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Holidays are coming Ė 10 essential car checks you can do yourself before you set off

Bradley Jando | Wednesday 2nd September 2020 3:07pm

car wing mirror

With holiday plans going out the window for many in 2020, many of us have begun planning a staycation. While weíre taking into account nearly every aspect of our trip, thereís one fairly crucial element that often gets overlooked.

Short breaks in the UK are a popular option when it comes to booking a holiday. Whether itís the latest travelling restrictions, many peopleís concerns about travelling abroad or the beautiful regions right on our own doorstep, this shouldnít come as much of a surprise.

Our most recent research shows that 13.1 million are opting to use their vehicle to get away for a UK break this summer. What makes this most surprising is that many motorists admit they do not make basic car safety checks before embarking on a long journey. In fact, only 54% of the drivers we asked will check tyre pressure before setting off. This isnít the only component that is neglected, as only 49% will check their oil levels, 23% will check the condition of their spare wheel, and just 39% will check their tyre tread depth before using their car to travel across the UK.

Making sure your car is ready for the road should be at the top of your holiday preparation checklist, so here are 10 simple checks you can do yourself that could be the difference between getting to your holiday destination as planned, or sitting by the roadside waiting for recovery.

Check your coolant levels

Adding new coolant to engine

Coolant or antifreeze not only protects your engine from extremely cold temperatures during the winter months, but its high boiling point also removes excess heat from the engine. This makes it essential for avoiding breakdowns on a hot day, especially when idling in motorway traffic.

To check your coolant level, locate your radiator reservoir under the bonnet (if youíre not sure where it is, check your vehicle handbook) and make sure the coolant level is between the min and max lines. If you need to top up, make sure you select the right one for your car. Need a little more info? Have a look at our blog about antifreeze.

Pack your car jack and locking wheel nut key

Car jack in boot of car

Adding both of these essential items to your list of things to pack might be the difference between being stranded and being able to carry on with your travels! If you pick up a tyre puncture on your journey and have to stop, you may be able to put the spare on yourself - but only if you have a jack handy.

Without the locking wheel nut key to hand, you also wonít be able to remove the wheel. Itís worth noting that a recovery vehicle wonít be able to take the wheel off without the key either, so the best they can do is to tow you to a nearby garage, further delaying your trip. Make sure you take your wheel nut key with you and store it somewhere safe and easily accessible!

If youíd like to ensure youíre prepared for everything, have a look at our blog on essential items to keep in your car for a long trip.

Check your dipstick for oil

Checking dip stick

Oil is the lifeblood of your engine, keeping your moving parts inside the engine lubricated while also cooling and cleaning them - so that your car continues to run smoothly. Without oil, your engine would very quickly seize up, causing you not only to break down, but potentially being faced with a hefty repair bill for replacement parts.

To check your engine oil, locate your dipstick underneath the bonnet and make sure the oil level is between the two min and max markers at the end of the dipstick. The dipstick is usually easy enough to locate and can be identified by the ring pull (often yellow/orange in colour) coming out of the engine. Top the engine oil up if need be, but be sure to use the correct type of oil recommended in the vehicleís handbook.

Has it been a while since your last oil check? Read our blog on how to tell if your car needs an oil change.

Refill your screenwash bottle

Windscreen washer reservoir

Easily overlooked, the screenwash reservoir needs to be topped up regularly, especially before a big journey. Essential for removing dirt, muck and squashed insects from the windscreen, running out of screenwash on a long trip could leave you with difficulties seeing the road as more dirt builds up.

We recommend using a premixed screenwash, which is available at most service stations. Not only do they include cleaning agents that cut through grime, but the ingredients of screenwash also include coolant - so that it does not freeze and expand in the pipes and washer bottle if left during winter.

Check your tyre pressure on all tyres, including the spare

Checking tyre pressure

Running through a tyre pressure check can not only prolong the life of the tyres, but also ensure that you and your family stay safe on the road. Tyre pressure should be checked every month or so anyway, but make a special effort to check your car tyres before leaving on your holiday. Underinflated tyres are a major cause of tyre blowouts which, if travelling at high speed when it happens, could cause a fatal accident. Even tyres that are slightly below the correct tyre pressure can affect your braking distance and reduce the life of your tyres by wearing unevenly.

You can check your vehicle handbook for your recommended front and rear tyre pressure, or alternatively you can use our tyre pressure checker. Donít forget to check the spare too, as all tyres lose pressure gradually over time - whether theyíve been used or not.

Check your tyre tread for wear

20p test on tyre tread

While youíre checking your tyre pressures, make sure you also check the tread depth on all tyres to make sure they meet the legal requirements. While many think it's the brakes that help the car to stop, your tyres that are the only part of the car that has contact with the road - so itís crucial to ensure they have suitable tread to grip the road and help you come to a prompt stop.

The legal limit in the UK is 1.6mm of tread across the central ĺ of the tread, around the complete circumference of the tyre. You can use a tread depth indicator to measure this, but if you havenít got one of those, simply grab a 20p piece and stand it up in the tread groove as shown. If you can see the outer edge of the 20p piece then itís time for a tyre replacement.

Check for tyre cracking and bulging

Tyre sidewall with crack damage

Treadwear and tyre pressure arenít the only things you should look out for when examining your tyres, as the overall condition of the tyres need to be checked before hitting the road. If your tyres are old or have been exposed to a lot of sunlight, they can be prone to cracking. This is due to UV light oxidising the rubber in the tyres causing them to lose their waxy properties, dry out and crack. Meanwhile, potholes and curbs can also take their toll on tyres, and persistent impacts can cause the tyre sidewall to bulge and weaken.

Check your tyres regularly for any anomalies, such as cracking and bulging in both the tread area and sidewall. If you are at all unsure about the condition of your tyres, contact your local Kwik Fit centre for tyre care advice.

Make sure all your lights are working properly

BMW with Kwik Fit number plate

Another important check to consider is testing all of your carís lights to ensure that theyíre in working order. This includes car headlights, brake lights, reverse light, indicators and internal cabin lights (you never know when you may need to stop to read the map!). Replacing bulbs can range from being dead simple to feeling like youíre deciphering an impossible code, it all depends on what type of car you have. If you are having any issues, pop down to your local Kwik Fit where we can fit new replacement bulbs to save you the trouble.

Turn on windscreen wipers and check wiper blades

Rain on car windscreen

You canít trust the weather, especially when holidaying in the UK, so a good effective set of windscreen wipers are a must to ensure you can see the road clearly. Wipers are probably the least hardy part of your car and will inevitably become damaged over time. Check the blades for any splits in the rubber edge, which could prevent the wiper from clearing water or leave streaks in the line of view. It can be tempting to neglect your wipers because youíre expecting good weather, but wipers are essential even on a hot day to clear grime and bugs from the windscreen.

Switch on the air con

air con unit on dashboard

While itís not crucial, travelling without functioning car air con can make the journey unpleasant on a long journey in hot weather. If you havenít used your car air conditioning since last summer, testing it before you go is a good idea, as itís not unusual for the air con system to develop a fault. The last thing you need is for it to blow warm air after not being used for a long period of time. As air con gas permeates through the system over time, you may simply need an air con recharge, which is available at most Kwik Fit centres.

Get your car holiday ready with Kwik Fit

If you want to make sure that your car is ready for your holiday, at Kwik Fit we offer a free vehicle health check. Our 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.

Designed to help you avoid breakdowns and keep your car running smoothly, you can book in for a free car check online or by visiting your local Kwik Fit centre.

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