Archive | April, 2014

Youngsters challenged with fixing VW Polo to pass MOT

Youngsters challenged with fixing VW Polo to pass MOT

DaniAs Haynes Mechanix heads into its fourth week , CAT catches up with Daniela Rathke, Trainer from RM Training, who explains the challenges the young people are tackling over the duration of the course.

She said: “We were given a little green P Registration 1.6-litre automatic VW Polo, whose MOT had expired at the end of March. Our challenge is therefore to prepare and customise the little Polo so it can pass its annual test.

“During the project we are examining different parts of the vehicle, many of them essential for the day to day journey. For example, learning how to change a tyre safely, changing light bulbs and checking the fluid levels.

“The joy of working with the group of young people on the project is that everybody has his / her ideas on how to customise the vehicle, both inside and outside. They are all interested in learning about the mechanics of the car – understanding what makes it run – whilst also having enjoying getting stuck in and getting their hands dirty.

“For me, it is great to be able to teach them about the different parts of the vehicle, passing over some of my knowledge, and tips that I have picked up over the years, and encouraging them to get engaged and enjoy what they are doing. Who knows, maybe we will end up with some future mechanics after the project finishes!

“So far with the support of London Youth, Haynes Publishing’s manuals, Draper Tools and RM Training the project has been worth every second.”

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Sukhpal-Singh-AhluwaliaSukhpal Singh Ahluwalia has tendered his resignation at LKQ and left ECP, the car parts company he started a quarter of a century ago in Willesden.

His resignation will give Singh more time to devote to other interests including the Dominvs property, hospitality and wealth management business that he formed in 2011 when LKQ paid £225 million for ECP.

A further £55 million in performance-related payments for Singh are understood to have been paid, but besides confirming his resignation he has made no further comment.

Martin Gray will continue to hold the reigns as CEO at ECP, a post he was appointed to in November 2013 when Singh was made Chairman of LKQ Europe.

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Haynes Mechanix is a huge success with young people

Haynes Mechanix is a huge success with young people

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 20.47.33Heading into week three of the Haynes Mechanix course for young people and CAT catches up with Richard ‘Beef’ Frankland, Youth Services Manager at Prospex Youth Club to see how the programme is going.

“Take a small garage, an old fairly battered VW Polo, a group of young people from Prospex Youth Charity and amazing support from Haynes Manuals, London Youth, Draper Tools, a mentor from RM Training, mix them all together and you have the start of an exciting project known as Haynes Mechanix,” said Frankland.

“In 30 years of running youth work programmes I have never started a project that has been so well resourced and this has made an instant impact on the young people taking part, showing that people believe in them and are willing to invest time, money and energy in helping them achieve.

“Just a few days into the project it was clear that the group were really engaged and especially keen to get their hands dirty by working on the car.

“Their motivation? Some are thinking about careers in motor mechanics, others just want

to try something new or to learn how to fix a car for when they finally get their own.

“Already the group are dreaming about how the project can continue after the pilot scheme is complete, with thoughts of restoring the car to a level where it can be an exhibit at shows. So the young people can take pride in their work and have a great story to go with it.

“Whatever the final outcome of this project, one thing is sure and that is that each participant will have gained new skills, grown in confidence, received accreditation and boosted their CVs.”

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CAT Factory Lives: Refine Metals

Refine-MetalsRoger Buttle and Ross Barnes explain how they generate good profits from cat recycling.

Refine Metals is a busy, thriving recycler, quietly tucked away in the picturesque Surrey Hills.

It collects catalytic converters on a daily basis from factors and scrap yards, decans them, weighs the contents, pays its suppliers a decent price and has the material refined into its precious constituents.

Refine has been going since 2005 and it’s jointly owned by Roger Buttle and its founder and Managing Director Ross Barnes.

We all know emissions-controlling technology contains precious metals – platinum, palladium and rhodium – but not all catalytic converters are created equal, say Barnes and Buttle.

While some offer a price simply based on weight, Refine is part of a band of more sophisticated recyclers that know more. It’s created its own database of hundreds of cats so it can more accurately identify what’s going to be inside when it’s opened.

Sometimes that means a yard or factor might get less than they would have expected for a cat they thought was laden with platinum, but sometimes they might get more. A lot more.

One derivative of a model’s cat might contain £10 worth of precious content and another £200. A lighter unit might have more precious metal inside it than a heavier one, you just can’t tell by chucking it on a set of kitchen scales.

Building up a knowledge from the early days is one of the key reasons that Refine has become one of the country’s foremost recyclers, one that can deal direct with the big boys in refining and get a strong price.

“We got right in at the infancy,” says Buttle, “so we’ve matured with the market. We’ve got the knowledge that other people haven’t got.”

Despite the expertise, it’s content with its coverage in the South East of the country and doesn’t harbor plans of UK-wide domination.

Concentrating on its corner like this means it can also offer quality customer service with daily collections.

“We offer a trade-only, highly professional service, but one that’s close to us,” says Barnes. “That should mean others can’t come in and better us on punctuality or price.

“We really value existing customers and offer the best prices and service to them. Some others might offer better prices to get new suppliers on board, but we take care of people on a longer term basis.

“The market has got more complicated, too, so the quick buck has gone. It’s got more complex.”

Complexity is something Refine has become comfortable with in recycling, but it’s also something that can be found at the origin of Barnes’ involvement in the aftermarket – collecting core for remanufacturing as Autoparts, a business that’s still going.

That was in 1994 and since then that company grew. Even so, Barnes had his concerns.

“I was worried about all of the cheap, white-boxed brand new product that was coming in from China. It wasn’t good enough to reman. I thought the market was going to disappear so I looked for other things. I wanted to divest.”

That’s where the profitable cat recycling came in, but the real bonus for Barnes is that it’s alongside reman, which he says is enjoying a real renaissance, not instead of it.

“The broadening of range and huge amount of part numbers means those making new parts can’t hope to research and develop them all.”

With a dozen, or many more alternators, available in a single model line-up, Barnes makes a good point, and both he and Buttle see the marketplace as rightly demanding good quality remanufacturers.

There are fewer people doing reman these days, that’s for sure, but the ones that are left are doing a quality job that’s well recognised by the sector, says Barnes.

It’s not just rotating electrics either, Autoparts buys electrics, turbos, EGR, pumps, clutches, flywheels – you name it, they probably have it.

Barnes reckons there’s 40 percent growth for Refine over the next two to three years. That could take it past £10 million in turnover.

Old parts are creating new value, some recycled, some remanufactured and Barnes is working out how to increase capacity.

At the moment the site offers 36,000 sq ft of warehousing over two-and-a-half acres, but he’d like to add another 12,000 sq ft, perhaps more.

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Claiming all your allowable expenses


Written by Majid Rasheed

Working out what to claim and what not to claim can be like walking on a tightrope with potentially painful consequences if you slip.

Tax can be an absolute minefield and ensuring that the correct income is declared is vital. However, the matter of what can be expensed is open to interpretation and misunderstanding. On the one hand you don’t want to miss out on valuable reliefs, yet on the other, you’ll not want to mistakenly claim for something that isn’t allowable and possibly give HMRC an excuse to conduct an investigation into your affairs.

Your accounts

The accounts you draw up are a summary of income and expenses, generally for a period of 12 months and are declared to HMRC on your tax return. Moving on to what can be claimed, it’s important to note that expenses are costs to a business which are incurred “wholly and exclusively” for the purpose of trade. As a result, these expenses can be deducted from your total income, allowing you to claim tax relief on them. If you trade via a limited company, then by definition these expenses are to be “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” for the purpose of trade.
However, not all expenses are allowed relief against your income. Your allowable expenses are the same as those whilst you are employed, as well as equipment; replacement of parts; professional indemnity insurance; professional subscriptions; course fees (in some cases); accountancy fees; advertising and marketing; printing; stationary and books; postage; use of home as office; mileage and business travel; subsistence; staff wages; and cleaning and laundry.
There are also partial allowable expenses which you can claim, at an appropriate percentage or reduced amount, in certain circumstances to account for private use. These relate to motor running costs; telephone; hire purchase (leasing) interest; and other loan interest.
Of course not all business related expenses can be claimed against your income, so it’s clearly worth seeking guidance from your accountant, making sure that you advise them of all of your expenses and let them guide you on the tax deductions that are permitted.


An important part of the tax process is the need to keep full and proper records of all business income and expenditure. This means, in simple terms, retaining all receipts and invoices relating to business expenses as HMRC has the power to enquire into your affairs and may ask for evidence to support your claim. By law you are required to keep your records for a minimum of six years – note that penalties may be charged for failure to maintain or retain records.
Not everyone uses full-blown accounting software so at the minimum, consider using an Excel spread sheet, with references to the relevant documentation, to keep track of your expenses; your accountant should be able to provide you with a template.
The better the record-keeping, the easier it is to draw up accounts, and if using an accountant, the lower the bill for his service. The advice is that, where relevant, you retain income received summaries; bank statements, cheque book stubs, paying-in-books; bank loan statements; HP/ leasing agreements; expense invoices/receipts; and records of business and private mileage.
You must note the sources of all monies into your various accounts including non-business related income. Your records do not need to be sophisticated but you should keep a record of all transactions as they arise.
Income is taxed in the period in which it is earned, even though this is not necessarily the period in which the income is received. In contrast, expenses are recorded on earnings basis and are deducted in the period in which they relate to which may not be in the period they are paid.
Since April 6, 2013, self-employed individuals can generally opt to be taxed on cash basis where they are taxed on total income received, less expenses paid, within the relevant period. There is little distinction between capital costs (fixed assets) and revenue costs (recurring costs) here. Therefore capital costs paid in a given period, on which capital allowances would normally be claimable, are treated as normal business expenses, having been adjusted for private usage.
But to qualify for cash basis of taxation, certain conditions need to be satisfied. The single most important condition is that all receipts recorded for the period must be below the VAT registration threshold. If the total of receipts exceeds twice the amount of the VAT registration threshold at the time the year after, the business must leave the cash basis system of taxation. It’s worth noting that businesses do have the option to utilise cash basis taxation for their future tax years where there has been a change of circumstances. Your accountant should advise you first before joining the scheme – cash basis taxation is not necessarily the best option for everyone.

HMRC can investigate

In extreme circumstances HMRC may disallow expenses you’ve claimed for taxation purposes. Their reasoning for this could be that they believe the expense claimed is not incurred “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” for purpose of trade. A good example of this is where they consider the expense relates to a private trip.
If this is the case, HMRC would then seek to impose penalties depending on the behaviour of the tax payer. This could result in higher penalties imposed if they deem this to be fraudulent or negligent conduct, unless it is proven otherwise to be an error that arose innocently.

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Enscite to help automotive SMEs ‘grow and thrive’

Enscite to help automotive SMEs ‘grow and thrive’

Enscite-launch-Colin-McKinnon-Transport-Sec-2-(1)A new organisation aims to improve the performance of small and medium businesses within the automotive engineering supply chain.

Enscite, supported by the European Regional Development Fund and the Regional Growth Fund, has been launched to help automotive manufacturing businesses grow.

To mark the occasion Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, delivered a speech saying he was pleased to back the organisation that will enable companies within the transport sector to take these skills and opportunities even further.

“We are investing record amounts in our transport infrastructure, which is a vital engine for growth for this country. That is why it is vital an organisation like Enscite exists to support these businesses and help drive forward our economy.”

It will offer a range of support services to the SMEs operating within or wanting to access the aerospace, automotive and rail sectors.

Colin McKinnon, Managing Director of Enscite, said: “It works to help manufacturing businesses to grow and thrive. Utilising the expertise of our world-class partners, we deliver practical business improvement programmes, run supply chain workshops and leverage funding to support investments in new technology, including access to a £1m Technology Fund.

“The sector is set for sustained growth and an increasing number of UK companies are looking to re-shore production in the UK, creating jobs, while cutting production costs.”

The launch event, held at Derby’s Roundhouse, was attended by more than 190 guests from organisations across the automotive, aerospace and rail engineering supply chain. Partners of Enscite, Derby City Council, University of Derby, Aston University and Cranfield University, were also in attendance.

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Audi-A1_300pxCarrying on the Inside Line series, we move on from looking at the trio of superminis, Peugeot 107, Citroën C1 and Toyota Aygo and turn our attention to the Audi A1. Originally launched in 2010, the baby Audi is now the entry-level model for the luxury German brand, meaning it is competing with BMW’s Mini, Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz and sister car the Volkswagen Polo.

The A1 saw Audi harking back to its history and the 1974 Audi 50, which was marketed as an upmarket version of the Polo of the time.

Unveiled in 2010, it was considered Audi’s attempt to take some of the premium supermini pie away from BMW, and was available in three and five door guises.

The baby Audi was launched with a range of powerplants. Motorists could choose from 1.2- or 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engines and 1.6- or 2.0-litre diesel options. This variety of engine options and front wheel drive construction has provided technicians with extra challenges.

Next month we’ll be looking at the Hyundai i30, so if you have expertise and insight to share, we would be delighted to hear from you. To get your advice included contact

Click below to see technical contributions on the Audi A1 from:

Autoelectro – explaining why technicians need to be cautious when replacing rotating electrics on the Audi

Cambiare – covers a number of issues with the A1

Comma – discusses the foibles of fluids and the importance of oil

Dayco – comments on replacing the timing belt on the Audi A1

FAI Automotive – discusses the issues with timing belts

First Line – comments on finding steering parts for the A1

Forté – on why engine flushes can prove vital on the Audi

Lucas Oils – on the importance of choosing the correct oil for the Audi A1

Manbat – tackling AGM batteries

Meyle – common issues on the baby Audi solved

Suplex – looks at the front and rear suspension on the A1

TecRMI – give us an insight into a couple of technical problems

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Inside Line: Manbat

Introduced in 2010, all versions of the popular A1 incorporate the company’s Start-Stop system.

As these vehicles begin to drop out of the franchised dealer network and enter the independent sector, workshops, and the technicians undertaking service and repair work on these variants, need to bear in mind that they are not fitted with traditional lead-acid starter batteries. Instead these models use an AGM battery such as a VARTA® Start Stop Plus and will therefore require specialist knowledge and equipment to ensure the correct removal and installation process is followed.

In addition, as the battery in the system is integrated with the vehicle’s battery management system and its ECU, thorough diagnosis is required to discover whether the battery needs to be replaced or if there is an underlying cause that might have led to its premature failure.

Having the ability to cancel and reset the fault codes that may be required for associated components like the alternator and starter motor, as well as the Start-Stop system, means that workshops would be wise to invest in the necessary tooling and training to allow them to tackle these issues.

Manbat, the UK’s largest automotive battery distributor, is also the primary distributor for VARTA®, Europe’s leading Start-Stop battery manufacturer.

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Inside Line: Dayco

All diesel-powered versions of the Audi A1 are fitted with Dayco High Tenacity (HT) ‘white’ timing belts as the original equipment fitment, so the only way to offer a genuine like-for-like replacement is to fit a Dayco HT timing belt kit. Dayco HT timing belt kits also come with added benefit of the Long Life +1 Year warranty, which safeguards motorists for a total of three years from the date of installation.

Originally developed by Dayco for the 1.6 diesel unit, the current range of diesel engines used throughout the VW/Audi group and therefore in the A1, also feature a toothed belt driven oil pump, which runs in a bath of oil. The advantages of the system include a reduction in engine friction, quieter operation and reduced engine emissions.

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Inside Line: First Line

First Line – Steering Components

First Line would like to advise its customers that five months following its launch, Audi changed the wishbones it fitted to the A1. As a result, customers need to make sure they are specifying the correct wishbone for the vehicle when ordering a replacement.

Accurate catalogue information is available through First Line’s WebCat electronic catalogue system, so customers should check first to ensure the correct wishbone is ordered. However, irrespective of the version, as would be expected from the UK’s largest steering & suspension supplier, First Line holds both versions in stock for immediate delivery.

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