or visible vibration.  If this isn’t the case, then the tensioner is bad, and will need to be replaced first.  (Not a DIY task – take it to a mechanic!).

Check the belt actually needs replacing

Typically, the earlier serpentine belts crack with use.  If you’ve got cracks in more than three adjacent ribs of the belt that are bigger than an inch or so – or, there are four or more cracks per inch on one of the ribs – then the belt will need replacing.  It will also need replacing if you notice any of the following:

  • Chunks missing from the ribs
  • Torn or frayed fabric
  • Glazing on the belt’s back
  • Debris trapped anywhere in the ribs

In the case of more recent belts, cracking is less common and you’re better off looking for wear.  Wear is harder to locate than cracking, but there are actually smartphone apps that can detect wear (PICguage by Gates is a good one) – or, you can use a gauge.  Measure the belt out and ensure everything’s level.

Get the right tools

It’s worth picking up proper serpentine belt tools.  The job can theoretically be done with standard tools, but we don’t recommend it.

A standard serpentine belt tool will come complete with an assortment of sockets, so you’ll always find a use for it: it’s worth the investment. 

So, let’s get going:

Make a note of the current decal of the belt – you’ll need to refer back to this when adding the new one.  If there isn’t a drawing already there, draw one yourself.

Remove the belt, using the serpentine hand belt tool to rotate the tensioner in order to remove tension from the belt.  It should then be easy to remove.  Slowly release the tensioner once the belt is off.

Using the belt placement tool, you can then route the new belt around the belt path you made a note of earlier.  The belt will usually need to go first around the crankshaft pulley, and then the grooved ones.  Finish the job by sliding the belt into a rounded, non-grooved, smooth roller.

Ensure that the belt is aligned with the pulleys, and that it follows the correct path.  Once this is the case, you can slowly release the tensioner.

This should now be ready to go!

Remember, you can always find new parts at the ASM online store.


The Complete Guide to a DIY Car Tune-Up, Part 3: How to perform an oil-change

Carrying out an oil change is another essential task to keep your vehicle roadworthy.  As a result, we thought it would make a great next part of our series on carrying out your own car service at home. 

Safety first: Always ensure that you wear safety glasses when working on your car: engines contain a LOT of things that you don’t want to get in your eye!

Warm up your engine to help the oil contaminants drain more thoroughly.

  1. Park your vehicle on a solid, level surface and set the parking brake.  (On some vehicles, you might have to lift the front in order to gain access to the oil filter and then the drain plug.  If this is the case, ensure you support the vehicle with good, solid jack stands to keep it in place).
  2. Open and support the bonnet, and then locate the oil fill cap on top of the engine.  You can then remove the oil fill cap.
  3. Place a drain pan beneath the engine, and then remove the oil drain plug with a box-end wrench, socket or ratchet (wear gloves whilst doing this!). Then, allow the oil to drain thoroughly before re-installing the drain plugs.
  4. Slide the drain pan under the oil filter.  Using an oil filter wrench, remove the filter and wipe off the filter mounting surface using a clean towel.
  5. Coat the new oil filter gasket using engine oil, and install the new oil filter by hand until the gasket touches the filter mount.  From there, turn the filter once more to seal the gasket.
  6. Re-install the drain plug using a new washer, and tighten the drain plug in keeping with the specifications of the manufacturer.
  7. Fill the engine using the manufacturer’s recommended engine oil type and amount (this information can be found in your vehicle owner’s manual if you’re not sure), and check to make sure no oil is leaking out.  You can then turn off the engine and check the oil level using the dipstick, adding more if the level isn’t yet at the ‘full’ mark.  Ensure that you don’t over-fill the engine!

The Complete Guide to a DIY Car Tune-Up, Part 2: Replacing an air filter

In the second part of our series on carrying out the complete DIY car check-up, we’re going to take a look at how you can replace your air filter.

As ever, our safety tips remain the same:

Always wear safety glasses when working on your vehicle, and wear other personal protective equipment when needed, such as closed toe shoes or latex gloves.

Want to buy car parts? click here to take a look at our range

Carrying out the replacement

  1. Open the bonnet and locate the air filter box, ensuring that the bonnet struts will hold for long enough to do the job.
  2. Release the clips or undo the mounting screws securing the filter box cover.
  3. Then, lift off the cover and remove the old air filter (note down which way the filter is facing, as it will need to be replaced in the same way).
  4. Quickly vacuum out the filter box and wipe it down with a damp cloth if it’s particularly dirty.  Don’t use compressed air to clean out the filter box assembly.
  5. Install the new air filter into the filter box and then re-apply the filter box cover.  Then, you can restore the cover and secure it using either the screws or the clamps.
  6. Ensure that the air intake and vacuum hoses don’t have any cracks in them, and that the hose connections to the filter box cover are secure.

From there, you should be good to go!  Remember that you can buy a number of replacement car parts from the ASM Auto Recycling online store to keep your vehicle on the move.