Going on holiday? Here's your driving checklist
Driving off towards the sun? Use our guide to catch problems before they happenThe summer holidays beckon. Whether you’re planning to drive across Europe for them – or just down to Bognor – a few pre-journey checks made now could save you from a whole world of problems.
A few minutes – and maybe a few quid – spent now should fend off the chances of a holiday interrupted by a maddening wait at the roadside for a rescue patrol. Or, possibly worse, a mad scramble to obtain a vital piece of documentation that you need but don’t have.
Here’s the motors.co.uk guide to cutting holiday stress.
Have you got the right kit to stay legal?
More and more European countries require that you keep equipment in the car (usually safety-related) that you don’t need for the UK. This usually includes a warning triangle, a set of spare bulbs, a first aid kit, and a high-visibility jacket. If you need to stop because of a breakdown or collision – and you don’t have all the right kit – you may catch an on-the-spot fine if the police show up. Local police may also stop you randomly to check that you have everything.
What about number plates and headlamps?
You should fit beam adjusters to your lamps if you’re going somewhere where, unlike the UK, they drive on the right. And unless your number plate includes the correct national logo, you’ll also need a ‘GB’ sticker.
Will I need extra insurance, or an international driving permit?
Most policies now include cover for up to 30 days driving abroad at no extra cost. If you’re going to be away for longer, you’ll need to call your insurer and arrange an extension.
What about my driving licence?
The good news is that a full UK licence is good for most of western Europe. Spanish police, in common with those in some other countries, may insist that you carry a full translation of your licence. In some countries, police may kick up a fuss, too, if you’ve an old-style paper licence that dsn’t require a photo ID counterpart.
What else do I need?
A spare set of keys is a must-have, kept separately from the ones you regularly use. Getting replacements cut could cost several hundreds of Euros and interrupt your holiday.
And if your car is new enough to be covered still by its manufacturers’ warranty, it’s best to carry documents providing this. Most new-car warranties are good for much of Europe and dealers will usually process the claim directly with the manufacturer. But if you need such work done to keep your car going, you’ll need proof of entitlement to show the repairer.
Ds my insurance need renewing?
Obvious question, maybe – but we make no apologies because it is such an important one. Check that it runs until after you return and provides the cover you’ll need. Look particularly at the amount of protection it gives against theft from the car (some policies limit claims to only a couple of hundred pounds). And, if you have third-party only cover, remember that it won’t compensate you as driver for any injuries you pick up in a crash.
Ds the car need a touch of TLC?
As in Tender Loving Care. Here we’re thinking whether a service is due, or will be before you return. Quickly tot up your expected mileage and see if that takes you over the scheduled limit. Think the same way about the tyres. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm. But if yours have only 3mm left, they may wear to become illegal during your journey.
Even if the car dsn’t need a visit to the garage, you should always check the oil level for the engine and the fluid in the coolant system. You should also check that the screen wash is nicely topped up and that the tyres are at the correct pressures. Note that there will be two figures quoted for your car, one for normal running and a higher set of numbers for when it is loaded with passengers and baggage. You will probably need to shoosh in some extra air.
Finally, if your car has air conditioning and you’re going somewhere hot, it may be worth getting it re-charged so that it blows ice-cold. It’s a relatively easy job for any dealer who has the right equipment, so shop around for the best price.
Fitting a cycle rack or roof box
The first rule here is to ensure that whatever you attach to your car is designed for it. Tempting though it may be to borrow a friend or neighbour’s kit, it may be dangerous if it is not suited to your car. If there’s a doubt, ring a local main dealer for your car for advice and talk, too, to the company that produced the roof rack or box.
Updating or upgrading your sat-nav’s software
Low-end models run out of road once you’ve left the UK. And if yours has Europe-wide mapping, it may not be up to date. For details on how to get the latest, go to the sat-nav company’s web-site.