Summer Checklist – Maintenance You Should Consider Before Travelling
The summer season is upon us, and that means that very soon school will be out and the busy season of summer travel will begin. It’s quite likely that in the face of rising costs around the world, not to mention short-term chaos and difficulties at ports and airports, that many will decide to stay in the UK this year. This also means that the car will likely feature more heavily in holiday plans.
If you’re preparing for a summer holiday road trip in the UK — or beyond — then there are some critical maintenance points that you should take a look at before you do. In today’s blog, we’re providing a handy summer checklist of all maintenance you should consider before travelling.
Summer Checklist: Car Maintenance
Let’s start with the parts that are going to be under the most strain during your road trip, and that’s arguably the tyres. Your car is going to be much more heavily laden than usual, and not just for the typical morning school run. You might be travelling hundreds of miles in a single day, and then more every single day even when you get to where you’re going with a car full of parents and kids.
Check your tyre pressures and remember that heat makes the air in your tyres expand, so if high temperatures are expected, then aim for a slightly lower overall pressure than usual. If you’re in the UK, however, this shouldn’t be a big problem. Even if you’re not worried about tyre pressure, do think about tyre condition. Check the tread depth — it should be well over 1.6mm — and check for any signs of damage or disrepair.
After your tyres, it’s safe to say that your brakes are likely going to get a thorough workout during your trip. Once again, your car will likely be more laden than normal, so your brakes are going to have to work harder to bring the vehicle to a stop. More friction means more wear and tear.
So, getting your brakes checked before taking a trip is always prudent. You should be sure that the brake pads are sufficiently thick, that the brake fluid is in good condition, and that all other parts appear to be in good order.
Temperature extremes can do a real number on your car’s battery. If it has been through the winter and is now going into summer and hasn’t had any checks recently, then it will benefit greatly from a check. The main things to look for are firstly that the cable connections in the battery are clean, and that there is no sign of corrosion anywhere on the key components of the battery, especially the connectors.
You should also do a power level check on the battery to ensure that its capacity hasn’t been damaged, and that it will endure through the harder driving conditions that you’re going to undertake on your summer travels.
Next we come to fluids: oil, coolant, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid. We already mentioned brake fluid further above. Check your oil and transmission fluid dipsticks to ensure that the level and condition of your fluid is sufficient. If it is getting fairly close to the milestone where you’d change the oil and/or transmission fluid, consider changing them before you go on your trip.
For power steering fluid, you should be able to see the levels via your clearly marked/labelled reservoir. Next, you can remove the lid and take a look at its condition. When fresh, steering fluid is almost clear, with either an amber or pink hue. When it goes bad, it turns brown or black. As for coolant, you can check the levels in your radiator when the engine is both off and cool. Alternatively, have a professional mechanic check all of these things for you.
Windscreen Wipers and Fluid
For those travelling within the UK, the summer shouldn’t ever dampen your expectation of rain. What’s more, there’ll be more traffic on the roads, which can kick up more dirt onto your windscreen, which you’ll then need to wash. If it has been more than 12 months since you last changed the windscreen wipers, then you likely need new ones anyway.
If you changed them within the last 12 months, check their quality and ensure they’re still running smoothly over your glass and cleaning off all dirt and washer fluid. If you’re close to the borderline but they’re working okay, bring a spare set in your boot just in case. Stock up with at least 1 extra bottle of washer fluid, too.
It doesn’t tend to get overly hot in the UK, but if you’re driving into mainland Europe it will, and it can still feel very hot when you’re stuck in traffic on the motorway. Therefore, it’s a great idea to service your air conditioning to ensure it’s not leaking, not getting any mildew or mould growing in the conduits, and that there is sufficient refrigerant.
Your A/C is a very intricate system closely connected with your car’s electrical systems, so we do not recommend ever doing a DIY job with the air conditioning. Refrigerants are also toxic and therefore dangerous to handle unless you’re a trained professional.
Emergency Readiness and Service Providers En Route
Finally, you’ll need to be ready for any kind of emergency situation while you’re away, so be sure that you have enough backup supplies, and that you know where you might find emergency breakdown or repair services in the area that you’re travelling to. You should be able to do this with a bit of simple Google Maps research before setting off.
For an emergency kit, at least pack: a first-aid kit, basic medications like paracetamol, bottled water, non-perishable snacks, spare clothing, blankets, tyre repair kit, spare washer fluid (and windscreen wipers), a torch, and a charged power bank for your phone.
Check More, Risk Less
In the end, getting the above-mentioned things checked is just about reducing any and all risk that comes with a long car journey. People very frequently travel to more remote locations in the summer where they can get away from their everyday city life. That being the case, if you were to break down, then the challenge of dealing with it becomes greater.
It may feel like just another expense, but at the end of the day, it’s always better to check more and risk less when it comes to summer travel.