Seeing as we’ve been basking in unusually hot temperatures over the last couple of weeks, we thought some practical pointers on how to drive more safely and efficiently in the summer months would be useful. If this blog post coincides with the weather turning rubbish again, don’t blame us but keep your fingers crossed that the sun gets its hat back on again sharpish.
Which route are you going to take?
When the weather’s nice, people should probably do the healthy thing and walk to more places, but for some reason we all feel obliged to jump in our cars, wind the windows down and stick our favourite tunes on. This trend for increased general road use, combined with holiday traffic including families heading to places like Cornwall with bikes strapped to their roofs and others towing caravans to the moors or wherever, means long queues are common in the summer. Having one or more alternative routes in mind before setting off is really sensible.
It’s tempting to take the whole contents of your house with you on a summer road-trip but weighing a car down too much can make its handling unsafe, put extra strain on the tyres and result in less effective braking, so have a serious think and only pack what you really need.
It’s annoying but we can’t really blame various organisations for deciding to use the drier, lighter summer months to tackle various jobs, digging up roads and erecting barriers, temporary traffic lights and 50mph limits in no end of places. Try to set off earlier for places in the summer, so that you can soak up any roadworks delays without rocking up at your destination late. Stone chippings will often be present on the road if it’s been resurfaced, so don’t ignore the signs and keep your speed down, at around 20mph. This will reduce the risk of damage to your car and other people’s, plus save cyclists and pedestrians getting showered with stones.
A car’s air filter stops nasties like dirt, dust and debris entering the vehicle’s engine and causing damage, while a pollen filter does the same job on behalf of people travelling in the car, which is especially useful in summer months when flowers and fields can cause havoc for hayfever sufferers in particular. Getting your car’s air and pollen filters changed is usually a quick and cheap job that any garage should be able to do.
If you’ve got a pet dog, picture what he or she looks like when they’re exhausted in the summer heat and badly need cooling down. Your car’s engine doesn’t like overheating, either, which can cause loads of damage. Therefore, another quick and cheap maintenance job that it’s wise to have done just before the summer is making sure your car’s coolant is topped up. Check with a mechanic if you’re unsure. More info is available in our previous guide.
Air con re-gassing
Clarkson on Top Gear once said the “air conditioning in a Lambo used to be like an asthmatic sitting in the dashboard blowing at you through a straw” and it’s fair to say that it can be pretty miserable sat in a baking-hot car in the summer when the air con’s not working properly. Sometimes drivers can get lucky, though, the solution simply being to pay a garage around £40 to get their car’s air con system re-gassed rather than have a new compressor fitted, so it’s worth looking into.
Before making any car journeys in scorching temperatures, visually check your tyres to see what their condition looks like. Any cracks, bulges, bald spots or other damage are bad news and mean you need one or more new tyres. If the tyres otherwise look ok, you just need to make sure they are inflated to the correct pressures, which can be found in the owner’s manual or online. Pop to your nearest petrol station to adjust the pressures if necessary, doing so when the tyres are cold (when you’ve not driven for around three hours previously), as over or under-inflated tyres can cause accidents, especially in hot temperatures.
Your window to the road ahead needs to be kept clean in the summer to reduce sun glare and smears combining horribly, making vision very difficult and dangerous. Give your wipers a rub with a cloth every so often and top up your windscreen washer fluid if you can tell it’s getting low, as it’s necessary to spray a car’s windscreen more frequently in sunny weather.
In case you get stuck in long traffic jams or generally feel like you’re boiling up inside, it’s sensible to carry at least one bottle of water in your car, preferably stored somewhere dark like the boot, to keep it as cool as possible. If bottled water seems a bit pricey to you, just fill a bottle with tap water if it’s safe to do so in your area.
If you suffer with it, you’ll know how horrid it can be. When buying antihistamine tablets from a chemist, supermarket or some other place, always read the label to see what it says about drowsiness. The side effects of hay fever medication can make driving dangerous, so always go for non-drowsy tablets, don’t exceed the maximum stated dose and stay aware of any side effects.
If you smoke
Make sure you dispose of your cigarette safely and responsibly. Chunking a butt-end out of a window at any time isn’t a nice habit but it’s particularly dangerous and selfish in the summer as it can cause a fire.
Other road users
It’s great to see more people out and about in the summery weather, instead of slouching in front of TVs and games consoles indoors. It does mean, though, that drivers need to be extra aware of those around them. In the summer, watch out for children playing in the street, balls suddenly bouncing into the road and bicycles perhaps dumped in silly places. In rural areas, people often walk along twisty lanes and horses should be given a wide berth and driven past very slowly, the same principle applying when encountering cyclists. Also, tractors can’t drive very fast and their drivers often can’t hear other vehicles’ horns due to the noise, so stay patient and eventually a tractor in front should turn off into a field or farm. Caravans also drive more slowly and aren’t easy to manoeuvre, so give their drivers more time too.