What a dreadful year it has been. No need to discuss why, but all our lives have been affected adversely one way or another. Now that we are deep into Summer let’s hope that some families at least can get out on the highways for a holiday road trip.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
It makes sense, especially if the family vehicle has been laid up during lock-down, to give the car the once-over to make sure that everything is as it should be. This year has been bad enough without having the additional burden of a breakdown. Let’s look at five things that owners can do before setting off:
In addition to the specifics, it is a good idea first of all to have a thorough, detailed visual inspection. Are the tyres looking soft or worn, for example? Even in the Summer tread-depth remains important, so make sure. Are the windscreen wipers clean and sweeping clear as they should? Are there any mysterious tell-tale leaks underneath? In short, is the car clean and ready for the off? It doesn’t take long.
Fresh Air For The Engine
Air filters are cheap to buy yet are a much ignored but very essential item that helps that engine breathe more easily. If the car has only recently been used on short local trips or hasn’t been serviced for a while it is worth checking to ensure the filter is reasonably clean. Access may not always be easy on a modern vehicle (although there should be a handbook entry) so if in doubt on this or indeed any other automotive issue or mechanical conundrum get the vehicle checked by a professional car service garage.
The oil and other fluids used in a combustion engine are as vital to the health of a car as the brakes are to the health of the passengers. It doesn’t take a minute to, again, check the handbook and locate the oil dipstick. Remove the dipstick fully, give it a wipe with a clean cloth and reinsert. Remove again and make sure the level is between the minimum and maximum marks. Too low and trouble lies ahead, so if the level is down add some oil of the correct type or ask your local vehicle technicians for a full oil and filter change.
The same goes for the brake fluid and water levels. If in doubt, ask. Finally, check that windscreen washer bottle and top up it with a mix of water and screen cleaner, available everywhere. Don’t use washing-up liquid!
The All-Important Brakes
If the car’s brakes have been squealing or it’s been many thousands of miles since they were last attended to, owners may want to replace them before setting out on a long road trip. Most cars have disc brakes all round these days, so try to see around the wheel at the thickness of the disc pads. If they are not visible or it is simply to awkward to remove the wheels for a full inspection then it’s back to the professionals. This is one area that cannot be scrimped on.
On The Road
Packing the car is usually a logistical nightmare so think it through. In the boot, put the heaviest items as near to the centre of the vehicle as possible and the largest items near the back. On estate cars, don’t stack above seat height in case the rear-view mirror is blocked.
Plan the route in advance and pack for comfort, making allowances for children. “Are we nearly there yet?” can start as early as the end of your road so bring music, toys, games and a patient demeanour. Think about an emergency pack with plasters, ointments and the like, plus snacks, drinks and warm clothes: You never know.
The whole nation wishes we could put this dreadful pandemic behind us which in time we hopefully will. In the meantime don’t forget the benefits of some down-time with the family, even if just for a few days. Drive safe, take a break and make sure that car is tip-top.