Firstly, as the owner of Mr T Autos, this is not a summer blog on driving. What we want is for you to have a happy journey, safe with your family. That’s why at Mr T Autos we do our best to make sure your car is fit and safe for the journey. The guys have come up with some checks and tips so that you can all relax... even the driver.
Planning for all eventualities
I believe a journey can be a pleasant experience with the right planning. But it can turn into a nightmare if circumstances change and you do not have the right tools for the job with you. Getting stranded either in suddenly changing weather conditions, breakdowns or road closures will be made more bearable if you can let people know where you are, and survive in relative comfort and safety until you can get safely where you’re going.
Andy's top essentials for the car
- It’s always best to keep an ice-scraper and can of de-icer in your vehicle as the British weather is so unpredictable, and can be sunny one day and frosty in the morning.
- Carry an empty fuel can with you. Don’t carry a full or partially full one as this is a fire hazard and if it has recently had fuel in it, flammable vapour may still be present
- You never know when you’ll need a first aid kit, so keeping one in the boot of your car is always handy for either yourself, or another road user if you’re first on scene at an accident
Items to help in a breakdown situation
- If you’ve broken down on the side of the road, the last thing you want is to be cold and unable to see your way around the dark. That’s why we advise drivers to always keep a torch and set of batteries in their vehicle, along with warm clothes, a blanket and a high visibility jacket. And don’t forget food and drink to stop your energy levels from dropping - bottled water is a must.
- The battery on your car can go flat at any time, whether you’re popping to your local fish and chip shop or picking your vehicle up from the airport carpark after a wonderful sunny holiday. Make sure you keep a set of jump leads in your car so you can start your engine with help from another driver’s vehicle.
- Keep a spare pair of sturdy shoes with a good grip in your car. You’ll need these to turn the wheel brace when changing a tyre, or to push your car if you’ve broken down, or even just to change shoes if there’s a sudden weather change.
- An item that’s often overlooked is the reflective warning triangle. This gives you extra security for a number of reasons such as breaking down in the dark. Put it out in accordance with the rule from the Highway code 274 which advises to “put a warning triangle on the road at least 45 metres (147 feet) behind your broken-down vehicle on the same side of the road, or use other permitted warning devices if you have them. Always take great care when placing or retrieving them, but never use them on motorways. Also, if you’re travelling in Europe it is illegal not to have one.
Items to get you there safely
- A lot of us use our satnavs to travel to unfamiliar places, but what if your Itbattery dies and you can’t find the charger? Or what if it takes you the wrong way? The best thing to do is to refer back to your trusty road atlas, so don’t forget to purchase an up-to-date copy every year and keep it in your car. A good rule of thumb is to take a look at your road map before you set off to get an idea of the direction you need to travel in. Find yourself a place to aim for or motorway signs to look out for
- Take along a spare car key and store it in an easy-to-remember place, separate from the first car key.
- Last but not least your mobile phone. Switch it to silent and place it in the glove box to avoid any temptation to touch it, but it will be there ready to use when and if you need it.
How to pack your car for your holiday
The most important safety rule is packing heavy items in the car first. Ben explains: “In a crash, every thing becomes a dangerous flying object. In order to minimize the impact, heavy items should be placed directly against the back seat – and be kept from moving around by means of other pieces of luggage or tie-downs.
“In addition to heavy suitcases, holiday luggage often includes lighter items such as sports bags, beach mats, inflatable mattresses and rubber boats. They are best stowed in a way that they fill up the empty space around the heavier items – as firmly and compactly as possible. Packing above the line of the back seats should be avoided. Anything packed higher than that is at risk of flying forward and injuring the passengers in the event of abrupt braking or a crash.”
How to pack a trailer
If you are going to be towing a trailer you need to really think about efficient weight distribution. Ben’s advice: “The centre of gravity of the load needs to be about 10-20 cm in front of the trailer or caravan’s wheels, which can be achieved by loading slightly more weight in the front half of the trailer or caravan than in the rear, ensuring that you don’t exceed the recommended towing weight for your vehicle, of course.
“You should never load a trailer so that it is lower at the rear. It should be either level, or ideally, slightly nose down. Any load should be secured to the trailer tie-downs where available and you’re good to go,
"Remember it is a legal requirement to use extended mirrors when towing. This ensures you have full visibility around the vehicle for safety purposes.”
And here are two more packing tips from Ben for your holiday: “Because of the heavier load, your tyre pressure will need to be adjusted, according to your handbook. Plus remember, the weight in the rear of the car lifts the front, so, in order to avoid the headlights from blinding oncoming traffic at night, the beam should be adjusted too.”
Tips for getting to your travel destination safe and feeling fresh
Once you have made sure that your luggage is stowed away safely and everybody is buckled up and ready to set off on your journey! Here are some tips from me that will help you reach your destination safely and more relaxed:
The goal of long-distance driving is to arrive safely and in good spirits, speed should not be your primary focus! Long trips demand frequent rest stops as fatigue not only affects your concentration, but it also dulls your reflexes and judgment, and increases the danger of having an accident.
Don’t stress yourself as the driver. You should be aware of overall discomfort, muscle aches in the neck, arms and shoulders, or blurred vision. This is your body telling you it needs a break. Turning the music up, drinking caffeine or stopping to take a short walk may all be short-term fixes, but they do not cure tiredness. If you start to feel sleepy, either trade places with another driver or pull over to take a nap.
How to deal with passenger trouble
Passengers, especially children, may be more prone to travel sickness. Over-the-counter drugs are available for treating motion sickness; but keep in mind that many must be taken before the trip starts, and consult your doctor before giving your children any new medication.
Kids should not have their heads bent down looking at screens playing video games or watching movies, this downward-looking stance just makes them feel dizzy or physically sick as it’s a natural reaction to the unnatural motion going on around them. Try and have the screens mounted higher - although really what’s wrong with switching off electronic devices and looking out the window?
A passenger’s nausea is made worse in stop-start traffic or on bendy-windy country roads You can make the situation better by adopting a smoother driving style (no sudden braking or harsh acceleration) it goes a long way towards reducing feelings of nausea – and it reduces fuel costs too.”
Andy's top tips for car sickness
- Move the poorly passenger to the middle in the back seats, or preferably the front, to see the road ahead
- Drive smoothly and potholes
- Distract sufferers – even a family sing along could helps
- Drink cola, eat ginger biscuits, but avoid coffee
- Use a pillow or head support to keep your head as still as possible
- Operate air-con to keep fresh air circulating
- Did you know, science has proved that motion sickness affects pets – even goldfish -too? So look after their wellbeing too with lots of breaks to stretch their legs and shake-off the nausea and water to refresh.
Travelling with children
Long road trips can be trying on both children and their parents. Children can become bored, cranky and may start acting out as a result. This can become a problem for parents, especially while driving, it can also become unsafe. So what is a parent to do?
In the repair workshop, Kevin is king with his attention to detail nothing goes unnoticed under his strict watchful eyes – but underneath it all, he’s a big softie. Which is why he’s come up with some tips for parents to keep children occupied, so the time passes well for them.
Kevin's top car games
- Story telling. You start off by saying a few lines, and then everyone in the takes a turn in contributing a few more lines to the story. What makes it so fun is that it encourages the children to use their imagination, and they can make howling silly stories.
- Alphabet Game. This game is great for middle school children. Think of categories such as names, towns, countries, food or jobs and then go through the alphabet. For example: “My name is Adam, I live in Alice Springs Australia, I like to eat apples and apricots on airplanes.” If you have little ones, play eye-spy.
- Licence plate game: This one is ‘fun’ when you are stuck in traffic jams. Grab a pen and paper and try and make as many names or anagrams from the registrations nearest to you. This often comes up with some funny and clever labelling
Free game downloads
Check everything before you set off
Before hitting the road run a few basic checks, such as tyre pressure, tread depth, coolant and oil levels.
Drive over to Mr T Autos and my team will run an in-depth summer health check. Even with regular servicing your car might not be ready for clocking on average 1,105 travel miles for a holiday journey.
The following will need checking:
- tyre pressure
- oil level
- coolant level
- exhaust pipe
My technicians will conduct the summer health check service. This will include checks on air conditioning, fluid levels, screen wash and tyre tread together with engine coolant. You will receive a comprehensive advisory report detailing all the inspection checks.
Book a summer health check for just £20, and redeem that cost back when you book for a summer service.
Click here to book or call 01628 788880.