Added: 04 April 2017

Get your car ready for the great Easter getaway

During the long Easter weekend, millions of journeys will be made across the country, and the Motor Ombudsman is urging motorists to check that their vehicles are legal and roadworthy ahead of the Good Friday getaway on 14 April.

To help drivers stay safe and prepared throughout the holiday period, the Ombudsman suggests the following tips:

Stay current – the MOT certificate, road tax and insurance documents must be up to date for any vehicle that you drive on the road.  Your car should also be serviced in accordance with the recommended intervals and kept in good working order.

Keep it fluid and light – the right level of fluids and lubricants is critical to components being able to operate efficiently, which includes the brakes, the engine and the wiper blades, and all should be topped up to manufacturer-advised levels.  Equally important are the lights.  Bulbs in the front headlights, running lights and rear lamps should be operating at their full potential. 

Avoid congestion – to help keep away from any congestion hotspots and delays caused by roadworks, ensure the live traffic function on both your satellite navigation system and your radio is activated so you can take the best alternative route.  And with more pollen around at this time of year, carrying a hay fever remedy or allergy relief medication with you is an effective way to avoid a blocked nose and sneezing at the wheel.

Maintain the pressure – pressures at the front and rear should be monitored as a matter of course to make sure they are right for the load, as under-inflation can cause excessive wear and tear, and affect both handling and fuel economy.  The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tread, and around the complete circumference of the tyre. 

On a charge – modern cars are more reliant than ever on electronic systems, which is placing even greater demands on the battery.  Flat batteries are one of the biggest causes of breakdowns, and where the battery is more than five years old you should look at getting it replaced.

Plan for the unknown – no matter how much you prepare, breakdowns can always happen, so pack items such as a warning triangle, torch and batteries, fluorescent jacket, jump leads and a warm blanket.  Look in the boot before you set off, so you know if you are carrying a spare tyre and a jack or a can of sealant foam, and how to use them in the event of a puncture.  If you are planning to travel on the continent, laws vary by country for what emergency equipment needs to be carried, but there are plenty of online guides to refer to.  In addition, take details of your breakdown and insurance providers with you.

Fuel your knowledge - petrol prices are different across the UK and when abroad, so use the web to find out where you can buy the cheapest fuel, and where the stations are located during your journey and at your destination, especially if it is unfamiliar territory.  If you have an electric car, check that the battery is full before you set off, and where the charging points are along your route.

Rest and relax – when driving, it is recommended to take a break for around 15 minutes every two hours to stay refreshed and alert.  If possible, share the driving with another person if you are planning to cover a significant distance.

Set out to entertain – travelling can be tiring, and younger children can often become restless.  To keep their hands and minds active during the journey, take plenty of toys and colouring books with you.  Use what is around you to grab the attention of kids with visual games such as ‘I-Spy’ or ‘First One To See’, which can help to pass the time.  Also, don’t forget charging cables and adaptors to avoid tablets and other portable devices running out of power.

“Take the time to ensure your car is roadworthy, and to organise everything that you need to take with you,” Bill Fennell, Managing Director of The Motor Ombudsman, the automotive dispute resolution body, said.  “What’s more, with numerous apps and the internet readily available, it’s now even easier to plan ahead, to help avoid any hiccups during this year’s first long weekend.”