Travelling this Festive Season?
These simple tips might help you
A few days before you go, check the following carefully:
1. The coolant
Most new radiators have overflow bottles with min/max water levels, which are easy to find. Older cars fill via the radiator cap. NEVER open them while the engine’s hot or running. Top up with a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze (tap water is ok, but ensure you add antifreeze later).
2. The tyres
The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm across the central ¾ of the tyre, all the way around. Less can earn you three points and a £2,500 fine per tyre! Stopping distances and the risks of aquaplaning increase as tyres wear down, so make sure you’re legal – and safe.
Get the pressures right at a garage. If they’re wrong, you’ll burn more fuel, wear the tyres down quicker and suffer poor handling. Open the driver’s or passengers door and look at the chassis information sticker, pressures should be listed for front and rear tyres, both for loaded and unloaded conditions Check the cars handbook, or contact the manufacturer if not marked on the car.
3. The spare tyre
There’s little worse than having to change a wheel, only to find the spare is missing, flat or damaged. Also check the jack, its handle and the wheel brace are there and fit your car!
Locking wheel bolt/nut – Make sure you have one that fits your car.
If the car has an inflation kit instead of a spare wheel, check its condition and make sure it is still in date.
4. The engine oil
Without oil your engine will overheat, weld itself together and self-destruct! With the engine cold and the car level, check the dipstick. Top up as necessary via the cap at the top of the engine, and give the oil time to run down to the sump before rechecking the level. DON’T ever overfill, it can cause untold damage!
5. The windscreen washer bottle
It’s no fun peering through two arched smears of exploded summer flies – top up your washer bottle before you leave. You can use water, but the stuff in garages contains antifreeze, detergents and, well, smells nice!
6. The lights
Go through all your lights – indicator, brake, dip, full beam, fog and so on – one by one. Either get a friend to watch for blown bulbs, or park by a white wall or shop window one night to see them yourself.
7. The fan belt
Check for cracks in the rubber or excessive play. A prolonged shrieking while you’re driving means either it’s loose and slipping, or you’ve got kids.
8. The hoses
Park up on a patch of tarmac you know is clean, then check underneath for oil or water leaks after a few hours. Even a small leak can lead to dangerously low fluid levels on a long journey.
9. The boot
Is it full of boxes, mouldering sports equipment and a baffling array of junk that’s never quite made it into the house? Now’s the time to clear it all out – carrying unnecessary weight increases fuel consumption.
10. The atlas/map
If there isn’t one in the car, get one! Any decent petrol station or newsagents normally sell them quite reasonably. Satnavs are great, but paper works when it’s flat…
Finally, plan ahead and leave plenty of time! The traffic can be quite mad this time of year!
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