Top 10 pre-holiday car checks

Make sure your car doesn't let you down as you head off on holiday by doing some quick and simple checks before you leave...

Holiday tips

Whether you’re going on a driving holiday or just using your car to get to your destination, you won’t want it to let you down. Follow our quick and easy checks to ensure your holiday wheels keep rolling. 

1. Oil and water

Modern cars don’t consume gallons of oil and don’t tend to overheat, but that means you’re unlikely to have checked your car’s oil and radiator water levels recently.

Before you check the levels, make sure the car is parked on a flat surface and that the engine hasn’t been running for at least an hour so it’s cooled down. If you need to add water, it’s a good idea to add antifreeze to it.

2. Brake and windscreen washer fluids

While you’ve got the bonnet open, have a look at the levels in the brake and washer fluid reservoirs to make sure they are up to the maximum markers.

If you have to top up any of these liquids regularly, there’s likely to be a leak, so you should book the car in for a check-up.

Top 10 pre-holiday car checks

3. Are any light bulbs blown?

Check that all the lights work properly, including full and dipped-beam headlights, rear and side lights, brake and hazard lights, all four indicators and the light above the rear numberplate.

It’s compulsory to carry spare bulbs with you if you’re travelling through France and some other European countries, so check the rules for your destination well in advance.

4. Are lights and numberplates clean?

Wipe the grime off the car’s lights and numberplates. If the headlights are covered in a layer of dirt, they won’t give the best visibility, which is especially important on unlit motorways and rural roads. Car numberplates are used by the automatic vehicle recognition systems on toll roads, so make sure yours are readable.

5. Wiper blades

Driving through a thunderstorm in the Peak District is not the best place to find out your car’s wipers are leaving smeary marks on the windscreen, so check in advance that they’re not frayed or brittle and cracking.

Top 10 pre-holiday car checks

6. Have a clear-out

Carrying unnecessary items in the cabin and boot of your car will affect the fuel economy, as well as eat into the amount of space you have for passengers and luggage. Remove anything you won’t need on your trip and store it somewhere secure.

7. Make sure you’ve got cover

Check that your car’s breakdown cover is up-to-date and covers your car adequately if you’re travelling abroad. Some policies will only cover you for a set number of days per year overseas, or only cover you in certain countries.

8. Wheels and tyres

Check all four wheels and the sidewalls of your car’s tyres for damage because bulges, cracks and gouges out of the tyre walls could result in a puncture.

Next, make sure the tyre tread depth is above the legal limit of 1.6mm. If your tyres have tread-depth indicators, check that the tread hasn’t worn down to the level of the indicator. Alternatively, put a 20p coin into the area between the tread – if the raised part of the coin is above the tread, the tyre is too worn.

It’s also important to check the tyres are set to the correct pressure. If they’re over or under-inflated, it will affect the way the car handles and its fuel economy.

Top 10 pre-holiday car checks

9. Do you have the right equipment?

If you're venturing abroad, you'll need to make sure you have all the equipment required to drive through each country. Rules vary between countries, so check before you head off.

In France, for example, you’ll need a reflective jacket for each traveller, a warning triangle, headlight beam deflector stickers (if you can’t adjust the headlights manually), two breathalysers (you'll need a spare one if you get stopped and are asked to do a breath test) and a GB sticker or Euro registration plates with GB on them.

Top 10 pre-holiday car checks

10. Fill your tank

Finally, fill up with fuel at a local service station. The ones on motorways often charge a higher price per litre and at peak holiday times they’re likely to be crowded.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read more: Top tips for driving in Europe >>