The simple steps to prepare your car for a summer road trip

Summer is here and, for most of us, lockdown is easing, bringing the call of the open road.

Whether you’re planning a local staycation or a trip to Europe it’s vital to make sure your car is suitably prepared - and that doesn’t just mean making sure you’ve stocked the glove box with Jelly Babies.

Any long journey places extra strain on your vehicle and with many lying virtually idle for months during lockdown it’s important to check them over properly before hitting the road.

Here are a few quick checks and tips for making sure your vehicle is good to go but, remember, if you’re unsure about anything get a professional to check it out.

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Tyres

It’s important to regularly check your tyres for damage and to ensure the pressures are correct. A flat tyre is at best an inconvenience and at worst can cause an accident.

Hot weather can have a particularly bad effect on a damaged tyre, so check all around for cracks, splits, tears or bulges. If any of your tyres displays such damage have it replaced before you set off. Also check the tread depth - it should be at least 1.6mm.

A properly inflated tyre isn’t only safer, it can also make sure you get the best fuel economy so refer to the owner’s handbook or sticker (often inside the fuel filler cap). If you’ve got time, check the pressure a few days before you leave and then again before you set off to ensure there aren’t any leaks.

If you’re packing the car with people and luggage, make sure you adjust your pressures accordingly. The manufacturer’s guide should have different pressures for different loads.

Minor tyre damage can quickly turn serious, especially in hot weather (Photo: Shutterstock)

Battery

A flat battery can ruin a holiday so, especially if your car has been sitting idle, make sure it starts without hesitation a day or two before you head off or have it checked at a garage. If it struggles, use a home charger to give it a boost or have it replaced.

Fluids

Make sure all your fluids are topped up to the correct level. Coolant is obviously vital in the hot weather to stop your engine overheating, but oil, brake fluid and screenwash are just as important and take just a few minutes to replenish.

Lights and wipers

For all that it’s summer, we still live in the UK so the threat of rain is never far away. Check that your windscreen wipers are clean and damage-free before heading off. Also check all your lights to ensure they function and, if you’re travelling abroad, be sure to take beam deflectors, or switch your car’s lights to a left-hand-drive setting if it has one.

Air conditioning

If we do get a few days of good weather a car can become a stifling place to be so make sure your air con is blowing cold and, if not, have it regassed before setting off.

Topping up oil and coolant will help keep your car running smoothly, whatever the weather (Photo: Shutterstock)

Pack the essentials

It’s also a good idea to make sure you have some basic equipment in the car so pack

  • Warning triangle
  • Hi-vis jacket for each passenger
  • Torch
  • Phone charging cable
  • Sunglasses
  • First aid kit
  • Games/toys/tablet to entertain kids
  • Facemask
  • If you’re driving in Europe some countries have specific items you must carry, including a breathalyser in France and spare glasses in Spain. You should also make sure you have change for road tolls, which are common on the Continent

This article first appeared on The Scotsman