Spring bank holiday travel advice

80,000 reasons to avoid overheating

19 May 2009

AA Roadwatch has a new number - call 84322 or enter 'theAA' on your phone keypad

Drivers can expect a 50 per cent increase in journey times this Friday, says AA Roadwatch, as commuters, holidaymakers and large numbers of caravans hit the road at the start of the bank holiday weekend.

As cars get stuck in tailbacks, the AA estimates that 80,000 breakdowns in the UK could be prevented this weekend if drivers checked their cars beforehand. Problems such as overheating are made worse as 80 per cent of motorists do not even regularly check their car's coolant level, according to an AA/Populus poll of more than 14,500 motorists.


AA Patrol of the year Stewart Topp Overheating is a particular risk for caravanners, so with this weekend being the start of 'National Camping and Caravanning Week', Stewart Topp, AA patrol of the year, explains why: "Towing a caravan or trailer places a car under great strain with the engine and cooling system working harder. This makes it more likely that problems will occur, so it's especially important that caravanners do the checks."

Overheating is often caused by a seized cooling fan but AA/Populus panel research shows that two-thirds (68%) of motorists are unaware of its importance and therefore unlikely to test it.

Stewart continues: "You can get a garage to check the cooling fan or do it yourself by setting the car heater to cold and running the car to normal temperature and then allowing the engine to idle for five to 10 minutes – you should hear the fan cut in automatically. If it doesn't there may be a fault with the fan temperature sensor or the fan itself.

"The bottom line is that overheating can cause severe and expensive damage, like head gasket failure, so this simple check could prevent you and your car getting hot under the collar. However, if your car does start to overheat, turn on the air-conditioning and the heater up to full and then pull over."

Bank holiday traffic

With the recession keeping many Brits in the UK, AA Roadwatch estimates that there will be a third more traffic than normal on popular routes this Friday, with traffic starting to build from lunchtime. However, the bonus will be much reduced commuter traffic next week during school half-term.

According to AA Roadwatch, provided by Trafficmaster, the Spring Bank Holiday hotspots are expected to be:

- West Midlands to Exeter
- A30, Exeter to Penzance
- A39, Through Cornwall
- A38, Exeter to Bodmin
- A48/A40, M4/J48 to Haverfordwest
- A35, Chester to Menai Straits
- M6, Lancaster to the Lake District
- A1, Wetherby to Scotch Corner
- A31/A35, M27/J1 – Dorset Coast
- A47, Peterborough to Great Yarmouth
- A11, Newmarket Bypass to Thetford
- A34, Oxford to Winchester

Popular caravan routes include:

- Dorset coast: M27 westbound, A31 and A35
- West Country: M5, A303, A30, A38 and A39
- South-west Wales: Gower peninsula, A48, A40 west of M4, Carmarthen
- North Wales: A55
- Lake District: M6, junctions 32-36, A590
- North Yorkshire: A1 Wetherby to Scotch Corner
- Yorkshire coast: A64 to Scarborough
- East Anglia: A11 from London, A47 from East Midlands
- Scotland: A82 Glasgow to Trossachs

To help motorists beat the hotspots the number for the AA's traffic and travel advice line, AA Roadwatch, is 84322 or enter 'the AA' on your mobile phone keypad or call 0906 88 84322 from a landline2.

AA advice

The AA attended 46,000 breakdowns during the Spring Bank Holiday weekend in 2008. To make your journey go smoothly, the AA advises:

  • Plan your route in advance
  • Check local traffic and weather reports – call AA Roadwatch on 84322
  • Travel when the roads are quieter
  • Allow plenty of time for the journey
  • Check oil, coolant and windscreen wash levels, cooling fan operation, lights and tyre pressure (check when tyres are cold and increase pressure for heavy loads if necessary) and tread depth – not forgetting the spare and any caravan/trailer – before hitting the road
  • Pack the car safely being careful not to overload or obstruct vision
  • Keep plenty of refreshments on board and plan car games to keep children comfortable and happy throughout the journey
  • Check out the AA patrol podcasts demonstrating simple car care procedures
  • Read our seasonal driving advice


AA/Populus panel research: 14,743 AA members interviewed online between 1-8 May 2009.

2Calls to AA Roadwatch cost up to 65p per minute. Calls should not last longer than 90 seconds.

National camping and caravanning week runs from 23 to 29 May 2009.

Join the discussion in the AA zone


7 September 2009