How to load your car for the holidays

Squeezing everything into the car for your summer holiday is something of an art-form. Every nook and cranny is filled to the brim with sun cream, swimming costumes and those all-important sunglasses. But do you ever wonder whether it’s safe to have that much stuff in the car? Don’t worry, we’re here with some top tips on how to load your car safely for the holidays.

What is overloading?

Each car has a different maximum load capacity. A Mini will not have the same capacity as a Land Rover, so this is something to consider when buying a new car. Many people overload their cars unwittingly – some don’t know that there’s a weight limit! If you’re not sure, you can find your car’s weight limit in a variety of places including your car handbook, your registration document and the car’s identification plate (under the bonnet at the front).

Even if people do know about overloading, many forget that the passengers also account for weight in the car, so make sure you deduct your family’s combined weight from the total allowed within your car’s limit. Then you will know how much luggage you can safely bring.

Here are some things to look out for if you think your car may be overloaded:

• It’s riding low and quite close to the tyres
• The steering feels funny or light
• The headlights are pointing high and dazzling drivers
• The car lurches and sways round corners

What changes with a heavy load?

Driving with a heavy load in your car will be different to driving when it’s empty. Be very cautious when driving a loaded vehicle. Here are the most common things that are affected by a heavy load:

• Fuel consumption – the heavier the car, the more petrol it will consume
• Risk of overturning – if you go too quick, the added load may turn the car over
• Strain on the vehicle – a heavy load will affect springs, wheel bearings, tyres, suspension, brakes and the clutch
• Handling and performance will be affected
• Stopping distance will be increased

What happens if I’m caught overloading my car?

You are most likely to get a warning if your car is found to be overloaded. If it’s a repeat offence or an extreme case of overloading, you will get a fixed penalty of £60 and will have to unload some of the contents then and there before continuing your journey. Also, incidents caused by overloading are very rarely covered by insurance as it falls under driving without due care and attention.

How to load your car safely

There are many things you can do to help load your car safely, so here are a few of our top tips:

Don’t pack items above the headrests of the back seats – the driver needs to see out of the back of the car, and anything above this line may fall and injure the rear passengers.

For large/awkward items use a roof rack – your car handbook will state its permitted roof load. Make sure the rack and the items are fitted securely, check the items regularly and remember to account for the extra space needed when driving under low signs or entering covered car parks: you don’t want little Jimmy’s kayak getting scratched do you?

Roof boxes will increase your car’s boot space – fit your box to your roof bars and fill it with the non-essentials that would normally clutter up the cabin. Choose an aerodynamic roof box to save fuel.

Secure your items – you don’t want rucksacks and huge bags slipping and sliding round the cabin. Wedge them down into foot wells and the boot to make sure they’re secure.

Larger items first – the bigger and heavier the item, the earlier in it goes. These items will keep the car’s centre of gravity lower and will minimise the impact the load has on how the car handles. Really heavy items should be pushed up against the rear seats to avoid the car been too heavy at the back and affecting the steering.

Install car seats before you start packing – fitting a child seat rarely works first time, and clambering over a load of luggage won’t help, so install these and fill the car around them to make sure everything will fit. Try and leave a bit of space for the kids too; you don’t want them going stir-crazy on a long drive.

Think about your spare wheel – when driving a long way, a puncture is your worst nightmare because you have all that stuff in the back so you can’t get to your spare tyre. For this reason, don’t throw loose items into the boot, place them in small bags so it’s easier to unload in a hurry.

These easy changes to your packing routine will make your packing safer and your life much easier at the other end. If you’re ever in any doubt about your car, check its handbook – it has all the answers including how much you have to adjust your tyre pressure. One key thing to remember is that your outgoing weight often isn’t the same as your return weight – you pick up souvenirs along the way that begin to add up. A prime example is booze-cruise weekends, where people bring back 5 cases of wine and push their car over the limit! Keep an eye on what you pack, and you’ll be able to drive off without a hitch.

Think your car isn’t big enough for your holiday? Find a new car by popping down to your local dealer before you drive off to sunnier climes.