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Get your car ready for a summer trip

Are you going to any big sporting events across Europe this summer? Whether you’re driving to the Euros in Germany, The Olympics or the Paralympics in Paris, the Tour de France, or you’ve got a nice holiday booked across the Channel; it’s essential to be prepared.

With all these events going on, you’re probably focussing on planning routes and packing the essentials, but don’t forget your breakdown cover. When more people are travelling, there are more cars on the road, more hotels booked up and fewer hire cars available.

So, the best thing you can do for your car this summer is prepare it for the warmer months. During a heatwave, breakdown companies see a big surge in breakdowns. So, the best thing to do is not break down at all! 

Prepare your car before you set off

Here are some things you can do to get your car ready for summer:

1.Start by checking the battery

Before you set off, check on your car’s battery. One of the most common causes of breakdowns is battery trouble.

Car batteries usually last about five years. But extreme temperatures (cold and hot) take their toll on the battery’s cells. You can buy battery testers or take your car to your local garage and ask them to check it. That way, you’ll know it won’t leave you stranded. If you’re taking a caravan away, check the leisure battery too.

2. Make sure you have enough coolant

If you’re driving abroad, chances are you’re driving in warmer climates than the UK. You’ll probably be driving for longer, and if you get stuck in traffic or waiting at toll booths, the sun can beam down on your car for long periods. This makes it much more likely that your car will overheat, as your engine will get hot with no moving air to cool it.

So, before you set off, make sure your car has enough coolant in the bottle. A Min and Max marker should indicate the correct levels, but you can check your handbook for more advice.

3. Make sure you have enough oil

Oil can thin when the temperature rises. This can make it harder for the gloopy substance to lubricate heavy-duty mechanical components like the crankshaft and camshafts. If you’re unlucky, this can result in engine failure.

4. Maintain your brakes

The hotter frictional components get, such as clutches and braking systems, the more likely their surfaces will change. Therefore, they’ll no longer grip what they’re supposed to and won’t work properly—this is known as brake fade.

Another reason people’s brake systems fail is that their brake fluid has gone beyond its useful life – so make sure it’s checked before you go.

5. Pump up your tyres

This might seem obvious, but don’t overlook it. Luggage and other passengers in the car can put pressure on your tyres, so you might need to pump them up with some extra air.

Look inside the fuel filler flap, on the door sill, or in the user manual, and you’ll see a chart showing correct tyre pressures for different scenarios. One has three people on it with a tyre pressure, and one has more people plus bags. This second one shows a higher tyre pressure. 

It would be best if you inflated your tyres to this number. It’ll help them cope with the extra load, make them less susceptible to overheating and suddenly failing, and it’ll improve your fuel economy. It’s a win-win! 

6. Check your screen wash

The sun’s out…and that means the bugs are too. And they often get stuck to your windscreen.

Water on its own will make the problem worse by smearing their remains over the glass. What you need is screen wash. The best screen wash is designed to clean your windscreen properly. And unlike washing up liquid—which you should never use—it won’t damage your paintwork. You can buy concentrated screen wash rather than ready-mixed. 

7. Pack a safety kit just in case

Having a breakdown kit in the car is always a good idea. We actually have some available in our Green Flag shop, if you want to take a look.

At the very least, never set off without a bottle of water. If you’re stranded by the roadside in the blistering heat, you’ll be really grateful for a drink. It could also be used to top up coolant in an emergency.

8. And finally, don’t forget your own essentials

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, we highly recommend travelling with a debit/credit card. Some things you’ll still need to pay for by card, such as hire car deposits. Sometimes you have to pay for repairs and hotel accommodation upfront, so make sure you have access to quick funds.

You’ll also need your Certificate of Motor Insurance, the log book (V5C) for the vehicle and your driving licence.

Familiarise yourself with driving laws for the country you’re driving in. We won’t cover any fines or parking tickets.

We also recommend reading our ‘Driving in Europe checklist‘ article, which goes into more detail about packing the essentials.

Make sure you’ve got breakdown cover

Make sure you’ve got breakdown cover before you set off. All the checks may have paid off, but it’s not worth the risk of ruining a holiday.

Green Flag offer two types of breakdown cover: Single-trip cover and Annual multi-trip cover.

Our Single-trip cover is as flexible as it gets. You can get cover for just one day, through to 90 days, and everything in between.

With our Annual multi-trip cover in Europe, you get up to 90 days of breakdown cover. You can use your cover whenever you need it over the year, as long as no trip is longer than 30 days.

You can read more about the benefits of Green Flag European breakdown cover.

What to do if you break down

You can’t always prevent a breakdown even after you’ve done all the checks. Firstly, don’t panic.

Call our European breakdown line and request a rescue. The number is: +44 141 349 0516.

If you need any more info, check out our policy booklet. It should include everything you need to know.

Have a great trip!

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Heated screens are a quick way to demist and melt ice in cold weather (Picture Ford)

We’re quite often asked why all cars don’t have heated windscreens to prevent steaming up. Heated screens are a great innovation, clearing condensation inside swiftly while helping to melt ice outside on frosty mornings. But not all cars have them. Read on to find out why.

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Rain and flooding might be in the news at the moment. But anyone buying a used motor over the next few months has got the prospect of purchasing flood damaged cars to be wary of.

Having a good soaking in a flood can cause a car to have numerous problems, not all of them immediately evident. Here are nine ways you can tell if the car you’re thinking of buying is flood damaged.

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Try to wash your car one panel at a time when the weather’s hot (Picture iStock/rclassenlayouts)

Car washing in hot weather, or even on a warm sunny day for that matter, can become a long, drawn out and frustrating process. Even sunshine on a relatively cool day can cause trouble when you want to clean your car.

Cars heat up astonishingly quickly in the sun. According to researchers at Stanford University in the US, on a day when the temperature is just 20 degrees C, a car’s interior will get to 38.9 degrees C within 30 minutes. If the outside temperature is 24 degrees C, it will reach 42.9 degrees C in 30 minutes.

The car’s mainly metal bodywork soaks up heat just as effectively, causing water to evaporate quickly as soon as it’s spread over your motor. The result will leave a dirty tide mark of combined shampoo and dirt. And when you do manage to rinse that off, it’ll dry quickly again, leaving spots on your paintwork from impurities in the water.

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We may not be driving much at the moment but after the warm wet winter, the pothole problem for drivers is still a motoring headache.

A new report has revealed that road maintenance budgets in England have fallen; there are now fewer roads than last year described as being in ‘good’ structural condition; and the rising backlog of repairs means billions of pounds are still needed to bring local roads in England up to scratch.

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There are some great free mobile navigation apps (Picture iStock/Svetikd)

Mobile phone apps are a way of life for many of us. And unsurprisingly there are loads out there aimed specifically at drivers. Some are better than others so we’ve chosen 10 that we think are among the best.

All the ones we’ve picked are available for either iPhone iOS or Google Android operating platforms. And all are free. That said, some do have upgrade options that you can pay for if you choose.

Do remember that it’s illegal to hold your mobile phone while you’re driving. You must control it via a Bluetooth headset or voice command, or while it’s safely located in a dashboard or windscreen mount. But we’d advise drivers to program destinations into navigation apps before they set off.

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Many parts of Britain are currently experiencing harsh winter weather. However, with some sensible precautions, driving on black ice doesn’t have to be a white-knuckle ride.

We asked Paul Ripley to explain how drivers can safely tackle the often-invisible danger. One of Britain’s most respected advanced driving instructors, Ripley has coached police forces, vehicle engineers and thousands of drivers looking to improve their skills behind the wheel. Little wonder he has earned the nickname ‘God’s chauffeur’. These are his tips for driving on black ice.

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Car owners frequently think rain and snow present the most challenging driving conditions. But wind is up there with the worst of them. Short of staying at home, lighting the fire and pouring a cuppa, what practical steps can drivers (along with bikers and cyclists) take to stay safe when they need to get from A to B in strong winds?

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Despite modern cars brimming with electronic systems that can help prevent an accident, all experts agree that it’s important drivers adjust their driving style to allow for the challenges that wet roads present man and machine. We asked Daffyd Williams, a professional driving instructor and driving team manager at Mercedes-Benz World, for his expert tips on staying safe when driving in the rain.

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DO:

Be kind to your battery

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Black ice looks like the road surface has been freshly painted. From a car it’s frequently invisible until it’s too late

The current freezing but largely dry weather conditions pose a unique threat to motorists: black ice, a hazard that is all the more dangerous because it’s impossible to see. The first you know about black ice is usually when you lose control of the car. However, there are some steps you can take to be prepared. Peter Rodger from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) said: “We all need to respect that the weather changes and make adjustments to deal with it. Being mentally prepared as well as having the right equipment is vital, so think about last year, any problems it caused you, and what you need to do to overcome them if they recur.” Here are our expert tips for coping with the threat of black ice.

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Hopefully we won’t see too much of this. But it’s good to be prepared…

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Check your tyres

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Is four-wheel drive better than winter tyres in the snow? (Picture © BMW)

The clocks have gone back, it’s getting dark ever earlier, and the forecasters say it’s going to be a cold winter. It means the roads are wet and greasy, or even worse, could be slippery with ice or snow. And that means regular two-wheel drive cars like most of us own can struggle for grip. It’s little surprise that so many drivers consider swapping the family saloon for a four-wheel drive SUV at this time of the year.

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The aim behind tyre labels was to make it easier for buyers by enabling them to assess the best, safest tyres possible for their budget and motoring needs. And by showing fuel efficiency, another aim was to enable buyers to choose tyres that would help their cars’ economy. It also enabled customers to compare products, which to the untrained eye – and many expert eyes too – look virtually identical.
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In sunny weather, drivers of convertible cars should apply suncream – whether the roof is open or closed (Picture © Ford)

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As winter sets in, drivers face a host of hazards from the harsh weather. From dark mornings to icy roads, and smearing windscreens to sudden heavy snowfall, the winter brings added challenges that are just waiting to catch out drivers.

To help ensure everyone gets to their destination safely, Green Flag turned to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) which promotes better driving, and asked Peter Rodger, its head of driving advice, to share his top 10 tips for driving safely in winter weather. Continue reading