Summer driving brings with it a different set of challenges to winter driving. This safety checklist will help you avoid any roadside emergencies.
1. Check the fluid levels
Before setting off on your journey, check the washer fluid, oil and coolant levels. The coolant is especially important during the summer months, as it helps to prevent your car engine from overheating. This is something that is much more likely to happen when driving in warmer weather, sitting in traffic jams and regularly using the air conditioning.
If the coolant needs topping up, make sure you use the correct type for your car’s make and model. You should do this twice a year - at the start of winter and the start of summer. If you do find yourself stuck in jams, turn the engine off to avoid overheating.
2. Check the tyre pressure
The air inside your tyres can expand in hot weather, so be sure to check the pressure in all tyres, especially before long journeys. The recommended pressure for your tyres should be in your handbook or inside the door. If not, you can use this online checker to find out the correct pressure for your vehicle’s tyres.
If you’re going to be carrying a heavy load or towing a caravan, then adjust the tyre pressure accordingly. For an accurate reading, check your tyre pressure when the tyres are cold. Don’t forget to check the spare tyre too.
3. Check the health of your tyres
When it comes to tyres, it’s not just the pressure you should keep an eye on. Checking the depth of the tyre tread is just as important, and can be done easily using a 20p coin. Make sure to look for signs of uneven wear, such as the vehicle dragging to one side or the steering wheel vibrating.
Giving your tyres a regular once over will help you spot cracks, or nails, so you can get them fixed before they cause an accident. Due to the air expansion in tyres during hot weather, any damage could pose a higher risk of the tyre blowing out – so these tyre checks are crucial before any long drive.
Over inflation can be as harmful to tyres as under inflation. So, if you don’t feel confident doing it yourself then you can get your tyres checked for free at various places around the country, including Halfords, Kwik-Fit, and Protyre.
Summer driving can take its toll on car batteries. Being stuck in traffic jams, shorter journeys, the use of aircon, and plugging in mobile devices all contribute to battery drain. If your battery is new, you might not have to worry so much, but batteries over three years old should be replaced. You could think about keeping a battery charger in the car too - they start around £40.
5. Check the clutch
Having to have a new clutch sounds like an expensive job, but sometimes prevention is better than cure. If you can’t remember the last time it was looked at, then it’s worth having your clutch checked over for signs of wear and tear. Driving on unfamiliar roads with extra gear changes, and towing caravans are sure-fire ways to cause stress and even failure to the clutch.
Essentials to take on summer car journeys
Of course, it isn’t just the car that should be checked over before any journey. The safety and comfort of the driver and passengers shouldn’t be overlooked either. Here are some things you shouldn’t leave home without:
- plenty of bottled water - staying hydrated especially during warm weather is important.
- snacks - pack some car sweets and easy to eat snacks like fruit, nuts, and energy bars.
- antihistamines - driving with the windows open can aggravate allergies and spoil a car journey. If you’re going to be the one driving, check that drowsiness isn’t one of the side effects.
- sun cream - if the sun’s coming through the windows you could burn, even inside the car. Take sun cream and apply it at regular intervals and before setting off.
- breakdown cover - if the worst did happen, what would you do? Having breakdown cover will give you peace of mind. At the very least, take the contact details of breakdown services with you.
- breakdown kit - an emergency kit could provide you with the essentials you need while waiting for help.
- blankets and waterproofs - if you were to break down, don’t rely on the weather staying warm - make sure you have warm clothes or covers to keep the cold and wet out.
- tissues - wet and dry. They’ll keep sticky fingers and runny noses clean and mop up any unforeseen accidents.
- entertainment - keep kids occupied by creating an entertainment pack. You could include a pack of cards, magazines, colouring pencils, and think of some fun games to play like “I Spy”.
- a map - you might be using your phone as a satnav but having a paper map as a backup is never a bad idea.
- spare battery chargers - ensure your mobile phone is always charged with a portable battery charger.
- loose change - we may be using less cash these days, but it’s still handy. For example, at parking meters. It pays to keep a handful of change in the car.
Staying at home? Find out how to keep your house cool this summer.
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