Free Summer Check: Get Your Car Ready For Its Holidays!

As we ease out of lockdown, more of us will be able to have a summer holiday than first thought. Yes, 2020 is likely to be the year of the ‘staycation’ as the Coronavirus pandemic robs us of our exotic getaways. If you’re looking for things to do and places to go this summer, check out our Summer Road Trip blog.

But don’t just load up the car and head to where the sun is shining and the sea is blue, give yourself peace of mind that your journey will run smoothly first. You don’t want to spoil your holiday with a preventable breakdown and endure a living hell at the side of the road, completely at the mercy of some unknown repairer and agitated children. There’s a whole range of car checks you can complete first.

We’ve specifically designed a summer safety check which will keep your car running safely and efficiently all summer long. Below, we outline why every one of our 17 checks is important and how going through this simple checklist could save your summer trip. There’s also some tips about how you can do these checks for yourself – but why not let an expert mechanic cast their trained eye over your car instead? Our Summer Safety Check is completely free for everyone, and there’s absolutely no obligation to have any repair work done.

What’s included in our FREE summer safety check?

Keep your summer moving safely with a FREE Summer Safety Check from Book My Garage. Book yours today!

1. Free Interior Car Checks:

What better place to start than with the area you’re going to be spending a lot of time in? If your cabin isn’t comfy and set up for long distance driving, your holiday is going to start and end on a miserable note. We all want our adventures to be safe and fun, so make sure your seat is set up in the correct driving position, your mirrors are all situated correctly and everybody in the back is comfy before you set off.

Our free summer car check looks at the most important aspects of your interior – those designed with safety in mind. It’s also important to remember that you become a worse driver if you’re tired. Try and minimise the risks wherever possible.

a) Horn

Your horn is your early warning system. It alerts other drivers and pedestrians to your presence and any impending danger heading their way. It should NOT be used to vent our irritation as so many do. It’s for emergencies only, and this is why we include it in our safety checks.

How to check for yourself:

While being considerate to your neighbours, press down firmly and listen for the unmistakable toot. If it’s not forthcoming, or it sounds weak or muffled, it’s not doing its job properly. Speak to a specialist auto electrician and get them to fix the problem.

b) Warning Lights

There are over 40 different warning lights, and all play an important role in keeping you safe. You need to know if there’s a dangerous problem developing in your car. Don’t miss a brake failure or potential oil leak because of a faulty bulb. Something so simple could put you and your family in a lot of unnecessary danger.

How to check for yourself:

We wouldn’t recommend you check whether your warning lights are working unless you’re fully qualified and understand exactly what you’re doing. The last thing you want to do is make a clumsy mistake that costs you down the line. Book a Summer Safety Check instead and let one of our experienced garages test whether they are working. What you can do is have a look if any warning lights flash up when you switch the engine on. If your vehicle handbook says they shouldn’t be there, you should book a repair to get them fixed. Here are some common problems to look out for:

 

Dashboard warning lights

 

c) Air Conditioning Temperature

Can you imagine driving from London to Cornwall during a late August heatwave? It’s a very unpleasant thought without air con. You need your air conditioning working at full capacity to feel comfortable throughout the summer months. Plus, it plays a few other important roles during the year!

How to check for yourself:

Switch your air conditioning on and hold your hand over a vent. If you can’t feel cold air, or the flow feels warm, weak or non-existent, it’s not working properly. Don’t lose your cool over it – book an air conditioning re-gas at a local garage.

 

2. Fluids:

These are the core components which keep your car running. Alongside your fuel, these fluids will power your car to its destination. As part of our free car check, our garages inspect the level and quality of the following fluids and offer recommendations about top ups, flushes and changes. They’re never going to bully you into booking, they’ll only educate you on the benefits of each, where appropriate.

a) Coolant

The clue is in the name. Coolant keeps your engine from overheating during the summer.

Your engine gets warm naturally as a result of internal combustion. Add in the baking sunshine we sometimes have in this country, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster without coolant. If your car is leaking coolant, or the coolant is old or of poor quality, your engine could easily overheat and cause irreversible damage. Keep your summer holiday moving smoothly by having your coolant changed, where needed.

How to check for yourself:

You’re looking out for three main qualities with coolant: colour, quantity and consistency. Your car doesn’t use coolant in the same way it does oil, so if the reservoir is empty, there’s a major problem. For more tips on how to check your coolant, check out this guide.

b) Windscreen Washer

Camping and caravanning are great ways to reconnect with the Great Outdoors, but a dusty field isn’t great news for your windscreen. If yours is caked with dead bugs, dirt and other assorted grime, you’ll need to wash it all off before travelling home. However, if your car’s out of windscreen washer, you’re likely to do far more damage!

Moving your wipers along a dry windscreen can cause the rubber to fray or tear, rendering them useless. Always use the washers, and top up fluid as soon as you run out.

How to check for yourself:

There’s a reservoir under the bonnet marked with a windscreen and some jets. That should be full to the indented line with washer fluid. If you peer in and it’s empty, top it up! If you don’t have any washer fluid at home, book one of our free Summer Safety Checks and have the garage top it up for you, free of charge.

 

c) Brake Fluid

This is included in every free car check because it’s crucial for your safety. Here’s a more detailed explanation about brake fluid and all its associated benefits if it’s new territory for you.

How to check for yourself:

This is one of the few checks on our list that isn’t really possible for you to do at home. The best way to give yourself some idea about whether you need a brake fluid change or not is by consulting your servicing schedule. As a rule of thumb, fluid should be changed every 2 years. As always, our expert garages will set you on the right path should you need a brake fluid change or not.

d) Oil

The kingpin of the engine bay. Without engine oil, your car isn’t going anywhere, and you can cause serious engine damage by running the car dry. When it comes to engine oil, overheating is the least of your problems. If you ever see a red oil warning light, pull over immediately and phone for recovery. Your car simply isn’t safe to drive.

In our summer car check, the mechanic will check your oil level and quality, letting you know whether any top up or change is required.

How to check for yourself:

You might need to break the vehicle handbook out for this one. There’s a dipstick in your oil reservoir that lets you check the level. Once you’ve found it, pull it all the way out, clean it off on a dry cloth, and reinsert. Pull it all the way out again and check the level. If it’s running a little low, top it up! But always try to choose the right engine oil for your car. Your vehicle handbook will tell you which type you’re looking for.

Do you need more help and detail on how to get your car out of Lockdown? Check out these 9 top tips!

3. Visual Checks:

You want to get from A to B safely this summer. That’s why our garages check the core hardware components of your vehicle during every free car check. For the purposes of this list, we’ve split them in two to help you understand what you can do at home and what needs to be done by a trained mechanic.

These visual checks are all simple to do, and a quick inspection will identify any problems there might be. There are some criteria for each check, but it’s very much a ‘yes or no’ answer for all of them.

a) Lights

Do they all work? We told you it was simple!

Just like you need all your warning lights working for your safety, you need your external lights working too. Your indicators should flash when you intend to turn, your headlights should shine brightly and your brake lights should all work too. You might also want to check your interior lights.

Remember that it’s illegal in the UK to drive at night without headlights on. It might get dark a lot later during the summer, but a cloudy night in the Peak District can be just as dangerous in the summer as in the winter. Be sure to let people know you’re there.

How to check for yourself:

Switch them all on and walk around your car. If the bulb seems weak or isn’t working at all, make a note and get it changed. There are plenty of tutorials on how to change a car bulb yourself, such as this great guide from Sunday Times Driving and Haynes.

To test your rear brake lights, get someone to stand behind your car while you put your foot on the brake pedal. You need more than half of your brake lights working to be road legal, but it’s best to have all of them working all the time.

b) Brake Pads

These are what create the friction within your braking system and slow your car down or stop it in an emergency. If these are worn, they can’t work effectively. That means you won’t be stopping in a hurry – and that’s unbelievably dangerous.

How to check for yourself:

You can peer through your wheel’s spokes and look at the condition of your brake pads. If you can see 3 mm or more, they’re safe and still road legal. But if it looks like less than 3 mm, and you’ve been hearing squeaking or grinding sounds under braking, they need to be changed immediately.

If getting down on your hands and knees doesn’t fill you with much joy, or you don’t feel comfortable trusting your own judgement, let a mechanic do it for you! They also know exactly what the quality of your brake pads should look like to save you a potentially wrong guess.

c) Tyres – Tread depth, Condition and Pressures

Clearly, your tyres are the main thing keeping your car moving on the road. If you don’t have enough grip, you might lose control, and a flat tyre or lack of pressure can lead to a dangerous situation if it blows on the motorway. What’s more, driving with a flat tyre or a lack of tread depth are likely to see you pulled over by the police.

How to check for yourself:

Complete a visual check for the condition. There should be no tears or frayed rubber, and there shouldn’t be much give in the sidewall if you start pressing it with your hand. To check the tread depth, place a 20 pence piece in the grooves of the tyre. If you can see the inner rim peeking out consistently, your tyre needs changing immediately. Finally, many petrol stations have an air pressure machine with easy-to-use machines. Just consult your vehicle’s handbook first to find out what pressure your tyres should be at.

 

4. Mechanical Checks:

These are those important checks that are much easier for mechanics to complete. While there are some things you can do to test your safety this summer, booking a free car check is the best way to ensure that these parts work as well as they should.

a) Alternator Condition

A faulty alternator could lead to your summer holiday grinding to a halt. The alternator charges the battery and powers the electrics while you’re driving. Without the alternator working, your car won’t generate any electrical energy, and much of what it needs to function will shut down. In some cases, a faulty alternator might not provide the spark for the starter motor to work, and you won’t be able to even leave the driveway.

How to check for yourself:

If you own a voltmeter, you can check both your battery and alternator in one go. Here’s an amazingly simple step-by-step guide on how to do so. Without a voltmeter, there’s not much you can do to check this yourself. If you want to invest in one, you can pick them up relatively cheaply – but why would you do that when you can have an expert test it for free?

b) Steering

Your steering system should be tight, and turning the wheel should be an efficient move. Heavy or unresponsive steering makes driving much less fun and could reduce your manoeuvrability in tight spaces or when you need to react quickly. And you don’t want to have to fork out for an expensive insurance claim because you crashed into another car in a motorway service station, do you?

How to check for yourself:

There’s no real easy way to check for problems in your steering system yourself, as the car needs to be raised off the ground. If your steering feels loose, or you notice that the wheels aren’t turning properly when you turn the wheel, mention it when you book your free car check. It might help the mechanic find the cause of the problem for you.

c) Suspension

Your suspension system is important for both stability and comfort. It prevents unnecessary lean when turning corners, and makes driving down rough country lanes slightly more bearable. A loose suspension system can compromise the integrity of the whole chassis. If it’s rusted and worn, the next pothole you drive over could collapse one side of your car!

That’s why the mechanic will always inspect the main parts of your suspension system during your free car check. It keeps your car in great condition and saves your spine an unnecessary bruising.

How to check for yourself:

While it’s difficult for you to perform the same forensic mechanical inspection of your suspension at home, you can still test the rigidity. When you push down on either side of your bonnet, it should spring back into place immediately. Lean up and down on each side gently and, if it stays sunken or creaks when you do so, be sure to book yourself an appointment at your local garage.

Keep your summer moving safely with a FREE Summer Safety Check from Book My Garage. Book yours today!

5. Misc:

These extra checks also form part of your free car check, but they don’t really fit in any of the other categories. They’re still crucial parts of our inspection because they all play a role in keeping you safe this summer.

 

Car exhaust check

 

a) Exhaust

No one wants to be breathing in exhaust fumes, especially if you’re sat inside the car. In fact, a faulty exhaust can lead to deadly Carbon Monoxide filtering into the cabin! Excessive emissions are also an unwelcome side effect of a faulty exhaust. And, not only are they terrible for the environment and a factor in global warming, they can also cause you an MOT failure as well!

How to check for yourself:

Again, this is difficult for you to examine at home. However, there are a few warning signs you can look out for. If you feel the accelerator vibrating as you drive along, the exhaust sounds louder than usual or is smoking excessively or producing blue smoke, there’s a good chance something is wrong with it. Book an inspection immediately.

b) Battery Condition

A flat battery renders any summer travel plans a non-starter – quite literally! While the alternator generates the electricity and helps spark the car into life, the battery basically runs all of your car’s electrics. And, if it runs flat, it takes a good 20 minutes to charge back up. And that’s only if you have jump leads, another car and a voltmeter to hand…

How to check for yourself:

If you don’t own a voltmeter, there’s not a whole lot you can do. Starting the battery and idling for a couple of minutes does much more harm than good. If your battery has barely enough charge to start, you could end up killing it this way. Best to bring it along to a garage instead.

Windscreen Wiper Operation

It wouldn’t be a British summer without a little – or a lot – of rain. As there is always that risk whenever you go away, you need to know that your wipers clean effectively before you need them to.

How to check for yourself: 

Run your hand along the blade. You’re feeling for any tears, frayed rubber or any other damage. You could always give the windscreen a test clean (but only if you have enough screen wash). If the blades don’t seem to be working properly, you might need some new ones.

 

Clearly, there’s a lot of our free car check that you can do for yourself. However, we’d always recommend having a professional cast their eye over it as well to be sure that everything has been checked properly. It’s free, so what have you got to lose? Book your free Summer Safety Check online with Book My Garage today and get the peace of mind you need to enjoy your summer holiday.

 

Keep your summer moving safely with a FREE Summer Safety Check from Book My Garage. Book yours today!

Mandy Weston

Mandy Weston

Mandy is an ex-mechanic, with 22 years’ experience in the motor industry. As an in-house motoring expert, Mandy is the go-to woman for any relevant questions that our customers have; both garages and drivers. From specific problems with your car to general maintenance, Mandy is a reliable source of information and advice. Her passion for motoring is a huge factor to her success and the huge wealth of knowledge that she has. She now uses her remarkable grasp of the industry to write regular content for our readers to help drivers understand their car better, avoid being ripped off by garages and save money on their motoring requirements.

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