22 articles Tag car

Is Your Car Ready for Winter? #TestYourTreads

I don’t know if it’s just me, but after a pretty mild Autumn, it feels as though winter has sneaked up on me out of nowhere! Christmas is less than a month away but we’ve only just started wearing proper winter coats and boots and I think this year has been the latest we’ve ever put our heating on too. Living in the countryside means that we have to do certain things to prep for winter; we’re off the grid for gas, so we have to make sure we’ve had a delivery of LPG to last us, and we also use a log burner for heat which means making sure our wood is well seasoned and checking whether we might need to have more delivered.

Obviously, living remotely means that our car is really important to us, too, as we’d be stranded without it, so there are a few things we check there like anti-freeze, low-temperature screen wash and also our tyres. TyrePlus is urging everyone to #TestYourTreads to remind them that tyres which are worn below the legal limit can be even more dangerous in the winter.

Their experts say “Tyres aren’t just those great big rubber things that carry you from A to B. They’re a lot more sensitive than they look which is why we want you to help us spread the message about the importance of giving your tyres the TLC they need. They might look tough (and indeed they are) but deep down, they need a fair bit of looking after. Unfortunately, there are still far too many people who think The 20p Test is something you might find at a fairground amusement arcade.”

“This handy little test actually requires you to pop a 20p coin in the grooves of the tyre and if the outer band of the coin is visible at any point, the treads are below the legal limit. Carrying out simple checks like this one on a regular basis will keep car safety in check, reduce damage to vehicles and help eliminate unnecessary road accidents.”

A lot of people take it for granted that if their MOT is up to date then their tyres MUST be legal but this isn’t always the case, so performing the test above could really help to keep you safe. Also, take a look at any advisories on your last MOT because if your tyres were worn close to the legal limit and noted on your test, there’s a good chance they need replacing.

Obviously, the risks of having unsafe tyres are potentially fatal, so I’m sure I don’t need to reiterate how important it is to check them. What are you waiting for? Check them NOW!

Car Travel with Baby: Priceless Pointers for Hitting the Road with a Little One

With some parents feeling scared or anxious about driving with their baby in the car, the thought of a road trip can be extremely daunting for some however, many parents have clearly risen above this initial fear. It is estimated parents drive an average of 27,000 miles just driving their kids around. Whilst this statistic includes driving teens, most parents become content with driving their babies and younger children around in the long-run.

But if you are still feeling a little apprehensive about a long drive with your baby, it’s totally normal! Every parent moves at their own pace and it’s no secret that accidents do happen on the roads. So if you’re looking for some top tips and extra reassurance for hitting the road with a little one, here are some important pointers to take on board!

Make sure you have enough space

Especially for long journeys that require hours, if not days, of driving, being comfortable and having the right amount of space is essential for both you and your baby. You’ll likely have luggage with you so make sure to pack efficiently instead of just throwing everything in at the last minute.

And, where your baby is concerned, you’ll probably have a plethora of diapers, wipes and changes of clothes that need space too – not to mention the car seat! The most obvious solution for this would be to invest in a large, family-friendly vehicle like the Dodge Journey which is ideal for long road trips.

But, if your current finances won’t stretch to a new car, make sure to take whatever space you have and don’t over-pack, as being uncomfortable and cramped for hours on end won’t be good for your baby (or you!). 

Take snacks

There’s nothing worse than a hungry child screaming in the backseat when you’ve got no food in the car (especially when you can’t just turn up the Saker Racing car speakers and drown them out!). And, as the driver, it’s vital that you keep your energy levels up as you don’t want to feel lethargic behind the wheel for safety reasons.

Make sure to pack plenty of snack options for both yourself and your child. If your child is too young to eat solid foods, ensure you have plenty of pre-prepared bottles ready to go as the last thing you want is to make your baby uncomfortably hungry just because you didn’t plan ahead.

Bring toys or blankets

Being stuck in a car for hours on end is likely to be somewhat distressing for your baby no matter how much you plan ahead. But, if you bring some of their favourite cuddly toys or soft blankets along, this will create a sense of familiarity for them and will likely calm them down if a tantrum arises.

Road trips can be stressful at the best of times, especially if you have a baby on board and have never driven long distances with them in the car before. But as long as you plan ahead and ensure everyone is as comfortable as possible, your journey won’t seem half as daunting!

A New Family Car for Us

It’s a sad fact that our old jalopy just isn’t going to cut the mustard for much longer. It’s 20 years old now and although it’s still working just fine, I’m not convinced it’ll go through the next MOT and there are lots of bits which seem to have just given up the ghost – the door lining is peeling off (although I DID use my new glue gun to mend it, which I was most pleased about!), the wiring has seen better days and the fumes that the exhaust blow out absolutely STINK! Our budget isn’t huge, although we might consider getting a car loan  to help us afford something a little better, but here are the things which will be the most important factors when choosing:

Safety

The main reason we have our current car is that it’s made by a manufacturer which is known to be super safe. Whenever we look at second-hand cars, we always check the safety rating and if it’s less than satisfactory then the model doesn’t make it onto our list.

Economy

As much as I’d probably have great fun driving around in some huge tank of a car, it’s really not an economically sound choice for us. We’re looking for something with a mid-sized engine, decent fuel consumption because I do a fair amount of miles, something which isn’t going to be in the higher Road Tax bracket and also a car which is cheap to fix if something goes wrong!

Size

Our current car is an estate, and while it’s been handy (like when my tumble drier broke in the middle of winter and I went and collected a replacement in the boot of the car!) to have the extra boot space, we probably don’t need it. More seats would come in handy though, so I suppose we’d consider a 7-seater, if there is such a thing as an economical 7-seater!

Comfort

One thing that can be said about our current car is that it’s pretty comfy. The seats are decent and the car feels like our little home from home. Before we had this car, we briefly had a little Fiesta which we drove to Liverpool in a few years ago and the seats were so uncomfortable that I was numb down one side by the time we got back!! I don’t expect Rolls Royce-level comfort but seats which don’t hurt my ass are pretty important.

Entertainment

I know that the girls would absolutely love a car with screens in the back of the headrests for them to watch on our journeys and we do spend a lot of time in the car so I certainly don’t begrudge them that. For me, a radio and decent speakers are super important – I’ve never liked driving in silence and I NEED to be able to listed to Pop Master on BBC Radio 2 every morning!

What family car do you have? Do you love it? Would you recommend it? Do leave me a comment below, all inspiration is more than welcome!

Upgrading Your Family Car for Less

family carAlthough we love our current car, the fact of the matter is it’s getting a little bit old now. It’s still running really well for now but we’d like to upgrade to something which gives us a bit more peace of mind in terms of reliability. However, we’re not in the market for a brand new vehicle at the moment, so I’ve been looking for ways that we can invest in a newer vehicle without breaking the bank. Here’s some of the things I’ve come up with:

Check What You’re Entitled To

Are any of your family members eligible for a motability car from Robins & Day? If so, you could possibly get a brand new car through a lease scheme for less than usual, especially if you look around for some good deals. Motability cars often roll tax, insurance and services into the cost so you’ll be saving money in the long run and there are often models available which don’t require a down-payment.

Go for an Unpopular Make

This one might sound bonkers but there are still brands of cars which people largely turn their noses up at and are therefore lower priced. Skoda, for instance, still have a weird stigma attached and yet they’re made by the same people as Volkswagen, which means you can pick up a decent quality car for less money.

Think About Size

Do you currently drive an MPV or estate car? If so, do you REALLY need the extra space and often lower fuel economy? Down SIZING your car often means that you can afford a slightly newer or better model.

Buy An Older Car

Okay, this might sound bonkers but bear with us here. The reason we have our current car is that the model is very safe and very reliable. Going for an older model meant that we were able to buy a car for the same budget as a slightly newer one but a higher spec and in good condition. Newer cars aren’t always better and by choosing a manufacturer with a reputation for quality, you can still get something decent.

Choose an Unpopular Colour

This one is absolutely INSANE to me, but it’s a fact that there are people out there who are STILL superstitious about cars of certain colours and that green vehicles still command lower resale prices than the exact same model of car in another colour. Break the mould, buy a green car and reap the rewards of shunning silly superstitions!

Getting A Second Car – What You Need To Know

If you’re ready to take the plunge and head back to work, you might be searching for jobs all over the place. Working from home doesn’t suit everyone, and it rarely pays enough. More importantly, you would benefit from a workplace pension and some paid annual leave! It’s difficult to find a job within walking distance of your home. After being out of work for a while, you may be just a one-car family at the moment. But now could be the time to invest in a second.

A second car will need to be insured and taxed in pretty much the same way as your other one. The trouble is, if they are both in your name, you can’t use your no-claims bonus on both. When a partner owns the other car, they are accumulating their own no-claims. But you may not have any. This makes insurance very expensive, so choose a small, second-hand car to reduce the costs.

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When you have a car that isn’t brand new, it’s important to have it serviced and maintained. This is in addition to your annual MOT. The best way to find a reputable garage for the odd fix is one of those ‘Click for quote’ websites that reviews mechanics. You don’t want to have a breakdown on the way to your brand new job! And if you’re driving the kids about at the weekend, you definitely want your car to be as safe as possible.

A second car will need to be parked overnight. You might keep it in the garage, on the driveway, or outside on the street. The insurance company will ask which it is. And your answer could cost you more on your premium. Make sure you have the right cover. If you’re commuting to work, the insurance company needs to know that. If you’re relying on this vehicle to get you to a new job, be sure to get the best level of cover you can afford.

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The cost of petrol and diesel has gone up a lot (again). Sadly, it will rise even higher thanks to Brexit. Try to choose a car that is cheap to run. Driving carefully can also reduce the amount of petrol you use. Avoid hard accelerations and using the air conditioning excessively. The best way to reduce the amount of fuel you use is to reduce the amount of driving you do. If you can use public transport to get to work, see if this works out cheaper over the year than buying another car.

Of course, the convenience of having a car at your disposal is great. You may have got used to walking the kids to preschool or nursery. Perhaps you became fitter too. But when that cold and wet weather comes in, chances are you’ll be glad you have a car. Turning up to work soaked and windswept isn’t a great look either. Having a second car in the family may be a little more expense each month, but it could also be the key to getting the job of your dreams.

 

Car Maintenance You Can Do Yourself

Car Maintenance You Can Do YourselfAnyone who knows me knows that I’m quite headstrong, which means that I don’t like deferring to other people if there’s something I can do myself. Sure, I ask for help with the bigger things which are beyond my skill-set but there’s plenty of things I do by myself, including certain areas of car maintenance. Youtube is a great source for videos on how to do things yourself and I thought I’d give you an insight into things I do myself, especially before an MOT!

Keeping Tyres Properly Inflated

If your tyres are under-inflated it can have various knock-on effects and can even have an effect on the fuel consumption of your car. Making sure they’re fully pumped up is something that can be done at home and it’s wise to get an air compressor bundle to make the whole process easier.

Changing Your Wiper Blades

Ensuring that your wiper blades fully clear your windscreen is really important from a safety point of view and is something they’re hot on during an MOT. Changing them yourself is surprisingly easy and most models of car have blades with just clip off and on. It’s very simple to do and will save you a labour cost if you take them to a garage.

Changing Bulbs

Bulbs are another area where you can possibly fail an MOT so checking them before you take your car in can save you money. Buying from a local autoparts store, bulbs will set you back under a couple of quid each but more unscrupulous garages will charge four or fives times what they pay for them wholesale.

Topping Up Fluids

Checking your oil is something that most people remember to do, but it’s important to keep your radiator, screen wash, brake fluid and power steering fluid topped up too. They’re all available to buy quite cheaply and checking a diagram of what’s going on under your bonnet will show you where each of them is supposed to go – just don’t get them mixed up!

Valeting

Believe me, as a mum to two messy kids who spends a lot of time in the car, I know how messy things can get and it’s always tempting to drop it off at a valeting centre and take yourself off for a cup of coffee, but doing it yourself can save you a bunch of money. Get the kids involved with washing and hoovering the interior and they might think twice before messing it all up again!

Do you do your own car maintenance or is this something that you’ll happily pay a little extra for someone else to do? Leave me a comment below!

Cars And Kids: Why That Mix Doesn’t Always Work

Most parents will use a car to transport themselves and their offspring on a regular basis. After all; it’s the most practical and accessible form of transportation. In theory, you would think that it’s easy to put your kids in the car and head off to your destination.

In reality, having a stress-free journey is a bit like playing a game. If you do something wrong, the consequences can be traumatic for parents! Sometimes, trouble begins even before you get to sit down in the driver’s seat!

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Photo Credit

If you’re a new parent, it’s likely no-one will have told you about what it’s really like to travel with kids in a car. Let me give you some typical examples and suggestions on how to avoid them:

Your children hate your car

Let’s face it; there are plenty of different types of cars out there. From small city cars to 4×4 behemoths, there’s something out there to suit all tastes and needs. The thing is, if you’re driving around in a car your child hates, it can cause all kinds of problems for you.

Usually, these are cars where some children feel too distant from their parents. Or models that are so small they feel they’re in a crowded space.

Most parents find a used MPV is the solution to their problems. Small hatchbacks don’t offer enough practical space. And large SUVs are just too big and make some kids feel anxious about being alone in the back.

Your kids get bored easily

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you that a long journey can usually be a nightmare. A trip that takes several hours to complete is boring for youngsters. Even if they have an array of toys, games, and gadgets at their disposal.

When faced with such journeys, there is only one real answer. You’ll have to make several stops so that your kids get to run around and have some fresh air.

Of course, the downside for you is your journey will take at least twice as long! But, if you’ve got no choice, it’s a suitable compromise. Unless you like hearing “I’m bored” or “are we there yet” about 500 times per hour from your kids!

You have the wrong car seats

We all know that young children must sit on car seats. Aside from it being the law, it also keeps your little ones safe if you ever have a collision with another vehicle. As you know, there are hundreds of different car seat models on the market.

Aside from the legal and safety aspects, comfort should also be a priority when choosing a seat. Your kids don’t want to sit on something that’s uncomfortable for a long period. I recommend doing plenty of online research. Don’t forget to have your kids try the seats out in-store before you buy. After all; they’ll be the ones sitting on them, not you!

I hope you’ve found this blog post useful today. Please do share a link to this post with your friends. See you soon!

The Day I Ran Over a Cyclist

Last Sunday started off a day like any other. Burrito Baby had been poorly for a couple of days, showing what we thought were the initial signs of chicken pox, which threatened to get our holidays off to a really rubbish start. However, after a very long sleep she woke up seeming much better and the sun was shining so I hatched a plan to take the girls out and surprise them by taking them for breakfast and buying them a paddling pool for the garden. We got dressed, covered in sun cream and left the house.

Living where we do means that we get a LOT of walkers and cyclists using the roads, especially on sunny days, so I’m always careful when taking the winding single lane road which leads away from home, and this day was no exception. I made it up to the junction which takes us out onto the National Speed limit lane at the end of our road and stopped to let a car and a cyclist go past. It’s a poorly-sighted road so I always give an extra couple of looks to make sure the road is clear.

Just as I pulled away, a cyclist came around the corner and into the path of my car. I swerved one way to avoid him, he swerved another way to avoid me, but we hit. He, and his bike, rolled over my bonnet and onto the concrete as I brought the car to a halt. I think I shouted a few expletives as I jumped out of the car and, stupidly, asked “shall I call an ambulance?”. Of course he needed a fucking ambulance; he’d just been hit by a car.

As I was calling for an ambulance, a few other people from the larger part of our village stopped their cars and came over to see what was going on, an older couple who went into help-mode and started propping umbrellas over the injured cyclist (who by this point, although conscious, was bleeding from his mouth and his knee and seemed pretty badly in shock), and a woman of about my age but heavily pregnant who asked if she could check on my girls in the back of the car.

The call to 999 was, frankly, excruciating. Our road doesn’t have a name and aside from a farm or two has no major landmarks, so trying to direct them to where to go was virtually impossible. In the end, I gave them my own address and told them to just aim for there because they couldn’t miss us. In fact, the police turned up after just ten minutes while the ambulance took a full 45 minutes to arrive. The people who stopped joked about how they suddenly understood why there was a defibrillator at both ends of our village. The injured man had been cycling with a friend who had made it to their destination, realised his friend wasn’t showing up and cycled back to find him.

I won’t lie; I was shitting myself. Until the police arrived, I was convinced that I was going to be clapped in irons and thrown in a cell. Although I was sure that I hadn’t driven recklessly nor made any careless mistakes, I’ve never been involved in this sort of thing and had NO idea how I would be dealt with. The first response car had two male officers on board, one of whom took me into the back of his car to ask me a whole bunch of questions and take my details, warning that I may be questioned under caution and breathalysed when the traffic unit arrived.

Low and behold, when the Traffic guys turned up, I was questioned again (the “anything you do say may be given in evidence”, etc, was casually dropped into the conversation but felt hugely surreal nonetheless) and given a Breathalyzer. I hadn’t had an alcoholic drink for about a week before the accident, but I was still relieved when the display read ZERO. The officer took photos of the car, questioned me and the cyclist and did a load of other bits before telling me that he was convinced that it was “just one of those things”, an accident which was unavoidable and which wasn’t due to anyone being at fault.

He said that the speedo on the man’s bicycle showed that he’d been doing 23mph around the corner as we collided and that it was a sharp bend, meaning it could have happened to anyone. His injuries (a broken tooth and a badly scuffed knee) were largely superficial because I was only going slowly as I pulled away. At the most, I may have to attend a course to prove my hazard perceptions skills but I wouldn’t be in trouble or even get any points on my licence.

Obviously I was relieved that the blame wasn’t being laid on me but I was also gutted that I had contributed to someone getting hurt, so I asked the man’s friend to apologise to him for me. As the ambulance pulled away, the officer who’d taken the cyclists statement came to me and said “He asked me to tell you to try not to feel guilty, he knows you weren’t at fault”, which made me feel mildly better.

Skip forward to 5 days later; I haven’t heard anything else about the man, so I assume he is on the mend. Despite the full force of a human man and a bike hitting my car, there’s a dent on the bonnet about the size of a fifty pence piece, so Volvo FTW. Sausage seems pretty unfazed by it all and BB has only mentioned it once – they were both in the back, Sausage looking down at Pokemon Go, so I don’t think they really saw much.

As for me…well, I don’t really know. I’ve had nightmares a couple of nights since it happened and I keep seeing the guy’s face as he rolled off of my bonnet onto the tarmac, the image popping into my head at random. I got straight back into the car and drove again because me being able to drive is basically essential to us living in our dream house here in the country, but I won’t lie; I feel sick every time I see a cyclist on the road and I have visions of them swerving in front of me as I overtake. The whole thing could have been a whole lot worse, but I still feel awful about it all.

Why am I writing this, you may ask? Well, I don’t know…catharsis, maybe? A warning to be extra, EXTRA vigilant for cyclists on the road? Maybe just to get it all off of my chest in the hope it stops swirling around in my brain at any opportunity. Who knows?

Maybe as an opportunity to thank a few people – My fellow villagers for reminding me exactly why we wanted to live in a small, friendly community. The Cuthberts for making me strong tea, showing me their garden and their kindness and introducing us to their chickens – all of which calmed me down massively. My in-laws for, as ever, being on my team and making me feel less like a bad person. My kids for being resilient little buggers. Mostly Husband for hugging me, telling me that it wasn’t my fault and giving my hand a little squeeze whenever we have to drive past a cyclist. And the Police for realising that I wasn’t a hapless criminal, just a very shocked Mum of two on a Sunday morning drive.

I doubt the cyclist will ever read this but I hope he’s okay and that he’ll be back on his bike as soon as he’s able. I’d hate to think that his love of cycling was tarnished by this. Most of all I just hope that he and I are both able to get back behind the wheel and never have anything like this happen to either of us again.

get well soon

Tips for Mummies on Frugal Car Maintenance

car maintenance Copyrights (Chandra Marsono) on Flickr

Forking out for a mechanic every time that a simple bit of maintenance to your car is needed is an expensive way of running a vehicle. Of course, if you simply do not have any knowledge when it comes to car maintenance, then this is what you have to do. Nonetheless, maintaining a car does not require a great deal of engineering skill or mechanical know how, especially when finding the best speakers for car. For the more advanced jobs, then you will need a trained mechanic, but for simpler jobs you can do it yourself. Remember that the more of these little maintenance jobs that you do for yourself, the more you will save.

Spark Plugs

An essential maintenance job to keep your car going is to change its spark plugs once in a while. This is because the metal on the plugs’ electrodes can wear away over time and suffer from carbon deposits which coat them. Spark plugs that are in poor condition tend to have problems igniting the fuel and air mixture in the engine. As a result you will notice a drop in power and the fuel efficiency of the car. Fitting new ones can be done by anyone. Installation of new plugs is as easy. Just remove the ignition wires from the old spark plugs so you can work safely. Then pull the old spark plugs out of their sockets. Before installing new plugs, coat the inside of the ignition wire boots with a little grease to get a good connection.

Tyre Maintenance

Check your own tyres every few thousand miles. This is cheaper than having them inspected professionally each time. Keep your tyres fully inflated to the car maker’s specification because this will lower the amount you spend on fuel. Check your tyres’ tread with a twenty pence coin. If the rim goes in fully, then you have enough tread. However, if it does not, then you’ll need to have new ones fitted by an expert like Point S to remain street legal. Remember to check all over the tyre – not just in one place.

Lights

Check all the lights on your car once every few months. You can do this yourself and – if you don’t have someone to help you with the rear lights – place a mirror behind the car so you can see them. Don’t forget the side lights, reversing light, fog light and even the number plate light. Car owners’ manuals tend to not be that helpful when it comes to changing bulbs and – as a result – tend to encourage you to take the car to dealer. Look for advice on your specific model online, because many car owners post instructional videos which can help you do the job for yourself. You seldom need anything more than a screwdriver.

Air Filter Replacement

With the majority of cars, switching the air filter is nothing more than flipping a few clips or undoing a couple of screws to remove the filter box. Then you simply take out the old filter and place the new one in. It should take no longer than a couple of minutes and be conducted about once every 15,000 miles depending on your model.

Child Car Safety for the New School Term

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It’s that time of year again. The bliss of the summer months have flown past in an unforgivable blur and here we are at the beginning of the new school term. Uniforms to buy, pencil cases to fill and of course the dreaded school run.

The rules and regulations of child transportation are somewhat more complex now than they were when we were children. It may be wise to check up on some of the current advice and guidelines in place ahead of the new school term.

The Rules and Regulations

Children are required by law to sit in a booster seat until they are over the age of 12 or 135 cm in height, whichever comes first. In addition, the driver is responsible for ensuring that the youngster is wearing a seatbelt until they reach the age of 14, as at that age they are considered liable for their own safety. The reason behind these rules are to protect a child from being injured in the event of an accident.

All child seats used must adhere to EU regulations, this will be indicated by the presence of a capital E inside a circle on the labelling. A detailed account of the kinds of car seats available can be found here: http://www.childcarseats.org.uk

There are also some exemptions to these rules that are worth checking out to keep your child and any other children in your care safe.

Driving with Children

It’s easy to concentrate on the children rather than keeping your eyes on the road, particularly on familiar journeys. However, driving safely should take precedence over all other concerns. It might help if you give your child something to keep them occupied.

Your driveway is an area where you would be well advised to take extra special care when children are concerned. It’s easy for a child to wander in front of, or behind a car particularly when you are reversing (you may not see them). Make sure all manoeuvres are at very slow speeds to give yourself time to react and where possible ask another adult to help you.

Child Safety Inside and Out

Carshop.co.uk explains to us that car doesn’t have to be moving for it to be a safety hazard. In an ideal world we should never have to leave children alone in a car, but the world is not always an ideal place. Make sure you are aware of the dangers, including:

  •  Keeping your keys with you at all times and locking your vehicle.
  • Where possible you should turn the wheels so that should the car start to move, it will be prevented by the curb.
  • Leave windows open on warm days so the children do not become too over heated.
  • Keeping all dangerous objects out of reach.

 Car Safety Features for the Wise Parent

Cars are getting more and more complex and while there are a range of safety features available that can make cars more child friendly, there are some innovations that may be less beneficial. You would be well advised to think carefully when making your choice.

A car with a push button start, may not be a sensible choice. Particularly if the engine will begin while you and the keys are a short distance away. Alternatively, a vehicle that relies on you pressing the clutch to start the engine could be a better choice.

One of the best features available are electric car windows that have an automatic shut-off when they feel any pressure. This can go a tremendously long way toward protecting little fingers and even heads from getting trapped.

All you really need is the right information and with that, the rest becomes a matter of using your common sense. With the right foundations in place and awareness of the potential hazards, you should enjoy happy motoring with (hopefully) happy children.