Summer's here and I can almost hear Santa’s sleigh bells jingle-jangling. Right about now we’re all starting to think about getting away to the beach for a week or two, but high temperatures and busy summer roads can fast become a nightmare… Especially in summer poorly prepared cars can cause unwanted headaches, there’s a greater risk of tyre failure, and little things like glare from the sun can make it tricky to see where you’re going. So, before you get behind the wheel, check out our top tips for road trips.
We recommend you keep a good close eye on the condition of your tyres – not just when preparing for a road trip but all the time. They are the only contact you’ve got with the road and if they’re overly worn or incorrectly inflated they could cause you some trouble.
During an Australian summer tyres are exposed to harsher conditions that require proper tyre maintenance. Under-inflation is a major problem which can be controlled with regular tyre maintenance. An underinflated tyre will cause an increase in stress, concentrated on the sidewall of the tyre. These stresses result in heat and friction build up which can lead to tyre damage and ultimately result in a blowout. Under-inflation can also increase fuel consumption, tyre wear and braking distance. Bear in mind though, if you check your tyre pressures after you’ve been driving for a while the pressures will be higher, due to the air inside the tyres expanding when hot. Don’t add more air; ensure you check your tyre pressures when they are cool.
It’s worth giving your cooling system a good once-over before heading off on a road trip during the summer holidays. Make sure you check your coolant levels and that your fan is working. You should be able to hear it running when driving and your temperature gauge shouldn’t move far past halfway. If it does, or it starts to rise suddenly when you’re driving, pull over immediately to see what might be the problem.
It can be tempting when heading off on holidays to pack everything including the kitchen sink, but overloading your car can reduce its ride and handling ability, and increase your fuel consumption. So, make sure you know what your car’s maximum payload is and don’t exceed it. More than that, don’t load up your car so much that you can’t see out of the windows.
Freshly sealed or older roads tend not to like the summer sun. It can heat up the surface and loosen the chippings causing them to flick up onto other cars, or make a mess of your underbody. So, if the surface is loose, slow down and increase the distance between you and the car in front; you don’t want to get a cracked windscreen.
Glare and Heat
Make sure your windscreen is in good condition and clean, that your windscreen washer bottle is full and your wipers are in good condition. Also make sure you’ve got a decent pair of sunglasses, preferably with polarized lenses for long distance driving. A quality pair of sunnies are a must have, because nothing tires you out like squinting behind the wheel. If the glare gets too bad, you could even momentarily lose sight of the cars in front. And make sure you’ve got plenty of water in the car when you’re driving, because drying out can increase fatigue.
Other road users
When the sun is shining, literally every man, woman, child and their dog will be out in their cars, on their bikes, or even skateboards! This means you’ve got to be extra careful when on the road. Always scan the road ahead, to the side and the rear, for other cars and particularly motorcycles. Never rely only on your mirrors; always perform a shoulder check. Oh, and don’t ever, ever use your phone when you’re driving.
If you’re hauling the family caravan, camper trailer or boat on your holidays this summer, make sure you’ve thoroughly checked over your rig before hitting the road. Just as it’s important to check the tyres on your car, it’s also vitally important you check your tyres on whatever you’re towing. Why? Well, they’re often sitting around in one spot for months on end, which can lead to flat spots on the tyre. This will result in a vibration for the first few km’s of your journey but should return to normal as the tyre regains its shape. However this damage can be permanent if the tyres haven’t moved in a really long time. You’ll also want to make sure the bearings and brakes are up to scratch, and that there’s no mould on the vinyl of the pop-top if you’ve got a pop-top caravan. It’s worth it if you haven’t had your caravan or camper trailer out in a while, to take it to a caravan mechanic for a thorough once-over.
Check your spare
It’s one thing to give your tyres a regular visual inspection, but don’t neglect your spare tyre. Some new cars don’t even have a spare, they have an inflation kit. If your car does have a spare tyre get it out and take a good look at it, check the pressure and inflate it if need be. Check your tool kit while you’re there, too. It doesn’t hurt to carry a few extra bits and bobs like spare fuses.
Take a break
You’ve all seen the roadside signs about fatigue and most of you have probably ignored them. Don’t. Plan longer journeys so that you can take regular breaks (about every two hours) of around 20 minutes or so. Stop at a park and go for a walk or a jog, anything to get the blood flowing again. Even have a short nap, but make sure your car is parked somewhere safe when you do that.
Don’t just rely on DVD players or ipads to keep kids quiet. I mean, we never had those things as kids… Anyone ever remember counting windmills? Make sure you’ve got plenty of books, snacks, cold drinks and maybe a favourite toy or two. And while adults can go for longer without a break, kids might need to stop more frequently. You’ll have heard it before, but don’t ever leave your kids in the car unattended, nor your pets for that matter. Vehicles can heat up extremely quickly, especially in summer.