Driver tips

You ask, we answer!

posted on 13/12/2017
coloured cars

Discover the answers to your questions about driving too slow on the highway, what to do when you fill up with the wrong fuel and so on.

"Are cyclists allowed to turn right at a red light or not?"

Cyclists must obey the traffic light signals; they can’t just go through a red light. However, in 2012, two new traffic signs were added to the highway code, whereby cyclists can proceed or turn right at some intersections while cars are stopped at a red light. You may do so:

  • only when you see at the traffic lights a small, inverted triangle containing a yellow cycle and an arrow pointing ahead or to the right.
  • at some intersections in Brussels and Ghent.

But pay attention because cycling through a red light does not give you right of way. These signs are designed to stop cyclists from waiting needlessly at intersections when they could safely proceed or turn right.


“Is it an offence to drive too slowly (on the motorway)?”

We’ve all heard a lot about speeding, but you can also be fined for driving too slowly. And that is because driving too slowly is dangerous too. The highway code states that “no driver may hinder the normal progress of other drivers by driving abnormally slowly without a valid explanation, or by braking suddenly if not required to do so for reasons of safety”. The term “abnormally slowly” is obviously open to interpretation. Only on its motorways does Belgium enforce a minimum speed of 70 km/h. However, it is practically impossible to be caught for driving too slowly (think of all the traffic queues). You would have to be caught in the act by a police officer. This happens about 650 times a year on the Belgian roads. The fine for driving too slowly is 55 euros.


“Are there any special rules for transporting pets in the car?”

Pets in the car are considered part and parcel of your load. This implies that they meet the requirements for car loading and that they must not hinder the driver while driving. The Belgian highway code does not make it compulsory to keep pets in place in the car, but dogs and cats have minds of their own and you cannot always keep them under control. Given that an animal (like a passenger without a seatbelt) becomes a heavy projectile in an accident, it is recommendable that pets be kept in place in the car by means of:

  • a harness
  • a special belt
  • a barrier in the boot
  • a bench, a type of crate which fixes in the boot.

Take care when driving abroad, because in some European countries it is compulsory to keep animals in place.


“What should you do if you fill up with the wrong fuel?”

Drivers regularly make this mistake when filling up. It usually happens with diesels, because the nozzle on the diesel pump is larger than the petrol one. If you fill up with the wrong fuel,

the most important thing is not to start the engine. Fuel could enter the engine as soon as you turn the key in the ignition.

it is best to contact a tow service and have the car towed away. You will be able to have the fuel tank emptied and cleaned by a mechanic without any further problems.

if petrol gets into a diesel engine it may be necessary to replace the whole of the fuel system. And that can quickly run up to a couple of thousand euros.


“Does a lighter coloured car stay cooler than a darker one in the sun?”

The temperature in the interior of a car with dark bodywork paint does rise faster, and there is even a clearly demonstrable difference. The mobility organisation VAB put this to the test and had three cars spend a full day in the sun: a white car, a dark car and a dark car with a sunscreen on the windscreen. The test results:

  • After six hours it was 10% cooler in the white car than in the two darker cars.
  • In the white car the temperature totalled 46°C, compared to 50°C in the two darker cars.
  • The sunscreen made no difference to the inside temperature, but it did lead to a lower contact temperature on the dashboard, steering wheel and seats.


“How do you prevent the engine or brakes from overheating during long journeys or in the mountains.”

In principle, extended motorway journeys don’t pose any problems for the engine, except when it is quite hot (above 30°C) and you are continuously stuck in traffic jams. In slow traffic there are not enough gusts of wind to cool the engine off, and this can result in overheating. If the temperature of the engine continues to rise then you can set the heating to its highest level to extract heat from the engine. In that case, be sure to open all the windows.

In the mountains, it is mainly important to select the correct gear. And naturally that is different going up the mountain than going down it:

  • Going up the mountain, don’t abuse your car by allowing the rpms to plummet too low, instead shift into a lower gear. When you hit the accelerator, the car still has to be able to speed up.
  • When driving down the mountain, it is best to avoid too high a gear. Otherwise you’ll be required to constantly hit the brakes, causing them to overheat and brake force to be lost. Finally, it’s better to hit the brakes hard for just a moment rather than to constantly step gently on them.


“How loud can I play my music in the car?’

Driving with music in the background makes a car trip more enjoyable. However, be careful not to turn the volume button up to high. Loud music isn’t conducive to the driver’s concentration: he or she will start driving faster without realising it. In addition to this, in some cities and municipalities you run the risk of a municipal administrative fine for music that is audible outside the car. Therefore, always ensure that the music in your car is not experienced as a nuisance by the neighbourhood, or that it does not contravene the provisions of police or municipal regulations.


“How do you avoid long traffic jams on toll roads?”

In the summer it is very busy on the French motorways, certainly on toll roads and at tollgates. However, by using the quickest payment option you can save a considerable amount of time. There are three ways of paying: cash, by credit card or via electronic toll collection. These electronic toll collection gates, indicated with an orange “t”, are the quickest way. Thanks to an electronic badge (Bip&Go or Liber-t), which you can affix to the top of your windscreen, you can slowly drive through the tollgate without having to stop. The payment occurs automatically. Since June 2016 the Bip&Go badge can also be used not just in France, but in Spain as well. The badges can be purchased online through, for example, Touring and VAB.


“What helps get rid of condensation on your car windows? Is it hot or cold air that does the trick?”

Just consider a hair dryer: drying goes faster using hot air than it does with cold. After all, hot air is capable of absorbing more humidity. Windows mist up because the moisture inside (deriving from human breathing, wet clothing, etc.) condenses, forming a moisture layer on the windows. By blowing dry, heated outdoor air onto the windows, this layer will evaporate again and be absorbed by the air. Heated windows also take more time to re-condense. To this end, always use the air conditioning, as this causes the air to be drier.


“What am I allowed to use the hard shoulder for?”

There are only three reasons that would permit you, an ordinary driver, use of the hard shoulder: your vehicle experiences a technical breakdown, after an accident, or in the event that you suddenly fall ill and have to pull over for safety reasons. Put your car as close to the right-hand side of the hard shoulder as possible, and go and stand behind the guard rail. Don’t forget to put on a fluorescent safety vest and to warn other road users of danger by activating your hazard warning lights and setting up a warning triangle 100 metres in front of/behind the car. Driving in the hard shoulder is only permitted for priority vehicles or tow trucks that are heading toward the location of an accident.


“What do I need to do in case of damaged windows?”

Is there a crack in your windscreen? No problem: your Alphabet lease car is insured against window damage. The window does however always have to be repaired by an Alphabet authorised repairer (Autoglass Clinic and Carglass), both in Belgium and abroad. In principle, a crack in the windscreen is not that dangerous. This is because the windscreen is composed of two layers of glazing, with a film in between, which prevents it from being able to break. Usually, stone debris only causes damage to the outer layer. If the crack is smaller than a two euro coin, then it may be able to be repaired without having to replace the entire windscreen. In a worst case scenario the crack expands. At this point, the screen must be replaced as soon as possible, definitely if the crack obstructs the driver’s view. For glass breakage, you can always contact the Alphabet Service Line on 078/05 00 48.


“Does my air conditioning need maintenance?”

The majority of air conditioning systems work fine for the first three years. After this period, having an inspection every two years is recommended. Contacting your garage for advice is also recommended if you notice the following with regard to the air conditioning: it requires more time to blow cold air, it becomes unusually loud, disperses strange odours, or causes irritation to your airways. If this is the case, you can, for example have the evaporator unit and ventilation ducts disinfected. Either way, the air filter has to be replaced every year as well, which is part of a standard maintenance appointment. The air conditioning’s refrigerant also needs to be regularly topped up because around 10% of this is lost due to natural causes each year.

Also read: What to do in the event of an accident, damage or theft.


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