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RAC

How to avoid a summer breakdown

Checking your vehicle thoroughly before setting off on a summer journey is by far the best way to make sure that your trip to the seaside doesn’t turn into a disappointing trip to a hardshoulder or lay-by.

During periods of hot weather the RAC often experiences a 20% increase in call-outs and this can even get as high as 30% in coastal areas.

The top reasons for hot weather breakdowns are usually problems with convertible roofs, air conditioning issues, overheating, lost keys and jammed fuel caps. And, in the heat wave of summer 2013 RAC patrols were also called out to free seized-up bonnet release catches – a sign that the engine hasn’t been inspected by the owner for some time.

While convertible roofs and air conditioning issues are always high on the list of hot weather call-outs, if the weather stays hot for long periods the RAC inevitably sees a dramatic rise in cooling-related faults – whether it’s broken cooling fans or cars that have ground to a halt because of a lack of coolant. The best way to avoid your vehicle overheating is to check the coolant level before hitting the road or to get the cooling system checked by a garage.

To make sure your summer motoring isn’t spoiled by a car breakdown, the RAC has put together the following advice:

  • Check oil and coolant levels following the instructions in the owner’s handbook
  • 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. It’s worth noting that owners of vehicles with air conditioning will often see a small amount of water on the floor – this is perfectly normal and is simply condensation of the air conditioning system
  • The electric cooling fan is designed to run only when needed, it’s worth getting this checked also to ensure it’s operating as it should
  • Check the operation of the convertible roof, especially if it hasn’t been used for some time. Make sure you know how to open or close it manually if needed
  • 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
  • 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 (including 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.
  • 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 practise changing the spare wheel, following instructions from your owner's handbook. If no spare is supplied with your vehicle make sure you are familiar with the tyre repair kit in case you need it
  • Ensure all dashboard warning lights operate correctly. If not, consult your owner's handbook or call your local dealer
  • Make sure you have a spare set of keys for your vehicle in a safe place
  • If you are towing a caravan, check the tyre condition – tyres can deteriorate quickly when not used for some time, so check for any cracking in the sidewalls. Also check the braking system, the indicators and brake lights and coupling gear. In addition, make sure that the caravan is properly balanced with the load distributed as advised by the manufacturer.
  • Never overload your vehicle or caravan beyond their designed carrying capacity 

RAC also recommends that you carry these essentials in your car:

  • A first aid kit
  • A warning triangle
  • A high visibility vest/jacket
  • A fire extinguisher
  • An empty fuel can
  • Additional engine oil and water (for topping up)
  • A light bulb kit
  • An up-to-date road map or sat-nav
  • In-car mobile phone charger

You can purchase a number of these items at the RAC Shop.

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 breakdown, 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

To help plan your journey visit our route planner and see the latest traffic news which gives the most up to date road information available including incidents and ongoing roadworks.

Alternatively, you can use the RAC traffic line by calling 64644 from a mobile phone or 09003 444999 from a landline.

This provides:

  • Traffic information for any road in Great Britain
  • Traffic information for the local area, with the added benefit of detecting your current position from your mobile phone
  • A five–day weather forecast
  • More information about the service

The RAC recommends that you use 64644 to plan your journey before you depart, and park safely before using the 64644 service, or use a suitable hands-free device.

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