Driving Home for Christmas? 5 Things to Check Before You Leave

ChristmasChristmas is one time of year where family and friends travel all distances to be together, but for those making that fateful journey by car, harnessing a safe and hassle-free experience will certainly be playing on their minds. Whatever day you plan to set off, the average Christmas journey can be a troublesome one, particularly if you plan to take on your journey via a major road or motorway. It’s not just people driving home for the festive period, Christmas shoppers, holiday-goers, commuters and delivery drivers will all be clogging up road networks, which can mean only one thing – delays.

According to a survey conducted by breakdown service provider Green Flag, some 67% of UK drivers avoid making Christmas journeys by car during the festive period. Whilst the biggest reason was to avoid awkward exchanges with far flung family members, others blamed the prospect of tackling winter battered roads as their reason for not driving to see loved ones. These new findings come just over a decade after a similar survey found that 55% of people would do whatever they could to see their families at Christmas.

Driving home for Christmas doesn’t have to be the journey from hell however. Although we can’t help you out in reducing those inevitable delays, with the right checks you can motor home without the fear of breakdown. Read on to discover the car maintenance checks you should complete before you leave.

  • Check windscreen wipers

Being able to handle whatever the great British weather has to throw at you is important, especially during winter. Before you begin your journey home, check that your windscreen wipers work well and blades provide thorough, smear-free cleaning. You should also top up your screenwash.

  • Top up the anti-freeze

Breakdown is unfortunately more common during the winter months with the tumbling temperatures causing the poor driving conditions that many dread. Anti-freeze, often referred to as coolant, is a vital component in your vehicle’s cooling system all year round, especially during winter. Without anti-freeze, your engine would overheat quickly leading to mechanical breakdown and failure. Making a habit of checking your anti-freeze levels and preventing water freezing in your radiator is important, and will prevent the costly, time consuming problems that can arise as a result.

  • Clean your lights

The dark nights are part and parcel of the winter months, so ensuring that your lights work properly is essential. Dirt and debris from the winter roads can obscure light, so give them a clean before you depart.

  • Check your tyre pressures

The condition of your tyres is integral to the successful completion of any journey, and during winter, due to the presence of snow, ice and intense rain, checks become even more important. Underinflated tyres are a major cause of tyre blow outs, a problem that will not only halt the progress of your journey home but risk the lives of your passengers and other motorists.

Before you leave, check the pressure of all your tyres, including the spare tyre. The tread depth of your tyres should also be checked to ensure it is at least the minimum limit of 1.6mm. Whilst not compulsory, the use of winter tyres may be well worth exploring with the thicker tread (of 3mm) perfect for winter driving.

  • Ensure your brakes are safe

Road surfaces can be treacherous during the winter months, particularly if it’s been snowing or rain has turned to ice due to plummeting temperatures. Check the condition of your brakes to ensure optimum safety can be achieved. If your brake pedal is vibrating, your brake pads appear thin on inspection, your car is pulling to one side during operation, or your brakes emit a clicking, screeching or grinding noise, it may be time for brake pad replacement.