As many of you will know we elected to drive ourselves from Wales to Portugal when we were making our move earlier this year. We had considered shipping the car but that would have meant not only booking flights for ourselves, but also coordinating our flights with those of BattleDog’s. Then there was the issue of getting us and him from Faro Airport to my parent’s place.
Instead, we settled on a ferry journey from Portsmouth to Santander, booking the dog into a kennel, and then driving our car from Santander to the Algarve. But making such a long journey, which involved 166 miles followed by 608 miles, wasn’t just as simple as loading the car up and going. There was quite a bit of planning involved in getting just the car ready for the journey. We put new tyres on the car not long before we left the UK, but I wish we had known about www.tyreplus.co.uk at the time. More on that to come.
The first leg of our journey was from our home in Wales to Portsmouth Ferry Terminal, a journey of 166 miles as mentioned. To get the car ready for this we checked the tyre treads and pressures, that the lights were in good working order and ensured oil levels and all other fluids were topped up. The car had a service a little over a month before we left, but it was no harm in rechecking everything was still in order.
The car also had a recall job done on it just weeks before we left and, so we knew mechanically it was good to go. Before setting off on our journey we made sure we had enough fuel to get us to Portsmouth, and onto the ferry.
Once we hit Spain we topped up before leaving Santander to find our overnight accommodation an hour from the ferry. I was glad we did this as it took us two hours to escape the Spanish mountains the next morning before we hit the motorway which would take us south to Portugal covering 608 miles, and even more importantly, the services.
Along our mammoth 13-hour journey, we ensured we topped up with diesel regularly to ensure we didn’t get caught out. As it turned out we ran into some faults on the car and practically limped into Portugal and my parent’s place we were going to be staying at. But this problem with the car couldn’t have been foreseen.
While the car was being repaired we had a hire car from a well-known hire car company which shall not be named. After a few days of driving and feeling like the car wasn’t right, we realised the tyre treads were bare on the car we had. For some reason, we hadn’t checked the tyre treads when we took receipt of the car, despite regularly check the treads on our own cars. Whether it was due to our haste at taking receipt of the car and getting back to BattleKid and my folks, I don’t know.
It meant we didn’t feel safe in the car and when we pointed it out to the hire car company, we got stung for the cost of the replacements. I now ALWAYS check the tyre treads on hire cars before leaving their forecourt. And advised friends of ours who visited us in Portugal to do the same before leaving their hire car company’s forecourt.
Checking your tyre treads should always be part of a checklist you do before setting out on a journey, particularly a long one. Tyres that are worn or below the legal limit, which in the UK is 1.6mm, increases your risk of having an accident. Also, incorrect tyre pressures can add to this risk. We regularly check the tyre pressures on our car as it is a very heavy beast.
If you find that you need to replace one or more of your tyres you could consult TyrePlus. Their easy-to-use website lets you pop your vehicle registration in and they will give you a list of recommended tyres plus you can see when they could be fitted. Their website can also tell you where your nearest fitters are located or offer you a mobile fitting service to have your new tyres fitted at your door. How handy is that!
As for other checks you should be making before setting off on a car journey, many of the breakdown service companies have suggested the following:
- Tyres, as already discussed.
- Toolkit, ensuring you have at the very least your spare tyre, jack and locking wheel nut if necessary to change a tyre in an emergency.
- Engine Oil. Not all cars have dipsticks. Did you know this? Our Land Rover has an electronic oil indicator which requires a cold engine in order to display the correct oil level. If the engine is on or has been within the last 20 minutes, it won’t display the oil level at all.
- Water or coolant.
- Windscreen Wipers. Nothing more annoying in the UK than blinding rain and faulty windscreen wipers. Check them and replace if necessary. Your nearest Halfords will even fit them for you for a small fee!
- Screenwash. Ensure it is topped up. Did you know that by law your screen wash system MUST work.
- Windscreen. Check for cracks or stone damage and get this repaired or replaced. Often your insurance may cover some or all of the cost of the repair or replacement.
- Lights. Check they are all working, including brake lights, indicators and your fog lights. Carry spare head lights at a minimum and know how to replace them. I learned how to replace the ones in the Land Rover and have often changed them in the driveway or in the car park at work if I notice one has gone.
- Power Steering. Ensure the fluid is replaced during your service and that the levels are correct on a regular basis.
- Bodywork. Check for damage or rust regularly, especially during the winter months when more salt may be on the roads to deal with icy conditions.
And if doing a long car journey within Europe, there are additional checks and things you need to have in your car to remain legal on the roads.
Driving can be an enjoyable way of getting from A to B, or as a road trip as we discovered in America, but you should always ensure you check the car you are travelling in BEFORE you set off to keep both you as the driver, and your passengers as safe as possible. At the very least #TestYourTreads
*This post is a collaborative post for the #TestYourTreads campaign in association with TyrePlus.