The Jump star Joe Swash spent two days taking the Scenic Route into the Scottish Highlands. Along the way, he swam in a freezing lake, took a heart-pumping ride along a zip wire and enjoyed an action-packed afternoon learning how to drive his Land Rover off-road. But he also had to cope with a couple of mechanical breakdowns. Our Scenic Route technician’s top tips are ways that every driver can prevent their car suffering a similar fate, as explained by expert Jamie Girvan.
Scenic Route technician’s tips: Don’t take your tyres for granted
“The tyres are your only connection to the road so they’re massively important. First of all, check the pressures. These will be on the sidewall of the tyre. You will also find them on either the door pillar, the fuel filler cap or in the handbook of the car. If your tyres don’t have enough air in them, they may overheat at high speed, they won’t give you the optimum grip in corners, and it will mean your car uses more fuel.
You should also look at the sidewall for lumps. These bulges are frequently caused by potholes and are weaknesses in the tyre’s structure. They’re an MOT failure point and again, they could cause the tyre to blow out. Finally, look at your tyre’s tread. The minimum tread depth is 1.6mm. Below this, the tyre is illegal and could land you with a hefty fine and three penalty points. More importantly, the stopping distance will be longer which could lead to an accident.”
Scenic Route technician’s tips: Why is a clean screen important?
“It’s vital that you have a clear view out of the windscreen, whatever time of year. If you can’t see a hazard properly, you can’t react to it quickly. To guarantee visibility out of the windscreen, there are two things you need to look at: your windscreen wipers and the washer bottle.
Carefully lift the windscreen wiper arm away from the screen. Then examine it. First of all run your finger along the rubber blade. Are there any nicks out of it? If so, it won’t wipe the screen properly. Also are there any tears? The blade can become torn, particularly if you lift it away from a frozen screen or switch the wipers on after a heavy frost. If that’s the case, the blades need replacing. It’s not a hard job. Particularly if you follow our tips.
You should also ensure you have a full bottle of screen wash. There are no minimum or maximum levels so just top it up until it gets to the very top of the bottle. If the weather’s cold, you will need to increase the ratio of screen wash to water. Follow the instructions on the bottle.”
Scenic Route technician’s tips: Have you seen the light?
“Like your windscreen, lights are vital if you’re going to be able to see and be seen at night. Turn them on and walk round the car to check that they’re all working properly. Then try your brake lights. Obviously you can’t try them and see if they’re working all at once, so ask a friend to help. Alternatively, reverse up to a garage door or wall. Then when you press the brake pedal, the lights will be reflected in the surface and you can see if they’re all working or not.”
Scenic Route technician’s tips: Stop! Check your fluids
“When a driver presses the brake pedal, hydraulic fluid helps ensure that the brake pads grip the discs effectively and bring the car to a halt. If you don’t have enough of that fluid, your car won’t stop as quickly as it should. Under the bonnet there is a clear tank that shows how much of this hydraulic fluid you have. The level should be between the minimum and maximum marks. If it isn’t, top it up or get a professional to do it for you. If you’re unsure which of the reservoirs is for brake fluid, it will tell you in your car’s handbook.
Every car needs coolant to keep the engine running. You need to make sure yours has enough coolant or it could overheat. And that could prove very expensive indeed. Again, lift the bonnet and check in your car’s handbook where the coolant reservoir is. Then make sure that the level is between the Min and Max markers. You also need to know if there’s sufficient anti-freeze in the mix. A garage can easily test this for you and top it up to the right level if need be.”
Scenic Route technician’s tips: Oil be there
“Oil is the lifeblood of your car. Lift the bonnet and find the dipstick. Pull this out, wipe it, then push it back in. When you pull it out the second time, the oil level should be between the Min and Max markers. If you don’t have enough oil, check your handbook for the correct grade of oil, which can be bought at most fuel stations. Then find the oil filler cap and gradually fill it up. You don’t want to put too much oil in so put a little in, check the dipstick and so on, until you reach the required level.”
Jamie Girvan is 28. He’s been a Green Flag technician for two years. Prior to that he did his apprenticeship working for independent garages