The Great British staycation: how to make sure you’re safe before setting off
The first long distance drive after passing your test can be a scary one. Whilst a staycation is fun, it can be pretty daunting to embark on your first drive with family or friends.
There are a number of internal and external checks you can do to ensure your car is roadworthy! We have detailed them below to make your staycation as stress free as possible.
- Check the general condition of your tyres including the tyre pressures and tread depth. Tread depth is explained in detail below.
- Check for fluid leaks and try to determine where the leak is coming from and what’s actually leaking. The easiest way to do that is to slide some white cardboard underneath the car while it’s parked up so it can capture the drips. Once you find out where the leak is coming from, you can take the necessary steps to sort it out.
- Investigate any warning lights by taking the car to be serviced if you see any.
- Check that your headlights and all other lights are working by testing them before you drive.
- Turn on your windscreen wipers and check the wiper blades are functioning and not leaving any streaks or smears.
Most of the above are fairly obvious and self-explanatory, however checking tyre tread depth and condition may be a little more involved, so here’s our easy-to-follow guide.
The best way to check your tyre tread depth is to use a tyre tread depth gauge but if you don’t have one to hand, take a 20p coin and insert it into the tread grooves on the tyre. If you can’t see the outer band on the coin, your tyres are above the legal limit. However, if you can see the band and that section of the coin is still visible, your tyres could be unsafe and require professional inspection by a mechanic.
If a tyre requires replacement ensure it’s to the car manufacturer’s recommended size, speed and load rating and a match to the tyre on the same axle. Where two new tyres are fitted, they should always be moved to the rear.
Check that your tyres are in good condition by first checking the tyre pressures at a local service station, or use a digital tyre pressure gauge/inflator at home if you have one. For any tyre that has a pressure significantly lower than the car manufacturer’s recommended pressure, look for anything obvious that may be causing a slow puncture, e.g. screws or nails stuck in the tread. Any visible bulges are likely to indicate kerbing damage and in either instance you should take the car for inspection by a professional. If you see any of these, chances are your tyre needs replacing so get it checked by an expert.
- Check your coolant level is between the min and max line. This can be done by raising the bonnet and securing in a raised position, locating the cooling tank and checking the level.
- Use the dipstick to check your oil level. Do this by opening the bonnet to locate the dipstick. Once you’ve found the dipstick, pull it out and wipe off all the oil with a cloth or rag. There will be two marks towards its end indicating the upper and lower levels of oil. If the oil appearing on the dipstick is towards the lower level then it is time to top it up.
- Make sure to refill your screen wash bottle. The wash bottle can be located anywhere under the bonnet. The easiest way to find yours is to look in your car’s handbook. The cap is frequently blue, although it might be black or even white. Added to this, it will have a graphic that shows the shape of a swept windscreen with water drops squirting up from the middle.
This might seem like a lot to do, and it will be a little time consuming, but do you know what’s more time consuming? Breaking down en route!
Once you’ve checked your car is in top condition, make sure you don’t overload with your packing. Kwik Fit has teamed up with SAS officer Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham to provide advice on what should – and shouldn’t – go in your boot.
If you want help, Kwik Fit offer a free vehicle health check. Their trained technicians can advise on any maintenance required, either now or in the near future, so that you set off on your summer holiday with complete peace of mind– all you have to do is hope the sun shines!
For further advice on tyres and tyre care, visit michelin.co.uk/auto/tips-and-advice/advice-auto.