The Motor Ombudsman, the automotive dispute resolution body, is urging motorists to check that their vehicles are legal and roadworthy ahead of the Good Friday getaway on 14 April. During the long Easter weekend, millions of journeys will be made across the country, and therefore, The Motor Ombudsman has the following top tips to help drivers stay safe and prepared throughout the holiday.
The MOT certificate, road tax and insurance documents must be up to date for any vehicle that you drive on the road. Your car should also be serviced in accordance with the recommended intervals and kept in good working order. For any maintenance and repairs, use The Motor Ombudsman’s online Garage Finder (www.themotorombudsman.org/garage-finder) to check that that the business that you wish to use is accredited to its recognised Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved Service and Repair Code of Practice.
Keep it fluid and light
The right level of fluids and lubricants is critical to components being able to operate efficiently, which includes the brakes, the engine and the wiper blades. All should be topped up to manufacturer-advised levels. Equally important are the lights. The clocks have gone forward, and British Summer Time has arrived, meaning that every day is getting longer. Nevertheless, bulbs in the front headlights, running lights and rear lamps should be operating at their full potential.
To help keep away from any congestion hotspots and delays caused by bank holiday roadworks, ensure that the live traffic function is activated both on your satellite navigation system and on your radio so that you can take the best alternative route. On a personal level, with more pollen around at this time of year, carrying a hayfever remedy or allergy relief medication with you is an effective way to avoid blocked noses and sneezing when at the wheel.
Maintain the pressure
Tyres are the only component of a car that separate you from the road. Pressures at the front and rear should be monitored as a matter of course to make sure that they are correct according to the load, as under-inflation can cause excessive wear and tear, and affect both handling and fuel economy. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tread, and around the complete circumference of the tyre.
On a charge
Modern cars are more reliant on electronic systems than ever, which is placing even greater demands on the battery. Flat batteries are one of the biggest causes of breakdowns, and where the battery is more than five years old, you should look at getting it replaced.
Plan for the unknown
No matter how much you prepare, breakdowns can happen, and it’s essential to have the right equipment in the car. It’s advised that you pack items such as a warning triangle, a torch and batteries, fluorescent jacket, jump leads and a warm blanket. Look in the boot before you set off, so you know whether you are carrying a spare tyre and a jack or a can of sealant foam, and how to use them in the event of a puncture.
If you are planning to travel on the continent, laws vary by country for what emergency equipment needs to be carried, and there are plenty of online guides to refer to. In addition, take details of your breakdown and insurance providers with you so that you have all the vital contact numbers and information to hand.
Fuel your knowledge
Petrol prices are different across the UK and when abroad, so use the Web to find out where you can buy the cheapest fuel, and where the stations are located during your journey and at your destination, especially if this is unfamiliar territory. If you have an electric car, check that the battery is full before you set off, and where the charging points are along your route.
Rest and relax
When driving, it is recommended that you take a break for around 15 minutes every two hours to stay refreshed and alert. If possible, alternate with another person if you are planning to cover a significant distance, as this will give you the chance to sit back for a longer period before taking to the road.
Set out to entertain
Travelling can be tiring, and younger children can often become restless. To keep their hands and minds active during the journey, take plenty of toys and colouring books with you. Use what is around you to grab the attention of kids with visual games such as “I-Spy” or “First One to See” which can help pass the time. Also, don’t forget charging cables and adaptors to avoid tablets and other portable devices running out of power.
Bill Fennell, Chief Ombudsman and Managing Director of The Motor Ombudsman, says: “There’s the commonly-used saying that “it’s better to be safe than sorry”, and the same applies when getting ready to go on holiday this Easter. It pays off to take the time to ensure that the car is roadworthy, and to organise everything that you need to take with you. What’s more, with numerous apps and the internet readily available, it’s now even easier to plan ahead, to help avoid any hiccups during this year’s first long weekend.”