Lifestyle Guides

Top tips for summer motoring

Hot weather exposes motorists to a whole new set of challenges which can affect everything from a car's reliability to the safety of passengers and pets.


We've compiled a list of tips to keep you and your family moving and safe on the roads during the hot summer months – particularly useful if you’re planning a long journey.

There’s everything from routine maintenance to advice on avoiding road rage, and preventing dehydration to protecting your car’s paintwork.

1. Essential checks

It's important to carry out basic maintenance tasks whatever time of the year, but especially if you're planning a journey during the summer.

Before you head off you should check your car's oil, coolant and windscreen washer fluid levels. Engines are prone to overheating during the summer and oil and coolant are essential for cooling down your engine and keeping it running when it’s being pushed to the extreme.

Also check tyre pressures and their general condition (legally the tread should be a minimum of 1.6mm). Worn or damaged tyres can dramatically increase the chances of punctures and accidents.

Finally, make sure your car's lights (headlights, rear lights, brake lights, hazard lights, registration plate lights and indicators) are all working.


2. Hot car danger

Temperatures inside parked cars soar – even in the shade. In fact, within an hour the interior can reach deadly levels.

It should go without saying that children should never be left in a car at any time. Stories of infants having to be rescued from baking cars are not uncommon in the UK. In America, a staggering 37 children die in hot cars every year on average.

Dogs are also at risk – even during a regular British summer. Dogs cool themselves by panting and sweating through their paws, and it can only take a few minutes for them to succumb to the symptoms of heatstroke in a hot car.

If possible, leave your dog at home on hot days. If you do have to take your dog, pack plenty of fresh drinking water and a bowl, take frequent breaks and ensure it is able to stay cool during the journey.

3. Plan your route

Don't just rely on a smartphone app or built-in sat nav – take the time to plan your journey on a traditional map.

Especially useful if you're driving through an area when the signal has dropped out, a map gives you an overview of your route you rarely get otherwise. You might even want to plan a break somewhere other than motorway services for a change!

4. Expect the unexpected

If fitted, check your spare tyre is in good condition and correctly inflated. Also, make sure the jack, spanner and locking wheel nut are present and correct.

Many new cars now come without a spare tyre and instead are fitted with puncture repair kits – often referred to as tyre foam. Make sure the can is still in the boot.

Also make sure you have an emergency number for your breakdown provider should the worst happen.


5. Don't drive dehydrated

Driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as drink driving, according to recent research by Loughborough University.

Motorists who don't drink enough water make more mistakes and these include late-braking, drifting within a lane and crossing lane lines. Major symptoms of dehydration include slower reaction times, loss of focus and muscle cramps.

Health experts recommend that we should all drink at least 1.2 litres (six to eight glasses) of water every day to prevent dehydration, so keep a bottle of water in the car. Better still, fill up a big reusable water bottle every time you head off on a journey.

6. Take a break

On long journeys especially, regular breaks are important – not just to give you a rest, but to give you the chance to stretch your legs. Time your stop-off to coincide with a meal-time or snack.

The Highway Code recommends taking a break (of at least 15 minutes) every two hours. According to road safety organisation RoSPA, driver fatigue may be a contributory factor in up to 20% of road accidents.

7. Stay alert

Driving at any time, but particularly during the summer holidays in soaring temperatures, can be tiring. Many parents head out on road trips with their children, while other drivers struggle to keep their cool.

Watch your speed and stay vigilant at all times, especially of erratic driving from other motorists. Keep focused and avoid getting distracted.


8. Keep cool

Avoiding getting overheated in your car is a major consideration during hot weather – not just from a comfort point of view, but it's been proven that drivers' reaction times can drop in the heat.

If it's so hot outside that opening windows makes no difference, then it's time to wind them up and switch on the air conditioning. Spend time with the settings and vents to make it work as efficiently as possible, but remember, it will affect your fuel economy.

Finally, if you're embarking on a long journey in a convertible, make sure you wear a hat or cap and use sunscreen to protect your scalp, face and back of your neck.

9. Stay in the shade

Parking your car in the shade is always a good idea during extreme hot weather, but remember that the sun moves, so what's shade in the morning can be full sunlight in the afternoon.

Apart from being cooler, it can also benefit your car’s battery which contains water and acid. The water will evaporate faster than the acid in hot temperatures, leaving the lead plates bare, which can damage the battery.

It also might be worth investing in a windscreen sunshade which will keep the sun's rays away from your car’s interior.


10. Don't lose your temper

Keep your cool on the roads in the hot weather. Sadly, incidents of road rage are not uncommon at the best of times, but tensions can rise in line with the temperature. If someone is being confrontational or aggressive, don’t make eye contact and don’t react visibly.

Avoid getting competitive too – let the other driver go on ahead. You might feel wronged, but letting them go could avert an unpleasant incident.

11. Don't be dazzled

The glaring summer sun can be a major distraction and is often a factor in summer collisions. There are a few ways to avoid being dazzled. For instance, keep your windscreen clean both inside and out – a dirty screen will magnify the glare.

Also, wear sunglasses and use your sun visor. And remember, if you are suddenly dazzled by the sun, slow down and leave extra space between yourself and the driver ahead.

12. Keep it clean

Spare a thought for your car's paintwork during the summer months. Vehicles get peppered with bird poo and insect splats. Try to clean them off on a regular basis. They can cause damage if left, especially in the baking sun, and it will save on elbow grease later on.

When you wash your car, avoid doing it in direct sunlight because the shampoo residue and rinse water will quickly dry onto the surface of the paintwork resulting in streaking and drip marks. If possible, choose a shady spot or wash earlier or later in the day.