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Five ways to ensure your half-term road trip runs smoothly

The half-term school holiday gives you a great chance to go on a well needed and well deserved family break, away from the stresses and troubles of work and 21st modern life – and for some, a break abroad provides a short term escape from the UK’s recent torrential weather conditions. However, with any long car journey there are always going to be problems and challenges for you to overcome, from mechanical faults on your vehicle to the stress of always having to respond to ‘are we nearly there yet’ from the kids in the back seat. We know what it can be like so we’re offering you five top tips on how to achieve a smooth trip this half term, whether you choose to holiday in the UK or abroad.

Yorkshire country road

5. Patience!

The roads during half-term are going to be a nightmare as motorists with the same idea as you look to make the most of schools being off for the week. It’s important to remember that other drivers are in the same boat as you, and there’s no point in being aggressive towards them. Other drivers aren’t there to annoy you and all they want to do is get from A to B, just like you.

So how can you stay calm and collected? Ensure you’re comfortable in your seated position and take breaks every two hours to prevent yourself from becoming tired, stressed and wound up.

Being courteous will go a long way and you should always acknowledge other drivers letting you pass and apologise if you’ve made a mistake – this will make you feel better as well. Remember, we’re all human and we all make mistakes.

By staying positive in your car you’ll notice the effect it has on the rest of your holiday – you’ll know how uncomfortable it is when you’re in a car being driven by someone who has lost their tether – don’t be the one who ruins your family holiday before it’s even started!

4. Invest in a Sat-Nav

Whilst some will be travelling to loved ones this half-term, many others will be driving down unfamiliar routes to places they’ve never been before. Whilst you might think you have the navigational skills of a homing pigeon, there’s always the chance that you’ll get hopelessly lost, and so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t invest in a Sat-Nav, or at least an up-to-date map. Just remember that a Sat-Nav is not infallible – and is certainly not a substitute for concentration, awareness and common sense.

3. Prepare yourself and your car for driving abroad

If you’re travelling abroad this half-term and are expecting to be driving then you need to be aware of the various laws. According to recent figures, of the two million Brits that travelled abroad last year, 76% (3/4) of them felt nervous about driving, but with this doesn’t need to be the case.

It’s important to note that there’s more to consider than just driving on the right hand side of the road. Remember if you’re driving a hire car then the speedometer will be in km/h, and if you’re driving your own car you should familiarise yourself with the km/h markings. You may find it handy to put a small label on your dashboard showing the equivalent mph speeds for common limits. If you have a car with an electronic speedometer you will probably be able to switch it to km/h (although if you have one, your trip computer will also display in metric units which may be an inconvenience).

In Europe, or any country that drives on the right, you need to adjust your headlight beam so that the dipped beam does not dazzle oncoming drivers. For more information and advice on driving abroad please head to our driving abroad blog post.

If you’re driving in another country the likelihood is that you’re going to be embarking on incredibly long drives. It’s very easy to drive much further than you would in the UK and it’s so important to bear in mind the effect this will have on your tiredness.

2. Check your car before you go

If you’re embarking on a long journey in your car then it’s vital you carry out a number of checks on it to ensure it’ll last the distance. The acronym POWER will help you remember what checks to carry out.

Fill your tank up with Petrol (or diesel) because there’s a chance you’ll drive many miles without seeing a station, and the last thing you’ll want is to run low on fuel.

Oil is your car’s bloodstream and helps lubricate the moving parts in your engine. Without enough oil your engine might seize, causing costly damage.

Most modern cars require a special engine coolant but in an emergency you can top up with Water, though this isn’t ideal as modern coolant contains additives to prevent corrosion to maintain the waterways in the engine. It is of paramount importance that the engine is cool before removing the cap so let your engine fully cool down before you touch it.

You need to ensure the Electrics (lights) on your car – indicators, brake lights and headlights – are all working properly before setting off or you’ll be at risk of having to call out a mechanic.

Ensure your tyres (Rubber) are in good condition ahead of your trip to prevent having problems further down the line. Check to see if they’re properly inflated, have the correct tyre tread (a minimum of 3mm is recommended ) and are in good condition.

All of those bold letters make the acronym POWER, an easy checklist you can follow to ensure your car will drive smoothly and safely. It’s important you get into the routine of carrying out these checks throughout the year, as they will help reduce breakdowns and expensive repair costs.

1. Get your car serviced at your local trusted independent garage

Whilst you can carry out the checks mentioned above yourself, it’s always best to put your car into the hands of experts, who will be able to detect problems at an early stage before they result in costly damage. Remember that by choosing an independent garage you’ll receive the same quality of service as you would at a main dealer, but at a more reasonable price.

Visit the Trust My Garage website to find your nearest independent member. Each Trust My Garage member has all the skills and technical expertise required to give your vehicle a thorough service. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals, complying with a strictly code of practice. What more, all members of Trust My Garage are independent garages – local independent businesses which are part of the community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.

Get it right on the wrong side of the road

Every year around two million of us drive abroad (according to an RAC report), and aside from just getting used to driving on the other side of the road there are a wealth of things you need to consider when taking to the European roads.

Passport & Car KeysPassport & Car KeysIt’s not surprising that 76% (3/4) of British motorists feel nervous about driving abroad due to all the things they have to think about. We have compiled a list of things for you to think about to help put your mind at ease before you head off on your foreign road trip this summer.

Preparing your car for driving abroad…

Similarly to making long distance journeys to your UK holiday destination (read full blog here) you need to ensure that the overall condition of your vehicle is suitable and in top running condition to make the full journey. Breaking down is not just an inconvenience abroad, but it can also be very pricey!

preparation for tripDistances

In Europe you can easily end up driving much further than you might in most of the UK. This means that tiredness can be an issue. When you combine this with the much higher speeds in some parts of Europe it is important to stay alert at all times.

Many European countries have smaller, less crowded rest areas without fuel or restaurant facilities which are ideal for a quick break to stretch your legs and use the toilet.

If you are a Sat-Nav user, the ability to find off-motorway petrol is a useful tip. Not only will the fuel be cheaper, there is less likely to be long queues at the pumps. This has the added advantage of providing a break from the monotony of motorway driving.

preparation for tripDon’t overload your vehicle!

One of the perks of travelling abroad is the tax free products that we can bring back, and one of the most common things to bring back is wine. However, five cases of wine is the equivalent of another passenger in your car. The heavier the load the more you put your car at risk of damage to the suspension, burning the clutch, or wear and punctures on your tyres. So whatever delights you may be bringing back from your travels, just weigh up whether the cost savings are worth any potential damage to your car.

headlightsLights

In Europe (and other countries that drive on the right) you will need to make sure that you have adjusted your beam pattern so that the dipped beam does not dazzle oncoming drivers. Modern cars with “projector” headlamps need to have the deflectors carefully positioned so make sure you prepare in advance! Some headlights have an internal ‘shutter’, but others are less convenient and you will need to visit a specialist to adjust them.

tyreTyres

One of the most important parts of your vehicle to check before journeys is your tyres. Once they get down to a tread depth of 3mm they can wear out very quickly, so if you are making an extra long journey abroad it is worth considering replacing them entirely even though the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm

CHECKLIST

driving abroad checklist

Did you know?

  • The phone number for the emergency services across Europe is 112.
  • In Spain the minimum driving age is 18
  • In most EU countries it’s compulsory to carry a warning triangle in your car and in Germany it is also compulsory to carry a first aid kit in your car.
  • France is the most likely country Britons will break down in, with the RAC stating that 64.33% of overseas breakdowns occur there.
  • In Switzerland pedestrians have the right of way and cars are meant to stop for them
  • In France most motorways are toll operated so keep your Euros handy!
  • In Spain, if you wear glasses you must carry a spare pair in your car when driving
  • In Germany you can be fined on the spot for running out of fuel on the autobahn (motorway.

If you have any reservations about your car being fit to make the journey abroad then it is important that you get it checked over by a trusted professional. TRUST MY GARAGE members possess the skills and expertise required to provide you with peace of mind that should you be making a trip abroad in your car this summer, you are doing it in a safe and capable vehicle. Find your nearest trusted garage HERE and book in for a service before your trip.