September means the end of the summer holidays and for mums and dads it’s time to ensure their car is school run safe. Kids might complain that their uniform doesn’t fit and worn-through shoes let in water. But parents who live more than a walk away from school also have the family motor to worry about.
There’s clearing up the remains of a picnic held in the car after Britain’s summer weather proved – somewhat predictably – unpredictable. And those stains from ice creams, raisins, chocolate and sun cream won’t clean themselves.
However, there are more important things to concern yourself with. Like ensuring your car is safe and ready for taking the kids, possibly plus friends, to school. Here are six simple checks all drivers can perform before the family piles into the car for the first day of term.
Simple checks to make your car school run safe
1. Lights, camera, action!
Are your car’s lights all working? It takes a minute at most to check them. And as the autumn weather rolls in it’s reassuring to know that come rain or shine, you and your family will be clearly visible to other road users.
2. Smear campaign: windscreen wipers
Have you ever checked your car’s windscreen wipers? Be honest: it’s hardly been at the top of your list of priorities while the family has been on its summer holidays. So before setting off on the school run, lift them from the windscreen and run your fingers beneath the soft rubber blade. There shouldn’t be any cracks or tears. And when you use them they shouldn’t leave water smeared across the glass. See our guide to changing wipers here.
3. Tread carefully: check tyres
If you’d rather watch paint dry than look at your car’s tyres, consider this: they are arguably the most important safety feature fitted to your car. If they’re not in tip-top shape the school run is going to be even less fun than usual.
The law says the tread of the tyre must be more than 1.6mm deep. You can easily check this by taking a 20 pence piece and placing it in the grooves between the tread. Around the circumference of the coin is a raised band. If this is visible, your tyres need replacing.
4. Set the child locks
The time and place for a stunt child is on the production set of a Hollywood blockbuster, not on the drive to St Mary’s primary. Check that the child locks on the back doors have been switched on. The car’s handbook will explain how to do this if you don’t know. It’s a simple way to keep children with wandering hands and active imaginations safe from harm.
5. Give them a boost: use high-backed child seats
Are you using a simple booster cushion for your child? Did you know that safety experts have conducted simulated car crashes that prove that children are at greater risk of injury when using a cushion-type car seat, compared with a high-backed booster seat? Prices of high-backed booster seats start from around £25 at motor retailers – money well spent.
6. Pack it in: carry some wet wipes
Wet wipes are invaluable. You know the score: you’re halfway to school when you spy little Jonny beaming at you in the mirror with half a jar of Nutella across his face. Keep a pack of wet wipes in the car and you can wipe away that chocolate smile.
James is a motoring journalist and former magazine editor at BBC Top Gear and Auto Express. He has scooped, reported on and reviewed most new cars of the past 20 years, and currently contributes to the Driving section of The Sunday Times.