Just about all of us look forward to Easter... and not only for the chocolate! In addition to the religious significance of the occasion itself, Easter heralds a time of year when the nights are lighter and better weather is (we hope) just around the corner. The Bank Holiday brings the opportunity for family outings or visits to relatives near and far – and for many of us this means a lengthy run out in the car.
Wherever we might be heading, it’s always worth preparing for the journey. At Aviva, we’re on a mission to make Britain’s roads safer... and even if journey’s end isn’t a million miles away, it has to be good thinking to give the car a more comprehensive check-over at least once a year.
We’ve put together a five point plan to think about before hitting the road this Easter...
1. Passenger safety
Make sure you know the rules on seat belt use. The DVSA’s Safe Driving for Life website has information on the age and height children need to be to use different kinds of restraints.
Never fit a rear-facing child seat on a seat facing an airbag – if there’s nowhere else where the child can sit, deactivate the airbag first.]
Remember to adjust head restraints – they should be in line with the top of your ears.
Avoid distractions! This may not be easy if the whole family’s on board, but it’s important to ask passengers to turn down loud music and cut out shrieks of excitement, sudden movements and heated discussions. Keep children well supplied with entertaining books, games and apps to stop them from driving you to distraction with that much-feared cry of “Are we there yet?”
2. Check the basics
Tyres – it’s vital that your tyres aren’t damaged or inflated to the wrong pressure.
Check your vehicle handbook to find out the right pressure, then check when the tyres are cold, using a tyre pressure gauge.
Check the tread. It must measure at least 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre, all the way around.
Make sure there are no cuts, bulges or stones lodged in your tyres.
Remember, worn tyres can cause lots of other problems – including issues with brakes, suspension, steering and wheel alignment.
Oil and coolant – this is especially important before a long journey.
See your handbook to find out how to check the oil level, and what type of oil to use if you need to top it up.
Never overfill your engine oil – this can damage the engine as well as increasing emissions.
Top up coolant – a mixture of anti-freeze and water – if levels are low. Again, your handbook will explain how if you’re unsure.
Windscreen – a damaged area more than 10mm across will impede your vision if it’s immediately in front of you.
Elsewhere on the windscreen, damaged areas bigger than 40mm across need to be addressed – it may be possible to fix them without replacing the windscreen.
Check that the washers and wipers are working and you have enough liquid in the washer reservoir.
Battery – most modern batteries are maintenance-free, but you still need to check that the terminals are clean, secure and properly greased.
Lights – checking your lights is really something you should do every time you use your car.
Don’t forget to check indicators and hazard lights as well as front and rear lights and brake lights.
If you can’t find someone to help, you may be able to check on your own by using reflections in windows.
Brakes – check brakes and parking brake are working before every journey
If brakes start to feel ‘spongy’ or slack, you need to have them checked by a qualified mechanic before you set off.
3. Take the right stuff
This doesn’t just mean remembering to pack the right outfits or the kids’ Easter eggs! Many of us aren’t sure what documents we’re supposed to have with us in the car. This is a good time to make sure you have all of the following with you:
Driving licence – it’s surprising how easy it is to forget this!
Vehicle registration certificate – this shows the details you have registered with DVLA.
Insurance documents – always a good idea to know exactly what you’re covered for.
MOT certificate – if your vehicle is more than three years old you will have had to have it MOT tested. Make sure you have the certificate with you.
It’s also a good idea to keep details of any motoring assistance cover you may have with you.
4. Planning your route
In these days of sat-nav, what could possibly go wrong? Well, if you do have sat-nav, it’s worth remembering that it can be a good servant but a bad master.
If you’re really unsure of the route, be extra careful when entering the destination. Horror stories abound:
- Stamford Bridge in North Yorkshire may have the same name as Chelsea’s football ground, but is a very different place – as a (presumably casual) supporter once found out to her cost.
- Some people have even managed to end up in a different country to their intended destination. A party from Gloucestershire ‘got the wrong Lille’ and arrived in Belgium instead of France!
Though generally reliable, sat-nav data is no more infallible than the people who use it. Trust road signs – especially the warning kind – above the disembodied voice that told you to go straight on. The ‘lady in the sat-nav’ may have sounded very sure of herself, but she wouldn’t really want you to drive into the River Severn.
However well you plan your route – with or without sat-nav – conditions can change while the journey is in progress. Using traffic apps or the traffic alert function on your radio is always a good idea.