With the summer holidays fast approaching Brits will be hitting the motorways in their thousands. Whether you’re caravanning in Cornwall, glamping in Gloucester or ferrying your way to France, if you’re going by car, you should always carry out a full health check on your vehicle before setting off – Your holiday should be all about the adventure and not about the car problems!

1. Car Servicing

When going on a long-distance car journey it is advisable that your car is in tip top condition. Checking whether your vehicle is due for a service could be a good shout. Knowing that everything has been checked over can give you real peace of mind and take some of the anxiety out of the trip.

2. MOT & Insurance

A few weeks before taking your car on holiday it is worth confirming your MOT and insurance is up to date. Finding out either has run out a couple of days before travel can be a major inconvenience. If you are taking your vehicle overseas make sure your policy covers you for when out of the country. Some policies will cover you abroad but for a limited time only.

3. Oil & Water

Checking your oil levels is imperative to the smooth running of your vehicle. Oil cools, cleans and lubricates your engine, failure to top up could result in a breakdown. Breaking down whilst on holiday wastes time and could incur a large repair bill.

Checking your oil is quite simple, ensure the car has been turned off for at least an hour. Lift the bonnet and locate the dipstick, this tends to look like a large ring pull near the top of the engine, usually to one side. If you are unsure check your manual. Pull the dipstick all the way out and using a cloth wipe the oil from the stick. Put the dipstick back into the funnel all the way and immediately pull it out, you will see two marks on the stick indicating the minimum and maximum amount of oil needed for your car. Obviously if the level is below the minimum level top it up with oil. Recheck with the dipstick, if the oil level is consistently low you may have an oil leak and need to consult a mechanic.

4. Coolant Levels

Coolant is extremely important at all times of the year. Coolant or antifreeze protects your engine from both extreme cold but also assists in removing excess heat from your engine. If you are on a long journey and you get stuck in traffic this can cause the engine to overheat, the coolant helps cool it down. Most modern cars have an indicator on the dashboard to warn you that the coolant is low. You can add the coolant yourself; water can be used to top it up in an emergency but using the right coolant is advisable. If doing it yourself be sure to top up the right tank as pouring coolant into the screen wash bottle, break fluid or power steering reservoir could result in a pricey repair. Consult your manual if you are unsure or visit a mechanic.

5. Tyres

Have a good look at the tyres, are there any cracks or splits you can see. Check the depth of the tread, the legal limit is a minimum of 1.6mm. You can buy a measure gauge or have them checked at a garage if you are unsure. Lastly, check the tyre pressure. The correct pressure measurements will be on the inside of your car door or your vehicle manual.

6. Washer Fluid & Windscreen Wipers

Your windscreen wipers and the fluid to clean the screen are important. Even in the driest weather we need to clean our windscreen. Bugs, dust and tree deposits stick fast and can impair our vision. Bright sun can make a dirty screen very hazardous.

Firstly, check that your wipers are working efficiently, examine the rubber for splits or breaks. Replace if necessary.

Ensure your washer fluid is full by checking your manual to find the correct reservoir. Using proper washer fluid will stop the jets getting blocked and clean the windscreen effectively.

7. Lights

It is a good idea to check all your lights are working, you may need help from someone to do this. Broken lights can be a road hazard and finding a replacement bulb whilst away from home eats into your valuable holiday time.

8. Air Conditioning

If you are lucky enough to have air conditioning and going on a long trip you really need this to be working. If the air being blown out is not particularly cold, it could mean the refrigerant gas needs replacing. This is easily sorted out by your local garage or car dealer.

9. Remove Unnecessary Weight

This doesn’t mean your mother-in-law; it refers to all the bits and pieces in the boot and the interior of the car that you really don’t need for your journey. Any added weight will impact on the fuel efficiency of your car.

10. Know The Laws Overseas

When you take your car overseas there are several things you need to be aware of:

  • Carry your UK driving licence, you cannot drive overseas without it.
  • Take your log book and your insurance certificate.
  • Check if you need an international driving permit in the country you are visiting, including the ones you are driving through.
  • Read up on the driving rules for the countries you are visiting. Some require you to carry a hi vis jacket and a warning triangle for breakdown. Emission stickers (permits) are often needed in European cities and must be applied for weeks before travel. Headlight converter stickers and a UK sticker are another requirement in some countries.
  • Check your car insurance covers you overseas and consider taking out alternative breakdown cover as your UK policy will be useless.
  • If you are taking your Sat Nav be sure it covers European maps and check whether speed camera alerts are turned off if travelling through France! Devices which detect speed cameras are illegal in France. 

We hope this checklist is helpful and everyone at UK DPF wishes you safe journey and a great holiday!