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12 things you need to know if you’re going on a road trip for the Bank Holiday

With many of us spending the May bank holiday and half term in the UK, or preferring to drive over to the continent rather than fly, The Motor Ombudsman, the leading authority on motoring standards, is helping drivers to ensure their vehicles are legal and roadworthy.

To help ensure that you’ve covered all the bases this summer, The Motor Ombudsman has produced the following guidance to help you stay safe when travelling on the road, whether it’s for a staycation in the UK, or if you’re planning to head across the channel.

Tread carefully

Regular tyre maintenance is critical, as the small contact patch is the only surface separating the vehicle from the road. The legal minimum tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tread, and around the complete circumference of the tyre.

Inserting a 20p coin into the tread of the rubber is a quick and easy test to determine whether the depth is above the legal limit. If the outer band of the piece cannot be seen when it’s inserted, then the tread is sufficient. Furthermore, look out for splits or bulges, as high summer temperatures can heat up tyres and aggravate any existing damage to the rubber.

All tyres, including the spare (if your car is not equipped with run flats), should be inflated to the pressures as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer (a sticker can normally be found on the door frame which indicates the levels in bar and psi).

Remember that they should only be checked when they are cold and have not been in use for a few hours. Under-inflation, which a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) should indicate, can affect wear, handling and grip, especially during periods of inclement weather.

At its best when fluid

Fluids and lubricants are a lifeline for a vehicle so that it can operate correctly. These include oil, screen wash and air conditioning coolant, and all should be topped up to the advised levels. It’s always best to take your car to the garage if you’re not sure where to replenish the fluids and lubricants under the bonnet, and how much to put in.

It’s in the small print

Having valid documentation is essential for staying on the right side of the law when on the road. Make sure that your insurance policy, car tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) and MOT certificate are all up to date prior to setting off. And read on for more info on documentation you may need to take if you’re travelling abroad.

Breaking down the essentials

Planning for the unknown is essential, and therefore it’s important that you have an appropriate breakdown policy which provides the right level of cover, including for travelling abroad if appropriate. Also, check what emergency equipment you have in the car (such as jump leads, a warning triangle and tyre sealant – if there’s no spare), and what you need if you’re planning to visit other countries. Moreover, the vehicle’s handbook (usually found in the glovebox), often contains useful advice and troubleshooting information should something go wrong.

Lighting up the road

Although the summer season is traditionally a period when there is the most daylight, it’s still important that all front headlights, LED running lights, fog lights and rear lamps should be operating at their full potential and cleaned at least once a week to stay safe when travelling in the dark or when visibility is poor.

Stick to the rules for driving abroad

Road laws vary by country, and the essential equipment that needs to be carried also differs. For example, for those crossing the channel to France, a UK sticker on the back of the car, a warning triangle and high visibility reflective jackets are essential. You may also require headlamp beam converters. And you will also need to have all the necessary documentation with you such as your driving licence, valid insurance, a valid MOT certificate if your vehicle is over three years old, and your V5 document.

Make a point to charge ahead

Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid cars are increasing, and therefore, if you drive one of these models, it’s important that you are aware of the location of battery charging points along your route, whether in the UK or on the continent. Research how many miles you are planning to cover, what the distance is between charging stations, and if your accommodation has points available so that you can make sure your car has sufficient range for your trips.

Equally as essential is the health of your battery as it drives the car’s electronic systems. If your vehicle is difficult to start, and the battery is more than five years old, you should look at getting it replaced as a flat battery is one of the main causes of breakdowns. This will help to avoid any unnecessary interruptions to journeys during the holiday period.

Access is key…

Make sure that you know the alternative method for getting into the car if the key fob fails or loses power. This is usually detailed in your vehicle’s handbook.

Fuel for thought…

Do not fill the fuel tank completely, especially on hot days. As with most liquids, fuel will expand, and this could lead to it leaking out of the filler neck of the tank or breather. With prices at the pump on the rise, you can check online where the cheapest unleaded, diesel or LPG in a selected area of the UK can be found.

Keep it light

Carrying unnecessary items in the car may also raise fuel use. Therefore, if they are not required, remove any racks or boxes from the roof as these can create drag, and try to be realistic about what you will need when packing for your summer holiday.

Entertainment for the kids

To avoid the common question: ‘are we there yet?’, remember to plan ahead with entertainment for the kids. Ensure that all devices such as tablets and phones fully charged and ready with a few pre-downloaded films, and also remember their chargers and battery packs. It’s also a time to get back to basics with traditional games of ‘I-spy’, jokes, riddles and a good sing-along!

Know how to find a garage you can rely on

Breaking down or needing a repair on your vehicle during a summer getaway can be a worrying time, especially when you’re used to having a local, trusted garage you know you can rely on. The Motor Ombudsman’s online Garage Finder will help you to locate your nearest CTSI-Approved Code accredited business. You’ll be able to read reviews and find their contact details, so you can get back on the road and free to enjoy the rest of your trip!