Checking out a Second Hand Car’s Engine – What you Need to Look For

13 06 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from accretion disc

The market for second hand cars is always growing – but along with it, so is the number of people who might be willing to rip you off.

Cars are expensive and when you’re not in a dealership, it is especially important to make sure everything is above board. That includes checking the engine. Not everyone is a petrolhead, but there are certain things you should look out for. These are rules you should abide by whether you’re with a respected dealer – like buying used cars from Renault Retail – or purchasing from a man on the street.

Buying a used car can be a confusing process. This is especially the case when you’re buying a car for the first ever time. Try not to be daunted, it is not a decision that should be rushed into. If you feel you are being hassled by the seller, it most probably means they are not someone you want to do business with.

Once you get under the bonnet the first thing to cast your eye over is the VIN number – make sure it is the same one as in the vehicle’s log book. Then go through all your standard checks such as oil, water and whether there are any fuel leaks anywhere.

For oil, remove the dipstick and wipe it, before replacing. Pull it out again and make sure the oil level is on or around the maximum level. If the oil needs changing it could be an indication the car has not been looked after as well as it should have been. At the same time, check fluids elsewhere. Engine coolant is often in a large round tank with a screw top – the fluid here will be pink. At the rear of the engine in a small bottle is where you will most often find brake fluid.

Next, have a look at the top of the engine. For this, you may need to unclip the plastic cover on the top to do this. If there is a white, gloopy liquid this is a sign of neglect. You should also check under the oil cap for this as it is an indicator of a damaged head gasket.

While you are going through all of the engine’s most obvious points, check every area for signs of rust and neglect. This could show if the previous owner has not looked after the car as well as they should have. All of the pipes and hoses should not have any cracks in them or look worn. The same applies for hoses.

There are a lot of other things you should be checking elsewhere in the car, but perhaps the first one you should look at is the V5C registration document. This will show you if the person selling it is the real owner of the car. If they are not, you may need to ask yourself why. In situations like this it is better to be safe than sorry. Similarly, it will show details of those who have owned that car before – if you have any misgivings there is no harm in contacting them.


Tips for Cooking on an Electric Stove

12 06 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from Joelk75

If you have just made a long-awaited switch from gas to one something along the lines of a electric cooker, you would be wrong to think both are the same to cook with.

There are benefits to both, an electric device, for instance, is easier to clean and a steady cooking surface makes it harder to know pots over. On the other hand, controlling temperature with a  gas cooker is far easier. But before you jump in with both feet and burn your food – or even worse, ruin your cooker – there are some things you should be aware of.

Control the heat

The temperatures an electric cooker is able to reach are much higher than those of a gas burner – this means food will heat up more quickly and will burn if you are not careful. You should begin by using lower heat settings while you learn to use the hob properly.

Because of this, you should be sure to use the correct pans. The ones that suited your gas cooker may not work here. Metal pans – like aluminium – conduct heat very well meaning food will sear much faster. You should consider switching to a copper coated cast iron pan

Save energy

Even though your new electric hob will heat up a lot quicker than anything you have been used to in the past, it will also cool down at a far slower rate. This means you can conserve a little bit of energy by turning the hob off for the final few minutes of cooking.

It is important to remember that the cooking surface will stay hot for a lot longer once you have finished cooking. Trying to clean it too soon can be dangerous and result in a burn. Most appliances have an indicator to inform you when it is safe to return.

Two burners

While they heat up fast and cool down slow, controlling the temperature is difficult on an electric stove. If you are cooking something that requires you to change heat settings at regular intervals the two-burner method might help. Simply turn on two burners, each to a temperature you are planning to use. If you need something to boil and then reduce quickly to a simmer, place the pan over the hotter hob before quickly moving it to the second.

If using this method it is important to be careful around the hob without a pan. It can be very easy to forget and burn yourself.

Be safe

A lot of a Rangemaster electric cooker’s features are safer as there is no need to work with gas but there are a few things you should look out for. Never store items on top of the stove, even when turned off. It is very easy to accidentally turn on a dial without noticing. It can heat up and create a very dangerous fire hazard.

Also, if you have a power cut, make sure everything is turned off correctly. You may leave the stove as it is, but once power returns it can heat up without you knowing about it.

Great Ways To Work Out While Following Your Normal Routine

11 06 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from bikeweek ie

If you’ve got even a vague interest in keeping fit and losing those pounds that it seems so easy to gain with the help a bottle of wine or a pizza takeaway, there’s a good chance that you’ve joined a gym at some point in your life. Perhaps you even went regularly for a few weeks. Perhaps even a few months. The chances are however that you’ve become a member of a gym, only to never actually go. Of course, you meant to, and even carried on paying the monthly subscription, but in reality all those good intentions went out of the window after a particularly hard day at work, or because you had someone to meet, or needed to make dinner that night, or…and the list goes on.
Don’t panic!

Just because you have a hectic life and find it hard to fit in an exercise regime that involves going to the gym a number of times in the week, doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up about it. Data collected by an American gym association in 2012 suggested that a whopping 67 per cent of people who pay for a gym membership never actually use it. The reality is that it’s hard to find the time to exercise regularly, but there is some good news. You can actually help to keep fit by simply changing a few areas of your normal routine. No gym membership necessary! Promise!
Cycle to work

For most of us, work isn’t optional, but it’s possible that you have some flexibility over how you actually get there. Could you swap your bus or tram for a bike? Try and find out if your employer is involved in a cycle to work scheme, and if not, could you help persuade them to join one? It can be a great way for the business to play a key part in keeping its workforce fit and healthy and means you get a bike or cycling equipment much cheaper.
Use those legs

You’ve got them, so use them. If you can’t always cycle to work, or if it’s too far to walk all the way, then how about walking some of the way. Skip a few bus stops and pick one up closer to work – you’ll get some exercise each day and cut the cost of your commute.

Take the stairs

Stop reaching for that lift button when you’re entering and leaving buildings. Take the stairs and you’ll be sure to get your heart going if there are a few floors to climb. It’s yet another simple yet highly effective way of making your body work without you having to change your routine or go out of your way.

Get out of that chair!

Many people work in front of computers these days and it’s no surprise that an increasing number of people suffer from back pain. Getting up and walking around the office when you need to talk to a colleague is always going to be better for you than remaining sedentary all day and simply picking up the phone
Pump those muscles

Putting your muscles to work doesn’t have to mean pumping iron in the gym. It’s quick and easy to fit in some simple exercises like press-ups and sit-ups at home before bedtime. You don’t need any equipment, it’s fast and simple, and it can really help you to stay in shape.

The Student’s Guide To Housing – Manchester

10 06 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from Stuart Grout

Manchester is one of the UK’s most vibrant cities and if you’re looking to spend three years studying here then you’re guaranteed a great time. With a huge live music scene, an incredible choice of restaurants and bars, evening entertainment in the form of The Warehouse Project or the Royal Exchange Theatre (depending on your tastes!) and lots more besides, you can be sure you won’t be bored. When it comes to finding accommodation in the city then searching though renowned property providers such as Mansion Student Manchester is the best option. Here’s a guide to some areas of the city to consider heading for.

City Centre

If you want convenience then why not start searching in Manchester City Centre. You’ll be right at the heart of the action with plenty of bars, pubs and clubs to hand – and of course the university buildings too! If you’re really keen to live in the centre, then the Oxford Road area of town, where the two universities are based, is probably one of the best places to start looking. Alternatively, you could head for the area around Victoria station which offers great transport links and easy access to venues such as The Printworks and Market Street where the majority of Manchester’s major shops are located.


Known far and wide as the home of the Curry Mile, the district of Rusholme has been a favourite spot for students for many years and even attracts international travellers who are keen to taste the variety of dishes on offer in the many restaurants. Platt Fields Park with its boating lake and large green spaces is perfect for long sunny afternoons spent swatting up, or perhaps simply for relaxing or getting some exercise. The South Manchester Parkrun is held here every Saturday morning for those people who can face making it out of bed for 9am!

Victoria Park

Situated close to Rusholme, Victoria Park is just one and a half miles from the city centre and therefore ideal for anyone who wants a little bit of breathing space but still have the opportunity to be in the thick of it within minutes. Large Victorian residences are scattered across the area and transport links are excellent if you can’t be bothered hiking in!


Situated just to the south of Platt Fields Park, the district of Fallowfield is known as ‘the student village’ and there are plenty of bars and pubs here to keep even the most dedicated socialite happy.

Chorlton and Whalley Range

Located to the south west of the city centre are Chorlton and Whalley Range. Filled with wide, tree-lined streets, these areas have become particularly popular with students in recent years thanks to their self-contained nature, with plenty of local shops, bars and restaurants. Getting into town is simple though thanks to the frequent bus services that run from many stops in the area and the Metrolink tram system that has a stop in Firswood, at the bottom of Whalley Range, and also in the centre of Chorlton. If you’re looking for a quieter life than is to be found in the city centre and yet still want access to plenty of nightlife then a home in this part of Manchester is well worth considering.

Great New UK Attractions For 2013

8 06 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from Oscar Del Rio

The landscape of the tourism sector changes year-by-year in the UK, especially now that families and couples have much greater amounts of free time to do with as they please.

As a result, many different surveys and polls have proved that we are taking more holiday breaks, but opting to spend shorter lengths of time away from home.

Part of the reason that this is so is because we are now faced with a greater choice than ever of leisure attractions located within easy travelling distance of our homes, no matter what part of the UK we happen to live in.

It seems that there is so much choice of activities which can be done in our free time that it is impossible to keep pace with their rapid expansion.

Yet what is clear is that most of these attractions are aimed squarely at parents with young children.

The reason for this is quite clearly because of a combination of children’s constant thirst for new things to do, and new places to go to. Yet it also means that, for adults who do not have to factor in what they are going to do with their little ones, the choice of activities available can seem sadly meagre.

That’s far from the case though, as this list of the latest attractions to open in the UK shows:

1. Sea Life Centre, Manchester: Handily placed close to the Trafford Centre, Greater Manchester’s biggest shopping centre, the latest of the Sea Life Centre sites was expected to showcase more than 5,000 marine creatures, contained within one of 30 different displays which house the animals, and use more than a million litres of water to do so.

2. DUPLO Valley at Legoland Windsor: This is aimed at families with young children in particular, and offers the now expected high standards of construction work to produce such great attractions as giant animals, dinosaurs, clowns and princesses.

3. Improved and expanded London Dungeon: Having undertaken a massive move from its previous site, prompted by the redevelopment of London Bridge railway station, this is now settled in at the former County Hall, which served as the headquarters of the Greater London Council. Among the characters which grown-up visitors will particularly appreciate is Henry VIII, whose voice is provided by renowned actor Brian Blessed.

4. New rides at Alton Towers: The Staffordshire theme park favourite is looking to build on the success of its Nemesis ride with the introduction of the new Sub Terra vertical drop ride. It has also opened a new rollercoaster to replace the former ‘Black Hole’ ride, which has been a long-standing favourite.

5. Angry Birds land at Lightwater Valley: The North Yorkshire theme park is getting in on the computer game craze, with a number of themed areas, all designed so that the whole family can enjoy the attractions together. This is designed to complement the new Eagle’s Creek farm area and petting zoo, where children and older theme park fans can take a tractor ride and see a new selection of farmyard animals.

The operators of great new attractions such as these know, though, that they have to attract a wide range of adult visitors, and one way in which they can find out about them is by taking Warner UK weekend breaks at any of the company’s hotels located close to the sites of many of the country’s best-known theme and fun park attractions.

Five Unusual Soup Recipes That Taste Great

7 06 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from moohaha

Soup is delicious and can be very good for you. It is also really simple, you just shove a load of ingredients in your Waring soup maker and you’re virtually ready to eat. It is a process there is little point in complicating unless you’re a top chef.

Vegetables, soup’s main components, are low in fat and full of vitamins, helping you to your all-important five a day. If you’re after just a basic soup that is good for you, you could do a lot worse than Mediterranean vegetable. Red peppers are full of vitamin C and tomatoes contain lycopene – an antioxidant that helps to fight heart disease. You should also add a bit of oregano which is known to be an anti-bacterial.

But, as is the case with many things, people take great joy in complicating and subverting the easy – the most obvious example being extreme ironing. It is true that the combinations of ingredients you can chuck into soup are almost limitless – something some people find it far too easy to take literally.

Crazy doesn’t always mean disgusting, though. Here are some of the most unusual, yet delicious, soups from around the world.

Kiburu soup

Mud soup anyone? This strange broth from the foot of Kilimanjaro is a mix of sweet bananas, beans and dirt. That dirt includes leaves, branches, twigs and soil – according to the locals it gives the soup a salty taste. It is also said to have a very positive effect on the health of those who eat it.

Bird nest soup

One of the world’s most expensive soups, this is made from the edible nest of the swiflet, a bird native to south east Asia. The saliva melts down to a gelatinous solution in water and is known by some as the “caviar of the east”. The first people to eat it are thought to be Tang emperors who existed around the eighth century. It apparently has many health benefits.

Shirako Soup

This delicacy from Japan and China is known colloquially as cod’s milk soup. Nature enthusiasts will know that the cod does not produce milk. The males, though, do produce sperm – this soup is made from the sac it is stored in. It can be raw or cooked – when cooked, the sac melts down and becomes creamy, a little like the consistency of custard.


A Mexican speciality, menudo is made from cow stomach. This is stewed up with chillies, onions and oregano for up to ten hours. Its fans say that by the end of its huge cooking time, the trip is so tender it just melts away on your tongue. The dish is sometimes served with tortillas on the side.

Incidentally, Menuo was also the name of a Puerto Rican boy band formed in the 1970s.

Supu Soup, Tanzania

In these straitened times it is better to waste not want not – this Tanzanian soup does just that. Supu, in Tanzanian, means soup and this is a basic staple of the country’s diet. It uses pretty much every bit of a goat possible, including its lungs, heart, liver, head, intestines, tongue and stomach. Strangely the soup is eaten as a breakfast meal, but that may have something to do with its supposed ability to cure hangovers.

Picking Out An Engagement Ring For Any Budget

6 06 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from Randi Deuro

If you are planning to propose to your beloved, it’s likely that you will want to impress them with the perfect engagement ring. Many people assume that engagement rings cost a fortune, and as the saying goes, a man is supposed to spend, on average, three times his monthly salary on the engagement ring for his bride-to-be. Despite that, many wedding traditions have now been pushed aside. Ladies no longer have to wait an agonising number of years dropping hints to their boyfriends about marriage proposals, as it is common practice for women to do the asking these days. Proposals aside, if you are worried about the cost of an engagement ring, there’s really no need to be. Here’s how to pick out an engagement ring for any budget.

The three month rule

Men who are planning to propose to their girlfriend may very well agonise over the rule to spend at least three month’s gross salary on engagement rings. Well you have De Beers to thank for that when the notorious diamond company launched its “a diamond is forever” campaign back in 1947. However, it is widespread thought nowadays that this rule is a little old fashioned and unrealistic. After all, if a man spends three month’s salary on just the engagement ring, how much is the wedding supposed to cost?

Establish a budget

The first thing you should consider before you buy the ring is just how much money you have to spend. You should try to establish your budget before you enter the jewellers as this will help you not to be coerced into making a purchase that you cannot really afford, just because it looks good. Although the engagement ring itself is a special purchase, you need to ensure that you budget with the overall wedding cost in mind. There’s little point spending a fortune on a ring if you can’t afford the wedding that comes with it.

Determine how you will pay

There are many different payment options available when it comes to choosing how to pay for your purchase.

–          Savings: a good way to budget for the cost of a ring is to save up for several months in advance to proposing. This way will also save you from having to take out a loan or from having to pay a credit card bill later on down the line when you’re supposed to be budgeting for the wedding.

–          Cash back credit card: this way you will benefit from protection should there be a problem with the ring and you have to return it. You will also earn some money back from the card company for your purchase, and depending on how much you’ve spent on the ring, this could add up to a fairly large amount of money.

–          0% credit card: if you can’t afford to pay for the ring immediately and you also don’t have any savings, you could use a 0% purchase credit card to help you spread out the cost of repayments.

Know her style

You may think that the showiest and most expensive diamond ring will be a sure fire way to get you the girl of your dreams, but in actual fact, choosing the wrong type of ring may be your biggest downfall in the relationship yet. The reason why so many men find it difficult to buy a ring for their girlfriend is because her reaction to the purchase is of utmost importance. For example, if your girlfriend is really into the vintage look and you buy her a contemporary engagement ring, it signifies that you pay no attention to her individual sense of style and to what she likes. If you are still unsure of her type of jewellery, you could take a look at the other types of jewellery she usually wears. If she prefers something dainty and understated, choose something similar for the engagement ring. After all, she will be wearing that ring for a long time.