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5 Tips to Help You Pass Your Driver’s Licence Test….and remind those of us that have already passed!

passed drivers test
passed drivers test

If you’re preparing to take your driving test you understand the mixed emotions of absolute anticipation, overwhelming excitement, nervous anxiety and even dread that precedes the actual test!

Here’s some tips to help you prepare for your test…. that also serve as a great reminder for those of us that have had their licence for a while!

  1. passed driver's testPractice, Practice, Practice!  Try to get as much ‘in the car’ practice as possible, it really is the best way to build confidence and understand the road rules you have to study. You’ll also get a better understanding of how other road users act towards a vehicle with an ‘L’ plate on display! And you’ll be much better prepared for the test.
  2. Remember the 9 o’clock / 3 o’clock rule! Keep your hands on the wheel!  Another useful suggestion to help you ace a driving test is to keep both of your paws on the steering wheel. Grab hold of the steering wheel at the 9 o’clock / 3 o’clock positions and keep your hands there. This strategy is safe, effective, and it will help put your instructor at ease.
  3. Watch what’s happening in the distance! In both racing and street driving, it’s important to look far ahead of your own vehicle. Keeping an eye on what’s happening in the distance is critical. The sooner you see something, the faster you can react to it and the safer you and your passengers will be.
  4. Be observant!  With your smartphone tucked away, your hands on the wheel and eyes looking ahead, there’s another thing you should be doing! Look what’s going on all around you and check your mirrors often, scan areas along the roadside for children playing or potential cross traffic that could cause issues. Again, the sooner you spot a potential risk the better it is for everyone.
  5. Adjust to a change in weather – the Sunshine Coast is known for its’ beautiful sunny days but watch out when the rain comes! Oil debris that has been absorbed by the road during hot sunny days will rise and coat the tarmac. Traction, the way the car ‘sticks’ to the road, will decrease so this means slowing down, braking sooner, increasing the following distance between you and the vehicle ahead and negotiating corners with great care.



Good luck on your test and see you on the road soon!

Heard of the ‘Black Death’ in engines? Rather an ominous topic but one in need of discussion!


The Black Death ‘health’ pandemic resulted in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in the years 1346–53! The ‘Black Death’ we are referring to is the name that has been given to the oil sludge epidemic that choked thousands of engines worldwide in the 1980s – well, it’s made a comeback!

Black Death occurs in engines from engine oil gelling or solidifying at temperatures usually lower than 100 degrees Celsius. This causes black ‘sludge’ or gel building up in an internal combustion engine causing problems that, when severe, may require the engine to be replaced.

Black sludge build up is usually caused by poorly designed or defective crankcase ventilation systems, low engine operating temperature, faulty injector seals or the presence of water in the engine oil. Lack of maintenance, in particular engine oil changes or using incorrect engine oil in your vehicle can contribute to this issue.

Engine oil is the lifeblood of your car’s engine – select it carefully. There are so many different engine oils on the market today it is difficult to know what to use. We recommend referring to your manufacturers service books, you’ll find the correct oil specifications required for your cars’ engine.

Choosing the correct engine oil will ensure that:

  • The engine parts are protected against wear and corrosion,
  • Impurities are removed from the engine,
  • Friction is reduced in the engine, increasing engine performance and improving fuel efficiency,
  • Compression is boosted in the combustion chambers reducing emissions and increasing engine power; and
  • Heat is absorbed and removed from the engine, preventing hot spots and deformation, warping and failure of moving parts.

We have seen a number of Mercedes Sprinter and Vito vans where injector seals had failed, causing engine oil to ‘spray’ into the head cavity and cause heavy sludge build up. So much so that the sludge has to be ‘chipped’ away in order to access the injectors to rectify the fault. More often than not the injectors are in need of replacement once the sludge has built up to the extent that they are buried in sludge.

We were once presented with a small hatchback car, the client had not serviced the car for 90,000kms! The car had been driven every day and was reported to feel ‘sluggish’. Upon inspection we found the engine heavily ‘sludged’ up and we recommended NOT completing a service as engine damage would occur. As the sludge build up was extreme, completing an engine flush would have cause more problems, especially if pieces of sludge had broken away, lodging in other parts of the engine causing it to fail.

Example of sludge build up as a result of failed injector seals.

The client did not proceed with a service however, we were informed later that the car had been left stationary for 3 months, which had allowed gravity to pull the sludge to the bottom of the engine, the sump, blocking the oil pick up valve and starving the engine of engine oil. The result? A failed engine.

Although that is an extreme case, it’s really important to maintain car servicing to avoid engine damage and sludge build up.

Here’s an example of the appearance of ‘black sludge’ on a BMW engine photographed from the oil filler cap.

If you are concerned about your car’s engine, call into SVS Autocare for a no obligation discussion. One of the team would be happy to help.


Can ‘Aftermarket’ Automotive Workshops ‘talk’ to my car? We can at SVS Autocare…

How do we ‘talk’ to your car? Through your vehicle’s Engine Control Unit or ECU using dealership diagnostic computers.

So what is an ECU?

An ECU controls a series of actuators on an internal combustion engine to ensure optimal engine performance. It does this by reading values from a multitude of sensors within the engine bay, interpreting the data using multi-dimensional performance maps (called lookup tables), and adjusting the engine actuators accordingly. Before ECUs, air-fuel mixture, ignition timing, and idle speed were mechanically set and dynamically controlled by mechanical and pneumatic means.

The ECU also controls the engine performance for the control of air/fuel ratio and controls the ignition timing. It is also responsible for controlling, amongst other things the variable valve timing and the electronic valve control. In a nutshell it is the ‘brain’ of your car, monitoring performance and engine efficiency and setting off engine warning lights if something is faulting within the engine.

Should an internal fault occur in one of the engine systems, fault codes are stored at the ECU, computerised diagnostic computers engage with the ECU to access these fault codes and identify the fault. The faults are identified by the on-board diagnostics (OBD) of your vehicle, which is an automotive term referring to a vehicle’s self-diagnostic and reporting capability.

When a sensor voltage falls out of specifications, the ECU will illuminate a “CHECK ENGINE, SERVICE ENGINE SOON, OR MAINTENANCE REQUIRED” light at the instrument cluster. The ‘warning light’ means the ECU has received a bad reading from at least one sensor.

OBD systems provide an ability to access the status of the various vehicle subsystems. The amount of diagnostic information available via OBD has varied widely since its introduction in the early 1980s versions of on-board vehicle computers. Early versions of OBD would simply illuminate a malfunction indicator light or “idiot light” if a problem was detected but would not provide any information as to the nature of the problem. Modern OBD implementations use a standardised digital communications port to provide real-time data in addition to a standardised series of diagnostic trouble codes, or DTCs, which allow one to rapidly identify and remedy malfunctions within the vehicle.

Did you know that in 1968 it was Volkswagen who introduced the first on-board computer system with scanning capability, in their fuel-injected Type 3 models.

So what happens is the engine warning light illuminates? Can I take it to an ‘Aftermarket’ workshop rather than the dealership?

The answer to that is simple…you can take your car anywhere that has the correct diagnostic computer to engage and talk to your vehicles’ ECU.

The workshop will engage the relevant diagnostic computer to your make of vehicle and complete a scan to read the OBD computer trouble codes. Once the diagnostic computer has completed a diagnostic test, the relevant trouble code number/s are found and the workshop are able to locate the cause of the fault, like “MAP sensor voltage low” and so on. The diagnostic computer can erase the codes from the ECU and a test drive may be completed on your vehicle. Upon return to the workshop, the ECU is rechecked to find out if the codes has cleared or returned. If it has returned, further investigations may be required.

SVS Autocare are the European Vehicle Specialists on the Sunshine Coast and have the latest computerised diagnostic computers for a range of vehicles, including:

  • Porsche
  • Lamborghini
  • Bentley
  • Mercedes – including AMG models
  • Audi
  • BMW
  • VW
  • Skoda
  • Plus generic diagnostic computers for non-European vehicles.


SVS Autocare proudly care for many prestige European vehicles and are able to provide an extremely high level of service as a proud owner would seek.


What is a purge valve and charcoal canister?

A purge valve is the part of the vehicle Evaporative Emission Control (EVAP) system.

The EVAP system prevents fuel vapours in the fuel tank from escaping into the atmosphere. The EVAP system traps fuel vapours from the fuel tank and temporarily stores them in the charcoal canister.

When the engine is running under certain conditions, the fuel vapours are purged from the canister and burned inside the engine.

The purge valve precisely controls the amount of fuel vapour that is purged from the charcoal canister.

In modern cars, the purge valve is an electrically-operated solenoid that is controlled by the engine computer (Engine Control Unit – ECU).

When the engine is off, the purge valve is closed. When the engine is running and fully warmed up, the engine computer gradually opens the purge valve to allow some amount of fuel vapour to be moved from the charcoal canister to be burned in the engine. The purge flow is monitored by a number of sensors. If the purge flow is less or more than is expected under the conditions, the computer illuminates the “Check Engine” light.

The Real Cost of Buying Cheap Fuel

apex seals
apex seals

We are often asked the question of whether cheap fuel is a false economy and our response is a resounding YES!

The price difference between the two fuels at the bowser doesn’t translate into hip pocket savings because ethanol has less energy per litre than petrol, meaning you need to use more of it to achieve the same outcome.

Drive put the three fuels to the test, driving three identical Toyota Camrys more than 2000 kilometres in a range of conditions to see which fuel drives your dollar further.

The E10-fuelled Camry in the test cost $276.55 to run, while the regular unleaded version cost $271.56 and the premium unleaded fuel version, which cost, on average, 15 cents a litre more than E10, cost $285.54. The car running on premium unleaded consumed 9.06 litres/ 100km, compared with 9.41L/100km for the regular unleaded car and 9.81 litres for the E10 vehicle.

The test-drive route covered a range of conditions, from freeway driving to off-peak and peak-hour city driving. City driving exposed E10’s efficiency shortcomings more than highway cruising.
Around town using E10 was almost as expensive as using premium unleaded, despite the huge gap in pump prices. In the700 kilometres of city driving, our E10 Camry used almost 10 litres more fuel than our premium-fuel car. The comparative fuel bills for the three cars were: E10, $105; premium, $105.91; and regular unleaded, $100.33.


Below is another article that explains the differences in more detail.

RON? Not your next-door neighbour

What does the RON number mean in regard to petrol?

Unleaded fuels carry a RON (Research Octane Number) rating. Put simply, RON determines petrol’s ‘anti-knock’ quality or resistance to pre-ignition; or if you want to put in another way, the Octane Number denotes its resistance to detonation.

If you run your vehicle on low octane petrol you might notice a ‘knocking’, ‘rattling’, or ‘pinging’ sound (as it’s often called), which means the fuel is detonating instead of burning smoothly. This is not only a waste of energy, but it can also damage your engine in the long run. Burning is the desired effect of any internal combustion engine (not an explosion per se).

Fuel with a higher octane number suitable for your vehicle’s engine will eliminate knocking. Older cars that were designed to run on a lower RON fuel can also benefit from a higher RON, because the older the car and the higher the kilometres, means the engine will have a greater propensity to knock. This is mainly caused by a build-up of contaminants and carbon deposits which, when hot, can cause pre-ignition.

apex sealsRotary engines suffered from this too. As carbon deposits build up on the three apex seals of each rotor, the deposits get so hot, they glow orange with heat and then bang…detonation!
If you’ve ever seen an apex seal with what looks like burnt, corroded and ‘blown’ corners, you’ll know why. So in effect, a higher RON fuel when used in these situations will have a much higher threshold to detonate, therefore reducing that nasty characteristic of detonation.

Different fuels

There may have been times when you’ve pulled up at the petrol station (and apart from feeling like you have just been violated when paying for your go-go juice) and thought to yourself: should I perhaps try XYZ fuel? Is it any better? What should I be using, and could I be using the wrong thing?
Let me quickly go through some basic facts about available fuels.

(ULP) Unleaded Petrol

ULP was produced to replace older-technology petrol which used lead-additive as an upper cylinder lubricant (use of lead was phased out in most countries because of the damaging effects of lead on our health). Vehicles using ULP operate with a catalytic converter. Most vehicles built or imported since 1986, and a number of pre-1986 vehicles, have been fitted with catalytic technology.

ULP has a Research Octane Number (RON) of between 91 and 93. If you have a low mileage car, that isn’t a performance car, there is no need to extend your wallet to anything else but this stuff. It will do the job just fine, especially if the manufacturer of your motor vehicle recommends it. But you may wish to consider the following when making your choice.

(PULP) Premium Unleaded Petrol

PULP is a special blend of petrol with a higher octane rating, that can produce higher engine power, as well as knock-free performance for unleaded cars with a high-octane requirement. So yes, it does give you more performance, and, because it has a higher tolerance towards ‘knock’, it may stop your engine from retarding, assisting the car to run at its optimum.

PULP, usually has a Research Octane Number (RON) of 95/96 and as time goes on, PULP is starting to become the norm. As discussed earlier, perhaps higher mileage and older cars will benefit from running a higher RON to reduce knocking. Of course, if the manufacturer recommends you use 95+ RON fuel, then do that.

As it burns cleaner, and more completely, and can extend the number of kilometres you get out of each tank, there are good environmental reasons for choosing a higher octane fuel.

(UPULP) Ultra Premium

Most oil companies have a specially-named version of UPULP (Castrol Vortex and BP Ultimate are two examples) which has a RON of 98. It is a high-octane unleaded fuel that maximises engine power and performance, burns cleanly (keeping the upper-cylinders clean) as well as producing less pollution. It is more commonly recommended for imported and high performance vehicles.

98 RON is promoted as providing excellent fuel economy. It has low levels of benzene, sulphur and lower aromatics: its sulphur content is 10 times lower than the national standard for unleaded fuels.
For performance cars, 98 RON go-go juice is the norm. But does a car that is designed to run on 95 RON fuel run better on 98 RON fuel? Some swear by it, but from what I have seen, I have no evidence to sustain that theory. Sure, you may get better mileage, but I am skeptical that we would see measurably positive results on the dyno. However, there are certainly exceptions to any rule, and there are just so many variables to consider it’s not worth turning the discussion into argument.

The basic principles of internal combustion technology in cars has changed little; where things have changed however is in programming and in the sophisticated fuel management systems (such as knock sensors) of modern cars.
Knock Sensors

knock sensorsSome engines are fitted with a device called a knock sensor. Regardless of whether your vehicle has a knock sensor or multiple knock sensors, if it has high mileage, a higher RON fuel would be the most mechanically sympathetic thing to do. Why is that?

You see the knock sensors in your engine (if equipped) have a job to do. They protect your engine from knock by retarding timing; but here is the thing – your car ‘has’ to knock first before the knock sensors can do their job! This is not a good start in the first place. When an engine ‘knocks’ the engine temperature soars, and with most modern engines using an all alloy block, heat is bad… very bad.

Older engine blocks were commonly made from iron, and iron has a much higher melting temperature (at around 1,500 degrees centigrade) whereas an alloy block (we’re generalising here) melts at around half that temperature (being approximately 800 degrees centigrade).

Having first-hand experience with race engines that run an engine management system like a MOTEC tuned for a race fuel like ELF W.L.F (World Rally Fuel) at 102 RON ( the FIA limits for racing fuel is 102 octane), I’ve seen an engine ‘melt’ internally after just getting a ‘whiff’ of 98 RON when the engine was tuned for 102. Temps went through the roof and the engine was a throw-away proposition. This gets pretty expensive, let me tell you.

melted piston

Of course this doesn’t happen anywhere near as dramatically with passenger cars built for consumer use, and most race engines don’t employ knock sensors to retard timing. It does however illustrate – at the higher end of the spectrum – just how important running the right RON for an engine can be and just how serious knock is.

So what does all this RON nonsense mean to the average motorist? Does it give you more power like many people suggest? Can you really ‘feel’ that extra power via the driver’s seat? Does a higher RON fuel equal better fuel consumption? The answer to these questions is somewhere between “maybe” and “yes”, but it depends a lot on your car, its state of tune, and how you drive.

So what do you next time you find yourself at the petrol pump?

My advice is reach for the better stuff. Not only are you “spreading the love” to your engine, but you will likely see better mileage and you will be doing your bit for the environment. On the whole, the higher the RON, the cleaner the emissions.

Till next time, Happy and safe motoring.

Octane rating or octane number is a standard measure of the performance of an engine or aviation fuel. The higher the octane number, the more compression the fuel can withstand before detonating (igniting). In broad terms, fuels with a higher octane rating are used in high performance petrol engines that require higher compression ratios. In contrast, fuels with lower octane numbers (but higher cetane numbers) are ideal for diesel engines, because diesel engines (also referred to as compression-ignition engines) do not compress the fuel but rather compress only air and then inject the fuel into the air heated up by compression. Petrol engines (also referred to as gasoline engines) rely on ignition of air and fuel compressed together as a mixture without ignition, which is then ignited at the end of the compression stroke using spark plugs. Therefore, high compressibility of the fuel matters mainly for petrol engines. Use of petrol (gasoline) with lower octane numbers may lead to the problem of engine knocking.[1]


Volkswagen Genuine Timing Belts – Staying safely on track

In 2013, Volkswagen (VW) reduced the interval (both kilometres and time) recommended to replace the timing belt on VW vehicles.

On certain engines with overhead camshafts, the timing belt has a limited lifespan.  The timing belt is an essential component of the engine.  It turns the camshaft(s) at exactly ½ the speed of the crankshaft whilst maintaining precise engine alignment and it’s responsible for adjusting the engine’s valve operation.  The timing belt effects the fuel consumption and emissions.

During timing belt replacement, the water pump is also changed therefore the cost of labour involved on replacing these parts are incurred only once.

If you have purchased a VW that does not have a recorded or known history of the timing belt being replaced, we strongly advise that you undertake this important maintenance item.  Failure of the timing belt (if it breaks) can cause catastrophic engine damage and lead to a very costly repair.

The above information is an overview only and intended for awareness purposes. 

Source:  Volkswagen Australia website 

What Our Clients Say

As a former sales rep in the automotive industry, I’ve had the opportunity to visit over a thousand workshops between Brisbane and Bundaberg, including all of the major prestige dealerships. The SVS Autocare workshop is one of the most pristine …

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