Blog posts tagged in car safety

Here are ten good reasons why you should park your car at our garage for a service, MOT or repair:

  1. Over 40 years’ experience repairing and servicing vehicles
  2. No-fuss reception area means you pay for our skills not the frills
  3. ‘Buy with Confidence’ accreditation from Essex County Council Trading Standards
  4. Our customer loyalty schemes (‘Pass it on’ and ‘Rewarding Service’) will save you money
  5. Free pick up and drop off service for local customers
  6. Courtesy cars available – including our very popular Audi TT!
  7. Pop in any time for a FREE health check.
  8. If you have a car related question or query, or just want a price, just call and email us; we’re here to help
  9. We welcome all makes and models
  10. We can help you save money, stay safe and keep your car on the road

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It’s not just the TV that breaks down at Christmas, but please make sure it’s not your car.

Here are three actions you can take now to make sure you and your family can enjoy the festive season:

1.  Cover the bases.  If the weather forecast is looking bad or just uncertain and you need to drive, then make sure your tank’s full; if you get stuck in bad weather you can keep the engine running and stay warm until help arrives or conditions become less severe.  Having the right tyre pressure is vital whatever the weather, but in wintry conditions check the tread: the legal minimum is 1.6mm, but it’s better to have a deeper tread of at least 3mm, as it will be more effective at clearing water.  If you haven’t put antifreeze in your car since the summer, now’s the time to do it.

2.  See and be seen.  The combination of icy conditions and grit on the roads means you’ll use more screen wash than normal, so put a spare bottle in the boot with a can of de-icer and a plastic scraper.  Keep a second can of de-icer at home and you’ll be able to deal with frozen locks quickly first thing in the morning.  Windscreen wipers should also be checked now because worn ones won’t be effective against sleet and snow and you can’t drive blind.  If it gets misty outside, keep dipped headlights on, if it gets foggy, then turn your fog lights on; you’ll be more visible and you’ll see more too.

3.  Put the right equipment in the boot.  Take an old sleeping bag (which makes a great duvet), a hoodie and a pair of gloves; shove them in a dustbin liner, put the lot in the boot and forget about it. You may never need to use them over the winter period, but you’ve got the kit just in case.  You probably already have a torch in the glove compartment, right?  If you haven’t, put one in now.  Should the weather forecast indicate that snow is a possibility, it makes sense to keep a shovel and a couple of pieces of cardboard or old carpet in the boot too; it could help you or another motorist out of a tricky situation.

If you do set off on a journey, run out of petrol, a snow storm starts and you’ve forgotten to put warm clothing in the boot, at least you’ll be able to call for help, because you’ve kept your mobile phone fully charged.  Yes?

If you’d like more advice on making sure your vehicle is ready for winter conditions, please call us on 01206 211483 or call in: Unit 4 Prince of Wales Industrial Estate, London Road, Marks Tey, Colchester, Essex CO6 1ED.

Merry Christmas and drive safely!

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Four times a year for the last three years, Paul Miller, manager at the Marks Tey based John Austin garage, has been successfully running free Pit Stop Workshops on Saturday mornings to help people learn about car maintenance using a practical, hands on approach.  The third one of this year was held on Saturday 11 August.

“Cars are so complex these days, there is very little we can to do if something goes wrong, so it’s easy to become a bit complacent with more general maintenance.  This inevitably leads to problems which could have been avoided, not to mention higher repair bills,” said Paul.

The Pit Stop Workshop is designed to reduce the fear of basic car maintenance through familiarity.  It gives people the confidence to know that if they are stranded with a flat tyre and the phone’s dead or there’s no signal, they can handle the situation.  As this is not covered as part of the driving test, it’s a good opportunity for those learning to drive to come along and give themselves a head start.

After Paul had put everyone through their paces, it was time for a rest and free coffee and cake at The Food Company!

The John Austin final Pit Stop Workshop  of the year will be held on Saturday 17 November.

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We know from our customer surveys that over 95% of our customers have come to us through referral.  We really appreciate that, and we’d like to encourage and reward those referrals starting right now.  We are therefore delighted to announce the launch of Pass it on.  As the name suggests, this scheme will reward John Austin customers with a discount of 20% off their next service or repair and the person referred to us will receive a 10% discount.  Technically, the referred person will now be a John Austin customer, so once they refer a new customer to us, they too will be eligible for a 20% discount.

To get started, all our customers have to do is call in to the garage and pick up a Pass it on card.  They complete their details and hand the whole card to a friend, colleague or relative who isn’t currently a John Austin customer; they add their details, book their vehicle in and then hand the card to us when collecting it to receive their discount.  Our customers have up to 36 months to redeem their 20% discount and, as it CAN be used in conjunction with any other promotional scheme we may be operating, that discount could be even bigger.  There is no downside to this scheme; it really is a win-win situation!

In March this year we launched our loyalty scheme Rewarding Service, where customers receive a stamp for every £20 spent at the garage (on a service, repair, MOT and products).  Once 20 stamps are collected, they, or someone they give the car to, can have their vehicle’s air conditioning serviced for FREE.  So far we’ve had an amazing response; it’s just really sad that most of us haven’t needed to keep cool.  Here’s hoping the summer comes soon.

Colchester will be welcoming the Olympic Torch this Friday as part of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. It is a real once in a lifetime experience where members of the local community will be running with the torch through the town.  The team at John Austin are looking forward to being there to witness the event themselves, even if it is very early in the morning!

Now we all know when the Torch will be arriving, but what route will it travel along? And where can you park? John Austin has the answers!

The Torch will arrive on Ipswich Road at approximately 7:28am. It will travel down East Street, East Hill and the High Street, then on to North Hill. At the bottom of North Hill the Torch will turn left on to Middleborough where it will leave Colchester at approximately 8:16am and continue on the next leg of its’ journey to Hatfield Peverel.

Anyone who wishes to see the Torch is advised to get there in plenty of time – the streets will fill up pretty quickly! Any traffic waiting to use the roads will be delayed for a short time and the Essex Police are asking for your patience in this matter.

So how do you get there? Of course the best plan of action would be walking or cycling, or arranging something called a ‘walking bus’ where a group of you get together and walk to your chosen viewing point. However if you live that little bit further away you can drive and take advantage of the free parking that the University of Essex are offering on their Colchester campus. From here the closest point on the Torch Relay route is East Hill – about 30 minutes’ walk from the campus, where you can see the Torch on its journey through the town. It is recommended that you arrive at the campus early to secure a parking spot, as these will fill up very quickly too!

We hope this information has helped you plan for the journey. If you want any further information you can visit the  Colchester Council website at;—Travel-Advice-for-Colchester where you can also find a list of different activities that are happening on the day, including a bouncy castle, Zumba class and face painting.

On Friday 27 April our manager Paul, and his new wife Gemma, completed a skydive to raise money for charity Help for Heroes in the name of Courtney Fraser, whose father was seriously injured in Afghanistan and is now unable to serve.

They were up bright and early for an 8:30 start at Beccles Airfield, where they received training and some health and safety guidance.  Then they were strapped to their instructors and ready to go; in fact Paul and Gemma had the skies to themselves that day because of the unfavourable weather conditions.

The couple decided on a tandem skydive instead of an expensive honeymoon, as it would have meant leaving their 16-month old son Zaviar behind.  Gemma said, “We decided to do it because it’s a once in a lifetime experience and it was for a very good cause.  It was strange because after you jump out of the plane, you don’t feel like you’re moving at all. You would have thought being strapped to a complete stranger then jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet would be really scary, but it wasn’t too bad. What stuck in my head was the eerie silence, and the fact that it was freezing cold!”

They were given the chance to steer their own parachutes, which Gemma aptly described as “trying to hold on to an umbrella in the wind.”  She landed safely in the field, but there was no sign of Paul. It turns out he had landed in a completely different field – and men say women are bad drivers!

The couple raised £215 for Help for Heroes and adrenaline junkie Paul wants to do a bungee jump for their next fundraising event.  Lucky Gemma.

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Paul Miller, manager at the John Austin VW & Audi Specialists Ltd. in Marks Tey, is doing a sponsored tandem skydive with his new wife, Gemma, to raise money for charity Help for Heroes.  Gemma was hoping for a lovely relaxing honeymoon somewhere exotic, but instead she’s going to be plunging through the air at 12,000 feet a minute!

Paul is looking forward to it, “I’m very excited; it really is a once in a lifetime experience and will be such an adrenaline rush. We haven’t really got a financial target, but the more sponsors we can get, the more Help for Heroes will benefit and that’s the most important thing.”

Gemma is feeling a little differently, “I’m very nervous! I’m not a daredevil at heart, but I know that we are doing it for a good cause. I’m sure when we get up there it’ll be a lot of fun.”

A tandem skydive involves two people jumping out of a plane at an altitude of about 10,000 – 12,000 feet and freefalling at 120mph. The instructor you are strapped to will deploy the parachute at around 5,000 feet to slow you down so you can take in the amazing views and land safely.   Paul and Gemma will be doing their skydive in Beccles, Suffolk on Friday 27April and are hoping to raise as much money as possible for ‘Help for Heroes’.  You can help raise money by visiting the website:

Marianne West the Help for Heroes Volunteer County Coordinator for Essex added that she was delighted that Paul and Gemma had chosen to support the charity with their skydive.  One of the latest local projects to benefit from funds raised  is  the  brand new Chavasse VC Centre in Berechurch Road, Colchester which will be  officially opened on 8 May. .  The build has been funded by £6Million from Help for Heroes and it will run the Recovery Centre, with the Army providing the staff required to deliver key recovery activities to serving and veteran soldiers. The Recovery Centre will provide a Support Hub, where a collection of welfare agencies and other services charities will give a ‘one stop shop’ of advice and support for serving personnel, veterans and their families – for life.

Emma Parry, CEO & co-founder, Help for Heroes said: “Help for Heroes is all about ‘doing your bit’ and this event is a wonderful example of people rallying support and having a great deal of fun while they raise money for a wonderful cause.  We have been able to use the £millions raised for the charity (over £131Million in just four and a half years), to provide practical and direct support to those wounded in the current conflicts. The money you raise is needed, it is being used almost as soon as it is received, and is hugely appreciated.  There is still a wish list of £66Million for future projects!”

We’re delighted to announce that we have been short-listed as one of the nine finalists in the Colchester Business Awards for Excellent Customer Service.

Speaking about the news, Marc Linch, managing director, said: “Without our loyal customers we wouldn’t have a business and we really appreciate it that many have been using the garage for years, some for decades.  We always do our very best when servicing or repairing their vehicles, but never take their custom for granted and are constantly looking at ways of giving something back and improving the whole customer experience.  To win in this category would be brilliant, but to get this far means a lot to the whole team.”

We know our customers are spoiled for choice when it comes to garages in the area; some have lower price structures than ours too, however our company ethos is based on trust, excellence and putting our customers at the heart of every development within the company.

The vast majority of our customers use us because we provide a highly professional service, at less than dealership prices – important at any time, but more especially in these straitened times.  We are able to control our costs by keeping our overheads deliberately low; we pride ourselves on providing  “skills not frills”, something we know our customers appreciate, as many have been using us for decades.  Although “we don’t do the frills” we do, of course, have a free local pick-up and delivery service and a pool of courtesy cars.

Last year we received the “Buy with Confidence” accreditation from Essex County Council Trading Standards and are one of only four garages in the Colchester area to receive the award.  We also run schemes which give our customers added value too.  For example, all returning customers receive a 5% discount on their next service and, with our loyalty scheme “Rewarding Service” they – or someone they nominate – can have a free air conditioning service.

Our referral scheme “Pass it on” gives a new customer 10% off their first service or repair with us, and the customer who recommended them receives a further 20% off their next service or repair.  Importantly the 20% discount CAN be used in conjunction with any of our promotional offers.

For customers who want to get as much performance out of their vehicle, without increasing their fuel costs, we’ve introduced a tuning service.  And, finally, we run free Pit Stop Workshops throughout the year to help motorists gain skills in basic car maintenance.

We’re looking forward to the new year when we’ve got even more planned!

Paul Miller, manager at John Austin, has done it again!

On a blustery February morning, we abandoned our Saturday morning lie-ins to attend his Pit Stop Workshop.

The Pit Stop Workshop is designed to reduce the fear of basic  maintenance through familiarity.  It gives people the confidence to know that if they are stranded with a flat tyre and the phone’s dead or there’s no signal, they can handle the situation.  As this is not covered in driving lessons, it’s a good opportunity for those learning to drive to come along and give themselves a head start.  On this occasion most of us were seasoned drivers, but we all found we had something to learn!

With the complexity of cars these days, fiddling about under the hood, unless you really know what you’re doing, is to be discouraged.  This has, inevitably, led to many of us becoming complacent about dealing with the most simple of car care basics, relying instead on the annual service.   But often it’s those simple things that we can all do something about but don’t, that can help us avoid expensive repair bills later on.

Our reliance on breakdown services means we could sit on the side of the road for hours with a flat tyre too waiting for help which, if it was a lovely sunny day might not be so bad.  But if it was like a day like today, you’d want to be able to do something about it, and we all felt after two hours’ ‘training’ we could.

Not only did we all gain knowledge and insight, but we were able to relax and chat about our experiences afterwards over coffee and cake at The Food Company next door.

The team at John Austin have three more Pit Stop Workshops lined up this year:  Saturday 12th May, Saturday 11th August and Saturday 17th November.  If you’d like to come along or have a question, call Paul on 01206 211483 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

As of 1st January 2012, the MOT test has been changed to comply with the revised European testing directive.  The new test will reflect the growing electronical complexity of modern cars.

You can see all of the new test criteria below – it’s a pretty substantial list!

Instead of getting a ‘fail’ straight away with these new criteria, you will get an ‘advisory’ notice up until the end of March 2012, so you have a bit of time to get them fixed.  But if your MOT isn’t due until this April, then your car will immediately be classed as a ‘fail’ if any it doesn’t pass all of the criteria below:

List of New Testable Components

  • Headlamp levelling and cleaning devices when fitted for HID or LED headlamps
  • Main beam ‘tell-tale’
  • Battery (including batteries for electric or hybrid vehicles)
  • Electrical wiring and connectors
  • Trailer electrical socket security and damage
  • Operation of 13-pin trailer electrical sockets using an approved trailer socket tester
  • Operation of the steering lock (where fitted) including that malfunction warning is not displayed for an electronic steering lock
  • Electronic power steering malfunction warning indicating a fault
  • Electronic parking brake control and malfunction indicator lamp
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC) components, including the switch (if fitted) and malfunction warning
  • Brake fluid warning lamp illuminated or inoperative
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS)
  • Supplementary Restraint System (SRS) components including airbags, seat belt pre-tensioners, seat belt load limiters and SRS malfunction warning lamp
  • Engine mountings
  • Speedometer
  • Indirect vision devices (where they replace obligatory mirrors)

For Class 5 vehicles, there are also the following new components:

  • Electronic Braking System warning device
  • Entrance/exit steps and doors
  • Door remote and emergency controls
  • Door open warning devices
  • Stairs
  • Emergency exit signs, windows and ‘break glass’ hammers

For more detail on the new test criteria, visit the VOSA website at:

We’ve just run our second Pit Stop Workshop so even more ladies in Essex are now self-sufficient in car maintenance.  We asked one of our enthusiastic Pit Stoppers, Aisha Allan from Kelvedon, if she’d like to write about her experience; she said ‘yes’ so here’s her blog:

A pit stop workshop sounded about the last place I would choose to be on a Saturday morning. When I got the invite I must confess I wasn’t at all keen on starting my weekend in a garage, covered in grease and dirt. But when Paul told me there would be free tea and cake afterwards, well, it became an offer I just couldn’t refuse.

Greeted on that blustery morning by a warming cup of latte and smiling faces, I was looking forward to learning about car maintenance, because frankly, I didn’t know a lot – surely that’s what AA membership is for? But realising that if I got stuck on the side of the road with a flat tyre and a dead phone I’d still be able to do something about it, was convincing enough for me to give up a few hours of my time to learn.

I use my car every day to get to and from work, yet I found out I didn’t know a lot about it. We started with the basics. First, how to check tyre pressure and oil levels. This was easy enough, and after a few practice attempts I got the hang of it. The difficult part was changing a tyre.

Paul gave us lots of useful hints and tips along the way – don’t try to jack your car up on gravel, make sure it’s parked on level ground.  And if you get a flat tyre when it’s raining, wait in the car for the AA to arrive (that’s one of my useful tips).


We got down and dirty changing the wheels, but a bit of audience participation was expected. Us girls had the opportunity to learn from the best, and have a laugh along the way.


I have to say I’m glad I spent my Saturday morning in a garage. The Pit Stop Workshop has given me piece of mind; now I know if I get stuck somewhere with a flat tyre I can deal with it myself.  And for a girl like me to handle something like that and not have to call the AA, I would call a pretty big achievement.

And of course, the tea and cake afterwards were winners!

Paul Miller, manager, John Austin VW & Audi Specialists, has been taking a deeper look at car safety, with surprising results.

Road safety awareness has come a long way in recent times and whereas previously we may have bought a car because of its style, speed, functionality and perhaps even its pulling power,  now safety has become a major consideration when making that all important purchase. For this reason car manufacturers are constantly striving to improve their safety systems and come up with the latest innovations to get ahead of the pack.

Considering that it was a Volvo engineer who first invented the seat belt back in 1959 it is no wonder we’ve come to regard Volvo as synonymous with safety. For many years they have focused their marketing campaigns on the safety features of their cars and promoted themselves as making ‘the safest cars in the world’. However last year Toyota successfully took them to court and it was ruled that these claims were ‘misleading and lacked supporting evidence’. So have we been hoodwinked?

Let’s take a look at the evidence.  The most widely recognised safety testing is performed by Euro NCAP. They perform independent assessments of cars sold within Europe and award stars based on the safety of their performance in crash test situations.

In a press release Euro NCAP disclosed their top five overall achievers; Volvo didn’t put in an appearance until ‘joint 5th place’ receiving only three out of a potential five stars. Volvo was preceded by VW Golf, Honda Insight Hybrid, Toyota Prius, Hyundai i20. So it does seem that the public perception of Volvo may be somewhat misguided.

The tests cover all aspects of a car’s safety performance from frontal impact and side impact to child, driver and pedestrian protection. They are considered exhaustive by most; however some believe that other more unusual factors also come into play.

Believe it or not there have been several studies carried out worldwide to try to establish the safest colour car to drive! So does colour play a part in how safe a car is? Well according to the various experiments conducted it absolutely does.

It is apparent time and time again that silver is safest. In almost every study silver cars come out as least likely to be involved in an accident.  The reason for this (here’s the science bit) is because silver has highly reflective qualities and is not a colour that occurs naturally in the environment.  It therefore easily attracts our attention and stands out against the black roads or at night time, reducing its chances of being involved in a collision. The same can be said of white and other light coloured vehicles. Darker colours such as black, dark blue and bottle green cars are all thought to be at a greatly increased risk of being involved in more serious accidents.

It does appear that there is more to consider when buying a car than air bags and NCAP stars, although perhaps the most important safety feature is the one ‘behind’ the wheel.

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