Short breaks in the UK are a popular option when it comes to booking a holiday. As many as 13.1 million of us opt to use our vehicles to get away for a UK break, however many motorists admit they do not make basic car safety checks before embarking on a long journey.
Making sure your car is ready for the road is important so we’ve listed below our top 10 checks you can do before setting off.
1. Check your coolant levels
Engine coolant is a mixture of water and anti-freeze that helps to stop your engine overheating.
Most modern cars have a sealed cooling system so they shouldn’t need topping up, unless they’ve sprung a leak. It’s important to check your engine coolant every couple of weeks so you can spot any problems early which could save you a lot of money and hassle.
To check your coolant level, locate your radiator reservoir under the bonnet (if you’re not sure where it is, check your vehicle handbook) and make sure the coolant level is between the min and max lines. If you need to top up, make sure you select the right one for your car.
2. Check your dipstick for oil
The oil in your engine is one of your vehicle’s most important elements. It keeps all the engine’s internal parts moving as they should, and stops them from wearing out too quickly.
If the oil level in your engine drops too low it’ll stop it from working efficiently causing it to seize up, and could eventually lead to significant engine damage if not addressed.
To check your engine oil, locate your dipstick underneath the bonnet and make sure the oil level is between the two min and max markers at the end of the dipstick. The dipstick is usually easy enough to locate and can be identified by the ring pull (often yellow/orange in colour) coming out of the engine. Top the engine oil up if need be, but be sure to use the correct type of oil recommended in the vehicle’s handbook.
Oil should be drained and refilled annually as part of the MOT. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still check your levels at regular intervals throughout the year to avoid your engine running low.
3. Pack your car jack and locking wheel nut key
It’s important to make sure you have both of these items before setting off on a long trip. It could be the difference between being stranded and carrying on with your journey. If you pick up a tyre puncture on your journey, you’ll need a jack in order to stop and put the spare on.
You’ll also need the locking wheel nut key to hand to remove the wheel. Without this, you nor a recovery vehicle will be able to take the wheel off so make sure you have it with you and store it somewhere safe and accessible!
4. Check your tyre pressures
It’s important to make sure your tyres are inflated to the recommended pressure. Tyres that are underinflated can overheat and cause damage to the tyre, and overinflated tyres can lead to poor vehicle handling and increase the risk of a blowout.
Tyres that are set to the incorrect tyre pressure will also need to be replaced more regularly as the tread will wear more quickly and unevenly. Under-inflated tyres will also increase fuel consumption as they have an increased rolling resistance and more fuel will be required to maintain the same speed.
The correct tyre pressures for your vehicle can be found in the vehicle handbook.
5. Check your tyre tread for wear
When braking, your car relies on the tread on your tyres to grip the road and come to a stop in the shortest possible distance. Braking distance increases as tyre tread wears out so it’s important that you check them regularly to ensure you still have adequate tread on your tyres.
The legal minimum depth of the tread on your tyres is 1.6mm, across the central ¾ of the tread around the complete circumference of the tyre.
For safety, we strongly recommend that you replace your tyres before the legal limit is reached. Many vehicle manufacturers recommend replacing at 3mm. In wet weather, travelling at 50 mph with 1.6mm of tread, it takes an extra car length (8 metres) to stop than if your tread was 3mm.
It is also a legal requirement to ensure that tyres of different construction types are not mixed on the same axle (the two main tyre types are radial and cross-ply). Please ask Roadwheel to check your tyres if you are unsure.
Mixing brands and patterns of the same construction type is permissible depending on the vehicle type and manufacturers recommendation. Check your vehicle’s handbook, or ask Roadwheel to look this up for you.
Failing to replace your tyres before they reach this minimum limit could result in a hefty fine and penalty points on your licence.
6. Check for damage and unusual wear and tear
Tyres can get cuts and lumps caused by various things such as potholes or an impact with the kerb. If you notice any damage on your tyres, or your vehicle has been involved in an emergency manoeuvre like sudden heavy braking, you must have them checked as quickly as possible by a tyre specialist such as Roadwheel, as this sort of damage can lead to sudden tyre failure.
7. Refill your screenwash bottle
The screenwash reservoir should be topped up regularly, especially before a big journey. This is essential for removing dirt, muck and insects from the windscreen and ensuring you have clear visibility.
The premixed screenwash at petrol stations have cleaning agents that can cut through dirt, as well as coolant meaning it won’t freeze and expand in the pipes and washer bottle during winter.
8. Ensure all your lights are working properly
Another important check to consider is testing all of your car’s lights to ensure that they’re in working order. This includes car headlights, brake lights, reverse light, indicators and internal cabin lights.
9. Check wiper blades
You can’t trust the weather, especially when holidaying in the UK, so a good effective set of windscreen wipers are a must to ensure you can see the road clearly. Wipers are probably the least hardy part of your car and will inevitably become damaged over time. Check the blades for any splits in the rubber edge, which could prevent the wiper from clearing water or leave streaks in the line of view. It’s easy to neglect this part of the car, but wipers are essential to clear anything on the windscreen.
10. Switch on the air con
Car air conditioning needs regular maintenance to ensure it is functioning as effectively as possible and travelling without functioning air con can make a journey unpleasant. Generally you will lose between 5-10% of your air conditioning gas each year until it reaches a point where you will notice a fall in performance. You may simply need an air con re-gas which we can do here at Roadwheel while you wait.
We do free tyre and safety checks on all vehicles here at Roadwheel so if you’ve got any questions or queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.