Driving Home for Christmas – Our Tips for Safe Travels

Jack Dreyer | Monday 4th December 2023 1:00pm

A woman packing her car with presents. Outside, snow covers the trees.

There’s nothing quite like spending Christmas with your loved ones — and that’s exactly what millions of us will be doing this festive season. But with everyone trying to get home to their families this Christmas or dashing to the shops to do some last-minute shopping, you might encounter heavy traffic and long delays. Many of the UK’s roads become gridlocked during peak times over the festive period, with the M25 expected to be a traffic hotspot.

If you are planning on venturing onto the roads this Christmas, here are some tips to help prepare your car and make that journey not only safer but more enjoyable too!

Tips for driving home for Christmas

For a safe and stress-free journey, start with the following simple tips:

  • Plan ahead to avoid delays — give yourself ample time for the trip to accommodate any potential delays.
  • Use your SatNav or maps app — apps like Google Maps can help you plan your route and give you live traffic and roadworks updates. You can even share your ETA with your loved ones via the app!
  • Drive safely in winter conditions — check out our blog for our seasonal driving tips.
  • Pack smart for emergencies — you need more than just presents for a wintry drive! Pack a phone charger, ice scraper, blankets, jump leads, snacks, a breakdown triangle, and warm clothes in case you experience a breakdown or severe delays. Check out our blog for our winter drive essentials checklist!

Things to check before you set off

It’s easy to get swept up in all the festivities — but it’s really crucial that you don’t forget to check your car is in good working order before you go.

1) Check your wipers and washers

Before setting off this Christmas, make sure your windscreen wipers are in good condition and that your washer bottle is full. It can be difficult to see when driving in cold conditions so give yourself a fighting chance by making sure you can clear your windscreen when dirt and moisture build up. Use pre-mixed screenwash rather than water to prevent your washer fluid from freezing and to cut through muck and grease on your windscreen with ease.

2.) Check your oil

Checking your oil is particularly important before embarking on a long journey but you should check your dipstick regularly anyway to ensure your engine is properly lubricated and to prevent damage to the engine components.

In order to read your oil level, make sure you park on an even surface, then open up the bonnet. Check your vehicle handbook for instructions specific to your car’s make and model but, in most cases, the dipstick should be recognisable from the yellow handle. Pull it out, wipe it down with a clean rag, and reinsert all the way into its housing. Pull it out again and take the reading. Your dipstick should have two marks indicating the minimum and maximum oil levels.

If your oil is below the bottom marker, you need to add additional oil to the engine. Make sure you include the correct type of oil for your car. Again, check your vehicle handbook for specific instructions. If you’re not confident with checking and changing your oil at home, get in touch with your nearest Kwik Fit for assistance or book in for an Engine Oil and Filter Change today.

A person uses a tissue and dipstick to check the oil level in their car.

3.) Check your engine’s coolant level

Engine coolant helps regulate the temperature of your engine, providing protection during the winter months from extremely cold temperatures. If the engine fluids were to freeze, it could cause serious damage resulting in cracks forming in the engine block.

Be sure to check your level before leaving to keep your engine temperature regulated and avoid any nasty surprises on the road.

4.) Charge your phone battery

If you run into difficulty during your journey, a fully-charged mobile phone can be a lifesaver allowing you to call for help or to let family and friends know where you are. If you have breakdown cover, make sure you keep the number in your phone, should you need roadside assistance. Also, it’s wise to keep a spare charging cable in the car and a 12V cigarette lighter to USB converter so you can charge your phone using the car battery in emergencies.

5.) Check your emergency kit & spare tyres

Britain’s motorways will be a bit of a gamble over the festive period, with so many people on the road. In the event of a long delay, make sure you have an emergency kit on board. While we’d like to remain optimistic and hope delays will be limited to short periods, it’s best to prepare for the worst – especially if adverse weather hits which could slow down traffic even further.

It’s also important to check your spare tyre. Do you have one on board? Is it in good condition? If you don’t have one, do you have run-flat tyres that could take you to your destination if you got a puncture? Keep in mind that run-flat tyres are only made to last you around 50 miles when punctured.

6.) Re-fuel regularly

If the roads become gridlocked in the run-up to Christmas, the last thing you want to worry about is getting to the nearest petrol station before your fuel runs out. On top of this, some petrol stations will be closed on Christmas Day. Don’t get caught short — make sure you keep at least half a tank of fuel in your car at all times this Christmas. In fact, some experts recommend maintaining half a tank of fuel at all times to prevent dirt from entering and building up in the fuel line./p>

7.) Check your tyre pressure before you leave

We always recommend you check your tyre pressure regularly anyway, but a quick check before embarking on your journey home this Christmas can give added peace of mind and ensure you make it home in time for turkey.

No one wants to be stuck at the side of the road with a blowout over Christmas but ensuring your tyres are correctly inflated can help you to avoid this. For advice on correctly inflating your tyres, visit our blog or, to check what the tyre pressure should be for your vehicle, you can use our tyre pressure checker.

A woman stands smiling in the snow outside her car at Christmas time.

8.) Pack your favourite Christmas CDs

Well, it is Christmas, and even the most frustrating of traffic jams can sometimes be made better if accompanied by your favourite festive tunes. We recommend Chris Rea’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’, but perhaps try to avoid his ‘The Road to Hell’!

For any questions you may have relating to winter driving, oil changes, or tyre inflation, get in touch with the experts at your local Kwik Fit, who would be happy to help. And why not treat yourself to some premium or Original Equipment tyres for the smoothest of journeys? Safe travels!

Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.

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