How to prepare for taking your car on holiday

After what feels like the longest winter, it’s finally getting warmer. And, with so many more people taking ‘staycations’ in the past few years, it means that more of us will be using our cars as a means of getting to our holiday destination this summer.

However, if you are travelling a long distance, then there are some things you should do to prepare your car, and your family, for a longer journey.

So in this article, we’re going to cover some of the things you should do to prepare for taking your car on holiday.

How to prepare for taking your car on holiday in the UK

If you’re holidaying in the UK this year then you will have to make sure your car is prepared for a long journey.

How to check your car is prepared for a long journey

Warm weather, long distances, and the added weight of the whole family, pets, and luggage, can put strain on your car.

So about a week before you set off, carry out these quick checks to make sure your car is up to the job.


Checking your tyres is pretty obvious, and if there is something wrong then it’s quite easy to spot. Check each wheel individually and check for cuts, bulges and gouges. If you do spot any, then take your car to a tyre fitter or a garage to have them professionally inspected.Then you should check the tread depth of each tyre. The law states that at least 1.6mm of tread depth across the middle two thirds of the tyre around the entire circumference. However, many recommend at least 3mm.

You can use a tread depth gauge to measure the tread. If you do not have one of those, then you can use a 20p piece to give you a rough idea. The coin is about 1.6mm so if you insert the coin into the tread and you can still see some of the band, then you’ll need a new tyre. One more thing, you will have to check your tyre pressure. You can do this using a specialised gauge, the gauge on a foot pump or tyre compressor or by using a tyre inflator at a petrol station.

Coolant check

Tyres? Check. Now, you have to check your coolant. This increases the boiling point of water which reduces the chance of overheating.

To check your coolant you will wait until your engine is cool and find the coolant reservoir (your car’s manual should tell you where it is). There will be coloured fluid inside and the level should be between the minimum and maximum marks.

If it’s low, then you will need to top it up. We recommend going to your local dealer or car spares shop as you will have to get the right type of fluid. They will be able to help you out.

You will also have to test the quality of the coolant. You can purchase a coolant tester that will be able to do this for you. If not, you can speak to your local dealer.

Windscreen wipers

Fingers crossed you won’t need to use your windscreen wipers when holidaying but you do still need to make sure they work as it’s illegal if they don’t.

You will need to make sure you have enough washer fluid. This is easy to do; locate the washer bottle, open the lid and then top it up. You might also want to check your washer jets are directed at your windscreen and not over it. You can adjust them by putting a pin in the hole and moving them.

Then, check the wipers. If they have split or smear water then you will need to replace them. You can do this by pulling each wiper off the screen and putting them at a 90 degree angle. Slide out the clip to remove the wiper. Do the reverse of this when putting new ones in.

Air Conditioning

It might not be used as much as we’d hope in the UK during the summer months, but getting stuck in traffic on a hot day with no air conditioning is not ideal at all.

To make sure your air conditioning is in working order, turn the temperature to its coldest setting and turn the fans to maximum. If it’s ice cold then it’s working. If not, then the refrigerant may need topping up. To do this, take the car to your local dealer or garage.

How to prepare for taking your car abroad

If you have decided to forego the plane journey and instead want to take your car abroad, then there are extra things you need to do to make sure you are fully prepared.

Know the law

If you are going abroad then you will need to brush up on the driving laws for that country.

For example, in France, it is a legal requirement for you to carry the following at all times;

  • Warning triangle
  • Reflective jacket
  • Breathalyser

Children under 10 are not allowed to sit in the front without a restraint and any type of speed camera detector is banned. So you will have to check your sat-nav.

In Germany, it’s only a small percentage of autobahns that don’t have speed limits, contrary to popular belief. Also, in Spain you are never allowed to use your full beam in built up areas

Those are just a few of the road laws abroad, so it’s important you brush up on your knowledge before you go on holiday. Otherwise, you could be inadvertently breaking the law.

Double check your car insurance

It’s really important that you check with your insurer that you can actually drive in other countries. It’s also worth noting what sort of cover you will have when you’re there. Most of the time, third-party cover is compulsory. But, if you have fully-comprehensive over here would you want just third-party abroad? Most insurers offer a variety of options, so talk to your insurer to work out what’s best for you.

Breakdown cover

Breaking down in the UK isn’t ideal, but breaking down abroad could be a nightmare. Make sure that your breakdown cover covers if you take your car abroad.

And, read your policy. Find out what exactly happens should you break down abroad. Will they collect your car? Provide you with a replacement? Make sure you know what happens in every scenario to stop any nasty surprises.

Make sure you have everything you need for a long car journey

This applies to driving in the UK and abroad. Make sure that you have everything you need. This includes making sure that food and drink is accessible, the Sat-Nav or maps are also within reach and that everything is charged up.

If you have kids, organise a few games or books and make sure any tablets are charged before you leave. You could end up losing the radio at some points, or at least your favourite station, so you might want an aux cable or CD’s to keep you entertained. Podcasts are great and can also ignite discussion with your partner or friends. If you are taking pets make sure they are comfortable and you have food and water for them.

Plan where you’re going to stop, some services are much nicer than others so do some research before you set off.

But the main thing is to enjoy your journey. Take in your surroundings or take detours to see tourist attractions (Stonehenge is always an en-route favourite).

In conclusion, you should carry out some standard checks before you set off on your holiday. If you are going abroad, brush up on local laws and make sure that you follow them accordingly. You will also have to check your insurance and breakdown cover. You can read more about what equipment you should keep in your car here.

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