Preparing for a long drive


It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that their car is in an adequate, if not excellent, condition. We’ve put together a couple of checks to get you thinking about car safety this summer.

Checking Your Oil Levels

Oil is key to a healthy, smooth-running engine. Engines are composed of numerous moving parts that all rub against each other. Oil provides lubrication to smooth the movements as well absorbing a lot of the heat produced, significantly reducing the chance of the engine overheating. Over time the oil begins to deteriorate and break down, vastly reducing its effectiveness. You can identify old oil by the colour. It will have changed from the original gold to a darker brown, almost black oil.

To check if you have the correct amount of oil you simply need to use the dipstick. This can be found under the bonnet and is normally identifiable by using the vehicle handbook. Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean using a disposable cloth, then re-insert the dipstick into the tube. Remove the dipstick again to check the oil level which should be inbetween the minimum and maximum markers. If the oil level is low, consult your vehicle handbook which will identify the necessary oil type, the amount required and top up location. Be careful not to overfill you engine with oil as this will cause damage.

Examining Your Tyres

Checking the overall condition of your tyres is important to ensure your safety and the efficiency of your vehicle. Underinflated, worn and old tyres are the primary causes for blowouts and punctures leaving you stranded at the roadside. To minimise the risk of a tyre failure you should carry out checks on a weekly basis and before long journeys, these checks include tyre pressures, tread depth and visual damage.

The correct tyre pressure required for both your front and rear tyres can be found in the vehicle’s handbook and occasionally elsewhere on the vehicle for example inside the fuel filler flap. Most tyre centres will check your tyres for free, however if you wish to do it yourself you will need a tyre pressure gauge, tyre inflator (in case the tyre pressure is too low) and a tread depth gauge. Be careful not to overinflate you tyres as this will reduce the level of contact with the road, increasing your braking distance as well the risk of a blowout.

When it comes to tyre tread depth there is a legal requirement in the UK of 1.6mm in a continuous line around the tyre across at least three quarters of the tyre. Most tyres have tread depth indicators built into their design, allowing you to spot when a tyre has worn down to the indicated level.

Windscreen Wash

Often forgotten about, it is certainly worth checking your level of washer fluid before embarking on a long drive, irrespective of the weather forecast. It is important that you use Screen wash rather than using plain water, which lacks crucial cleaning agents for cutting through the grime and additives to prevent the fluid from freezing in cold climates.

This list is by no means exhaustive, so make sure to check the whole of your car and get anything troublesome checked out by a professional.