Summer getaway 2015

Drivers neglect basic car checks before travelling

This Easter is likely to be one of the busiest on the roads in recent years

This Easter is likely to be one of the busiest on the roads in recent years

Drivers taking holidays in the UK this summer are advised to leave home and come back on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday if their vacation period allows it. This is because 59% of AA members say they will go away by car for a long weekend in the UK this summer.

August will be the busiest month for ‘long weekenders’, with 28% of 25,810* respondents in an AA-Populus panel survey saying they will take a short motoring break next month. This compares with 25% in July and 23% in September.

The survey underlines the greater holiday flexibility enjoyed by better-off motorists with two-thirds (63%) of the professional and upper managerial socio-economic group taking a long-weekend break, compared with half (50%) of lower-income drivers.

Driving abroad

Similarly, although 5% of AA members will drive abroad for a long weekend away, that rises to 6% among wealthier drivers. However, 4% of lower-income families will still nip across the Channel for a quick trip some time this summer.

given that cars are often heavily loaded for a long-distance family trip, more than two-thirds (68%) don’t think to increase tyre pressures as recommended

Max Holdstock, AA patrol of the year

Cars ill-prepared for a long journey

According to newly-crowned AA Patrol of the Year Max Holdstock, this trend means that roadworks, accidents or other bottlenecks could test the resilience of cars as well as try the patience of their occupants when traffic hold-ups develop.

The same study suggests many drivers give their cars scant preparation before setting off on a journey, neglecting to make even the most basic of checks whether it’s a for a long weekend or a holiday.  And according to the AA, tyre problems and overheating engines are among the most common summer dramas that can bring a family trip to a premature halt.

It found that although 89% top up the fuel tank before setting off, a fifth (21%) don’t check their tyre pressures while two-thirds (67%) don’t even bother to make a visual tyre check, such as tread depth or signs of cuts or bulges.

“Drivers load up their cars up with family, luggage and holiday paraphernalia – and then expect them to undertake a long trouble-free journey but don’t bother to make sure the car is properly prepared for the extra strain,” Max Holdstock says.

“Tyre failure is one of the most common reasons for members to call the AA for help.”

“And given that cars are often heavily loaded for a long-distance family trip, more than two-thirds (68%) don’t think to increase tyre pressures as recommended, to cope with the heavy load and prolonged motorway journeys.”
He points out that car handbooks as well as small information panels in the fuel cap cover or the driver’s door shut provide information about tyre pressure for heavy loads.

Overheating

Overheating is another common roadside problem that is often the result of low coolant or a failed cooling fan.  More than half (58%) said they don’t check their cooling system level and top up with the appropriate water/anti-freeze mix.  “This is easy to do while checking operation of the fan is also easily done,” Max Holdstock says. 

“Our study also found that a third (32%) don’t check their engine’s oil level either.  Dangerously low oil can lead to serious and expensive engine damage.”

A broken-down car is not a good start to what should be a happy weekend break or holiday

Max Holdstock, AA patrol of the year

Haven’t got a clue

But when asked about basic under bonnet maintenance checks, 13% of drivers said they ‘haven’t got a clue’ about what to do.  This rises to a third (30%) of women.

“If you plan to make long trips this summer and you don’t know what to do, most garages will provide such checks very cheaply or even free of charge.  A broken-down car is not a good start to what should be a happy weekend break or holiday.”

FLOWER

The AA offers a simple way to remember what checks to regularly carry out: FLOWER.  This stands for Fuel, Lights, Oil, Water, Electrics, Rubber and a simple guide to basic car checks.

There is also a host of other journey planning information on the AA website including the AA Route Planner and live traffic reports with AA Road Watch.

And for those planning to cross the channel, there is up-to-date information about driving in Europe including delays caused by French farmers as well as industrial action and migrant activity at Calais.

Summer getaway preparation advice

  • Plan your route in advance and allow plenty of time for the journey
  • Check local traffic and weather reports – call AA Roadwatch on 84322
  • Try to travel when roads are quieter
  • Take regular fifteen minutes breaks in journeys over three hours. Aim to stop every two hours or so. This is more important if you're not used to driving long distances.
  • As one of their AA Rewards, personal AA members get up to 20% off food and drink at Moto service areas when they show their membership card
  • 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

(24 July 2015)

* AA-Populus interviewed 28,510 AA members in an online poll between 17-24 June 2015. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.