5 ways to prepare your car for a long journey
If you’re one of the millions of people who will be taking to the roads over the festive period you are probably not relishing the journey too much. Not surprisingly, it’s one of the busiest times of the year on the UK’s roads. This, coupled with potentially treacherous driving conditions, screaming children and the occasional wrong turn, can make driving one of the most stressful parts of the festive season...
Fortunately, you can improve your chances of a hassle-free Christmas journey by taking a bit of time to ensure your car is in the best possible shape to make the trip. After all, getting stuck at the side of the road in the cold because your car has broken down or – worse still – been involved in an accident is no-one’s idea of festive fun.
Check your tyres
The minimum, legal tread depth for tyres is 1.6mm, so if yours is less than this then new tyres are an absolute must. Even if your tyres are not quite at this stage yet, most motoring organisations recommend maintaining a tread depth of at least 3mm to stay safe on the roads.
Under or over-inflating your tyres also increases the risk of you having an accident. And as the correct tyre pressure changes depending on the weight you are carrying, it is worth checking this before setting off on a journey involving multiple occupants, luggage and Christmas paraphernalia.
To avoid long delays should you have a flat tyre, it is also a good idea to check the spare and the equipment you need to put it on (jack, wrench etc) are present and correct.
Give your engine a once over
Before setting off on a long journey, it is very important to make sure that your car's oil, brake fluid, anti-freeze and engine coolant levels are all correct. You can find out the right levels by checking your owner's handbook, or by visiting your local dealership or car accessories shop.
You local garage should be able to help if there is anything you are unsure about – for example if you need to add more anti-freeze to prevent any problems with very cold weather while you are away.
Maximise your visibility
Check that your car’s lights are clean, in good working order and properly aligned. Dirt can prevent them from properly lighting your way, while having the beam too high can dazzle oncoming traffic – increasing the risk of accidents.
Given that the glorious UK climate means you are more than likely to encounter rain, sleet or even snow while driving, it is also vital to check your windscreen wiper blades for wear and tear.
Finally, don’t forget to top up your screen wash regularly and make sure that it includes an anti-freeze solution.
Think before you pack
If at all possible, it is a good idea to pack the car the night before you set off. Whatever you do, you should try to spread the load evenly and avoid leaving any loose items that could hit someone should you need to brake sharply, for example. And don’t forget to leave yourself easy access to the spare wheel in case you need it while on route.
Take out breakdown cover
If you don't have some sort of breakdown cover programme, it’s worth signing up. The cost is minimal, but the peace of mind that comes with membership can be priceless.
Having your policy details with you should speed up the process should you need rescuing.
Every week, Clare Francis, financial journalist and editor of comparison site moneysupermarket.com will offer tips and advice on all things money-related to help iVillagers make the most of their hard-earned cash. From energy bills to car insurance; credit cards to children’s savings accounts; mortgages to discount vouchers Clare will show you how to make sure you’re getting the best deal.