Visiting friends and family at Christmas is (hopefully!) fun once you get there – but a long car journey on icy, busy roads with three whining children in the back is likely to be less so. Here are our driving and road safety tips for a smooth passage …
Tyres – are they fully inflated, with plenty of tread? A tyre pressure gauge will tell you what the pressure is, and either your car handbook or an online tyre pressure finder will tell you what it should be. It'll also be printed either on the driver's door sill or the inside of the fuel cap. You can check the tread using the tread wear indicators on the tyres, a tread depth gauge, or by putting a 20p coin into the grooves – if the outer band of the coin disappears, your tread is fine.
Windscreen wipers – check they are working properly and aren't worn or dirty; you might need to wipe them with a damp cloth or replace them. Clean your windows so visibility is at its best.
Oil, screen wash and coolant levels – check and top up if needed. Too little coolant could indicate a leak, so you should get this checked out by a garage as soon as possible, and definitely before travelling.
Lights – check your headlights (both main and dipped beams), brake lights and indicators are all working.
Brakes – check they are firm, with no squeaking or grinding.
Plan your route beforehand – check it's actually going to be drivable and not closed for roadworks or likely to be a nightmare because of bad weather or Christmas traffic. You can keep up to date with weather warnings on the Met Office website; the busier a road is, the more likely it is to remain usable in snow and ice. Allow plenty of time in case you get delayed, as well as time for breaks.
Charge your phone – not only could it save your life in an emergency, it means you can let people know if you're delayed, and have GPS if you get lost or need to change your route. Make sure you have enough fuel for the journey and have thought about where you can refuel if necessary, bearing in mind that petrol station opening hours may be reduced over Christmas.
This should go without saying for any journey, but remember that rain, snow, ice and grit will all affect your braking distances and your grip on the road. You won't know black ice is there until you start to skid on it – if that happens, steer gently and don't brake or accelerate heavily.
Carry the essentials
If you want to have your car serviced or checked over before a long journey, Carwise Group isn't just the place to come to buy used cars – our team of experts carry out servicing and repairs too so are well placed to help with anything you'd like us to look at.