Many drivers embark on long summer trips, often abroad, without making even the most basic vehicle checks.
When you consider that your car might be covering many miles at a constant high cruising speed for hours on end on a long summer holiday journey, it’s easy to see why preparation is important. Regular servicing should ensure that your car is in good condition but it’s worth taking a little time to check the following items:
Engine cooling system: The biggest cause of summer breakdown is overheating. Hot weather and high speeds make your car work harder – but traffic jams can also take their toll. It’s quite common to see cars pulled in with overheated engines in hot traffic jams. To avoid this, ensure that your coolant level is OK by making regular weekly checks – check daily if you are touring.
It may be a good idea to get your car serviced before embarking on a holiday.
Make sure your garage checks the coolant strength (anti-freeze) and flushes out the cooling system. It might seem odd to talk about anti-freeze when discussing summer motoring, however, the antifreeze solution does more than just stop the water in your engine from freezing, it also acts as a rust inhibitor – at least when it’s at the correct strength (old antifreeze solution can actually corrode your cooling system). Caution: If your engine does overheat, do not remove the radiator or coolant tank cap until it has cooled down for an hour or so – there is a danger of being scalded by super-heated steam.
Air-conditioning: You should service the Air Con system every two years
Windscreen and wipers: Summer thunderstorms can put a lot of strain on the wipers. Check for perished or damaged wiper blades – not forgetting the rear wipers! Also give the blades a wipe at least every time you wash the car. If you have an older car wear in the springs and joints of the wiper arms can affect their performance.
It goes without saying that you should always have a clean windscreen, this is especially the case in bright sunlight where dazzle can surprise you. With this in mind, ensure that you check your washer fluid level regularly, especially on long journeys where you may be constantly washing dead insects from the screen. Avoid using your wipers on a dry windscreen, the dust and grit that settles in the summer can cause tiny scratches that add to the dazzle.
Wheels and tyres: Check tyre pressures weekly (as a minimum) and follow the manufacturers recommended pressure – in the event of an accident insurers might take a dim view of tyres that had existing damage or that were incorrectly inflated (the long arm of law might well take an interest too!). Under or over inflated tyres affect the cars handling, grip on the road and fuel economy – there is nothing to be gained by adding an extra couple of pounds pressure for luck! Check tyre pressures when the tyres are cold (unless your handbook stated otherwise).
Remember to check the spare tyre as well! The law requires that tyre tread depth is at least 1.6 mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference; having said that, it is often wise to change tyres before they reach the legal minimum. In addition to checking the tread depth, check the sides for cuts or other damage. Damage to the tyre walls can cause the tyres flex too much and overheat – possibly resulting in a blow-out.
Lights: Remember to include all the lights in your weekly car check. Some modern cars need tools to change bulbs (in some it’s even a garage job!).