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Summer Car Driving Tips

27 Jul 2012 at 10:05

Car overheatingWhether you're driving in the UK or further afield this summer, we've got some top tips to help ensure a safe and comfortable trip.

Wherever you’re going:

  • Plan your journey to avoid getting lost or getting stuck in traffic jams
  • Take plenty of water and refreshments and take regular breaks
  • Take sun cream in case you break down, especially abroad
  • If you have children, take some games you can play in the car during the journey
  • Take extra supplies of medication, you may not be able to get them if you’re abroad
  • Have sufficient rest.  Working long hours then driving is a recipe for disaster

Car checks before you set off:

  • Check all wiper blades for wear or splitting, check the windscreen washer fluid level (Screen wash additive is also recommended) and check that the washer jets are adjusted correctly
  • Check oil and coolant levels following the instructions in the owners handbook
  • Check the electric cooling fan. Run the engine until it’s up to temperature and the cooling fan should cut in when the engine is hot 
  • Have the cooling system checked - a leaking cooling system or inoperative cooling fan could cause the vehicle to overheat and cause extensive damage to the engine
  • Have the auxiliary belt (sometimes called the fan belt) checked on a regular basis by your local dealer/garage.
  • Check the operation of all exterior lights to ensure they comply with any legal requirements, especially if you’re travelling to Europe
  • Check the condition of the Tyres, (inc. the spare) for correct pressures and legal tread depth. The current minimum legal tread depth for cars and light commercial vehicles (up to 3500 kg gvw') is 1.6mm
  • Ensure all dashboard warning lights operate correctly. If not, consult your owner's handbook or call your local dealer
  • Inspect the jack and wheel brace making sure they are in correct working order. If locking wheel nuts are fitted, ensure the locking key is safely stowed away in the vehicle. It may be useful to practice changing the spare wheel, following instructions from your owner's handbook
  • Make sure you have a spare set of keys for your vehicle in a safe place
  • If you plan to take a caravan, check the tyre condition and the braking system
  • Never overload your vehicle or caravan beyond their designed carrying capacity

We recommend that you carry these essentials in your car:

  • A first aid kit
  • A high quality torch. Preferably with long life and spare batteries
  • A warning triangle
  • A high visibility vest/jacket
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A spare fuel can
  • A light bulb kit
  • Additional engine oil and water (for topping up)
  • A first aid kit
  • An up to date road map or sat navigation system

Driving abroad:

The regulations of what you need to carry in your vehicle in other countries can differ from the UK. Here’s some popular European destinations driving guidelines.


Essentials: You must be 18 or over to drive. You will need headlamp converters, a warning triangle and a reflective jacket in your car, with the reflective jacket being within reach inside the vehicle (not in the boot). The speed limit is 50kph in towns, 80-100kph on open roads and 110-130kph on motorways. Beware: speeding could result in an on-the-spot fine.

Did you know? Driving regulations in France are changing. The most pressing difference to the UK? As of 1st July, it will be obligatory to carry a single-use breathalyser in all motorised vehicles travelling in France. The kit needs to comply with French regulations, so it must have an NF number on the kit. The law states that you must be able to produce an unused single-use breathalyser – so it would be wise to have two so that if you use one, you still have an unused one to produce. After 1st November, failure to carry one of these will result in an on-the-spot fine of €11.


Essentials: You must be 18 or over to drive. Headlamp converters, one warning triangle for foreign-registered vehicles but two warning triangles for Spanish-registered vehicles, and a reflective jacket (which must be within reach inside the vehicle, not in the boot) are required. Additionally, if you wear glasses or contact lenses, you must carry a spare pair. Speed limits vary across Spain, so check the signposts. If you’re caught committing a driving offence, you’ll be given an on-the-spot fine.

Did you know? The drink driving limit is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood for most drivers – that’s less than the UK limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100 ml. However, beware of a crucial difference: for new drivers, the limit is 10mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.


Essentials: You must be 18 or over. Headlamp converters, warning triangle and a reflective jacket are required, and the jacket must be within reach inside the vehicle, (not in the boot). Speed limits vary across Italy, so check the signposts. Remember: police often monitor timings between toll points to check for speeding.

Did you know? As a country full of revered historical sites, cars can’t drive in many Italian cities without a short-term pass. These no-drive zones are usually marked with signs saying ‘ZTL’. If you drive past one of these signs without a pass you’ll be given a fine.


Essentials: You must be 18 or over to drive. You will require a warning triangle, headlamp converters and a first aid kit. If you’re involved in any kind of accident, it’s illegal to leave the scene without getting help or offering assistance. The speed limit is 50kph in built-up areas yet, surprisingly, there’s no official speed limit on motorways. A top speed of around 130kph is recommended.

Did you know? If you’re under 21 or have held your licence for less than two years, you can’t drink alcohol at all before driving. Also note that some cities have ‘green zones’ and you need a special badge before you can drive in them. You can buy these before you travel or in the cities where they are required.

Yes, there are lots of strange road rules out there – did you know you could be arrested in Russia just for driving a dirty car? – but with a bit of research you won’t have to worry about a thing. And for even more peace of mind, make sure you’ve got RAC European Breakdown Cover and European Motoring Kit.

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