Summer driving advice

From traffic to tractors – help with the big issues affecting you on the road

high temperatures and busy holiday routes put extra demands on car and driver

high temperatures and busy holiday routes put extra demands on car and driver

High temperatures and the busy holiday routes of summer can put extra demands on cars and drivers.

But with a little planning and preparation, you can reduce the risk of a breakdown and keep stress levels to a minimum.

Here we detail the main issues for drivers this summer, and the best ways to work around them.

Summer breakdowns

Drowned or lost key fobs

It's easy to lose your car keys in sand on the beach, or take the remote control for a swim and then find that car doors won't open.

Salt in sea water can ruin electric circuits and render transponder keys useless.

Most cars will have an alternative method of entry if the remote key fails – check the handbook - but it's better to keep keys safe and dry in the first place.


High temperatures aggravate xisting damage to the rubber. Under-inflation adds to the problem, causing friction and more heat which can prove too much for weak spots, causing punctures and blow-outs.

  • Check tyre condition and pressures, adjusting for extra load if appropriate.
  • Check caravan tyres for cracking and renew damaged tyres before use.


High temperatures can aggravate cooling system problems too. Low coolant level, leaking hoses and broken electric cooling fans can all result in overheating and expensive damage.

If the fan's broken it will soon become apparent when you meet slow moving traffic and engine temperature soars.

  • Check the coolant reservoir level regularly
  • Look out for wet or white staining on coolant hoses
  • Check the fan by running the car to normal temperature and allowing the engine to idle for five to 10 minutes – the cooling fan should cut in automatically.
Check caravan tyres before use

Check caravan tyres before use


Summer fuel saving

If you have to carry luggage on the roof, use a roof box to reduce drag. Alternatively load luggage on a roof rack as low as possible and wrap tightly in plastic sheeting.

If you are staying in one place for your holiday, take the roof rack or box off when you get there – you'll save fuel on day trips.

Open windows cause extra drag. Try air vents first particularly on a motorway.

Once air conditioning has cooled the inside of the car, you may be able to turn it down or off.

Don't start the air conditioning if doors or windows are open.

Increase tyre pressures if carrying extra passengers or heavy luggage (Check the handbook).

Using a windscreen shade and opening up the car as soon as you get back to it will help to cool the inside. Opening windows while you drive out of a car park will lower the inside temperature before you start the air conditioning.


Fresh air, exercise or turning up the radio may help for a short time but are not as effective as:

  • Break a journey over 3 hours with a 20 minute break
  • On longer journeys, take a break every 2 hours or so
  • Frequent short stops (of at least 20 minutes) are better than one long stop
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol before driving
  • Counter sleepiness by taking a short nap (up to 15 minutes) or drink 2 cups of strong coffee.
  • Remember that it's illegal to stop on the motorway hard shoulder, except in an emergency


Hayfever is particularly bad in the summer and if you sneeze at 70mph you lose your vision for as much as 100 metres.

  • Only take medication which doesn't cause drowsiness
  • Get someone else to drive if you are having a particularly bad hayfever day
  • Ask about cabin pollen filters for your make of car
  • Keep tissues close to hand
  • Slow down and drop back if you're about to sneeze
  • Wear sunglasses to block out bright sunlight
  • Close windows and air vents to reduce pollen grains in the car
  • Vacuum car mats and carpets regularly during summer, to get rid of dust

Loose chippings

Surface dressing – laying tar covered with loose chippings – helps preserve roads and improve skid resistance, but is also a cause of cracked headlamp glasses and windscreens, and damaged paintwork.

Keep your distance and drive within posted speed limits to reduce the risk of damage.


Verges and embankments can become bone dry, and a smouldering cigarette butt could be all that it takes for roadside grass to ignite – in previous hot summers we have seen mile after mile of blackened motorway verges.

Roadside fires endanger the countryside, wildlife, and put motorists at risk because of the obvious danger from smoke reducing visibility as well as congestion as emergency services tackle the blaze.


Tractor drivers often have sound-proofed cabs or wear ear protectors, so they may not hear approaching cars.

Tractors don't have to be fitted with brake or indicator lights unless used at night so in daylight be prepared for them to stop or turn without warning.

Our country road code

  • Keep plenty of distance behind a tractor, in case it stops suddenly – remember the 2-second rule
  • A tractor may be longer than it appears - there may be a loader on the front. Make sure you have plenty of room to get past before overtaking
  • Slow down if you come across a spillage – a bale of straw hit at speed will cause considerable damage to your car
  • Don't park in a gateway or passing place – they are farmers' field access points
  • Drive carefully after rain – dry mud can turn roads into a skidpan after a downpour


  • Sun glare causes many accidents, particularly under clear skies at dawn or dusk.
  • Keep a clean and unscratched pair of sunglasses handy
  • Avoid lenses which darken in strong sunlight – the windscreen filters out UV light so the glasses will change only slowly.
  • Clean the windscreen regularly, inside and out, to remove smears, which will catch sunlight and impair vision.
  • Renew worn or damaged wiper blades will also help to improve vision

(4 June 2015)


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Don't forget the basic checks every couple of weeks;

Fuel, Lights, Oil, Water, Electrics, and Rubber