Long journeys, high temperatures and heavy traffic
High temperatures and busy holiday routes put extra demands on car and driver. The high temperatures and busy holiday routes of summer put extra demands on both car and driver.
With a little planning and preparation though you should be able to reduce the risk of a breakdown and keep stress levels to a minimum.
Drowned or Lost Key Fobs
It's easy to lose your car keys in sand on the beach or take the remote control for a swim and then find that car doors won't open. Salt in sea water can ruin electric circuits and render transponder keys useless. Most cars will have an alternative method of entry if the remote key fails - check the handbook - but it's better to keep keys safe and dry in the first place.
High temperatures aggravate any existing damage to the rubber. Under-inflation adds to the problem causing friction and more heat which can prove too much for weak spots, causing punctures and blow-outs.
Check tyre condition and pressures, adjusting for extra load if appropriate.
Check caravan tyres for cracking and renew damaged tyres before use.
High temperatures can aggravate cooling system problems too. Low coolant level, leaking hoses and broken electric cooling fans can all result in overheating and expensive damage. If the fan's broken it will soon become apparent when you meet slow moving traffic and engine temperature soars.
Check the coolant reservoir level regularly
Look out for wet or white staining on coolant hoses
Check the fan by running the car to normal temperature and allowing the engine to idle for five to 10 minutes - the cooling fan should cut in automatically.
Summer Fuel Saving
If you have to carry luggage on the roof, use a roof box to reduce drag. Alternatively load luggage on a roof rack as low as possible and wrap tightly in plastic sheeting. If you are staying in one place for your holiday, take the roof rack or box off when you get there - you'll save fuel on day trips.
Open windows cause extra drag. Try air vents first particularly on a motorway. Once air conditioning has cooled the inside of the car, you may be able to turn it down or off. Don't start the air conditioning if doors or windows are open. Increase tyre pressures if carrying extra passengers or heavy luggage (Check the handbook). Using a windscreen shade and opening up the car as soon as you get back to it will help to cool the inside. Opening windows while you drive out of a car park will lower the inside temperature before you start the air conditioning.
Fresh air, exercise or turning up the radio may help for a short time but are not as effective as:
Break a journey over 3 hours with a 20 minute break
On longer journeys, take a break every two hours or so
Frequent short stops (of at least 20 minutes) are better than one long stop
Avoid heavy meals and alcohol before driving
Counter sleepiness by taking a short nap (up to 15 minutes) or drink two cups of strong coffee.
Remember that it's illegal to stop on the motorway hard shoulder, except in an emergency
Hayfever is particularly bad in the summer and if you sneeze at 70mph you lose your vision for as much as 100 metres.
Only take medication which doesn't cause drowsiness
Get someone else to drive if you are having a particularly bad hayfever day
Ask about cabin pollen filters for your make of car
Keep tissues close to hand
Slow down and drop back if you're about to sneeze
Wear sunglasses to block out bright sunlight
Close windows and air vents to reduce pollen grains in the car
Vacuum car mats and carpets regularly during summer, to get rid of dust
Surface dressing - laying tar covered with loose chippings - helps preserve roads and improve skid resistance, but is also a cause of cracked headlamp glasses and windscreens, and damaged paintwork.
Keep your distance and drive within posted speed limits to reduce the risk of damage.
Verges and embankments can become bone dry, and a smouldering cigarette butt could be all that it takes for roadside grass to ignite - in previous hot summers we have seen mile after mile of blackened motorway verges.
Roadside fires endanger the countryside, wildlife, and put motorists at risk because of the obvious danger from smoke reducing visibility as well as congestion as emergency services tackle the blaze.
Tractor drivers often have sound-proofed cabs or wear ear protectors, so they may not hear approaching cars. Tractors don't have to be fitted with brake or indicator lights unless used at night so in daylight be prepared for them to stop or turn without warning. Follow the AA Country Road Code:
Keep plenty of distance behind a tractor, in case it stops suddenly - remember the two-second rule
A tractor may be longer than it appears - there may be a loader on the front. Make sure you have plenty of room to get past before overtaking
Slow down if you come across a spillage - a bale of straw hit at speed will cause considerable damage to your car
Don't park in a gateway or passing place - they are farmers' field access points
Drive carefully after rain - dry mud can turn roads into a skidpan after a downpour
Sun glare causes many accidents, particularly under clear skies at dawn or dusk.
Keep a clean and unscratched pair of sunglasses handy
Avoid lenses which darken in strong sunlight - the windscreen filters out UV light so the glasses will change only slowly.
Clean the windscreen regularly, inside and out, to remove smears, which will catch sunlight and impair vision.
Renew worn or damaged wiper blades will also help to improve vision