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Mechanics replaces bulb in car

Tricks of the Light

First published in BMW Car Magazine March 2018

Chris Graham explains how car headlamps have developed, why they’re so good now and what’s in store for the future.

Back in the 1970s, most car headlights were standard, round five- or seven-inch diameter units; all very straightforward and utilitarian. But the progress that’s been made during the intervening 40 or so years has seen nothing short of a revolution, in both the appearance and functionality of these often overlooked essentials of the modern car.

While we all rely entirely on the performance of our car’s headlights for nighttime driving, the technology that goes into them, and the effort that’s put into their design, are factors that most motorists take completely for granted. And yet, in many cases, the modern headlamp unit is a work of visual art; an array of wonderfully-shaped, attractively-finished almost jewel-like treasures, protected behind a crystal-clear cover.

Fantastic advances

Today’s vehicle lights are a far cry from the simplistic and often woefully inadequate headlamps of yesteryear. For decades, car headlights were rudimentary, metal and glass affairs, with traditional filament bulbs that bounced yellowish light off a shiny, convex reflector and out through a glass lens that directed the beam down on to the road.

It wasn’t really until the late 1970s and early 1980s that car designers started to realise that there was real scope to enhance the look of the headlight units, while improving their performance at the same time. These changes went hand-in-hand with improvements in technology which allowed the format to be changed. At long last, it became possible to break away from the standard approach, and the limitations of weight, fragility and expense that the old-style units carried with them.

The first big breakthrough came thanks to the development of the faceted reflector. Typically made from plastic, these multi-surfaced, mirror-like reflectors were designed to replace the outdated and inefficient glass lens. All the beam-direction work was accomplished by the reflector from behind the bulb, which meant that all that was required in front was a weight-saving covering of clear plastic to keep the light weather-sealed.

This gave designers much greater scope to make a visual feature of the headlights, but it also put greater pressure on the functionality of the lights as many were made smaller. Consequently, light output had to be increased and controlled more effectively to deliver the necessary illumination.

The early 1990s saw the introduction of the projector-type unit, which relied on a much smaller, internal glass lens positioned close to the bulb, to focus the light output on the road ahead. This represented another progressive step forward, although the approach wasn’t universally adopted by all vehicle manufacturers.

BMW Drives at Dusk

 

Boosted output

Of course, bulb enhancements were key to these performance improvements. The original tungsten filament bulbs, that had been around since the 1940s, were finally replaced by halogen bulbs in the 1970s, when it became necessary to boost light output and reduce the size of the source. However, the halogen bulb was effectively just a harder-working version of the tungsten unit (refer to the ‘Light source development’ panel).

But one of the most fundamental drawbacks with all bulbs that rely on a thin wire filament is that, sooner or later, that wire is going to burn through and fail. What’s more, the harder they’re worked (and the brighter they burn) the quicker that failure will occur. So the industry began searching for an alternative, and the first solution involved harnessing the intense light that’s produced when an electric spark jumps between two electrodes

The result was the high intensity gas discharge (HID) unit, commonly referred to as the xenon bulb. An inert gas – in this case xenon – is contained within a small glass envelope. Metal electrodes extend in from each side of this envelope, and the gap between their tips is what causes the electricity to arc, and the bulb to light. This technology offered a much longer service life (no delicate filament to break), lower power consumption, two or three times the light output of a halogen bulb and a colour temperature that was much closer to that of daylight.

On the downside, HID bulbs are very expensive, require complex electronics to control them, an integral lens washing capability and  an automatic, self-leveling system to prevent on-coming drivers from being dazzled by wayward beams. All of these factors added enormously to the cost of installation, and meant that for a good many years, the use of HID lights was restricted to high-end marques such as BMW.

LED rules, OK?

Now there’s a move afoot to replace the expensive but very effective, HID headlights with LED-based alternatives which, although still very expensive when compared to traditional halogen lighting, are a good deal more cost-effective than HID. Consequently, their use is currently restricted to the more prestigious marques, and often only to the high-end vehicles within various model ranges. BMW, however, is adopting LED lighting technology extensively across its model ranges.

The real beauty of LED as an automotive light source is that it’s incredibly controllable. So, rather than having a single light source in each headlamp unit, individual LEDs can be grouped together to produce the same sort of output, but also offer a tailoring of that output for other functions.

The computer-controlled switching of the various LED elements in a cluster can be used to vary the beam pattern that’s illuminating the road ahead, offering a degree of adaptability that’s never been possible before. These systems can be programmed to vary the output depending on the presence of other vehicles, whether they’re being followed, or are approaching from the opposite direction. So ‘high beam assist’ functionality now allows the headlights to be run permanently on their high-beam setting, with the beam pattern being adjusted automatically to suit the road conditions.

The most recent development involves a technology known as ‘LED laser’; a very futuristic-sounding but, as yet, not fully-functioning system. Somewhat disappointingly, it appears that the term ‘laser’ is a touch misleading, as there aren’t actual lasers – as you and I might imagine them – involved. Effectively, we’re still talking about LED technology, just in a higher-performance version and with a greater output.

But the high outputs are still proving difficult to control so, at the moment, this technology is restricted to the high beam units on a few, top-end vehicle applications. Inevitable, though, manufacturers will crack the problem in due course, enabling the power of LED laser lights to be harnessed effectively to use on dipped beam applications too, at which point it’ll become the most desirable lighting option.

BMW with white lights

 

Tasty source!

The Holy Grail for a lighting engineer is to create a unit that’s inexpensive to manufacture, low-cost to run, easy to direct and that produces light at a colour temperature that’s as close as possible to natural daylight. The human eye works best in daylight, so vehicle lighting that gets close to mimicking this is going to offer the safest and most effective option. This is why xenon lighting represented such a remarkable improvement over the halogen-powered systems that went before it.

Traditional, incandescent bulbs produce light with a colour temperature of about 2,700 degrees Kelvin (K), which is actually towards the yellow/orange end of the visible spectrum. A typical HID unit operates at 3,500K, which is a lot less yellow and much more neutral, while a modern LED can output light at 6,000K. This is a lot ‘cooler’ and more towards the blue portion of the spectrum.

I remember reading once that, as we age, the human eye becomes less and less sensitive to light at the yellow end of the spectrum which, of course, is exactly where most of the halogen-powered headlights sit. So, those of us of a certain age, who drive cars with traditional headlights, are actually bathing the nighttime road in a light that we find it increasingly difficult to see with!

Another interesting aspect which helped trigger the industry’s move away from HID lighting technology, is that the colour output from these lights varies during their service life. This will increase (becoming more blue), then peak and start to decrease again as the years pass. This typically occurs over a 3,000-hour period, but there are a lot of service-related variables involved, too.

Durability issues

When HID lights were first introduced, vehicle manufacturers proudly announced that these units would last the lifetime of the vehicle but, sadly, that hasn’t been the case. The life expectancy of xenon lights was relatively quickly modified to a more realistic five years and, most recently, research has revealed that it’s actually nearer three. The situation will be better with LED headlights as there’s no electrode consumption involved, so nothing to burn out.

Of course, there remain a great many cars around that still use conventional, filament-type headlight bulbs and, while most nowadays produce a reasonable output, bulb upgrades can represent an affordable and very worthwhile option. ‘High-power’ replacement bulbs from a quality producer will significantly boost light output to enhance nighttime driving and safety.

The genuine gains to be had nowadays from well-engineered, upgraded bulbs are very impressive. These used to be pegged to an improvement of about 30%, but the painstaking development work undertaken by specialist bulb producers like Ring means that it’s now possible to buy bulbs offering a genuine 150% more light output than the standard unit. What’s more, this has been achieved without affecting power consumption, so there are no potentially damaging, knock-on effects for the vehicle’s wiring, switches or sensitive engine management systems, as sometimes used to be the case. The only downside is a shorter service life but, the sort of performance gains now available easily outweigh this disadvantage.

As far as the automotive future is concerned, it would appear that the days of the filament bulb are numbered. The ‘solid state’ solution offered by LED technology will be progressively enhanced and, with unit costs being driven ever lower, the use of this lighting source is surely set to become increasingly widespread on vehicles of all types.

Ring QA lab testing bulbs

 

Light source development

Traditional bulbs operate by passing an electrical current through a thin wire, causing it to heat up and glow. The more current that’s passed, the hotter the wire gets and the brighter it glows. But there’s a balance to be struck. Overdo it and the filament will be consumed, the electrical circuit will be broken and the bulb will stop working.

The switch from conventional, filament-type light bulbs to halogen versions made a significant difference to light output. Greater brightness was achieved by ‘burning’ the filament hotter while controlling the greater evaporation rate of the filament by surrounding it with halogen gas.

When you see an old, filament-type bulb that’s failed, and you notice dark-coloured deposits on the inside of the bulb’s glass, that’s the residue from the burnt (evaporated) filament. Operating the filament in a halogen gas-rich environment triggers a reaction between the gas and the filament, causing the vapourised metallic particles to be re-deposited on the filament, thus extending service life.

High-performance halogen bulbs, which burn even hotter to achieve their greater light output, are able to do so because, as well as a halogen gas, the bulb also contains xenon. These gases are contained within the bulb’s glass envelope at a very high pressure, which acts to preserve the filament to an even greater degree.

Nevertheless, wire filaments remained an inherently weak link, with their gradual evaporation and vulnerability to vibration meaning that service life is always going to be limited. Removing the filament from the equation took vehicle lighting technology to the next level, with high intensity gas discharge (HID) and LED bulb types significantly boosting both light output and quality, as well as overall durability.

Light brightness is measured in units called lumens, and a conventional halogen bulb typically produces about 1,500 lumens. This compares to an HID bulb which outputs about 3,000 lumens while, somewhat surprisingly, the latest LED units are producing about 1,500 lumens. Arguably, they represent something of a backward step in output terms but, in every other respect – cost, efficiency, weight, electrical complexity, service life etc – they are superior.

Anecdotally, drivers are noticing the difference between HID and LED headlight systems, and not in a good way. However, it has to be said that the reduction in brightness is somewhat offset by the fact that LED light has a significantly higher colour temperature than HID light, so the illumination can appear more natural.

Unfortunately, thanks to the vagaries of the European type-approval system, LED lights have to be homologated as a single unit, in contrast to HID and halogen units, the components of which are homologated separately. Consequently, HID and halogen failures can be rectified with a replacement bulb (or other component) but, when an LED headlamp fails, the light unit has to be replaced in its entirety, which is massively more expensive.

It’s spring – time to check your caravan!

Spring is finally here! The temperature is rising, the clocks have gone forward and it’s time to get the caravan out.

But before you hit the road, you need to take the time to check your caravan to make sure everything is in full working order. Whether it’s been parked up all winter or not, a once over is crucial to make sure you stay safe and avoid a breakdown.

So here is our check-your-caravan checklist, to help you enjoy caravanning this year.

1. Check your tyres
Check your tyre pressure before you travel – under- or over-inflated tyres can make driving less safe, and reduce your fuel efficiency. To check the pressure, a gauge is the best option, and a tyre inflator is a good investment for topping up tyres easily wherever you are. Try a larger inflator to quickly inflate larger tyres. You also need to check that your tyre tread meets the legal limit of 1.6mm – a tread gauge is the best way to do this. If your tyres are below the limit, they need replacing. You can find more details on tyre care here.

2. Check all connections, plugs and sockets
Make sure all the electrics between the caravan and towing vehicle are properly connected and in good working order. Any that are faulty or looking worn need to be replaced.

3. Brakes
Fully working brakes are obviously a travel essential. You need to check that the brake drum and shoes are in the right place on all wheels, and adjust if not. You also need to check the handbrake. This article outlines how to test both brakes, but if you’re unsure, you may want to ask an expert.

4. Clean water system
Water systems can be breeding grounds for algae and bacteria, so it’s essential to clean it out before you travel. Using a special cleaning agent to flush the system to make sure it’s sterilised and ready for use. If you are replacing any old pipes, make sure to get non-transparent lines: algae needs sunlight to grow, so having pipes that aren’t see through will stop this happening.

5. Lights
Check all the bulbs on your caravan are working, and replace any that aren’t. It might be worth getting a spare bulb kit to have in the car, just in case a bulb goes while you’re on the road. It is a legal requirement that all trailers – including caravans – have two red sidelights, two red stoplights, two red reflective triangles, an illuminated number plate and amber indicators. If your caravan is over 1.3m wide, it will also need at least one fog lamp. You can get trailer boards and light units that can meet these requirements.

6. Check corner stabilisers
Your stabilisers will keep the caravan steady when you’re walking around in it – so they’re essential for a happy holiday. Make sure they are wound all the way up to keep the ‘van steady when you’re in it, and keep it safe when you’re driving.

7. Charge battery
If your caravan’s battery hasn’t been used in a while, it will likely have gone flat. Even if it hasn’t, it’s a good idea to give it a charge to get it back to full strength. A standard charger will top it up, but if you use a smart charger, it will apply a multi-stage cycle to charge, protect and repair your battery.

8. Check gas system
Getting your gas system properly serviced is an essential part of caravan maintenance. Servicing from a professional is essential, but between services you can also carry out some basic checks: look over the piping and see if there are any obvious cracks at the joints.

9. Fluid levels
Getting fluid levels topped up is a quick job that could save you a lot of hassle later. Coolant, oil and brake fluids all need checking and topping up if necessary.

10. Breakaway cable
It is a legal requirement for any trailer or caravan with brakes to have a breakaway cable. This cable is an emergency back up in case the trailer or caravan becomes detached from the towing vehicle – it could stop a technical malfunction from becoming far more serious and dangerous. Check yours is properly connected and in good condition.

Four simple steps to make fitting HID bulbs safer

HID bulbs are not new; in fact they have been around for several years. But even though they are a preferred option for many manufacturers, they are still causing some controversy in the aftermarket as mechanics remain nervous about fitting them. Henry Bisson, Ring Marketing Manager, explains four simple steps to make fitting HID bulbs safe.

“Times have changed and the technology in relation to bulbs has evolved. HID bulbs are now more common and no longer restricted to premium or luxury cars. Many models now fit HID as standard and although it was widely reported that they would last the lifetime of a car, it is typically three to five years, which has made replacing them more common than was expected.

“Changing these bulbs can seem complex when compared to standard bulbs. The main difference is that HID bulbs have no filament; they rely on a glass capsule in the centre of the bulb that contains xenon gas. Two metal electrodes going into the glass capsule allow a high voltage pulse to cross the xenon gas in an arch shape. The voltage ignites the gas to produce the bright white light output.

“For the bulbs to create such a bright light, the start-up voltage that pulses across the gas to form the arch is typically up to 24,000 volts. This start-up voltage can be hazardous, and this is what puts many technicians off, however any perceived risk can be easily avoided if mechanics follow four simple steps.”

  1. Isolate the light circuit. Turn off the ignition and headlight switch. Isolate the headlamp circuit by removing the relevant lighting fuse.
  2. Leave the bulb to cool down for five minutes.
  3. Proceed to change the bulb, as you would a normal headlamp. Remove the bulb cover. Unplug the bulb connector, then remove the HID bulb, replacing it with the same reference type.
  4. Once the bulb has been replaced, reverse the fitting process remembering to re-install the fuse.

“The benefits of being able to confidently replace HID bulbs are two-fold. When mechanics realise how simple it is, they will no longer have to turn business away and certainly won’t be suggesting that customers go back to their main dealer. In turn, they can promote the fitting of HID bulbs to increase sales, leading to increased profits.

“Mechanics being nervous is understandable but it is important that we keep up with technologies to give the driver the optimum experience. Taking the time to learn how to change these bulbs safely could make a big difference to a garage and will almost certainly maximise profits.”

For more details on HID fitting, take a look at this video for a fitter’s guide.

HID Gas Group HI RES

 

The complete range
There are four cap type references of HID bulbs; D1, D2, D3 and D4. These all come with a suffix of R or S. Bulbs with the suffix R are designed to work in complex surface headlamp units and those with an S are designed to work in projector headlamps.

The XenonHID5500 from Ring is available in three references; D2R – R851265K, D2S – R851225K and D1S – R854025K. Producing up to 20% more light on the roads than a standard HID bulb and with a colour temperature of 5500K, the bulb output is closer to daylight and creates better reflections from road markings and signs. The bulbs produce a similar light to LEDs and all Ring HID bulbs are manufactured to OEM standards and come with a three-year warranty. They are also E marked.

Importantly, HID bulbs and HID headlamp systems are only street legal if the bulbs being fitted are E marked and fitted to cars that have auto levelling to prevent dazzle and a wash/wipe to prevent the light scattering from dirt on the lens.

The RSC612 SmartCharger

A Smart Investment

Vehicle batteries are becoming more and more sophisticated. In a modern vehicle, your battery could be lead acid, gel, AGM, EFB or calcium – and have START/STOP functionality. These advances have helped batteries to handle the ever-increasing quantity of vehicle electronics, and START/STOP capability has cut fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

These advantages are great, but with better functionality comes a higher price tag. Replacing a modern battery can be expensive – up to £200. And with as many as 85% of all new vehicles in Europe expected to be fitted with START/STOP batteries by 2020 – and worldwide demand for START/STOP batteries expected to be as high as 56 million by that time – it is essential that we have battery care that can keep up.

Smart move
To help prevent damage – and keep vehicle batteries healthier for longer – it can pay motorists to invest in a smart charger. These battery chargers are more advanced than a traditional linear charger, and are therefore suitable for a wealth of different battery types – including those with START/STOP technology.

Smart chargers have a multi-stage cycle that charges, protects and repairs batteries. This means that instead of just adding charge, the charger responds to the condition of the battery, then applies the fastest charge available. It also has a repair function, which removes sulphite build-up on the battery plates. It also protects from overcharging by switching to a lower voltage charge once the battery is full.

Plan ahead
If you’re putting your classic car, motorbike or caravan away for the winter, a smart charger could help you avoid a large bill in spring. Smart chargers that have a maintenance mode are ideal for vehicles that are used infrequently; the charger will keep the battery in good condition and ready to be used while it is being stored. This way, when you go to use your vehicle, you won’t find that the battery is flat, or worse – damaged beyond repair.

Knowledge is power
A smart charger can also analyse the health of a battery. This will give you a full picture of the battery’s health, and potentially an early warning of any problems. It’s an opportunity to address issues before they escalate and become a costly disaster.

See the results
By using a smart charger, you could avoid an emergency and an unplanned expense replacing your battery. You could also help your battery last for an extra few years, which means spending less on maintenance and more on enjoying your vehicle.

For complete battery care, take a look at the RSC612/RESC612 Smart Charger. This 12A smart charger is suitable for lead acid, gel, AGM, EFB and calcium batteries, including those with START/STOP technology. It’s ideal for all 12V vehicles up to 5.0L.

See the RSC612/RESC612 in action – charging a battery and running tests.

Ring to showcase latest developments at Automechanika

It’s almost time for one of the biggest innovation showcases of the year – Automechanika Frankfurt. From 13th September – 17th September, Ring will be at the event in Hall 3.1 on Stand E:31. We will be displaying our latest developments including workshop equipment, tyre care and battery charging products.

Our team of experts will be on hand to answer any questions throughout the exhibition, and guide visitors through the latest and best of our product developments. Retailers and distributors will have the chance to see a wide selection of products.

  • Xenon130 halogen bulbs. There are the most advanced halogen technology, providing drivers with up to 130% more light on the road. These bulbs also deliver better reflections of road markings and signs, reduce eye strain and increase confidence for night time driving.
  • We’ll also be exhibiting our LED bulbs – the latest evolution in vehicle lighting technology. They use up to 80% less energy than a standard bulb and last up to five times longer.
  • The RUBL1000/REUBL1000 Under Bonnet Lamp will also be on display, showing how the best in garage illumination is achieved. The lamp uses three LEDs to provide 1,000 lumens of light output, with adjustable spotlights that prevent shadows and give a well-illuminated work space. The long operating time of the lamp limits interruption and any needless downtime for mechanics and garage technicians.
  • The multi-award winning RSC612/RESC612 Smart Charger will also feature on our stand. The battery charger and analyser has become popular with mechanics working on vehicles of all sizes. With settings for both standard vehicles and START/STOP, this piece of equipment includes battery repair tools to increase performance and battery life along with alternator analysis functions.

Holding 15 events across 14 countries, Automechanika is the world’s leading international trade fair brand for the automotive service industry. Find out more.

ScrewFix Live 2016 is here

At Ring, we like to be out and about meeting people and demonstrating our products. It’s one way that we give you the reassurance that what you’re buying is of a high standard. So come a long and see us at ScrewFix Live in Farnborough, Hampshire – we’ll be at stand A21. Hey, if we’re in a good mood we might even be giving away some free stuff too.

If you work in trade, or consider yourself an enthusiastic amateur, then Friday 30th September – Sunday 2nd October will be a fantastic weekend to see the latest products available to the industry. Ring will be featuring highlights from three of our core ranges – Battery Care, Tyre Care and Dash Cameras. These are essential items to help you get to and from the jobsite. All of our products are heavy duty and designed for trades and professional use.

Get the job done

Making sure your tyres are cared for is critical not only for keeping you on the road and on the job, but for your safety as well. Ring will present three different tyre inflators, all of which have received great reviews from various trade bodies, including one which is ScrewFix trade rated.

Your chance to win

During the weekend we will be running various competitions for your chance to win some great prizes. We’ll be looking at some real life dash camera footage, and asking you to guess ‘What Happens Next?’ Watch the clip and guess from one our five answers – and you could win. Dash Cameras have become an essential on the road. They catch every bit of your journey, so if the worst should happen you have the proof to back you up. Some insurance companies even offer up to 12% discount on policies if you let them know you have one.

Come say hello

Last year was extremely busy and featured over 135 other exhibitors from all over the DIY spectrum, so there is something for everyone. If you want to attend the event, make sure you register online at screwfixlive.com to secure your place.

Top Technician and Top Technician 2016

Top Technician rewards the UK’s top mechanics

Here at Ring, we have been supporting the automotive aftermarket for more than 40 years. So sponsoring Top Technician 2016 was a no-brainer for us.

Top Technician is an annual competition created in 2002 by Aftermarket Magazine to reward the best vehicle technicians in the UK.

We know that top mechanics are committed to raising standards and to delivering the best possible service, which we believe should be endorsed and recognised. Just like the professionals taking part, we are also committed to raising standards in the workshop, by developing trade tools that have been designed to help mechanics and technicians to be the best they can be.

Here’s a few ways in which our products support technicians across the UK and beyond.

Bulbs
Bulb technology is at the heart of our business and is supported by unique product testing facilities. Standard, Longer Life, Performance and more recently Xenon HID bulbs all feature within the Ring bulb range. The flagship Xenon130, as an example, continues to outperform its competitors and put 130% more light on the road.

Inspection Tools
Retaining our position at the forefront of innovation – which includes utilising the latest ‘Chip on Board’ (COB) technology for superior output – Ring offers an extensive range of award-winning inspection lamps. Ring’s inspection tools have been built to last, and have light sources to suit most work spaces, whether compact, heavy duty, high power or intended for inspection.

Importantly, every item developed is designed with the professional, working environment in mind. This includes the recent additions to Ring’s MAGflex and Ergo ranges – the MAGflex Twist and Ergo Robust.

Battery Analysers
Assessing the need for replacement or recharge, Ring offers an extensive range of Battery Analysers that accurately diagnose and repair faults. These help professionals get the complete picture of a battery’s health.

Smart Chargers
Our SmartChargePro is two tools in one. It has a multi-chemistry function that adjusts the charge to precisely match the specific battery type. Acting as a battery support unit, this product provides constant battery voltage for when vehicle diagnostic equipment is connected and requires power.

Power Packs
Compact and heavy duty, Ring’s range of power packs is capable of jump starting multiple cars, and commercial vehicles – including buses, trucks and agricultural vehicles – from one charge. With safety features including reverse polarity, short circuit and anti-spike protection, our power packs are designed to be safe and easy to use.

Entries for Top Technician are now closed with semi-finals due to take place in mid-July. However, tickets are still available for Top Technician Live, which is a one day interactive training event, allowing technicians to learn from some of the leading companies in the automotive aftermarket. The day will feature classroom and practical sessions as well as presentations from industry experts and panel discussions. To order tickets visit the Top Technician website.

Top Technician Live will also feature the announcement of the winner of Top Technician 2016.

Get your tyres into shape

Spring is finally here, and for many of us, it’s time to get back out on the road. Whether you’re travelling to see friends and family, seeing the countryside or getting out your classic car, it’s vital that you make sure your tyres are in good shape – and road legal.

Tyre care matters
Your tyres are the only part of the vehicle that has contact with the road – so keeping them well maintained is essential. It will make vehicle handling easier, and allow for greater fuel efficiency, as well as cutting down wear and tear – saving you money at the pumps and in maintenance costs. Poorly-maintained tyres could also mean a failed MOT – according to the DVSA, around 10% of all MOT failures are down to poor tyre maintenance.

As well as all this, there are regulations for tyres that you must meet – failure to meet these requirements could lead to a fine or penalty points.

Tyre tread
These are the legal requirements for tyre treads – if your tyres don’t meet these measurements, they are not road legal and need to be replaced.

  • Passenger vehicles for up to 8 seated passengers, good vehicles up to 3,500kg max weight and light trailers up to 3,500kg max weight must have 1.6mm throughout a continuous band in the central section of the tread around the entire tyre.
  • Vehicles larger than 3,500kg or eight seated passengers and motorbikes over 50cc must have 1mm throughout a continuous band in the central section of the tread around the entire tyre.
  • On mopeds and motorbikes under 50cc, the tread pattern must be visible.

Why is it important? The tyre tread grooves are important for driving in wet weather – something we’re all too familiar with in Britain. The grooves help remove water from the contact area between the tyre and road, allowing you to brake, steer and accelerate properly. Whilst meeting the legal minimum tread depths will stop you from getting in trouble with the law, tests show that when the tread drops below 3mm, it significantly affects the stopping distance when braking.

How to check: a tyre tread gauge is a simple piece of kit, small enough to keep in the glovebox. You can get standalone depth gauges or ones that are integrated with a pressure gauge as well. The RTG2 Tyre and Depth Gauge is a standard set, with analogue kit. Or for an integrated option, look at the RTG7 Programmable Digital Tyre and Tread Depth Gauge. Just insert the gauge into the tread to take a reading. You need to check the tyre tread regularly.

Tyre pressure

There aren’t any legal requirements for tyre pressure, but this doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Well-inflated tyres will help improve fuel efficiency and make handling easier. Don’t forget – it’s not just under inflated tyres that are dangerous: over-inflated tyres have less contact with the road, which can reduce traction and increase braking distance.

What is my tyre pressure? You can find out what your tyre pressure should be from your vehicle handbook.

How can I check my pressure? The most accurate way to check your tyre pressure is to use a tyre gauge. There are several types – including analogue and digital gauges. Simply insert the gauge into the tyre valve and you’ll have a reading. A simple analogue gauge – like the RTG1 Tyre Gauge – is a good value option to get a reading. However, for a more advanced solution, the RTG7 is a digital gauge that measures tyre pressure and tread depth, and is programmable – so it will store the recommended tyre pressures for your car for future reference.

How can I inflate my tyres at home? We recommend using a tyre inflator to pump up your tyres. These are small, efficient devices that are powered from your in-car 12V socket (cigarette lighter), a mains plug or, in the case of larger models, from the vehicle battery. For regular car tyres, we recommend the Ring RAC610 or RAC660. The RAC610 is a basic inflator with an analogue dial. For a more advanced piece of kit, the RAC660 is a good choice – it inflates a 13″ tyre in under 2 mins with either DC or AC power, has a digital screen, adaptors for bikes, LED light, preset function and case.

Other tyre essentials
If you see anything that looks irregular on your tyre, like lumps, bumps, cuts, tears or anything that looks like it shouldn’t – it’s time to get your tyres looked at. It is also illegal to have different types of tyres fitted to the same axle – don’t mix and match radial and cross-ply tyres. A garage will be able to advise on this.

Check today
Most people wait until they’ve failed their MOT before addressing the health of their tyres. To make sure you’re being safe, don’t wait: have a look at your tyres today.

Want more details? See our full tyre care range. Or see our video on how to inflate a car tyre.

LED lighting – a brighter future

LED (light emitting diode) lighting is one of the hottest technologies and is an exciting alternative to traditional incandescent and halogen lighting. As one of the most competitive and fast paced industries in the world, the automotive sector has developed this cutting-edge technology to be top-spec, highly effective vehicle lighting.

The science and benefits behind LED lighting
LEDs are composed of a semiconductor diode – a material that can conduct electricity – which becomes a source of illumination. Light is produced when the particles that carry the electrical current combine together with the semiconductor material. There is no gas involved in the production of their cool white light and they have a higher light per watt ratio than incandescent bulbs.

The main benefits of LED lighting are its long life span and low energy usage. Our LED bulbs can last up to six times longer than a standard bulb and can use up to 80% less energy. LEDs are ecologically friendlier than other traditional technologies as they don’t contain toxic chemicals, and their low energy use will reduce your carbon footprint.

Long life reliability meets performance
Our performance LEDs emit a pristine finish with a 7000k ice white appearance which will give your vehicle a high spec, luxury look. They also include 3D technology that will distribute 270˚ of light.

Specialist information
Currently the regulations for automotive lighting so not take into account LED bulbs. Therefore, any LEDs that are fitted to the exterior of your vehicle are for off road use only.

Want to find out more? See our full LED range here.

Dash Cameras – your personal eye witness

More and more UK motorists are beginning to see the benefits of having an in-car camera. So why are sales for these compact devices increasing so rapidly?

Crash for Crash and insurance fraud

Crash for Cash is one of the biggest vehicle-based crimes, and there is no sign of it slowing down. Highly organised criminals and opportunists usually stage or provoke an ‘accident’ by making an innocent motorist crash into the back of the fraudster’s car. The fraudster will then submit an exaggerated claim for vehicle damage, personal injury and loss of earnings. The honest policy holder will have to pick up the bill, with an extra sum being added to their insurance premiums.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau states that Crash for Cash scams are costing UK insurance companies a staggering £392 million a year. A dash camera is an effective way to combat this increasing problem. It is your very own personal eye witness, giving you concrete video evidence to prove you were not at fault. It’s a sure fire way to look after your insurance premiums.

Cheaper car insurance

As dash cam popularity increases, a number of UK insurance companies are offering discounts for motorists who have them installed. Dash cams benefit everyone; the insurance companies will spend less time and resource investigating the case and the driver can prove that their testimony is accurate.

Protection on the road with Ring

All of our dash cams are hassle free, easy to install and set up. Simply plug in and you’re ready to go. They all have 1080 resolution for clear and crisp footage and allows you to pick up specific details – like vehicle registrations. They automatically turn on when the engine is started and turn off when you park up, meaning they won’t drain your battery. A loop recording system is built-in, which means even on smaller capacity SD cards recording will not stop due to being full, as new recordings replace the oldest footage.

Ultimate dash cam protection

The RBGDC200 is our ultimate dash cam. It has a wide-angled 140 degree 6 element lens coupled with a 3MP sensor, that won’t miss any of the action. It performs exceptionally well at night and has GPS tracking, allowing you to see where you have driven and the speed you were travelling, by using the provided software linked to Google Maps™. It gives you unparalleled protection on the road.

See our full range of dash cams and give yourself the protection you deserve.