Car Advice

Top 10 Summer Driving Tips

A little bit of preparation can make your summer holiday road trip a dream rather than a nightmare, we’ve compiled a list of 10 summer driving tips.

SUMMER’S HERE AND I can almost hear Santa’s sleigh bells jingle-jangling. Right about now we’re all starting to think about getting away to the beach for a week or two, but high temperatures and busy summer roads can fast become a nightmare. Poorly prepared cars can end up steaming piles of junk by the side of the road, there’s a greater risk of tyre failure, and little things like glare from the sun can make it tricky to see where you’re going. So, before you get behind the wheel these summer holidays, check out our summer driving tips.

1. Tyres. We recommend you keep a good close eye on the condition of your tyres, because they’re the only contact you’ve got with the road and if they’re worn, even slightly, or under-inflated your car could become an accident waiting to happen. Now, during summer, and the high temperatures that most parts of Australia experience, under-inflation can become a real problem. See, if you don’t inflate your tyres to the manufacturer’s recommended level, you’re going to create stress inside the tyre from the air inside them heating up. This under-inflation can create weak spots as the tyre heats up and can lead to them blowing out while you’re driving. Bear in mind, though, if you check your tyre pressures after you’ve been driving for awhile the pressures will be higher, due to the air inside the tyres expanding when hot. Don’t add more air.

2. Cooling. It’s worth giving your cooling system a good once-over before heading off on a road trip during the summer holidays. Make sure you check your coolant levels and that your fan is working; you should be able to hear it running when driving and your temperature gauge shouldn’t move far past halfway. If it does, or it starts to rise suddenly when you’re driving pull over immediately and check out what might be the problem. Me, I once picked up a piece of paper that I swore had slid off the car while I was driving on the highway but, no, it was laid over the air ducts at the front of the car, causing the thing to heat up, and up, and up. I pulled over and removed the offending object.

3. Packing. Okay, it can be tempting, when heading off on holidays, to pack everything including the kitchen sink, but overloading your car can reduce its ride and handling ability and increase your fuel consumption. So, make sure you know what your car’s maximum payload is and don’t exceed it. More than that, don’t load up your car so much that you can’t see out of the windows.

4. Road surface. Freshly sealed, or older roads tend not to like the summer sun. It can heat up the surface and loosen the chippings causing them to flick up onto other cars, or make a mess of your underbody. So, if the surface is loose, slow down and increase the distance between you and the car in front; you don’t want to get a cracked windscreen.

5. Glare and Heat. Make sure your windscreen is in good condition and clean, that your windscreen washer bottle is full and that your wipers are in good condition. Also make sure you’ve got a decent set of sunglasses and, no, the set you picked up at the service station won’t do. And nor will polarized sunglasses which are great for fishing but can mess with your ability to judge perspective while driving. But you absolutely must have a pair of sunnies, because nothing tires you out like squinting behind the wheel, and if the glare gets too bad you could momentarily lose site of the cars in front. And make sure you’ve got plenty of water in the car when you’re driving, drying out while driving can increase fatigue.

6. Other road users. When the sun is shining, literally every man, woman, child and their dog will be out in their cars, on their bikes, horse riding, or on their bikes. This means you’ve got to be extra careful when on the road, so, always scan the road ahead, to the side and the rear for other cars and particularly motorcycles, and never just rely on your mirrors; always perform a shoulder check. Oh, and don’t ever, ever use your phone when you’re driving.

7. Towing. If you’re hauling the family caravan or camper trailer on your holidays this summer, make sure you’ve thoroughly checked over your rig before hitting the road. Just as it’s important to check the tyres on your car, it’s also vitally important you check your RVs tyres. Why? Well, they’re often sitting around in one spot for months on end… this can weaken the tyres and increase the chance of a blow out. You’ll also want to make sure the bearings and brakes are up to scratch, that your water tank is clean and that there’s no mould on the vinyl of the pop-top, if you’ve got a pop-top caravan. It’s worth it, if you haven’t had your caravan or camper trailer out in awhile, to maybe take it to a caravan mechanic to get it given a thorough once-over.

8. Check your spare. It’s one thing to give your tyres a regular visual inspection but don’t neglect your spare tyre. Some new cars don’t even have a spare tyre, they have an inflation kit. If your car does have a spare tyre get it out and take a good look at it, check the pressure and inflate it to the right amount if need be. Check your tool kit while you’re here, too. It doesn’t hurt to carry a few extra bits and bobs like spare fuses; check what fuses your car takes and get a handful for just in case.

9. Take a break. You’ve all seen the road side signs about fatigue and most of you have probably ignored them. Don’t. Plan longer journeys so that you can take regular breaks (about every three hours) of around 20 minutes or so. Stop at a park and go for a walk or a jog, anything to get the blood flowing again. Even have a short nap, but make sure your car is parked somewhere safe when you do that.

10. Kids. Don’t just rely on DVD players or tablets (the technological kind) to keep kids quiet. I mean, we never had those things as kids… anyone ever remember counting windmills? Make sure you’ve got plenty of books, snacks, cold drinks and maybe a favourite toy or two. And while adults can go for three hours without a break, kids might need to stop more frequently. You’ll have heard it before, but don’t ever leave your kids in the car unattended, nor your pets either for that matter. Vehicles can heat up extremely quickly, especially in summer. And don’t think cracking the window a bit will make it okay to leave the kids behind. It won’t.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober