All powered up to do little bit of research

I was asked what is the difference between BHP and PS which can seem confusing as different manufacturers use different ways to give the power output of their engines. I explained as best I could that they are essentially the same thing but it spurred me on to so a little research.

BHP is the abbreviation for brake horsepower and is the most widely used measure of engine power alongside PS.

While ‘horsepower’ refers to an engine’s total output, brake horsepower only looks at the amount of energy left once other parts like the gearbox, alternator and water pump have all been powered. It’s measured at the road wheels, not at the flywheel. PS is the abbreviation for ‘Pferdestärke’ – German for horse-strength.

One PS is about 98.6% of a brake horsepower – the two are virtually interchangeable. PS is sometimes referred to as ‘metric horsepower’.

Some car-makers quote engine power in in kilowatts – especially on the Continent.

Despite kW being the EU’s ‘legal’ engine power measure since 1992, it is used far less than PS or BHP. A kilowatt (kW) of power is about 1.34bhp.

 

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Little light relief… or just being kept in the dark

As the nights start pulling in, motoring editor Andy Russell passes on some bright advice about putting your lights on.

One of the best bits of advice I have ever heard about when to put your car lights on came from a traffic police officer.

As guest speaker at the advanced motorists’ group I belonged to someone asked him when you should put your lights on in cases of bad weather or when it was starting to get dark. His answer was so simple that it has stuck with me and stood me in good stead.

“When you think to yourself ‘Should I have my lights on?’,” he replied.
Apparently our brain acts like a light sensor and triggers the thought. So when it does, put your lights on. It’s better to have them on and be seen than not being visible. In the days when I rode motorcycles I never switched my headlight off – in fact the switch became so stiff you could hardly turn it off!

I often drive cars with headlights than come on automatically but I sometimes find they have not come on when my brain is telling me they should be… so I put them on manually.
Last weekend in a downpour on a motorway I came across one driver who could have used some advice about putting their car lights on.

With so much spray, they thought visibility was reduced enough to put the bright red rear fog light on, and cut their speed to little more than 30mph, but having safely passed them I noticed they were driving on side lights… and only one at that!
According to the Highway Code, you must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres – the length of a football pitch.

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Ford deserves medal for keeping Commonwealth Games moving

Ford has played its part as a driving force for the Commonwealth Games with a fleet of 1,123 vehicles, says Archant Anglia motoring editor Andy Russell.

Success on a plate – the Ford Fiesta, left, is the UK’s best-selling car ever with 4,115,000 sales while the Transit is the UK’s number one van

While the Commonwealth Games athletes have been driving themselves on to new levels of performance and record-breaking, spare a thought for one of the driving forces behind getting them to where they need to be.

I was lucky enough to get up to Glasgow with Ford for the launch of its new EcoSport compact sport utility vehicle. So before anyone else asks whether it was me they glimpsed on TV in the crowd at the swimming the answer is yes.

The EcoSport was good but the crowd’s reaction to 13-year-old Erraid Davies winning bronze in the women’s para-sport 100m breaststroke SB9 final was out of the world. It made you proud, whether Scottish or not, and united all nations in applause.

But Ford, as official automotive partner of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, is something of an unsung hero by providing 1,123 low CO2 vehicles including 327 S-Maxs, 279 Focus estates, 147 each of C-Max and Galaxy models, 80 Tourneo Customs, 50 Mondeos, 30 Transit vans, 10 Kugas, nine Transit 17-seat and seven Transit 14-seat minibuses, five Focus Electrics… and a partridge in a pear tree!

The vehicles are dedicated to an individual, country or are part of the chauffeur pool with Ford also training the volunteer drivers’ trainers about using the vehicles.

Ford support vehicles were also involved in the 120,000-mile, 248-day Queen’s Baton Relay with some employees baton-bearers.

And Ford is also a winner with a Fiesta bearing the registration place FMC 1 to mark it passing 4,115,000 sales since its 1976 launch to become the UK’s best-selling car ever while a Transit – 1 FMC – reminds use it is the UK’s number one van.

Find out more with Ford’s #PlayYourPart campaign on social media and at the website at playyourpart.ford.co.uk

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Buying now can make a great deal of sense

If you don’t mind not having the latest registration plate, now is a good time to find some great deals on new and used cars, says Archant Anglia motoring editor Andy Russell.

With the new 64 registration plate arriving on September 1 a lot of people will be thinking of changing their car. And, with the new plate looming, I’ve just encouraged my sons to actually change their cars now as it makes a lot of sense. Not everyone wants the latest registration plate on their new car. And it’s only for six months anyway now with the switch to the 15 plate in March next year. There used to be a time when the plate changed once a year in August so, if you got in at the very beginning, and you had a ‘new’ car for 12 months.

If you’re not too concerned about being bang up to date with the latest plate or, as many people do now, are going to put your personalised plate on it there are currently some great deals to be had on both new and used cars.

Dealerships are set volume targets on selling new cars and it’s in their interest to make sure they hit them. Admittedly, in the couple of months leading up to the plate changes in September and March, they are not going to be as high as the big-volume months but they are still targets.

So dealers often have cars in stock for immediate delivery – just have a look at some of the adverts in the motoring pages or online – with some attractive savings on list prices. And you might also get better finance deals or even some added extras thrown in for good measure.

It’s not just buyers of new cars who are able to reap the benefits of the looming new plate change looming with used buyers also able to take advantage of some good offers on the forecourts. Even if a dealership is not having an official used car event to shift some metal, it’s worth going in to see what they can do for you.

With most cars now having three-year warranties, most personal contract purchase (PCP) finance deals running for 36 months and the new plate change months being big business for the motor trade, dealerships are looking to clear some of the used stock from their forecourts ahead of a surge in trade-ins of good, low-mileage cars. But they currently have good, low-mileage cars on their forecourts which will be another registration plate change older soon which will further reduce their value.

So back to my two sons who both took advantage of good deals on used cars – one picking up a fully-loaded ex-demonstrator at less than two-thirds of the new retail price and spreading the cost with a decent deposit and a PCP, the other getting a high-spec one-owner, three-year model on a three-year HP contract.

Great deals served up on a plate!

 

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Don’t turn roundabouts into Russian roulette

Too many drivers are making negotiating roundabouts a guessing game by not using their indicators, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

Driving on to busy roundabouts is a bit like Russian roulette – any moment you expect a big bang.

Roundabouts are difficult enough without the added complication of playing the ‘guess where the car is going’ game.

With many drivers failing to use indicators, or even the right lane, it can be virtually impossible to know where they are going… assuming they even know themselves!

I felt very sorry the other day for a learner driver trying to get on to a roundabout where five major roads converge. They weren’t confident enough to nip into a gap in the traffic, and understandably so. But with so few cars indicating their intentions I was finding it difficult to judge when it was safe to go.

I am always careful on roadabouts, even more so since being forced to continue round one on my way home when a driver who approached it in the left-hand lane decided to sail round the outside of the roundabout and leave it at the third of the four exits… I just missed him and ended up leaving at the fourth exit and heading back to where I’d come from!

So I am delighted road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists is offering tips to avoid problems at roundabouts.

Information: Look well ahead, check your mirrors so you know what traffic is around you. Give any signals in plenty of time. Try and identify a gap in the traffic before you reach the roundabout, but keep an eye on the car in front – it may not go for the gap you would.

Position: Approach the roundabout according to which exit you’re taking. Keep to the left lane to turn left or go straight and the right lane when taking an exit on the right. Watch for any road markings guiding you and try to give other vehicles plenty of space.

Speed: Slow smoothly to a speed appropriate for the roundabout, taking into account the position of other road-users

Gears: Once you’re at the right speed, and before turning, select the correct gear. Do a final mirror check, especially the mirror on the side you are turning towards.

Accelerate: At a roundabout choose a gap in the traffic and accelerate smoothly into it – the same applies to any other junction

IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger  said: “At roundabouts, it is useful to try and consider the whole thing as one manoeuvre – that way you have a plan about which lane to be in, when to move into that lane and what signals you expect to use. But you need to prepare to be flexible – other road users don’t always behave as we’d expect them to.”

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Clever in-car cams can dash those ‘crash-for-cash’ scams

With ‘crash-for-cash’ scams on the rise, Archant Anglia motoring editor Andy Russell finds out how dash-cams can be an ever-present eyewitness in your vehicle.

Many years ago, not long after passing my driving test, I bumped into another car… well, actually, it bumped into me.

I maintained the car pulled into my path from a side road on the right. The other driver insisted I was straddling the central white light and on his side of the road.

It’s so long ago I can’t recall the final outcome but I know I was concerned about losing some of the no claims discount I had carefully built up – no NCD protection in those days.

If I’d had a modern in-vehicle journey recorder – better known as a ‘dash-cam’ – it would have been so easy to prove who was where on the road and at fault.

Dash-cams simply suction on to the windscreen and rear screen and record the view, capturing events before, during and after a collision.

The camera records on to a memory card and is instantly available as evidence in any insurance claim for or against the driver.

Aviva saw a 51% surge in crash for-cash car insurance scams last year. And the Association of British Insurers says fraud reached a record £1.3bn last year with £811m of fraudulent claims attributed to car insurance. Crash for cash was the main contributor to a 34% rise in false motoring claims which it is estimated could be adding about £50 to each of our premiums.

I borrowed a couple of dash-cams from motorist discount strore chain Wilco, part of the Shortis Group which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, to find out how affordable and effective they are as an ever-present witness in the event of a collision.

Wilco is fitting the £29.99 Streetwize HD In-vehicle Video Journey Recorder to all its vans after a hefty insurance claim in the hope it could help cut its premium.

This budget camera, which has a 90-degree wide-angle lens and 2.5in flip-down screen, switches on an off automatically with the vehicle ignition and charges via a 12-volt socket. The downside is that the suction-mounted bracket is quite large and the pivot points need to be adjusted and tightened once you have the desired view.

I much preferred a mid-range dash-cam in the shape of the Nextbase 202 Lite but it costs a lot more at £69.99.

With its smaller bracket and built-in 2.7in screen this more compact dash-cam felt sturdier, easier to set up and fitted neatly at the top of the screen behind the driver’s rearview mirror.

The picture quality also seemed better while the 120-degree lens angle gave an even wider view.

Both include infrared night vision and continuous loop recording on to an SD card of up to 32Gb (which is not included). They can also be used in picture mode, have an audio recording mode and motion sensing activation. If an impact is detected when the vehicle is parked the camera will start, record for a set time and automatically save the file.

Just as satellite-navigation and Bluetooth phone kits have become must-haves for millions of motorists expect to see more vehicles with dash-cams – for not a lot of money they can save an awful lot of hassle.

For more information visit the website at www.wilcodirect.co.uk


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Fuelling the great petrol or diesel debate

The diesel or petrol dilemma gives real fuel for thought with today’s hi-tech, modern engines. Motoring editor Andy Russell explains why.

Caption: The 1.0-litre turbo petrol EcoBoost engine powers more than 40% of Fiestas sold in the UK.

Whenever people question me about whether they should buy a diesel the first question I ask is how many miles they do a year.

Over the years various figures have been bandied around about how many miles a year you need to do to make the extra outlay of deciding on diesel pay dividends.

But now there is another reason why mileage has to be taken into consideration – one that can have serious consequences on the longevity and reliability of the diesel engine itself.

As the EU puts more and more stringent emissions regulations on modern cars, car-makers are having to crank up the technology to meet them.

The result is that modern diesel cars – now meeting Euro V and VI emissions standards – are fitted with diesel particulate filters or DPFs for short.

These particulate filters do exactly what it says on the tin – they trap particles of soot to prevent them being released in the atmosphere. This soot is then burned off when the vehicle is driven at a constant speed for a decent distance or time when the exhaust gets really hot.

If the filter needs to ‘regenerate’ itself, to prevent it getting partially blocked by soot, but the exhaust is not getting hot enough to burn off the collected soot the engine’s electronic control unit (ECU) initiated the regeneration process.

The ECU will inject extra fuel into the system to trigger regeneration by increasing the exhaust temperature. If the journey is a bit stop and start or you take your foot off the accelerator while regeneration is taking place, it may not complete the process. The AA says it should be possible to start a complete regeneration and clear the DPF warning light by driving for 10 minutes or so at more than 40mph.

If regeneration is unsuccessful the extra fuel injected will not burn and will drain into the sump. This means the oil level will rise and quality will deteriorate. and the danger is that it will rise above the maximum level on the dipstick which can cause serious damage.

It sounds scary and certainly caused me some concern when the mileage on my wife’s diesel car dipped considerably when our sons bought their own and mum’s taxi was no longer required.

And it certainly gave some fuel for thought when it came time to change our car. With our mileage down to no more than 7,000 a year petrol was the best bet.

That was a couple of years ago but now car-makers are making their petrol offerings even more appealing with small-capacity turbo petrol engines that give diesel-like economy and low CO2 emissions so are not only kind to the environment but also kind on the wallet with no annual road tax to pay.

Because petrol cars warm up faster than diesel ones they are better suited to short trips as well as generally being priced lower and petrol costs less than diesel.

Most major car-makers now offer such engines but let’s take Ford’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine because it goes into a range of cars including the UK’s best-selling Fiesta, where it accounts for more than 40% of sales, and the Focus and has won international engine of the year two years running – no mean achievement.

In 100PS guise – there’s also a 125PS version – it’s as powerful as a non-turbo 1.6-litre petrol engine and has official combined economy of 65mpg with 99g/km of CO2. By comparison, the new 1.5-litre Ford turbo diesel engine has an output of 75PS, official combined economy of 76mpg with 98g/km of CO2.

And the EcoBoost petrol Fiesta is £500 less than the equivalent diesel version to buy. Even if the MPG is not quite as good, £500 buys a lot of fuel especially when it costs seven or eight pence a litre less at the pumps.

Twitter: @andyrussellauto

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Price often right on popular PCPs

Andy Russell, motoring editor. Twitter @andyrussellauto

If I had a pound for every time I have been asked for a bit of motoring advice, normally while on the driveway washing our car, I would have enough to put it through the car wash each week!

Last week a retired neighbour asked me what PCPs are whether it would be a good way for him to get his next car.

PCPs – or personal contract purchases – have been credited with the big rise in cars bought on finance and helped boost sales month after month.

A PCP is similar to hire purchase (HP) but instead of paying off the entire value of the car in monthly instalments, you pay a deposit and effectively only the depreciation so making monthly payments less. And many manufacturers offer deposit contribution and subsidised APRs.

At the end of a PCP agreement, generally 36 months, you can either pay off the pre-agreed outstanding value to own it outright, give it back or start another PCP on a new car.

The guaranteed minimum future value (GMFV) – often called the balloon – is the key to how a PCP works. The finance company calculates the car’s predicted minimum value at the end of the agreement – the deposit and monthly payments pay off the difference between the buying price and this predicted value. If your car is worth more than the GMFV you can use the extra money as deposit towards your next car.

So back to my bit of neighbourly advice about why a PCP suited him.

Being retired he had a decent monthly pension so could afford a couple of hundred pounds or so each month.

He had money in the bank but, being a great traveller, preferred to use some of his savings seeing more of the world while he still fit.

He now covers only 5,000 to 6,000 miles a year and the lower your mileage the higher the GMFV.

He looks after his cars so no damage penalties when returning it.

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