Summer driving and maintenance guide

Cars need to be checked and prepared for summer driving – particularly if the driver is planning a long drive to a holiday destination. This inevitably means loading up the car and hitting the motorways, which itself puts a strain on a car after a long winter filled with interludes of poor weather.

Even for those drivers travelling more modest distances, there are certain summer checks we would advise drivers take as the summer approaches.

Summer car checks:

Tyres – A car’s tyres are the only part to actually come in contact with the road and as cars barrel down the motorway at 70mph, it makes sense to ensure these small areas of contact with the surface are in working order.

Checking the tread may not seem as important as in winter when ice and rain can cause accidents, but it is still a legal requirement to have sufficient depth to provide grip. The 20p test should help drivers see if their tyres need replacing.

Obviously, if you’ve been using winter tyres, now would be the time to replace them with summer tyres, which will be more effective in warmer temperatures. Plus, it means the winter tyres don’t get worn before next winter.

Neglected tyres – i.e. those with rips, tears and excess wear – are more likely to deflate or become damaged on a journey. This can make the car harder to control and put extra strain on other aspects of the car such as the suspension and wheel alignment.

Finally, always check the tyres are properly inflated. The amount of air needed in a tyre can be found in the manufacturer’s handbook. Remember this is particularly important if the car is fully loaded.

An under-inflated tyre can lead to excess wear on certain places on the tyre, weakening the structure. It is also inefficient, and will result in the car using more fuel is necessary – something that many can ill-afford with current fuel prices.

Windscreen – Cracks in a windscreen can quickly become serious problems over the UK’s bumpy roads, even breaking completely in some cases. It makes sense to have cracks fixed quickly before they become a major problem.

In summer, the bright sunshine can cause drivers problems. The glare of the sun on the road and other surfaces can temporarily blind a driver, making the road a more dangerous place.

Dirt and marks on windows and mirrors will only make the problem worse, so ensure all windows and mirrors are clean before setting off on a journey.

It is also prudent to check windscreen wipers are working and the washer fluid is topped up. Summer brings more insects and dust, and it is important they do not impair the driver’s view on the road.

OilAnti-freeze – Checking the oil should be a basic maintenance task for all drivers. If the oil runs low, it could cause serious damage to the engine and cause the car to breakdown. This would be especially dangerous on a motorway.

It is more important than ever to check anti-freeze levels in warmer periods because its purpose is to raise the boiling point of the water in the radiator and keep the engine cooler even when the temperature outside is very warm.

Air conditioning – We always advise Perrys customers to run the air conditioning occasionally in the winter because they can become blocked and less efficient if they are not used for some time.

Filters may need replacing in air conditioning units. A good sign is if the air conditioning smells when it is turned on. This is an essential bit of maintenance in the summer when long journeys in hot weather could be very uncomfortable without the air-con.

Bodywork – Have a quick glance at the bodywork before setting out for the summer. Salt put down on roads over winter can cause rust if it is not washed off. Check the car’s body for signs of rust and get it treated if necessary.

Driving in summer:

As always, it is advised to carry a first aid kit when travelling in the summer. Even if all the car checks are in place, the warm weather and longer journeys undertaken in the summer can sometimes cause an engine to overheat or other accident.

With this in mind, it’s important to take enough water (for you and the car!) and plan the route well in advance.

When packing the car, always ensure visibility is not impaired in any way, and try to distribute weight evenly to ensure the car is easier to control.

On the road, be aware the glare of the sun can be an issue in the summer as well, but remember to take those sunglasses off when it gets darker – it will severely limit your ability to see the road. On the subject of sunglasses, some standard sunglasses may be legally too dark to use when driving, and it is always worth checking with an optician before wearing sunglasses to drive.

Finally, when the car is parked, try to avoid sunny areas and instead seek out some shade. This will prevent the car getting excessively hot – particularly those with leather or plastic interiors.

It goes without saying children or animals should not be kept in cars in hot conditions – a piece of advice sadly ignored by a handful of people each year.

Driving abroad:

If you are taking the car on holiday, it is important to research your destination for any laws that may be different from those in the UK. For example, in France it is an offence to not have a kit containing a high-visability vest in the car. Drivers can even be prosecuted if the high-vis vest is in the boot and not easily within reach.

Always check driving laws and what stickers you will need on your car to travel in other countries before travelling to avoid heavy fines or criminal prosecutions.

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