Brighter mornings, longer evenings and sunny days… summer is finally here! You may have more road trips and car journeys planned this holiday season, but before you set off it’s worth checking over your vehicle to make sure it’s safe and ready for any adventure.
As drivers, many of us are aware of the dangers and hazards unique to wintery weather conditions and prepare our cars accordingly. But what about summer – do you know what to look out for? We’ve prepared a handy guide of which car parts you should check before summer, plus how you can stay safe on the roads throughout the season.
Which car parts should I check before summer?
With the stop-start activity of slow-moving traffic and heavy use from charging mobile phones, Sat-Navs and gaming devices to keep everyone entertained, your car battery can take a beating over the summer. Make sure to check your battery regularly, especially before a long trip to avoid inconvenient breakdowns. If your headlights appear dimmer, take longer to turn on, or any dashboard lights don’t always work, it could be a sign of a declining battery.
Similarly, your alternator can be put under strain in hotter weather. Look for a red battery warning light flickering on your dashboard, as this is not an immediate or cheap fix unfortunately.
Maintaining your tyres is crucial all year round, but the summer heat can increase the risk of a blowout if your tyres are already damaged or at the wrong pressure. To avoid the worst-case scenario, inspect your tyres for cracks or distortion in the rubber and keep an eye on your tyre pressure.
You can find the right PSI level for your vehicle in the owner’s manual but remember this can change depending on the load you’re carrying. That’s why it’s especially important to check before a long journey, if you’re towing or packing the car full of luggage. Plus, the right tyre pressure helps save fuel, which is always a bonus!
If you’re driving as part of your holidays this summer, you’ll likely encounter traffic jams, unfamiliar routes, and hilly roads. All these conditions can put a strain on your clutch, as can towing a caravan or another load. Be aware of the key signs of wear on your clutch, which can include a heavy or gritty pedal, a high bite point, or even the clutch slipping when you accelerate hard in a high gear at a low speed.
Your vehicle can overheat if your cooling system is leaking or the cooling fan isn’t working as needed, which causes extensive damage to your engine. If your vehicle has air conditioning, it’s perfectly normal to see a small amount of water on the floor as a result of condensation. Keep an eye out for any abnormal signs here.
How can I prepare my car for summer driving?
As well as the key maintenance issues, you can also prepare a kit of useful items to keep in your car. Things such as a first aid kit, warning triangle, hi-vis vest and an empty fuel can are vital safety items to have in your car all year round. A puncture repair kit can also come in handy, especially if you familiarise yourself with how to use it. Check if your car has a spare tyre too, in case you experience a blowout en route.
During the summer specifically, you’ll also want the basics such as sunglasses, sunshields, suncream, tissues, plus plenty of water and refreshments to keep you and your passengers comfortable. For longer excursions, don’t forget an in-car mobile phone charger, an up-to-date road map in case your online maps fail you, any parking permits you may need – such as a blue badge – and perhaps games to keep children entertained on long journeys.
Keeping your cool on the road this summer
After a short blip during the Covid-19 pandemic, Britain’s roads are back to being at their busiest during July and August. In fact, the RAC estimated summer traffic peaked last year with more than 5.61m journeys on ‘Frantic Friday’ AKA the day schools break up for summer. What’s more, 33% of people are more likely to choose a UK staycation this year than go abroad, as the cost of living continues to influence spending habits, according to research from Visit Britain. We can expect another busy season this year, especially around popular tourist destinations and beauty spots.
With this in mind, here’s how you can keep your vehicle cool when driving during summer:
- Leave plenty of time for your journey, so there’s no need to stress if there are delays.
- You should always drive safely and pay attention to the road, but during periods of heavy congestion take extra caution and maintain space around your vehicle.
- Keep distractions to a minimum, including mobile phones and other devices, which are entirely illegal to use while driving.
- You can read more driving safety tips here and we’ve even compiled a guide to motorway driving if you’re anxious about it.
If the sweltering heatwaves of last year are anything to go by, we can expect more tropical temperatures this summer. While that may be good news for some, nothing’s worse than being stuck inside a hot and stuffy car, trying to reach your destination. High heat and long traffic jams are a perfect combination for more stress, fatigue and even road rage. Make sure to take regular breaks; the Highway Code recommends at least 15 minutes rest every two hours, and it also gives any passengers you have a chance to stretch their legs too!
A breakdown can occur at any time, come rain or shine – but it’s never convenient! Not sure if it’s included in your car insurance policy? Make sure you’re covered for the unexpected by speaking to an insurance expert at your local A-Plan branch. Find your nearest branch and talk to one of our team.
Sources: VisitBritain, RAC, Evening Standard