Avoid A Car Breakdown This Summer
Whether you’re driving to the coast, off to the countryside or simply doing errands, a car breakdown is never fun. What many motorists don’t realise is that all types of weather and road conditions play a big part in breakdowns. The summer heat can affect your car as much as the icy or snowy winter conditions.
A car breakdown during summer is not uncommon but you can easily avoid it with proper vehicle maintenance. This includes regular inspections of all the vital components known to be susceptible to high temperatures. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a comprehensive summer driving guide covering a wide range of helpful topics.
Common Car Breakdown Prevention
By knowing the most common causes of car failure will really help you better prepare for such an eventuality.
While the summer conditions may be a little easier on batteries, they remain one of the most common causes of car troubles. Some of the causes include more stop-start activity and not just in traffic but also shorter journeys whether at home or on holiday.
Batteries take even more strain when everyone in the car uses several entertainment devices from phones and tablets DVDs and SatNav among others. Some of the warning signs that your battery is getting low include the following:
- Not holding a charge too well
- Trouble starting at any time of the day and even after driving
- Headlights may appear dimmer or they take longer to turn on
- Not all electrics work as they should like dashboard lights
The typical lifespan of a car battery is about three years as real problems start once it reaches four to five years. It’s best to replace it around that age and most certainly before embarking on a long summer road trip.
Short journeys are also not good for the battery even in the summer and particularly with multiple devices plugged in. If you regularly drive short distances, you should check and charge your battery at least once a week especially when it’s older than three years.
If your car battery is struggling to hold a charge, it might be time to replace it. When you notice any of these warning signs or have any concern at all, visit your nearest Elite Garage for a free battery check.
Tyre Related Problems
During warmer months, the rise in temperature can increase tyre pressure which is dangerous in itself. In a worst-case scenario, tyre pressure exceeding the manufacturer’s recommended levels could result in a blowout for example.
At the same time, overinflated tyres typically wear prematurely which leads to a harder ride and possible handling issues. Underinflated tyres are just as bad especially in hot weather as they generate more heat which causes damage even faster.
Performing regular visual checks will reveal some of the warning signs such as cracks, bumps or distortions of the rubber. In addition, if the pressure of one tyre is often lower than the others, you could have a slow puncture. Another possible cause could be a faulty valve which should be checked properly and replaced or repaired immediately.
Preventing Tyre Failure
It’s essential that you look at the overall condition of your tyres and pressure before driving long distances. Consult your vehicle, caravan or trailer manual to find the recommended pressure to avoid any problems.
Remember that you have to increase the tyre pressure to the correct PSI when carrying heavier loads and that includes a car full of luggage and people. You should also be able to find the recommended pressure levels for your tyres on the inside of the door frame.
Always check the condition of your spare tyre and make sure you actually have one in the car before setting off. It may sound silly but many call outs involve stranded motorists with a puncture and they don’t have a spare. While some cars today don’t have a spare tyre, at least make sure you pack a puncture repair kit.
Helpful article: ‘Repairing A Flat Tyre’
Signs Of A Faulty Clutch
A clutch is essential for driving a manual car but you don’t always know when it needs attention. For that reason, it’s important to identify any of the early signs as leaving it unchecked could cause major problems later.
While driving unfamiliar roads with hills or altered terrain often puts added strain on your clutch, one of the major causes is towing. Clutch failure is common when towing a caravan, boat, trailer or another car especially when it’s not loaded or hitched correctly. If your car has a worn clutch and pulling a heavy caravan while driving a hilly road, you could be in for a nasty surprise.
A clutch is very robust and doesn’t just fail out of nowhere but there are signs to look out for:
- Changing gears is difficult
- Rattling or grinding sound when changing gears
- The clutch pedal vibrates when you accelerate
- The clutch seems to ‘slip’ causing a loss of acceleration, or a complete loss of drive
- Engine revs randomly higher or lower
One way to prevent clutch failure is to drive properly and to not ‘ride the clutch’. That means keep your foot off the clutch pedal when you don’t need it and avoid clutch control on a hill, rather use the handbrake.
That said, if you’re planning a trip, familiarise yourself with the road and all the local routes. This way you know what to expect in terms of inclines, downhill winding roads and the overall driving conditions. Lastly, you need to prepare your car and make sure it has the right towing capacity for your caravan or trailer.
Your alternator keeps the battery fully charged and provides all the power your car needs to start. It essentially recycles the power that your battery uses while driving which also takes us back to driving short distances. Not driving far or long enough at reasonable speeds means your alternator doesn’t have enough time to recharge the battery.
Some of the warning signs are similar to that of battery failure as the two are so closely linked:
- The dashboard warning light comes on
- Dimming or flickering headlights
- Strange noises like rattling or a clunking sound
- Engine stalling or not starting at all
- Regular dead battery
There isn’t too much you can do to prevent an alternator from failing as it is inevitable especially as cars get older. However, preventative maintenance can easily add years to the functional lifespan of an alternator. Common causes of damage include heat, vibration and contamination from outside sources but this damage can be minimised with regular checks and overall car servicing.
What To Pack For Your Journey
Being prepared for anything is always a good thing especially when travelling long distances and in unknown locations. As the saying goes, “Rather have and not need than need and not have.” And with that, here is our list of important items you should include on your journey:
- First aid kit
- Warning triangle
- High visibility vest or jacket
- Fire extinguisher
- An empty fuel can (and extra fuel depending on where you’re going)
- Extra engine oil and water in case you need to top up
- Light bulb kit
- Up-to-date road map or SatNav
- A fully charged mobile phone and ideally an in-car mobile phone charger or a fully charged power bank
- Extra water and refreshments
- Sun cream in case you have a car breakdown
- Extra medication as you may not be able to get them if you’re travelling abroad or stuck in the middle of nowhere
If you’re planning a road trip, then you should definitely read this article on Fuel Efficiency – Tips To Help You Save’.
Additional Summer Driving Tips
While we’ve covered many aspects of summer driving tips and how to prevent a car breakdown, there are a few important things you need to know. Before embarking on a long journey, be sure to check the following:
- Ensure you have enough fuel for your journey
- Check your oil level and top up if necessary to avoid engine damage and a possible car breakdown
- Check that all your tyres have at least 3mm of tread and inflated correctly
- If your tyres aren’t wearing evenly, check the tyre pressures or there may be a fault with the steering
- Fill up your windscreen washer fluid
- Top up with coolant to the manufacturer’s specifications
- Check that all electronics are working properly (indicators, brake lights, reverse lights, fog lamps)
When you are ready, contact your local branch for more information or if you’d like to book one of our free safety checks. If you’re looking for somewhere as reliable as a main dealership, Elite Garages have you covered. We offer better value with the knowledge that our professional, experienced technicians will take exceptional care of your vehicle.