Ahh, the summer holidays are here. Day trips to the seaside for fish and chips and a cheeky ice cream on the beach, a walk round the woods to enjoy the cool shade of the trees, or perhaps even the annual getaway to some far-flung holiday destination. All of these things are lovely, but most of them can only be achieved by planning safe journeys and making sure your car is in tip top condition. Travelling in summer conditions might seem more pleasant than the cold of winter, but this other extreme of UK temperature can still lead to car trouble for the unprepared. So, if you're packing up your car to head off somewhere, here are some tips on how to make your journey more enjoyable.
Just like in winter, if you're travelling in summer you need to make sure your car is in good mechanical order. There are a few things to check to make sure you're ready to go:
- Coolant - Make sure your coolant is topped up to prevent overheating. Summer is the time your car is most likely to overheat, leaving you grinding to a halt in a cloud of steam at the most inconvenient moment.
- Tyres - Always check tread depths, tyre pressure and tyre condition before setting off. You need at least 1.6mm of tread across the tyre (ideally 3mm), and there should be no uneven wear, cuts or nails/screws in the tread. Always check your tyre pressures before you set off, as your tyre pressures increase as the tyres heat up.
- Air conditioning - This might not be top of your car trouble list, but if your air con stops you'll be unhappy very quickly! If your air con struggles to get cold or sends a musty smell through the vents, it might need re-gassing or disinfectant treatment.
- Oil - As always, keep checking your oil level. Do this with the engine off so the oil level settles.
It's also worth keeping an eye on your lights, wipers and screen wash level, because you still need these surprisingly often during the summer!
With your car in tip top condition, it's time to plan your journey. Do you have enough fuel for the trip? Where's your destination, when do you need to leave to arrive on time, and what's the best route to get there? Pre-programme it into your sat nav or Google Maps before you go, so it just takes the press of a button to find your way. Do some research to see if any roadworks is planned - you often see motorways and major roads closed during the summer holidays when people are away, and traffic levels are lower, leaving you hunting for alternative routes.
We're more likely to travel long distances in the summer when we travel for our summer holidays, so it's important to take time for breaks. Take the opportunity for a loo stop when you can, and drink plenty of water as often as possible. Keep a bottle of water in the car with you, because even becoming slightly dehydrated can cause a significant reduction in your concentration levels or give you a headache, neither of which are good things to have when you've got a long drive ahead. If you're travelling with the family, they'll also appreciate a leg stretch and the opportunity to grab a snack during the journey.
Are you legal?
As well as remembering to grab your passport if you're jetting off somewhere, you need to make sure the rest of your documents are in order and your car is legal. Did you know that your driving licence photo needs renewing every ten years? You commit an offence if you drive without an up to date photo. Check the date at Section 4B on your photocard to make sure it's in date. Also make sure that your insurance, car tax and MOT are in date, because these could all cause you a problem if you have an accident or get checked by the police. Also, if you're travelling into countries such as France, read up on the local laws. For example, France requires you to have kit such as breathalysers and Hi-Viz jackets in the car, and Spain insists you must turn on your headlights in tunnels. Money Saving Expert has a great guide to driving in Europe.
So there are a few things to think of when travelling this summer. If you'd like to know any more, RAC has a helpful guide to summer driving. And of course there's our blog on what to pack for the road trip here. Happy travelling!