Hit the Road: How to Get the Best Out of Summer Driving

Summer is here and with it comes a wide range of different things: long balmy evenings in the backyard, warm barbecues, holiday fun, maybe even a dip in the sea and other outdoor activities. Some predictions say that, after a hot start to the spring and summer, we may continue to have more average temperatures and rainfall through August – it’s a UK summer, after all, so bound to be a mixed bag! But according to Department for Transport, summer – not winter as many would imagine – is the most dangerous season to drive around. More deadly accidents occur during hotter times compared to the winter months. Several factors cause this increase in car crashes, including increased congestion on road due to vacation travel and an increase in road maintenance work. It is therefore very important for drivers to be familiar with a few simple steps they can take to avoid breaking down in the heat. As we all know, summer driving is fraught with challenges. Here are few tips to keep you and your loved ones comfortable this summer, and to ensure that your next road trip is a safe one.

Scrutinize your tyres

Heat is an enemy of car tyres, and if you do not inflate them properly, you are likely to put them under serious stress once they get rolling, risking a blowout. The last thing you want to do, on a really hot day, is change a flat tyre, isn’t it?

  • Before heading out, check the tyre pressure and take a cold pressure reading – the figure that is referred to in your owner’s manual. Remember, if you check your tyre pressure during a pit stop on a long road trip, the numbers will be on the higher side, because your tyres are all het up now and air normally expands when heated.
  • Even more than in winter, it is very important to inspect the condition of your tyres during summer. An underinflated tyre is not only a safety hazard but is a common cause of poor fuel economy as well.
  • In addition, properly inflated tyres provide protection against preventable breakdowns and accidents, better handling, more fuel economy and longer tyre life.

Keep a check on the coolant level

Engines toil when the mercury soars up, and the cooling system takes charge to safeguard the radiators as well as the engine against wear and tear. That said, high temperatures could exacerbate cooling system issues as well. Leaking hoses, low coolant level and broken fans can all lead to excessive heating and expensive repairs.

  • Keep an eye on the coolant level in the reservoir regularly.
  • Pay attention to white or wet stains on the hoses
  • Check the fan by running the car to standard temperature and idling the engine for a while: the cooling fan, in pristine condition, should cut in mechanically.

Lighten your cargo before you hit the road

When packing for a road trip or a family picnic, make sure you do not exceed the recommended payload capacity of your car.

  • Your owner’s manual has relevant information and recommendations about the maximum combined weight of all passengers and cargo your vehicle can carry safely.
  • When you go on a road trip, you are likely to add hundreds of pounds of passengers, gear and luggage to your vehicle’s normal carrying capacity. Remember that this will affect handling and fuel economy.
  • Plan in advance, and get rid of all the unnecessary extras from your trunk before you start out. And take a good look at what you are carrying to pare down the load.

Be honest, do you really need those portable electronic speakers and five pairs of jeans for a two-day escape to the beach?

Manage heat and glare

  • Keep shades handy and use a sun shield right below your windshield when parked to reduce the heat inside your car.
  • Give the windscreen a thorough clean regularly, both on the inside and outside, to remove smudges and smears, which normally catch sunlight and block vision.
  • Before heading out, make sure that you have a clear view of the road from all your windows.
  • Force out the hot air from a parked car’s cabin, and allow the fresh breezy air to circulate, by driving with all the windows rolled down. In a matter of minutes, the air inside the car will be just about the same temperature as the air outside. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have air con, you can switch it on then!

Other basic tips

No matter where you go, there are a few things you need to be aware of for summer driving.

  • Plan your journey well in advance to make sure you do not get lost or get stuck in traffic jams.
  • Sweltering temperatures (we hope!) can mean greater chance of dehydration so make sure you always travel with plenty of water during long road trips.
  • Take more supplies of meds: you may or may not be able to get them wherever you are going.
  • Take good rest and enjoy little breaks every now and then. Driving right after a long day at work is certainly a recipe for disaster.

There you go. With a little planning and preparation, you can reduce the risk of a potential breakdown and keep summer driving stress levels down to a minimum. So, where are you headed this summer? Share your plans with us on Twitter or Facebook!

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