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How to avoid a motorway breakdown

Our guide on how to avoid a motorway breakdown will prevent you and your family being left standing on the hard shoulder – and prevent you from calling your breakdown cover provider.

How to avoid a motorway breakdown

Whether you’re heading away with family over the school holidays or are just driving your daily commute, your vehicle undergoes wear and tear that, if not given adequate attention, could cause problems when you’re on the motorway. It’s important to know how to take proper care of your vehicle so it can get you safely from A to B.

Car checks to avoid a motorway breakdown

Check coolant levels

If it’s hot and you’re working your car hard, either by travelling at motorway speeds or sitting in stationary traffic with the engine running, the vehicle will be working double-time to cool itself.

If you don’t have enough coolant, it means your car could overheat, causing a breakdown. Find your car’s coolant expansion tank, which is usually marked with an exclamation mark on the top of the cap (refer to your manufacturers handbook for further details), and ensure the level is above the ‘Min’ minimum line.

If you’re travelling in cooler weather, it’s also worth making sure the concentration of anti-freeze is correct. When topping up, use a solution strength of 50/50 anti-freeze to water to conform to manufacturer’s requirements.

Check brake pads and discs

As it starts to warm up outside, your brakes have to work harder and cooling the discs and pads can be more difficult. Overheated brakes are also less efficient – slow down by changing down a gear instead, which will allow them to cool.

The better condition your vehicle’s brakes are in, the less likely you are to have a mechanical failure when it comes to stopping. You wouldn’t want to hit the brakes on a motorway to find there’s nothing there to halt you…

Keep your air conditioning in good shape

If your car is fitted with air conditioning, it’s likely to get more use in warmer months. So make sure the gas in the air conditioning system is topped up and at the right pressure, and replace compressor belts at the right intervals to avoid failures.

If your car’s air conditioning system breaks, it could leave you stranded at the side of the road on the phone to your breakdown cover provider, as they often also power other essential features on the car. General maintenance can avoid these sorts of problems.

Check tyre tread and pressures

Apart from having a legal implication, keeping your tyres’ tread depth above the minimum 1.6mm means you’ll stop better.

It’s vitally important that they’re at the right pressure, too, as extended periods of 70mph cruising puts higher loads on the rubber than when driving around town. Ensure the pressures are within tolerances in the manufacturer’s handbook, and if they’re looking a bit lifeless, consider replacing them before your journey.

Check the engine oil level

Lack of oil can cause a higher wear rate within the engine. Worse still, the engine could fail, requiring an expensive repair. Most cars have a dip stick to test the oil level, however, some cars allow the oil level to be checked by the driver’s instruments. The manufacturer’s handbook will give details of the checking procedure and the correct grade of oil to use.

Keep an eye on the fuel gauge

It sounds simple, but keeping an eye on your vehicle’s fuel gauge can keep you out of trouble. Don’t try and be smart by pushing it to the next services if your fuel warning light is on.

In a diesel vehicle, if it runs out of fuel, it means the whole system has to be bled of any air before it’ll run properly again. Apart from delaying you and putting you at risk by losing power on the motorway, it can be a costly expense to fix.

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