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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 temperature (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, like 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

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.

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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