Summer driving tips

Carlton Boyce / 12 July 2017

Here are Carlton Boyce's top tips for easy summer motoring...



While there’s little doubt that winter takes more of a toll on your car than summer, hot weather brings a few perils of its own, for both you and your car.

But we’re here to help with a few simple tips to help you make the most of this summer’s (probably fleeting) hot weather!

Tyres

Your car’s tyres get hot when you drive no matter what the weather and this isn’t normally too much of a problem, other than to remind you that you should always check the pressure of your tyres when they’re cold.

However, if you’re on a long drive at higher speeds during very hot weather, as you might on an autoroute or autobahn, the pressure inside your tyres could rise by as much as 15%, which might be the beginning of a problem if your tyres aren’t in good condition. The extra pressure could trigger a blowout, which is the last thing you need if you’re travelling at high speed in a fully laden car.

The solution is to take a close look at your tyres, replacing any that are low on tread or suffering any kind of visible damage. If you’re unsure what to look for, then see your local garage or tyre fitter for advice.

Overheating engine

That same summer sun can also trigger potentially catastrophic – and expensive – engine damage if your car overheats.

The answer is to do these simple checks at least once a week and before every long journey.  If your engine’s drive belts are in good condition and coolant level is spot-on then your risk of overheating is dramatically reduced.

Of course, if, despite all your precautions, your car does overheat then please don’t be tempted to ignore signs of steam escaping, funny noises, or an engine warning light coming on. Pull over when it’s safe to do so and follow our guide on what to do if you breakdown.

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Dirty windscreen

Winter road grime brings its own perils but sticky bugs and insects can be a bit of a nightmare too, obscuring vision and smearing themselves across your windscreen when you try to remove them.

The answer is to use a proper screenwash mix in your car’s washer bottle, which will cut through the carnage, leaving your windscreen free of smears. Don’t forget to top it up regularly, as you might be using a lot of it!

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Summer road hazards

As anyone who has ever ended up sitting in a queue of traffic will know, summertime invariably means an increase in the number of roadworks – and roadworks often mean loose chippings on the road, which can cause chipped paintwork and even damaged windscreens and headlights, none of which will be easy or cheap to repair. The answer is to slow right down, and to keep your distance from the car in front.

The hot weather also means more caravans, and tractors drawing hay-laden trailers. No matter how frustrating this can be, it’s important not to let impatience tempt you into overtaking when it isn’t safe; our guide to overtaking gives you a simple three-point plan to follow to keep you and your passengers out of danger. Of course, the same goes for horses and cyclists.

Finally, summer thunderstorms and heavy rain can turn a previously benign road surface into something resembling a skating rink covered in marbles. If the downpour is very heavy, the best thing to do is to pull over in a safe place and wait it out before continuing your journey at a much-reduced speed, leaving an even bigger gap than usual between you and the vehicle in front.

Tips for driving in wet weather

Don’t forget about you!

  • Sneezing at 70mph could leave you blind for up to 100m, so hay fever is a potentially serious problem. The answer is to have your non-drowsy medication to hand, to drive with your windows closed, and to turn your car’s air-conditioning into recirculating mode so it isn’t dragging pollen-laden air inside the car.
  • Keep some water in the car as it's easy to become dehydrated when the temperature rises. If you'd rather not buy bottles of expensive mineral water, get a couple of plastic water bottles from your local camping or sports shop, fill them at home from the tap and, if it’s going to be a long journey, fill them three-quarters full and pop them in the freezer overnight. The ice will melt throughout the day, giving you a constant stream of refreshing, ice cold water to sip.
  • Most of us use sunglasses to cut down the glare from the sun, and one great tip is to use glasses with a graduated tint. The top, tinted section will protect your eyes from the sun’s rays, while the clear bottom section helps you to read your car’s instruments more easily. Some drivers also swear by polarised lenses, which are said to reduce glare and improve clarity, even when it’s a bit overcast.

  • Finally, don’t forget to take a break every couple of hours if you’re travelling a long distance. The NHS also recommends: ‘When taking a long-distance journey (six hours or more) by plane, train or car, you should take steps to avoid getting DVT, such as drinking plenty of water, performing simple leg exercises and taking regular, short walking breaks.’

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.