Direct Line magazine

Get your car ready for a summer trip

Updated on: 1 July 2024

drining water in the car

The hot weather is on its way, and that means preparing your car (and yourself!) for higher temperatures.

We’ve put together some quick car checks to help you prevent a breakdown and make sure you're prepared for road trips. 

Quick car checks to avoid a breakdown

Here are some quick checks to prepare your car for the hot weather:

1. Tyres

Let’s start with the most obvious. Make sure your tyres are pumped up.

If you’re going on holiday, and you’ve got extra luggage and passengers in the car, you might need to put some extra air in your tyres.

You’ll find a chart in your car showing different tyre pressures for various scenarios. You can usually find this in your fuel filler cap, on the door sill or in the user manual.

One picture will have three people on it with a tyre pressure, and one will have more people plus bags. It’s best to inflate your tyres to the number displayed next to the second image as it’ll stop your tyres from overhearing, and it’ll improve your fuel economy.

Remember, look after your car’s tyres and they’ll look after you.

2. Battery

Battery trouble is a leading cause of car breakdowns and extreme temperatures can affect the battery cell, making it more susceptible to overheating.

Your local garage will be able to test your battery, or you can buy a battery tester yourself. Car batteries typically last about five years, so it’s good to stay on top of it.

3. Coolant

In higher temperatures, it’s much more likely that your car will overheat, as there’s less moving air to cool down your car engine. So, before you set off, make sure your vehicle has enough coolant in the bottle.

4. Oil

When temperatures rise, oil can thin. If it gets too thin, your engine can fail because it makes it harder for the gloopy substance to lubricate heavy-duty mechanical components like the crankshaft and camshafts. Check your oil level by pulling out the dipstick, giving it a wipe and putting it back in. When you pull it out again, the oil level needs to be between the minimum and maximum lines.

Keep essentials in the car

woman drinking water in car

1. Water

Having a breakdown kit in the car is always a good idea. At the very least, never set off without a bottle of water. If you're stranded by the roadside in the blistering heat, you'll be grateful for a drink. It could also be used to top up coolant in an emergency.

2. Phone charger

Why do we always run out of juice at the worst times? Keep a charger in the car so if you do break down, you can stay in contact with your recovery driver and let people know you’ve broken down.

3. Credit cards

Especially when travelling abroad, you'll need to pay for things by card, such as hire car deposits. It's important to have access to quick funds for repairs and hotel accommodation.

4. Documents

It’s always a good idea to have your logbook (V5C) for the vehicle, your Certificate of Motor Insurance and your driving licence.

Carrying more than usual?

If you’re planning on taking bicycles, more luggage or even pets with you on your trip, then it pays to prepare.

We’ve got helpful guides on how to choose the right type of bike rack, how to make sure your roof box will be suitable, and the safest way to travel with dogs.

The driver

Before and during the journey, we recommend that the driver takes the following precautions, for their own safety and for the safety of passengers. 

  • Make sure you get proper rest before driving. An early start after a good night's sleep is preferable to a late start after a day's work.
  • Don't drink alcohol before or during the trip.
  • Take regular breaks, at least every two hours.
  • Stay calm, no matter what happens.

Like anything, preparation is key.

Plan as much as you can in advance, including making sure you have valid breakdown cover, and you'll be able to deal with most problems without too much trouble.

Related articles

A driver looks under the bonnet of a broken down car.
Motor

How to beat breakdowns

Cars break down for numerous reasons, but many of them are easily preventable. If you want to know what you can do to minimise your chances of being stranded, read on. And, if you do break down, find out what steps you should take to stay safe.
An SOS phone on the side of a motorway.
Motor

What to do when your car breaks down on the motorway

With cars travelling at high speeds, breaking down on a motorway is a dangerous situation to be in. That's why it's really important you follow advice designed to keep you and your passengers safe.
A man and woman look under the bonnet of their car.
Motor

Breaking down abroad

If you're planning a trip to Europe using your own car, it's important to be well prepared - and that includes considering breakdown cover.