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...
Whether you’re going on a driving holiday or just using your car to get to the airport, you won’t want it to let you down. And there's no worse start to a holiday than a hefty car repair bill.
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 as well, diluted as specified by the maker, which will protect the water system during the winter when temperatures dip.
2. Brake and windscreen washer fluids
While you’ve got the bonnet open, have a look at the levels of fluid 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.
3. Are any light bulbs blown?
Check that all the lights work properly, including the 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 traveling 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. It's important to keep the headlights clean so they provide the most lighthhggh, 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 is not the best place to find out your car’s wipers are leaving smear marks on the windscreen, so check in advance that they’re not frayed or brittle and cracking. Some wiper blades even have an indicator to tell you when they need changing.
6. Have a clear-out
Carrying unnecessary items in your car – in the interior and boot – will impact on your car's fuel economy and eat into the amount of space you have for passengers and luggage, so remove anything that won’t be needed 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 that it covers your car adequately enough if you’re traveling abroad.
Some policies will only cover you for a set number of days per year abroad or only for certain countries, so it's worth checking up front.
8. Wheels and tyres
Check the 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. Don't forget to check the spare wheel too if your car has one.
Next, check the tyre tread depth is above the legal limit of 1.6mm on all tyres. If your tyres have tread depth indicators, check that the tread hasn’t worn down to the level of the indicator. Alternatively, you can put a 20 pence 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 underinflated, they will affect the way the car drives and its fuel economy.
9. Do you have the right equipment?
Many countries require motorists to carry certain equipment in their cars. 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 your car's headlights manually) and a UK sticker or registration plates with the word UK the Union Flag on it.
Rules vary between countries, so it’s well worth checking before you head off.
10. Fill your tank
Finally, fill up with fuel at a local service station before you head off. This will be cheaper than stopping at a service station on the motorway and if you're travelling at peak holiday times it will be far less crowded.
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