YouGov figures suggest that 47% of Brits going on holiday this summer will do so without leaving the country, with estimates suggesting we’ll – collectively as a nation – be going on 16 million ‘staycations’ during the school break alone. So, with so many plane tickets to the continent being swapped for car journeys up and down these isles, motorists have a heightened responsibility to make sure their motors are ready for the long haul.
Mostly, it’s for safety, but also because nobody wants to be left stranded at the roadside halfway up the M1 because of poor maintenance, do they? So let’s get right to it; here are four must-do car checks (plus one optional) before you set off on your summer holiday in Britain.
Given that tyres are the only thing connecting you and your car to the road, they are of utmost importance. You could own the most technologically advanced car in the world, but if it’s on old, worn or worse, badly damaged tyres, it could be an accident waiting to happen. It’s akin to giving a sprinter a pair of torn plimsolls for the 100-metre. And when it comes to high mileage drives, tyre health is key to ensure a safe, trouble-free trip, partly because of the heat generated on long motorway stints.
To ensure your tyres are as ready for a sudden downpour as they are the summer sunshine, and to conform with UK law, your tyres must have at least 1.6 millimetres of tread across three-quarters of their surface from the centre. But given the volume of rain that can fall on UK roads in a short amount of time – and the level of standing water that creates – we’d advise on replacing your tyres before they reach the legal limit. Deeper tread is more effective at clearing water and keeping your tyres pressed into the tarmac.
No less important are tyre pressures, because they affect the shape and temperature of your tyres. Too low and your tyres will flatten at the bottom, balloon at the sides and get very hot. Too high and their contact patch with the road will narrow as the centre of the tyre swells, making that area do all the hard work – and potentially overheat. It’s therefore of high importance that you make sure all tyres are set as per your car’s manufacturer guidance. If you’re carrying a heavy load, manufacturers can often suggest raising the rear pressures to account for the extra weight. Oh, and don’t forget to check your car’s spare wheel if it has one.
Oil and fluids
Oil keeps your engine healthy, lubricating internal parts that spin as metal against metal thousands of times a minute. Miss service schedules and the oil in your engine will grow thicker and thicker, until its lubricating abilities will be more comparable with treacle than oil. On a long drive, an engine with old or low oil will quite literally be wearing itself to an early grave, so it’s best to check that your oil is both healthy – new oil is golden, old oil is black – and filled to the correct level.
While you’re at it, best to check the coolant level and, of course, your windscreen washer fluid. You’ll be grateful for having done so if road muck obscures your view.
If your brakes are squeaky, if the pedal feels spongy or your car’s brakes generally don’t feel up to their best, you should get them checked by a professional mechanic. Low pads, worn-out discs or old brake fluid can each individually – or collectively – weaken brake performance. Over the course of a long journey, it’s possible you’ll come across one or more moments where harder braking is needed, so to ensure you slow safely each time, tip-top brakes are a must.
If your brakes do need work – whether it’s the pads or the discs – you’ll likely need to put a few miles on the car before you do embark on your trip, to let the new parts ‘bed in’. New brake components take as many as 100 miles to reach their peak performance, asking for gentle use to begin with so they can slowly wear into their surrounding components. If you’ve had new parts fitted, be sure to take care for the first few miles because initially, your brakes will feel very weak. A reputable garage will usually instruct you on how to manage them.
It might sound obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to miss a faulty light, especially if you only drive in the day. Ideally, get someone to stand outside and check that your lights work as you turn the headlights on, press the brakes and indicate left/right. If you’re on your own, you can park the car against a reflective surface – like a metal garage door or window – to check they work. Best to make sure the interior lights work, too, in case you find yourself parked out in the sticks at night, attempting to find the phone you’ve just dropped down the side of the seat.
Or, if you’ve read the above and think it sounds expensive and exhausting, you could just let cinch take care of the hard work, with our aptly named cinchCare. It takes the potential headaches out of motoring all the time, not just in staycation season. Maybe we should have told you that before you got this far. Oops!