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Since writing this page I have received some very important information from a visitor regarding push starting or towing cars.   Apparently, if the car is fitted with an exhaust catalyst, pushing or towing will ruin the catalyst and this could prove very costly.

My sincere thanks to Frank Cope for bringing this to my attention

This has prompted Dave Marston to contact me with the following information -

"Regarding the issue of towing and pushing cars with a catalytic converter, it is perfectly fine to tow a car with one. Push starting one may cause problems if the engine is turning and supplying petrol but not firing. The reason a 'cat' may get its life shortened (but not ruined instantly) is that unburnt petrol is getting on to it, which might happen from persistent push starting where firing does not occur. Push starting due to a flat battery only (i.e starter won't turn) should be fine as the engine should fire as soon as it would when started normally.

One way of prolonging catalytic converter life is to avoid revving or blipping the engine before turning it off as this leaves unburnt fuel on it. By letting the engine idle for a few seconds before turning off lets it settle. Also very short journeys reduce its life as it doesn't get up to temperature."

As with everything there are always several different points of view!  I can only pass on the information and leave it to you to make your choices!

My steering lock is jammed, how can I free it?

If the usual method of gently turning the steering wheel from side to side does not do the trick then the best thing to try is to remove the load from the steering mechanism.  To do this jack up the front of the car in the middle of the axle.  Then, normally, the steering wheel and lock will no longer be under load and the key can be turned as normal.

Contribution received from David Dempsey (ex AA)

My car battery is flat, how can I start my car?

If your vehicle has a manual gear box it may be possible to get it started by a push-start.

Switch on the ignition and release the handbrake.   Put into third gear and hold the clutch pedal fully down while someone push the car along at a brisk walking pace.  Once momentum has been achieved let in the clutch sharply, and providing there is nothing else wrong, the engine should start.

An alternative method is to use another car and some jump leads.  CHECK YOUR CAR'S HANDBOOK TO ENSURE IT IS PERMISSIBLE TO JUMP START THE ENGINE as serious damage can be caused to some cars with electronic engine management systems.

Jump leads are heavy duty, red and black, electric cables with clips at both ends.

Park another car with a healthy battery next to your car so that the jump leads can reach both batteries, obviously don't let the cars touch each other. 

Ensure handbrakes are on and ignitions are off.

The red cable is positive and the black, negative.   

Connect them between the terminals on the two batteries in this order  THE RED LEAD FROM POSITIVE (+) TO POSITIVE (+)  THEN BLACK LEAD FROM NEGATIVE (-) TO NEGATIVE (-) 

When connecting the negative lead to the car with the faulty battery you should clamp it to a bare metal body part or an engine component that is at least 30 cm (1 ft) away from the battery.    Thanks to Russell Pitcher for pointing this out.

Make sure all lights and accessories are turned off in your own car. Start the engine of the donor car and run at fast idling speed and, if your battery was absolutely flat, wait for a few minutes for the other battery to boost the voltage in yours before trying to start your engine.

Start your engine in the normal way. 

When it is running, disconnect the leads in this order,


More detailed information on this subject can be found at http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/breakdown_advice/using-jumpleads.html 

My engine has overheated, what do I do now?                               broken down car

The two signs that your engine has overheated are the temperature gauge shows "Hot" or the coolant warning light comes on when you are driving.

Stop driving as soon as possible and allow engine to cool down for at least 15 minutes before checking.  If you remove the radiator cap before the engine has cooled down you could get scalded.

If you use a cloth or rag bunched around the cap when opening this will reduce the risk of any mishap should it not have cooled down completely.  Most radiator caps come off in two stages, a quarter turn will allow most of the pressure to release without letting blast of steam out into your face and the second quarter turn will completely release the cap.  

Once again, thanks to Russell Pitcher for the timely advice.

When the engine has cooled down, check the level of coolant, either in the radiator by slowly removing the cap using a glove or cloth or some cars have a plastic expansion tank where the level can be seen easily.

In many cases you can get going again by topping up the water level to the mark on the expansion tank or just below the filler cap on the radiator.


Tips:          In winter one of the tell tale signs a car is running without enough cooling water is when the heater starts to blow cold air into the car instead of hot.

Whilst waiting for the engine to cool down, check for any obvious signs of a leak.  A leaking coolant hose can be temporarily repaired by binding with tape.  A leaking radiator can be temporarily sealed with chewing gum stuck over the hole.

Check the belt that drives the water pump and radiator fan on many cars.  All cars have at least one belt to drive the generator and water pump and perhaps a power steering pump as well.  A slipping or broken generator drive belt will not allow the battery to be charged efficiently.  On many cars the same belt drives the engine water pump and fan, so the engine may overheat.  If the belt is slipping it will make a screaming noise when the engine is running.  This means it needs adjustment and is wearing badly and should be replaced as soon as possible, otherwise, it could break.  Some belts are fairly easily replaced, however, as many are difficult (if not impossible by the amateur), it is probably best to seek advice.


There is a lot of expert advice on a variety of motoring related subjects at  http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/breakdown_advice/index.html 






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